GEAR: Akai XR-20

“the urban SR-16”

Akai XR-20 : the “urban” SR16

Akai XR20, front and rear panel. image from

Distinguishing Features

  • pattern based real-time sequencer, with fluid movement between recording and performance.
  • clear, bright blue light-up pads
  • most-things on one-small LCD screen.
  • distinctive and aggressive sound set, focused on modern rap/hip-hop/etc sounds

Personal Perspective

After Akai and Alesis went under ownership with Numark in the 2010s, we see an Akai-branded re-imagining of the SR-16. Same “Compose/Perform” and A/B/Fill structure, same Main/Alt outs and foot switch INs.

The main things different/added here are the blue backlit screen and the Hip-Hop/Electronic-centric ROM sound set, which offers slightly deeper control beyond pitch with some filter and envelope controls. We also see a “Pad to Pattern” mode, where the  dozen pads can be assigned 1 set of 12 patterns. I enjoyed the real time contro to “surf” through a song structure, as well as the destructive editing, and vivid lighting, but things started to feel limited, and I found myself wanting to move freely among any/all patterns and voices more immediately….an itch that led me through the Yamaha and Elektron boxes to follow.

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