Akai MPD218, MPD226 and MPD232

The MPD218, MPD226 and MPD232 are Akai’s current range of USB MIDI Drum Pad Controllers. The MPD2 Series is an affordable way to add the functions of Akai’s classic MPCs to your computer setup. The controllers all have Akai’s signature MPC pads, taken directly from the Akai MPC hardware sample workstations.

Akai drum pads and the workflow of the MPC, have been a firm favourite in music production since the late 1980s, and are much imitated by other manufacturers. True to their heritage, the pads are very responsive, made of solid thick plastic, back-lit, velocity-sensitive and pressure-sensitive; the pads are arguably the main reason for buying these controllers. The experience that they give you, when tapping out beats, melodies or samples, and the quick way that samples can be organised and played back, is unrivaled and appeal massively to beatmakers, composers, DJs and performers alike.

Akai MPD218 USB MIDI Drum Pad Controller USBMIDIcontrollers.com Akai MPD226 USB MIDI Drum Pad Controller USBMIDIcontrollers.comAkai MPD232 USB MIDI Drum Pad Controller USBMIDIcontrollers.com

The MPD232 is the most feature-packed and largest controller of the series, and therefore the most expensive. The MPD218 is the only one which doesn’t have an LED display on the device, but for many purposes a display may not be necessary.

The Layouts and Design

There are slight variations in the layouts of the 3 devices, the drum pads on the MPD218 are on the right side, whereas on the MPD226 and MPD232 they are on the left. This design choice has been made so that when an MPD218 is placed next to the more expensive controllers in the range, their pads will be next to each other, and together will become like one larger 32 pad control surface. This is a sensible option offered by Akai, useful for those performers who like to have a lot of pads in front of them.

What else is on the Akai MPD218?

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There are the 6 dials on the left, which are assignable in 3 banks. Just below dial 1 is the CTRL Bank button, and its accompanying A,B and C lights, to indicate which bank is active. Quick switching between the 3 banks allows for a total of 18 software parameters to be controlled at any one time.

Similarly the PAD BANK button, slightly to the right, switches between banks A, B and C, so that 48 (3 x 16) sounds or samples can be allocated to the pads – which should be more than enough for most situations.

Between the CTRL BANK and PAD BANK Buttons we have PROG SELECT (Program Select). The MPD218 stores a number of pre-mapped layouts of the pads, and can be assigned in advance for specific situations (e.g different layouts for different software instruments). Pressing and holding PROG SELECT button, then pressing a numbered pad will set the controller to that particular numbered layout.

The FULL LEVEL button, on the botton left, will turn off velocity sensitivity for all pads, making all sounds play at their loudest volume level – however hard you hit them. The button lights up to show when this mode is active.
The 2 remaining buttons at the bottom are NR CONFIG and NOTE REPEAT. These work in conjunction with pads 1 to 8, which have secondary labels of 1/4 to 1/32, and 1/4T to 1/32T . You can click the image of the MPD218 above, to see it in greater detail.
Holding the Note Repeat button and hitting a pad will cause the assigned sound to retrigger at a rate based on the current tempo and Time Division settings. Pressing the NR Config (Note Repeat Configuration) button at the same time as pressing a pad will alter the Time Division of the Repeat function. Pads 1-4 will set Repeat to quarter notes, half notes, 16th notes or 32nd notes. Pads 5-8 give you the same note lengths but on a triplet time scale.back of Akai MPD218 USB MIDI Drum Pad Controller USBMIDIcontrollers.com
Note Repeat can be synced to an internal or external MIDI clock source. NR Config and Pad 16 is used to select the source. NR Config used together with Pads 9 to 14 will activate and configure swing amounts. Pad 16’s secondary function is Tap Tempo.
The MPD218 is the most portable of the series, and is much lighter than its companion devices. The only input or output connection on the MPD218 is a type-A USB port, located at the back of the controller.

At 4 cm (1.6 inches) thick and weighing less than 1 kg, MPD218 provides reliable sample triggering and Digital Audio Workstation control functionality, within an ultra-portable, affordable, user-friendly, performance controller.

Main Features of the Akai MPD218

  • 16 thick sturdy back-lit MPC pads with Velocity and Aftertouch
  • A total of 48 pad assignments accessible via 3 banks
  • 18 assignable 360-degree dials in 3 banks – to send continuous controller messages to your software or external MIDI device.
  • MPC Note Repeat and Full Level functions
  • 16 configurable layout presets
  • iOS compatible, using the Apple Camera Connection Kit
  • Fully compatible with Akai’s iMPC and iMPC Pro iPad applications
  • USB powered, no power adapter is required
  • Kensington lock
  • Includes Akai Pro MPC Essentials, Ableton Live Lite, Sonivox Big Bang Cinematic Percussion and Big Bang Universal Drums software for Mac OS and Windows
  • Compatible with most major Digital Audio Workstations
  • Dimensions:  23.8 x 20.1 x 4 cm / 9.4 x 7.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Weight: 748 g / 1.65 lbs.
  • Price (at time of writing): £79 / $89 / €99

 

The Akai MPD226 In Detail

Moving on to the MPD226, the mid-size pad controller of AKAI’s MPD2 pad controller series.
The control section differs MPD226 differs from the MPD218. It consists of 4 endless dial encoders (2 less than the MPD218), but adds 4 slide faders, to give 8 in total. They can all be assigned to common midi parameters. Akai have rearranged the controls to line up the faders, knobs and buttons into a mixer-style formation.
There are 3 available control banks that can be toggled through by clicking the control bank button. The MPD226 is around 40% larger than the MPD218, so some of the functions such as Note Repeat settings, Swing settings and Tap Tempo have been given their own dedicated buttons.

Akai MPD226 USB MIDI Drum Pad Controller USBMIDIcontrollers.com

There is also a Transport section with Record, Play and Stop buttons, at the bottom right. Transport functions are missing from the more compact and lightweight MPD218.

The back-lit screen gives quick access to all relevant parameters. It can be used to assign different MIDI functions to the buttons, faders, and dials. It also allows you to modify mappings, assign MIDI channels to individual pads, set pad sensitivity levels and assign a specific colours to pads.

External hardware MIDI devices such as synthesizers or sound banks can be connected via the MIDI in and Out ports; and as expected these days, the MPD226 has a USB port for connecting to a computer or iOS device.

There is a dedicated power socket, although its power supply is sold separately.

Main Features of the Akai MPD226

  • 16 MPC Style pads  – RGB illuminated, velocity and pressure sensitive
  • 4 banks available for pads, giving a total of 64 pad assignments
  • 4 faders, 4 dials and 4 buttons – all assignable
  • 3 banks of control dials
  • Classic MPC Note Repeat, MPC Swing, Full Level and Tap Tempo functions
  • Transport section – dedicated Record, Stop and Play controls
  • Changeable pad colours
  • Compatible with iOS, using the Apple Camera Connection KitAkai MPD226 back USB MIDI Drum Pad Controller USBMIDIcontrollers.com
  • Fully compatible with Akai’s iMPC and iMPC Pro iPad applications
  • Software bundle included – Akai Pro MPC Essentials, Ableton Live Lite, Sonivox Big Bang Cinematic Percussion and Big Bang Universal Drums software for Mac OS and Windows
  • Compatible with most major Digital Audio Workstations
  • MIDI inputs and outputs for controlling external equipment
  • USB socket, can provide power
  • Power adapter socket (adapter sold separately)
  • Kensington lock
  • Dimensions: 33.2 x 25.3 x 4.9 cm / 9.96 x 13.08 x 1.92 inches
  • Weight: 1.4 Kg / 3.09 lbs
  • Price (at time of writing):  $ 179 / £159 / €199

 

The Akai MPD232 In Detail

Almost 10 centimers (2.5 inches) wider and 9 centimeters (approx 3.5 inches) longer than the MPD226, and heavier too. At a price 2.5 times that of the MPD218 and 1.25 times the price of the MPD226, the MPD232 is less portable, and more suited to be situated permanently in a studio. It comprises of a few additional features which are appealing.Akai MPD232 USB MIDI Drum Pad Controller USBMIDIcontrollers.com

The MPD232 has a much more expanded control-mixer section with 8 faders and 8 dials. There was room to add an onboard 32-step performance sequencer, with 64 channel outputs and 16 physical step-sequencer buttons. Sequences are created and stored on the MPD232, and can be edited on the display screen.

The Transport section has been moved to the upper section of the controller. An extra Pad Bank selector button (for 64 pad assignments) and some sequencer buttons are added there too; arranged around the display navigation controls and the screen.

Main Features of the Akai MPD232

  • 16 RGB illuminated velocity-sensitive and pressure-sensitive MPC Pads
  • A 64 note, 16 button step sequencer to trigger pad events
  • 64 assignable MPC percussion pads, assignable via 4 banks
  • 8 assignable mixer-console type slide-faders
  • 8 assignable dials to control panning, automation, etc
  • 8 assignable buttons, for muting/soloing of audio channels, etc
  • 72 assignable controls, accessible via 3 banks
  • Classic MPC Note Repeat, MPC Swing, Full Level and Tap Tempo
  • Dedicated transport controls – Record, Play and Stop buttons
  • Changeable pad colours
  • iOS compatible using the Camera Connection Kit (sold separately)
  • Akai MPD232 back USB MIDI Drum Pad Controller USBMIDIcontrollers.comFully compatible with Akai’s iMPC and iMPC Pro iPad applications
  • 30 layout presets in total, with configurations for most popular Digital Audio Workstations
  • MIDI input & output ports for controlling MIDI external equipment
  • Software bundle included – Akai Pro MPC Essentials, Ableton Live Lite, Sonivox Big Bang Cinematic Percussion and Big Bang Universal Drums software for Mac OS and Windows
  • 1 USB socket, which can provide power
  • Power adapter socket (adapter sold separately)
  • Kensington lock
  • Dimensions: 16.6 x 10 x 1.9 inches / 42.1 x 25.3 x 4.6 cm
  • Weight: 4.2 lbs / 2 Kg
  • Price (at time of writing): €249 / $255.95 / £199

 

Akai MPD Series 2 – Software

The MPD2 range comes with MPC Essentials, AKAI’s sample production software. MPC Essentials turns your MPD into a basic Hybrid MPC workstation. It works as a standalone software application, and as a virtual instrument plugin that can be loaded into any Digital Audio Workstation.

MPC Essentials Software Features:

  • It works with your current music software as a VST, Audio Unit or RTAS plugin
  • You can run multiple instances of the plugin in a Digital Audio Workstation, as many as your computer can handle
  • Works in standalone mode, without Digital Audio Workstation software
  • 1GB sound library
  • Import your own WAV or AIFF sound samples, chop them up, and assign them to any pad
  • Up to 8 pad banks (assign up to 128 pads), 4 samples and 4 insert effects per pad
  • The standalone application hosts plugins and has automatically control mapping
  • Export completed productions to WAV or AIFF audio files

As well as that, Sonivox’s Big Bang Universal Drums & Big Bang Cinematic Percussion instruments are included in the price. These contain 27 gigabytes of drum samples, organised into more than 100 ready-to-use drum and percussion kits.

Ableton Live Lite is also included with the controller.

The MPD2 editor preset software has a user interface that resembles the hardware, containing useful tools to configure the assignments of buttons and controls. The auto-populate feature lets you change parameters for several pads and dials at the same time, this can be a massive time saver if you often re-configure your device.

 

Conclusion

The AKAI MPD Series 2 are state-of-the-art drum and sampler control surfaces with fantastic MPC pad sections, plenty of controls and features, efficient preset editing software, and a generous virtual instrument package. They are great control surfaces that respond quickly and intuitively to a player’s input, to make playing them a fun and satisfyingly creative experience. Each of the controllers in the series has a modern, updated design, with their pads arranged in the standard 4×4 grid layout as found on all Akai MPCs.

The blend of MPC controls and technologies, together with USB connectivity brings the tactile sensation of classic beat-making to computer music production environments. Anyone looking for a traditional programmable pad controller for live performance or for studio production, couldn’t go wrong with any of the MPDs.

Considering whether the extra features of the MPD226 and MPD232  –  the display screen, transport sections, additional MIDI ports, extra dials and faders, and the sequencer – are worth the increase in cost depends entirely on your needs and budget. However, we are of the opinion that for most situations the cheaper MPD218 is way more than adequate. It is one of the most well-constructed pad controllers in its price range. An amazing product that provides real value for the money.

 

About Akai Professional

Akai Professional designs and manufactures creative technologies, empowering music makers with tools that are unmatched in expressive capability.  A developer of music production equipment synonymous with pad-based music creation – ever since the Roger Linn-designed MPC60 was released in the late 1980s. The MPC is an instrument that has inspired generations of producers and performers; and spawned entirely new genres of music, revolutionising the world of sampling and sequencing, and profoundly influencing the development of Hip Hop and electronic music.

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