Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: Akai MDP24 (MDP26) Pad Control

I didn't plan on getting a new pad control anytime soon, but I found a used version of the exact model that I wanted at a really good price. So of course, I couldn't pass it up! The Akai MDP24 (pictured here) has been discontinued, and its replacement is the MDP26. The MDP26 is essentially the same thing, except it has a black cover, 6 knobs instead of 8, a key note button, a swing button, and a tap tempo button. Aside from that, they are practically identical. The MDP26 sacrifices 2 knobs in exchange for a tap tempo (for setting BPM) and note repeat (with swing to adjust how often the note repeats). Note repeat is useful for emulating drum rolls and such.

Having said that, I purchased the MDP24 because the difference wasn't that important to me. The unit is very solid and feels like it was built with quality. The pads are a little squishier on the corners because they don't directly touch the sensor pads there. This can be considered a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

There are over 30 customizable presets that can be named and controlled directly from the LCD screen. Each preset allows you to name it and change the parameters of each pad, fader, and knob. Pads can be used to toggle on/off mode, press/hold mode, and program-change mode (for changing instruments and such). Knobs and faders can have their minimum and maximum values setup independantly. Every pad, knob, and fader is capable of sending 0 to 127 bits of MIDI information, based on the amount the knob/fader is adjusted or how hard the pad is pressed.

The pads are not too squishy, but not resistant and hard either. They provided a nice rubber bounce to them when hit, and they are pressure-sensitive for sending lower/higher velocity (volume) messages. Each pad can be customized to signal certain notes (4 banks of 16, so a total of 64 notes). You can also assign aftertouch values to each pad, allowing the after-effect of holding down the button to be different from the initial effect of pressing the button.

The faders and knobs are both very responsive. Aftertouch can be setup with each of these also. The controller can also send play/stop/record/FF/RW messages to hardware that recognizes Midi-Machine Code.

One of my favorite features about this controller is that it is software-independant. It is truely plug-n-play compatible. The software is there if you want to use the included samples and VST plugin, or if you want to edit your presets via PC instead of the controller's LCD display. Other than that, the software is mainly used for updating firmware to the device. So any patches and changes made to how the controller works is downloaded from the computer and permanently stored in the device itself. What's so great about this? You can take this controller and plug it into any computer that recognizes USB 2.0 and Midi messages. No need for drivers! So there is no waiting around for drivers when the next version of Windows comes out.

Overall, great product! My only complaint is that the USB cord is way too short (about 3 feet long), but it can be replaced with a cheap A/B USB cable.

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