Akai’s impressive new MPK Mini MkII Keyboard Controller is much more than just an attractive, ultra-compact mini keyboard. Its impressive arsenal of touch-sensitive pads, knobs, and buttons, plus a joystick, provides the mobile musician or desktop producer with hands-on control over his or her music software. And at just 1.65 pounds, it fits easily and comfortably into a backpack.
The MPK Mini MkII is truly portable. Power comes from the USB bus, so no adapter is needed! And Akai thoughtfully placed the USB connector on the side of the unit instead of the back, making it easier to position it directly in front of your laptop.
Fully plug-and-play with either Macintosh and Windows platforms, MPK Mini MkII doesn’t require any software driver installation. A full-size 1/4-inch jack allows you to connect an optional sustain pedal. Four memory banks for saving and recalling settings makes it instantly compatible with your favorite digital audio workstation (DAW) and other music programs.
Included is an Editor application so you can quickly map the MPK Mini MkII controls to specific MIDI commands.
That’s a quick overview; now let’s take a closer look…
- A Compact And Versatile Music Keyboard
- A Built-in Arpeggiator Creates Instant Cccompaniment
- Four-way Control Of Pitch, Modulation, Or Anything Else
- MPC-quality Touch Pads For Triggering Drums And Samples
- Assignable Q-Link Knobs
- Save And Recall Your Setup
- Free Software!
- Akai Professional MPK Mini MkII Conclusion
A Compact And Versatile Music Keyboard
The first thing you notice about the MPK Mini MkII, aside from its small footprint (a mere 12.5 x 7.13 x 1.75 inches) and cool red and black color scheme, is the keyboard. Two octaves of velocity-sensitive mini keys enable dynamic musical expression.
The entire keyboard can be transposed up or down four octaves via dedicated Octave Up and Down buttons. This provides a total span of 10 octaves, virtually the entire MIDI note range. Whenever the keyboard is set higher or lower than the center octave, the corresponding Octave button will light up. To cancel transposition and reset the keyboard to the center, simply press both Octave buttons at once.
But the keyboard is only the beginning…
A Built-in Arpeggiator Creates Instant Cccompaniment
The MPK Mini MkII includes a clever and easy-to-use arpeggiator that can be set up to create a variety of interesting musical effects. Press the Arpeggiator On/Off button to start or stop playback, or hold it down while pressing keys on the MPK Mini’s keyboard to change the way it works.
The leftmost eight keys (C1 – G1) select the length of notes relative to the chosen tempo. Choices range from quarter-notes to 32nd-note triplets.
The next seven keys (G#1 – D2) determine how arpeggiated notes are played back. Options are:
- Up – notes play from lowest to highest
- Down – from highest to lowest
- Inclusive – from lowest to highest to lowest again, with the lowest and highest notes repeated
- Exclusive – like Inclusive, except lowest and highest notes aren’t repeated
- Order – notes play in the order they were played on the keyboard
- Latch – the Arpeggiator continues to play after you lift your fingers from the keyboard.
The four keys labelled ARP OCT 1 – 4, set the range of the arpeggio between one and four octaves.
Finally, the top six keys set a “swing” amount between 50 percent (no swing) and 64 percent.
To set the tempo for playback, press the Tap Tempo button a few times at the desired rate. Use the MPK Mini Editor to set how many taps are needed to set the tempo. The Arpeggiator can also be synced to an external clock.
Four-way Control Of Pitch, Modulation, Or Anything Else
At the upper left corner of the MPK Mini MkII is an ergonomically-designed X-Y controller. Akai refers to it as a “thumbstick”. By default, the thumbstick controls MIDI Pitch Bend when moved forward and back, and Modulation (MIDI Continuous Controller #1) if moved left and right. You can also use the free, downloadable MPK mini Editor to reassign which MIDI controllers are mapped to it.
MPC-quality Touch Pads For Triggering Drums And Samples
Above the keyboard are eight backlit, velocity-sensitive touch pads. Their design is based on Akai’s MPC line of professional music production controllers, and they are of high quality and quite sensitive. When struck, they can trigger drum hits or any other samples you want, or used to build drum patterns.
The pads can be programmed with the MPK Mini Editor to send MIDI Note commands, Continuous Controller data or Program Changes. A Bank button switches between two banks of pad settings, for a total of 16 pads. And Akai has gone a few steps further, adding additional functionality.
Pressing the Full Level button will toggle the pads’ velocity sensitivity, causing them to send MIDI Notes at full velocity (127), no matter how hard you hit them. Also, press and hold the Repeat button while striking a pad to play in time with the Arpeggiator, re-triggering at the rate determined by the current tempo and selected time division.
Assignable Q-Link Knobs
In the upper right of the MPK Mini MkII are eight “Q-Link” rotary controllers. You can assign these to virtually any parameter of your DAW software that responds to MIDI Continuous Controller messages. Each knob rotates a full 270 degrees for maximum accuracy.
Save And Recall Your Setup
With MPK Mini MkII, you can save all of your hardware and software presets for fast and easy set up with your favorite DAW or other applications. To select any of the four memory banks, hold down the PROG SELECT button and tap Pad 5, 6, 7 or 8.
In short, the Akai Professional MPK Mini MkII Keyboard Controller packs a lot of useful hardware functionality into a compact, lightweight package.
But that’s not all! You’ll also receive…
Included is an impressive bundle of software to unlock the full power of your MPK Mini MkII Keyboard Controller. First, you get the MPK Mini Editor, a valuable preset management application for Macintosh or Windows that lets you customize your hardware and software setup.
Use it to assign what parameters the thumbstick controls, the MIDI messages for each pad, and much more. You can create and adjust your DAW and favorite virtual instrument plugin presets and store them in the MPK’s internal memory. This means faster setup and more time for music-making!
Speaking of virtual instruments…
MPK Mini MkII also comes with a suite of incredible products developed by Akai and some of the industry’s leading virtual instrument designers. These include:
- AIR Music Technology Hybrid 3, a high-definition polyphonic synthesizer that can deliver fat, retro synth sounds, searing leads and thunderous bass lines. It comes with a library of over 1,200 presets.
- SONiVOX Wobble, an electronic “dubstep grime generator” synth that features two independent “Spectral Morphing Synthesis” channels, with individual harmonics, filtering, and LFO controls, and an advanced pattern generator.
- MPC Essentials, a groove/beat production and sample-triggering application that lets you incorporate genuine MPC workflow into your DAW. It also extends MPK Mini MkII with up to 8 pad banks and 4 samples and insert effects per pad. MPC Essentials can run as a standalone application, in case your DAW is unavailable.
Optionally, you can purchase MPC Software 2.0, a cutting-edge production suite that supercharges the power of MPC Essentials. Integrating seamlessly with your DAW, it combines a 128-track sequencer, real-time time-stretching, a clip-launch function, advanced MIDI editing, and advanced sampling and audio editing.
You also receive Akai’s VIP 3.0 software, the free, third-generation version of Akai’s Virtual Instrument Player. It’s a powerful instrument and effects suite that can revolutionize the way you work with virtual instruments. Use it to load almost any VST plugin, combining as many as eight virtual instruments (plus effects) into complex arrangements with multiple keyboard zones, splits, and custom mappings.
There’s an ever-growing list of plugins that will automatically map to your controller. Or you can use the MIDI Learn function to map any plugin to any controller as you wish. Run it as a standalone platform or as a plugin within your favorite DAW.
Akai Professional MPK Mini MkII Conclusion
The Akai Professional MPK Mini MkII Keyboard Controller is a powerful tool for the musician on the go or the composer/producer in the studio.
The compact, lightweight and sexy red and black case houses a wealth of hardware controllers: a velocity sensitive keyboard, eight touch-sensitive pads, eight rotary controls, a joystick, and several specialized buttons.
Everything can be custom-configured to match your software, and multiple setups quickly saved and recalled. And the free virtual instrument collection is impressive, and great value all by itself.
No software drivers or external power adapter is required. Just connect the MPK Mini mkII to your Windows or Macintosh computer and go! Priced very reasonably, it’s hard to think of any reason why every musician shouldn’t have this.