The AKAI MPC X SE: Decades of Evolution

In the world of studio controllers, synthesizers and drum machines, the terms ‘x0x’ and ‘MPC’ are all over the place and refer to different interfaces for creating note sequences. In the revolutionary case of MPC, there’s one brand that started it all: AKAI. Read on to find out how it all began and ultimately resulted in the brand-new MPC X SE Special Edition.

There Once Was A…LinnDrum

Most of the music produced in the last fifty to sixty years incorporates synths and drums, but not every producer knows a drummer they can call every time they need one. So back in the day, a lot of producers depended on drum machines, which originally were essentially simple oscillators and packed a pretty primitive sound which, granted, did have its charm. In fact, classic models such as the Roland CR-78 and the TR-808 boast a range of sounds that are practically impossible to recreate with any real drum kit.

By the time the 1980s landed, sampling technology had become more attainable which resulted in sample-based drum machines like the popular LinnDrum – brainchild of Roger Linn. If you’ve ever listened to Italo-disco, you’ll have undoubtedly heard its sound. Also popular within the realms of pop music, the LinnDrum has even been used by Michael Jackson, Giorgio Moroder, Devo and Prince and other big-name artists. Just as bang-on as the snare drum of the TR-909, the LinnDrum snare punches through the mix with ease and sounds satisfyingly full.

That being said, the LinnDrum line-up sadly suffered from bugs. What’s more, the technical issues that plagued Roger Linn’s drum machines would end up shaping their reputation for being fun bits of kit that sounded great but weren’t the most reliable. In 1986, barely a month after the company had showcased a concept called the LinnDrum Midistudio at NAMM, Linn Electronics went belly-up. Roger, who was 31 at the time, would go on to work with AKAI and help develop the brand’s MPC consoles which, perhaps not unsurprisingly, significantly resembled the never-released Midistudio.

The MPC-60 – A Milestone in Music History

The core of every MPC is a two-dimensional grid of pads. In the case of the original MPC – the MPC-60 released in 1988 – we’re talking sixteen pads in a 4×4 lay-out where each pad was used to trigger a sample (e.g. a kick or a snare). In essence, this gave producers the revolutionary option to build their own custom drum kits.

Of course, what’s great about samples is that you can sample basically any sound, such as chords, snippets of existing songs and even screams. This turned out to be game-changing as it meant that musicians and producers were no longer limited to the sounds that manufacturers of drum machines and other bits of kit served up. If you needed the sound of an orchestra, all you had to do was grab a CD loaded with classical music and sample parts of it. Also, at this point, synthesizers came equipped with relatively small memory banks (sample ROM) and simply couldn’t offer the same high-quality sounds. Thanks to the MPC-60, everyone and their dog started sampling, which resulted in the creation of countless soundscapes and has made the original Music Production Console a milestone in music history. Today, various creative beat-making techniques as well as urban music can be traced back to AKAI’s MPC.

A Trend Is Born

The MPC-style grid lay-out has since become mainstream and extends beyond AKAI MPCs these days. From Ableton controllers and universal MIDI controllers to synths and workstations, a lot of gear comes decked out with a similar set of rubber pads, which by the way aren’t simple buttons but pressure-sensitive controls to guarantee dynamic results.

The AKAI MPC X SE: Decades of Evolution

The Modern MPC

Just like vintage synthesizers, the original MPC concept never lost its appeal but has been tweaked to keep up with the times. More recent models like the MPC One and the MPC Studio feature bigger memory banks and modern inputs and outputs. Of course, then there’s the MPC X and the MPC X SE, which are the 21st-century reincarnations of the original MPC. Dipped in white, the Special Edition has been specifically designed to resemble the MPC-60 but naturally comes with a much larger, full-colour touch-capacitive display as well as a set of sixteen encoders to ease beat-weaving and note-sequencing.

The AKAI MPC X SE: Decades of Evolution

The MPC vs The Computer

While today’s computers are insanely adaptable, when it comes to workflow and control lay-out, they’re no match for a standalone unit like the MPC X. Every inch of the MPC X has been thoughtfully designed to support intuitive use and seamless integration, and so it’s bang-up-todate in terms of hardware specs, the new MPC X SE has actually been loaded with 4GB of RAM and offers a whopping 48GB storage capacity. As a sweet bonus, the Special Edition even comes complete with the entire MPC Plugin Instrument collection. Also, it’s worth noting that MPCs aren’t made for working with virtual orchestras. Most MPC-afficionados either operate within urban styles or weave beats for a living or as a hobby. For them and many others, the MPC covers all bases and then some.

The AKAI MPC X SE: Decades of Evolution

An External DAW

If you think about it, the MPC X is like an external DAW that offers sampling and sequencing and serves as an audio interface at the same time. Equipped with a small army of inputs and outputs – including XLR/jack ports, two MIDI inputs, four MIDI outputs and even CV/Gate ports for controlling a Eurorack system – the MPC X can easily be set up as the central console of a proper studio.

See Also

» All AKAI Professional Gear
» All Studio & Recording Gear

» How to Make an Album Sound Cohesive
» The Most Common Mixing Mistakes
» How to Prep a Demo for a Label

1 response
  1. christian thompson says:

    not sure that everyone and their dog had an MPC 60 ?

Leave a Reply