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Akai MPK249 Performance Keyboard Controller

The Newest Generation of Controller Keyboard

The Akai MPK249 Performance Keyboard Controller is a versatile all-in-one controller solution for creative musicians. Sturdily built and packed with features, Akai MPK controllers have found happy homes in the studios of countless music professionals.

The Akai MPK249 comes with 49 semi-weighted keys which feature aftertouch, programmable pitch bend, and modulation wheels. It also has 16 LED-illuminated MPC-style pads and 24 assignable Q-Link knobs, faders, and switches (eight of each). Onboard transport controls can control your DAW. Inputs are provided for an optional expression pedal and a footswitch.

Built into the MPK249 are many familiar MPC production tools, including MPC Note Repeat and Swing, and a full-bore arpeggiator to help you explore new musical ideas.

Weighing just 12.6 pounds, the MPK249 can be powered by the USB port or an optional adapter. It’s fully plug-and-play on Macintosh and Windows platforms and doesn’t require any software driver installation. It also includes an impressive free software bundle that includes Ableton Live Lite, Akai Pro MPC Essentials, AIR Hybrid 3, SONiVOX Twist 2.0, and Akai VIP 3.

Those are some of the highlights. Now let’s get to know the MPK in more detail…

Akai MPK249 Performance Keyboard Controller

Our rating:4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

A Keyboard That Feels Just Right

The MPK249 keyboard has 49 keys (Akai also makes 25-key and 61-key models). If four octaves isn’t enough, the Octave Up and Down buttons will transpose the keyboard up or down in half steps up to three octaves. This gives you a total range of ten octaves. And you can also choose which of 32 MIDI channels are used to send Note messages.

The keyboard has a “semi-weighted” action. This means that the keys are spring-loaded like a synthesizer. But have light weights added to make them feel less bouncy and more like a piano. The keyboard can also send MIDI Aftertouch when you press the keys down harder. You can use this to add vibrato or modulation without lifting your hands from the keyboard.

Akai MPK249 Performance Keyboard Controller

Programmable Pitch Bend & Modulation Wheels For Extra Expression

Of course, you can also use the dedicated modulation and pitch bend wheels. The pitch wheel always sends the full range of MIDI Pitch Bend data. Therefore, it’s up to the synth it controls to determine how much to bend notes.

But these controls do much more…

First, you can set the MIDI send channel for each wheel independently of each other and the keyboard. So, for example, you might have the keyboard sending notes on channel 1, while pitch bend is sent on channel 2 and modulation on channel 3.

Second, the modulation control can actually be set to send any MIDI Continuous Controller (CC). Normally. The “mod wheel” is control #1, but you can set it to #2 (breath control), #11 (expression), or anything you like.

A Built-in Arpeggiator For Instant Accompaniment Patterns

The Akai MPK249 Performance Keyboard Controller includes a powerful, yet easy-to-use arpeggiator. This can be used to create interesting and unusual musical effects. And to set the playback tempo, simply press the Tap Tempo button a few times.

You can set the range of the arpeggio to as much as three octaves, and the number of steps as high as 16. In addition, the note length can be adjusted from 0 – 99 percent and the “swing” from 50 – 75 percent.

Akai Professional

But it does much more…

Probably the most interesting feature of the onboard arpeggiator is the many ways notes can be played:

  • Double: Play each note twice.
  • Up: Play notes from low to high.
  • Down: Play notes from high to low.
  • Inclusive: Play from low to high to low, with the lowest and highest notes played twice.
  • Exclusive: Like Inclusive, except the lowest and highest notes are played once.
  • Random: Play notes in random order.
  • Chord: All notes sound together repeatedly.

Akai Professional MPK249 | 49 Key Semi Weighted USB MIDI Keyboard Controller Including Core Control From The MPC Workstations

MPC-Quality Touch Pads For Triggering Samples

The Akai MPK249 also includes 16 velocity-sensitive touch pads for triggering drums or other samples. What’s more, you can use the four Bank buttons to instantly select different pad banks, for a total of 64. Pads send Note messages over a ten-octave range with or without Channel or Poly Aftertouch. They can also be assigned to Program Change or Program Bank messages.

The pads are made with the same quality and reliability as Akai’s MPC line of professional music production controllers. And they light up in different colors when struck. You can adjust the overall sensitivity of the pads to match your playing style. Or use the Full Level button to turn off velocity sensitivity altogether.

Assignable Q-Link Knobs, Faders, & Switches

The Akai MPK249 includes eight knobs, faders, and buttons to help you tweak your sound. All controls let you choose the MIDI channel on which they are sent. And with three banks available, you actually get 24 of each.

The knobs aren’t just normal volume control-type controls, but full 360-degree rotary encoders. Knobs and faders can be individually assigned to send any MIDI CC or Aftertouch. The knobs can also be set to send MIDI Increment and Decrement commands for programming external synths.

Akai Professional MPK249

Buttons can send MIDI Note, CC, Program Change, Program Bank, or Keystroke messages. Also, they can be set to operate either as toggle switches, turning on or off with each press. Or as momentary switches that send a message as long as they’re held down.

For sending Keystrokes, the MPK249 follows the Human Interface Device (HID) protocol. You can configure it to send keystrokes you use the most as an alternative to your computer keyboard.

Transport Controls For Your DAW

The MPK249 includes all the basic transport buttons you need to control your digital audio workstation (DAW) software directly. This means you can keep playing without having to reach over to your computer keyboard. There are transport buttons for Start, Stop, Record, Jump to Start, etc.

You can choose among several supported communication protocols, including MIDI Machine Control (MMC), MIDI Real Time, and Pro Tools Express.

And finally…

External Pedal Inputs & Other Goodies

The back of the MPK249 has 1/4-inch jacks for connecting an optional expression pedal and footswitch. The expression pedal can be set to any MIDI CC number, not only Expression (MIDI CC #11). The footswitch can also be assigned to any MIDI CC, though it really only makes sense with on/off controllers like Sustain (CC #64).

Also on the back panel are the USB MIDI connector and standard five-pin MIDI In and Out jacks. And messages sent to MIDI In are sent to your computer via the USB port.

The MPK249 is also iOS compatible, with Apple’s optional iPad Camera Connection Kit.

Akai Professional MPK249 | 49 Key Semi Weighted USB MIDI Keyboard Controller Including Core Control

Save & Recall Your Presets

Akai MPK249 provides an easy and flexible system of presets for remembering how all the pads, knobs, faders, and buttons behave. You can edit and name your presets, save them and then quickly recall them as needed. An LCD screen makes editing simple.

And there’s still more…

Free software!

The Akai MPK249 Performance Keyboard Controller comes with a comprehensive software bundle. It provides you with all the tools you need to get started making music.

Here’s what you get:

Ableton Live Lite includes all of the essential features, workflows, instruments, and effects of its big brother. It’s designed particularly for live performance as well as a tool for composing, recording, mixing, and mastering your songs.

 Akai Professional MPK249 | 49 Key Semi Weighted

Akai Pro MPC Essentials is a one-track version of the full MPC plugin, in VST, RTAS, and AAX formats. It enables you to record and edit your own samples through an audio interface or by re-sampling your own MPC arrangement.

AIR Music Technology Hybrid 3 is a high-definition polyphonic synthesizer. It delivers fat, retro synth sounds, screaming lead lines, and thunderous basses. It comes with a library of over 1,200 presets.

SONiVOX Twist 2 is an advanced “Spectral Morphing Synthesis” virtual instrument. Your toolkit for serious sound design, it includes an advanced pattern generator, multi-mode filter, and onboard effects.

And perhaps best of all…

Akai VIP 3 software is the latest version of Akai’s revolutionary Virtual Instrument Player. This powerful instrument and effects suite can load almost any VST plugin, combining up to eight virtual instruments and effects. Therefore, you can use it to build complex arrangements with multiple keyboard zones, splits, and custom mappings.

A constantly growing list of plugins can automatically map to your Q-Link controllers. Or you can use the MIDI Learn function to map plugins to controllers however you wish.


The Akai249 Performance Keyboard Controller is a great addition to the MIDI rig of any performing and/or recording musician. Therefore, there is a lot to recommend:

  • A comfortable semi-weighted keyboard.
  • Programmable pitch and mod wheels.
  • Sixteen backlit MPC-style pads with programmable velocity-sensitivity aftertouch.
  • 24 Q-Link faders, rotary encoders, and pushbuttons.
  • Transport controls.
  • Connections for optional pedals.
  • A great software bundle.
  • iOS compatibility.

Akai has a strong reputation for delivering well-designed products with the features musicians need, and at reasonable prices. So if you’re scouting for a professional performance keyboard controller, the Akai249 definitely should be near the top of your list. Highly recommended.

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