Akai MPK Mini Mk3 Review (Upgrades, Features, Worth It?)

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  • Akai MPK Mini Mk2 vs Mk3: What changed?
  • I bought the midi controller and test drove it for a week.
  • I break down its benefits, shortcomings and my honest thoughts.

Have Akai Outdone Themselves Once Again?

Akai began with the first model of its MPC (Music Production Centre) range in 1988 with the MPC60. Since then, they’ve consistently innovated and further developed their product range into all sorts of nifty gadgets, and the MPK range is no exception.

Quick Review/Overview

The MPK Mini Mk3 combines the functionality of a truly portable midi controller while cramming a bucketload of intuitive features in. They’ve taken the old gen’s best features (keybed, pads and pots) and improved on them. It’s not flawless, but Akai are getting dangerously close.

It’s priced competitively and suited for producers of all skill levels. Don’t be fooled by the price, this device is not just for beginners.

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3
$119.00

The MPK mini mk3 is the third iteration of the world's legendary best-selling mini keyboard controller. Its compact size makes it an ideal travel companion, and its arsenal of pads and assignable controls let you take complete command of every aspect of your production.

09/20/2020 01:42 am

Akai MPK Mini Mk2 vs Mk3: What’s New?

In an age where product upgrades simply slap on redundant new features, Akai has done well to make some significant improvements both inside and out of the box.

Improved Keybed

Beginning with the keys; the MPK mk3 mini features a new generation of keybed, with a more responsive feeling and smoother travel. This new keybed still features 25 velocity-sensitive keys and is created to aid in the capture of even the smallest nuances that a lot of players might miss when using something with keys that are a lot stiffer or less weighted.

Having a sensitive and tactile set of keys is essential when looking to capture emotion or feeling from a performance. A lot of smaller keyboards tend to have issues with the keys feeling awkward or unnatural, but the MPK Mini manages to succinctly and effectively avoid the ‘toy box’ vibe that plagues many other units that I won’t name.

Upgraded Pads

Similarly to the keybed, the drum pads on the MPK Mini Mk3 were also revamped. This one’s debatable though. I’ve heard some people comment that they preferred the older model’s “squishier” nature. Personally, though, I find the newer, firmer ones to be more responsive and tactile than ever before. In any case, they are up there with the standards of today’s generation of MPCs.

The pads on the Akai MPK Mini Mk3 have a noticeably better feeling when playing fast, and didn’t miss a single beat when performing finger rolls and other more complex finger drumming techniques.

Endless Encoders/Infinity Pots

One of my favorite new upgrades between the Mk2 and the Mk3 minis is Akai’s complete rehaul of their ‘pots’. We now have 8 assignable ‘endless encoders’ – knobs which turn infinitely in one direction or the other, rather than hitting a maximum position when turned all the way either left or right.

READ  5 Best MIDI Keyboards For Beginners Under $300

Why is this good, you ask? It allows for more freedom of expression when recording automation or performing live by giving you effectively zero physical limitations on movement.

A good example of this is playing around with the top end of a highpass filter. You would get a much more fluid movement if you were able to cross what I call the ‘rotary dead zone’ that is physically applied by most knobs/encoders when you reach the end of their rotation (and physically won’t turn any further).

That aside, the actual pots themselves are a nice hefty size, a tad wider than previous iterations. They feel robust and intuitive to handle.

Cleaner Aesthetics

Akai’s MPK range has always looked pretty decent, to my eyes at least. However, there’s something a little flashier about the MK3 rendition. It reminds me a little of a boutique Italian sports car, with the clean-cut angles and sporty red and black.

It’s a clean aesthetic that allows it to look at home in the studio, and I wouldn’t feel ashamed to bust one of these out on the train/plane.

Also, shoutouts to the small but highly effective decision to add illuminated lights to the text on the Mk3’s buttons, rather than the entire buttons itself (which was a little hard to read in the past).

A Brand New OLED Screen

Last but definitely not least, in my opinion, one of the biggest and most notable features that have been added to this new generation of MPK is the addition of a tiny digital screen.

The OLED screen on this keyboard is extremely small but hey, its a screen, and that’s a really welcome addition to the AKAI MPK range. The screen is bright and legible, giving you a really clear and concise HUD to manage various parameters and settings within the DAW and the keyboard hardware itself.

Why I Love The Akai MPK Mini Mk3

Besides the upgrades, there are a few other things worth mentioning in the review that are quite unique to the Akai MPK Mini series. I figured I should include them as they may help you decide whether or not the device is a right fit for you.

Truly Compact & Portable

Portable MIDI keyboards are nothing new. But some companies just don’t end up getting it completely right. A major drawback I found of the Komplete Kontrol for example (an obvious competitor to the MPK Mini), was that even their M32 (smallest model) could not even fit into my tiny 13L backpack.

On the other hand, Akai has found a cheeky way to work within limitations more effectively than anything else I’ve been exposed to recently.

The Joystick for instance. This feature alone completely negates the need for large vertical jog wheels/finger sliders, and frees up a lot of space for more features.

Of course, if a pitch bend toggle is high on your list of concerns, you may not agree with me here.

Personally, I’m a travelling musician so portability is high up on my list of concerns.

At 12.5″ x 7.13″ x 1.75″, the controller fits snug in my 13L backpack, making it a perfect portable partner for on-the-go producers like myself.

Intuitive DAW Integration

The Mk3 syncs quickly and easily to your DAW of choice with a very easy key combo of ‘Program Select + ‘Pad’. From here, simply select your DAW of choice: Ableton Live, FL Studio 20, Garageband, Logic Pro X and more. It was impressive to see the speed at which the MPK Mini mapped itself to my DAW, within a second of having made my choice I had most of my macro knobs immediately sync with the hardware.

READ  5 Best MIDI Keyboards For Beginners Under $300

Intuitive Programming

The MPK Mini Mk3 offers you ‘at a glance’ functionality allowing you to make quick decisions in the heat of the moment without breaking your focus and concentration or ruining your creative flow.

The arpeggiator found on the MPK range has always been a great feature, and although it largely remains the same, the addition of the endless encoders allows for you to control things such as arp rate, movement, octave, swing etc while using the keys with minimal fuss.

The ‘scale mode‘ helps new musicians by allowing them to lock the entire set of keys into a specific major or minor scale which can be controlled with the Major/Minor Pad buttons. This function is super easy to use and allows for more user confidence when performing live or when learning to play and compose, with an added 1/4″ sustain pedal jack for those looking to emulate a more realistic piano feel or sound.

The Joystick

As mentioned above, the MPK Mini has what i would consider one of the more ‘fun’ expression/mod wheel variations; incorporating a joystick-style controller for managing modulation and pitch, or whatever you’ve mapped it to.

It isn’t without its flaws though. You have to be pretty precise with your movements as to not accidentally modulate while pitch bending, if you’re only trying to do one thing. It’s quite easy to accidentally mess with both the X AND Y-axis.

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3
$119.00

The MPK mini mk3 is the third iteration of the world's legendary best-selling mini keyboard controller. Its compact size makes it an ideal travel companion, and its arsenal of pads and assignable controls let you take complete command of every aspect of your production.

09/20/2020 01:42 am

Is The Akai MPK Mini Mk3 Worth It? Should You Upgrade?

Overall i was pretty impressed with the Akai MPK Mk3 mini, it fits perfectly into my tiny travel backpack (which has a storage size of 13L) and sits flush next to my 15″ Razer Laptop. The new features are all green ticks from me, but I wouldn’t necessarily tell those with Mk2s out there to throw theirs away.

Look, if your old Mk2 has broken keys, knobs falling off and is just at the end of its days — I totally recommend the upgrade. If you’ve just bought a MK2 and kicking yourself at the fact you missed the MK3 release, I wouldn’t fret. They are both excellent machines.

That being said, the unit is priced pretty competitively so a second keyboard is likely not going to break the bank. Don’t blame me for enabling your Gear Acquisition Syndrome, though!