Akai MPK 88 review

Akai MPK88

The Akai MPK88 keyboard gives you the control and feel you want. With 88 fully-weighted keys, this USB powered MIDI controller gives you the feeling of an authentic string and hammer piano. Could the MPK88 be the one for you? Get your facts here, as this review will go over the best and the worst of this professional keyboard.

Setting Up the Akai MPK88

Alright, out of the box this keyboard weighs 65lbs. However, don’t let this discourage you.  Although the keyboard is a bit hefty, the installation process is extremely simple: plug and play.

Once you have your new Akai MPK88 MIDI controller safely secured, simply hook up the USB cable from the keyboard to your computer and you’re done.

The MPK88 comes with several preset maps for the most popular software programs, or DAW’s such as Reason, Live Lite, FL Studio and more. Once you’ve linked the keyboard to your program of choice you’re ready to get creative. Thankfully, it’s a very painless process.

So it’s out of the box and you’re ready to go, but what does this Akai digital piano really do? At first glance you see 88 keys, 16 MPC pads, rows of knobs, faders and numerous other buttons along with a light up LCD screen and 2 wheels. Definitely looks promising, but let’s get more into the features of this keyboard

Our Piano Buying Guide

Below, compare the very affordable Akai MPK 88 to other pianos in its class:

Akai MPK249Akai MPK249
arturia-keylab-49Arturia KeyLab 49 MKII
roland-a88Roland A-88
Novation Launchkey 61 MK3
Roland A49

Uses and Features

Let’s start with the 16 MPC pads. Akai grants you 3 additional banks making room for 64 creative possibilities. Alongside the MPC pads you have the note repeat option with a speed select option. The pads are touch sensitive with 127 levels of velocity, giving your tracks the capability of having natural sounding percussion as well as many other creative options. Akai delivered especially well on the MPC side but what about those keys?

This 88 key-weighted digital piano gives you plenty of room to play and deliver the authentic feel of a real hammer action piano. The MPK88’s keys have a very nice springy feel to them that really delivers a pleasant playing experience as a pianist. For some, the keys on this keyboard may be too noisy which can be an issue if you record with a microphone while you play. For most, it likely won’t be much of a problem at all.

On the right side of the Akai keyboard are 24 assignable Q-link knobs, buttons and faders with 3 banks equaling out to 72 assignable software parameters. These options make it easy to have live control over such things as track volume, panning, treble, bass and much more. Having so much control in your hands allows for a smoother workflow.  And this helps tremendously with creativity.

The far top left side features 2 wheels: pitch and modulation. The pitch wheel is a breeze to work with and the wheel self-centers itself. The modulation wheel allows for limitless creative exploration while tweaking sounds on the fly.

Next, the key-split feature and arpeggiator. The MPK 88 allows gives you the option to split the keyboard and use two separate sounds, giving you the opportunity to explore your creativity even more. Add in the arpeggiator, which syncs to the tempo and has multiple speeds, and you have even more freedom of artistic expression. To free up your hands, while using the arpeggiator, there is a “Latch” button which will hold the notes for you.

Below, please take a look at some of our favorite MIDI controllers that are still currently available online:

1) M-Audio Hammer 88
2) Arturia KeyStep Pro
3) Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII

The Akai MPK 88 MIDI Controller is a remarkable device. This keyboard will spoil you, for sure. Countless hours of looping beats and melodies just so you can play along are a definite. All of this is outstanding, but what about the price tag?

Spare Some Change?

The price stands with its weight at about eight hundred dollars, but could easily be considered the best digital piano under 1000dollars. With all the features and overall experience with the MPK 88, the price fares out surprisingly well.  The incredible ease of use, amount of creative freedom and control pays for itself.

Sure, there’s a bunch of good stuff about this controller, but is there anything bad? Well, fortunately there are no deal breaking negatives. The MPK 88 is well built and designed as well as having an amazing studio presence. But since we’ve covered all the good stuff, let’s be fair and cover three of the bad ones.

Out with the Bad

  • Heavy-Weight: It’s reaching to mention weight a real issue but it is, surprisingly, a bit heavy. Get a strong stand.
  • Hear That?: The keys tend to be louder than normal but keep in mind this is a hammer action keyboard.
  • Can’t Power Down?:There’s no power off switch.You have to turn off by disconnecting the USB cable–but why would you, right?

It’s hard to complain about any major issues with the Akai MPK 88. It’s built well and clears any creative blockades that have existed before its introduction. Hard to argue the fact of how beneficial the MPK 88 is in a production type work-flow. It’s an amazing deal when you understand what you’re actually getting with it. As a bonus they throw in an edition of Ableton Live Lite to get you started. With that said, let’s cover some more possible accessories you may want to consider along-side the MPK 88.

Accessories-Topping it off

  • Keyboard Stand: Don’t forget you’ll need to place the keyboard somewhere. Also, make sure it’s one that can hold up to at least 70 lbs.
  • Sustain/Expression Pedal: Want that real pedal action for your new keyboard? Pick up a pedal, they don’t cost much.
  • Dust Cover: Treat your MPK 88 well by protecting it with a dust cover.
  • Tricked Out: Sites such as MPCstuff.com gives you the opportunity to change the color of your MPC pad, upgrading them, or getting any other Akai specific accessories.

Akai MPK 88 vs. Studiologic VMK-188

It wouldn’t be a quality review without a comparison, would it?  Here, we compare the MPK 88 to the Studiologic VMK-188:

  • The Akai MPK88 can be had for less than $800, while the VMK-188 will cost you a little less than $1,000.
  • You’ll have to lift 65lbs. to pick up the MPK 88, while the Studiologic VMK-188 weighs just 44lbs.
  • The MPK-88 has MPC Pads while the Studiologic has no pads.
  • Both have Hammer-Action
  • Both are USB powered
  • The Akai features Pitch/Modulation Wheels, while the Studiologic features Pitch/Modulation Joystick
  • And both are velocity sensitive
Studiologic VMK-188

Based on that comparison it seems as though the one coming out on top is the Akai. Although it is much heavier, you’re getting more and saving money. The MPK 88 seems to have all a producer could ask for.

The best thing to decide from here is if it’s the keyboard for you. After all, it is simply just a tool to create with. That tool should be crafted to improve your work flow. Akai does this very well by giving you the ability to have control and freedom. Overall, the Akai MPK 88 MIDI controller is very impressive as well as a huge assistance and inspiration in the studio. For a complete list of specs, gear and accessories take a trip to AkaiPro.com.

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You Might Also Enjoy Reading:

  1. What’s the Best MIDI Controller Under $200?
  2. What’s the Best MIDI Controller With Weighted Keys?
  3. Roland JUNO DS61 review

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