For a while now, Akai Professional has dominated the compact MIDI keyboard market with products that offer exceptional value for the asking price, and delivering unrivaled quality in the process.
The original MPK Mini struck a nerve using this formula when it debuted, and since then, the company has continued to excel in both the mini and full-size MIDI keyboard markets, offering a slew of different products that all meet different needs for their customers. At this level, however, there are tons of options on the market today, all looking to attract buyers who are looking for a portable, easy to use solution for producing and composing on the go.
So then, how does the MPK Mini MKII stack up? Well, let’s take a look a deeper look.
And quickly, please take a moment and use our interactive table below to compare the Akai MPK Mini MKII to other notable MIDI keyboards available on today’s market:
|Akai MPK249||49||Semi-Weighted Keys|
|Arturia KeyLab 49 MKII||49||More than 200 Multi Patches|
|Novation Launchkey 61 MK3||61||16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads|
|Roland A49||49||USB Bus Powered|
|Roland A-88||88||Dual and Split Keyboard Functions
A 25-key mini MIDI keyboard can certainly take some getting used to, especially if you are used to playing pianistically using two hands. Normally, those who are looking for a mini keyboard already know the song and dance, and are already used to the form factor associated with these devices, but for the uninitiated, it can have a bit of a learning curve.
The overall layout of the MPK Mini MKII looks great, and lends itself well to performance-minded players. Like the original MPK Mini, I foresee this new keyboard being an extremely valuable addition to any live stage rig, and the potential only goes up from here.
And before we continue, please take a moment to view a small list of some of the best selling MIDI keyboards available on Amazon:
|1) Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII|
|2) M-Audio Hammer 88|
|3) Roland A-88 MKII|
Akai has a long and storied history of creating quality, affordable products; over 30 years of it, in fact. The MIDI keyboards produced by the company have consistently been some of the highest quality ever released, and the quality has only continued to rise as the years go by.
The MKII builds on this legacy, and from the moment you lay your hands on it, you’ll feel the quality instilled throughout the design process. With that being said, it’s important to realize that it is not a bulletproof product. I feel that it’s worth noting the keyboard’s somewhat fragile build, for instance, since many users might want to travel with the Mini.
The trigger pads are pretty standard, but they work well and feel good to the touch, which is about all you can ask for in a product at this level. They won’t be competing with the many high dollar options out there on the market, but then again, they don’t need or even want to. The keys, while smaller than a typical keyboard by quite a bit, are still very playable after a bit of practice, and actually surprised me with their playability as I went on.
Integrations and Software
For most people, I’d venture to say this product will be used with a DAW in mind. The great news here is, the MPK Mini MKII integrates perfectly with a wide array of software, from Pro Tools to Logic Pro to Ableton Live. Chances are, a bit of configuring will be needed within the program you are using, but I found that with Logic Pro X, I was able to get up and running in a matter of minutes.
There are also several soft synths included with the MPK Mini MKII; which is something I’ll never complain about. I didn’t get the chance to try out the 2 different options available with purchase, including SONiVOX Wobble, and Air Music Tech Hybrid 3 synth, but I imagine they are great for their price tag of $0!
Honestly, they could have skipped this entirely and that would have been perfectly okay for the price, so I see these downloads as bonuses on top of an already great deal. There is also a makeshift DAW included in the form of MPC Essentials, but while I haven’t used it personally, other reviewers have noted that it isn’t anything to write home about.
Still, it’s nice to see this included as an option for those who need it.
While Akai has clearly been doing some incredible things in the MIDI controller marketplace for many years, that’s not to say they’ve been running unopposed. Plenty of high quality, low cost controllers are on the market today, and the feature gap is getting smaller and smaller with every new release.
Therefore, let’s now explore a few of the MPK Mini’s top competitors, and discover what the primary differences might be between them.
Akai MPK Mini MKII vs Novation LaunchKey Mini MKII
Novation’s LaunchKey series of mini keyboard controllers has been around for just about as long as Akai’s offering, and both products actually share a long list of similarities that have been discussed in depth online. Both of the devices can be powered via USB, which is a huge boon for those who will be using them while on the go, and both have a suite of software bundled with them to get you started.
Both products have a great build quality, although MIDI controllers aren’t usually meant to be thrown at walls. It’s also worth noting that the LaunchKey has 16 pads, while the MPK only has 8. As I said earlier, 8 should honestly be more than enough for most uses, but if that’s a priority for you, you might be better served with the LaunchKey.
Additionally, Novation’s product integrates tightly with Ableton Live, so if that’s your DAW of choice, it might be another reason to go that route. Ultimately, it’ll depend on your specific circumstances, but either of these products are a great buy at the price they sit at.
vs M-Audio Oxygen 25
The next competitor to consider is M-Audio, who has been doing a lot of interesting things in recent years with their controller lineup. The Oxygen 25 represents a real alternative to the MPK in the sense that its 25 velocity-sensitive keys are full size; a major boon for those looking for a pianistic playing style. A bevy of bundled software and compatibility make this one all the more alluring, and M-Audio has a proven track record of support behind their products.
At $119, this won’t break anyone’s bank, but if the full-size keys aren’t a need for you, you might be better served by the cheaper Akai product.
vs Arturia MiniLab
Next up is the MiniLab from Arturia; a 25-key controller that packs some serious style and functionality into a powerful product. Right out of the gate, the MiniLab has some features the MPK lacks, such as iOS support, capacitive touch strips for modulation, pitch bend control and pressure sensitive pads. It also has a few more knobs, allowing for a slightly deeper level of control and customization, especially for live performance.
The Arturia definitely wins some points in the looks department as well, with the retro design and thoughtful layout playing nicely into the feel of the controller. Additionally, the MiniLab comes with an incredibly impressive sound library, bundling in the entire Analog Lab 2 sound library, which includes over 5000 synth sounds.
That could be the deal breaker for potential Akai buyers, especially if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution.
vs Novation LaunchKey 25
Finally, we have the Novation LaunchKey, a product that might turn a few heads, especially for those who are looking for a tightly integrated solution for live shows using Ableton. There’s no need to spend any time MIDI-mapping the keyboard, and it has 16 pads, which compared to Akai’s 8 allows for some more advanced triggering and clipping, all right from the keyboard controller.
Personally, I don’t enjoy the look of the keyboard too much myself, but that’s a relatively minor nitpick for most. It’s worth noting that the keys are full size here as well, which we’ve established is important to quite a few players. Ultimately though, this product seems like it serves a different function than the MPK, and to compare them directly wouldn’t be a productive use of our time.
Competition aside, the MPK MKII is a competent keyboard controller that costs less than a hundred bucks. There isn’t a ton of new innovation happening here, but really, there wasn’t anything lacking on the previous MPK controller, so I’ll give Akai a pass.
The overall build quality and construction of the key bed feels great, and this is certainly a product that will see a long period of use.
All of that said, there are some real competitors that have cropped up in the last few years that make this choice quite a bit harder, depending on your individual needs. This is a jam-packed price point, and there are a lot of great keyboards—and brands—to choose from.
All in all, the Akai MPK Mini MKII still manages to distinguish itself as a fantastic controller, bringing playability (despite the mini keys), quality construction, great software bundles and high customizability together into one cohesive, affordable product. Although there are plenty of other contenders for the budget controller space, few match the same level of reliability and quality that Akai Professional produce.
- Quality, purpose-built construction
- Great quality mini keys
- Cool thumbstick control
- Plastic, and a bit fragile
- Mini keys might be too mini for some
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As a quick little bonus to this article, please take a moment to view some of the noteworthy specs of the MPK Mini MKII:
- Dimensions: 12.5″ x 7.13″ x 1.75″
- Weight: 1.65 lbs
- 25 synth-action mini keys
- 4-way thumbstick (dynamic modulation and pitch control)
- 8 velocity-sensitive MPC-style pads (backlit)
- Note repeat, full level and tap tempo buttons
- 8 Q-Link knobs (assignable for plug-in tweaking and mixing)
- Arpeggiator built-in (adjustable resolution, modes and range)
- Octave up/down buttons
- USB powered (no power adapter needed)
- One 1/4″ TS input
- Sustain pedal input (full-size)
- Software package included (downloads)
- Compatible with Mac and PC