NO JOKE: When planning to do this Akai MPK Mini Plus review, we genuinely had our doubts.
See, while the MPK Mini MK3 is undoubtably the most popular compact midi controller out there, it’s never really seemed ‘grown up’ enough for us to take seriously. Call us snobs if you will, but in comparison to other keyboards from Novation & Arturia, it’s always come across as a bit ‘Toys R Us’.
At first glance you could very easily mistake it for a children’s toy; those mad colour schemes coupled with that joystick, make the standard MPK look like some controller for a music-orientated video game. However…
When we heard Akai was set to release a beefed-up more fleshed-out version of the MPK Mini, our ears did prick up. And after spying a couple of spicy press shots, we decided to take the leap, & get hands-on with this new breed of MPK. And you know what – we’re really glad we did!! As far as we’re concerned the MPK Mini Plus is one of the best 37 key midi controllers you can buy today – yes, it really is that good!
Question is though, what sets the MPK Mini Plus apart from the standard MPK? And why is this on course to be one of the best all round midi controllers on the market? Read on & we’ll reveal all…
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Akai MPK Mini Plus specs
Prior to pitting the Akai MPK MIni Plus up against other midi keyboards in its segment, it’d be wise to first understand the specs of the MPK Mini Plus. Do so, & you’ll be able to fully grasp what the Akai MPK Mini Plus offers, & therefore reach a more accurate decision as to whether it’s right for you.
After all, it’s one thing to know a midi keyboard is rated good by experts, but another thing entirely to understand whether it’s the right fit for you & your studio; as much as we’d love for you to ‘take our word for it’, everyone produces music in their own unique way. So to be equipped with the right info from the get-go, makes it FAR more straight forward to make the best buying decision.
So without further ado, here’s a speedy overview of the Akai MPK Mini Plus…
- Weight: 1.26kg
- Dimensions: 451 x 180 x 52mm
- Sustain port for pedals: Yes
- Drivers needed: No
- With the Akai MPK Mini Plus you get 37 semi-weighted keys, which feel pretty much identical to those you find on the standard MPK Mini. However, it’s worth noting that the keys do NOT come with aftertouch.
- The MPK Mini Plus boasts 8 MPC style pads that are backlit, & change colour depending on what setting you’re using in your DAW.
- Unlike a lot of smaller midi controllers, the Akai MPK Mini Plus uses 2 physical wheels to control pitch & modulation. A contrast to the usual touch strips. There’s also that notorious Akai Joystick included too, giving you another way to experiment with pitch & mod.
- Buy the MPK Mini Plus & you’ll get a total of 8 endless encoders, which can be assigned to pretty much any instrument/ function in your DAW.
- The MPK Mini Plus also comes with a 9th master control knob to manage its small screen, amongst other functions. The screen itself is detailed and works with other aspects of the controller to provide you with feedback & help you make accurate decisions.
- We really didn’t expect this, but the Akai MPK Mini Plus also comes with an onboard sequencer. One that works in tandem with both with the pads & the keys. As far as sequencers go, this is flexible.
- Another set of built-in features on this new MPK Mini include: an arpeggiator, a note repeat function and a whole host of chord modes. All of which can be accessed through their own dedicated buttons.
- With the MPK Mini Plus you get a vast array of ports, including Midi In & Out, which allows you to connect this controller to hardware synths. There’s also ports for CV Gate, a sustain jack & Clock In & Out too!
- Across the top of the MPK Mini Plus, you also find a line of transport controls to help you control various aspects of your DAW via the keyboard itself. Out of the box, the MPK Mini Plus comes with integration for: FL Studio, Garageband, Logic Pro and Ableton Live
What’s the Akai MPK Mini Plus software bundle look like?
As far as software bundles go, it’s pretty good.
With the purchase of an MPK Mini Plus, you get a copy of MPC beats – Akai’s very own beat-making software! You also bag yourself a wide range of virtual instruments, including: kicks, snares, 808s and even piano sounds too. All sounds that should go a long way towards helping you make some impactful loops, especially if you produce Hip Hop or RnB!
What’s the difference between the Akai MPK Mini Plus & the MPK Mini MK3?
With the MPK Mini Plus, you’re no doubt wondering what the ‘Plus’ really means – i.e. how is the Mini Plus an upgrade from the standard MPK Mini MK3. Is the MPK Min Plus an entirely new keyboard? Or just an MPK Mini MK3 that’s been stretched out & sprinkled with a few new trinkets?
To help you understand just how different these 2 midi controllers really are, here’s a rundown of the difference between the two…
Akai MPK Mini Plus: the good, the bad & the ugly
Now you’re clear on how the Akai MPK Mini Plus differs to MPK Mini MK3, you’re probably wanting to delve deeper into what makes this controller so good. As well as perhaps the drawbacks that by owning this controller you’re going to have to put up with. A wise thing to do before parting with any £$€.
So to help you do just that & understand how the MPK Mini Plus might fit into your studio setup, here’s the good, the bad & the ugly…
Pros of the Akai MPK Mini Plus (AKA the good)
Cons of the Akai MPK Mini Plus (AKA the bad)
How does the Akai MPK Mini Plus compare to other midi keyboards?
Congrats! Now you’re clued up on everything about the Akai MPK Mini Plus, you can relax… slightly.
However, before you go right ahead and buy this midi keyboard you’d also be wise to see how it compares to its rivals. The MPK Mini Plus is not the only 37-key midi with a lot going for it! In fact, the Plus isn’t without it’s fair share of competition from the likes of Novation & Arturia.
So to be doubly sure that the MPK Mini Plus is the right midi controller for you, here it is pitted up against its most fierce rivals…
Akai MPK Mini Plus VS Arturia Keystep 37
- You’ll find a built-in sequencer with both the Keystep 37 & the MPK Mini Plus. Regardless of which you choose, both work really well, however due to the LED lights above each key that illuminate when that not is in the sequence, we’d say the Arturia’s is that bit more user friendly.
- Whichever keyboard controller you pick, you’ll be getting a 5-pin Midi In/ Out jack. Great news if you’re looking to hook up hardware synths or just want to integrate your controller with more of your other analog studio gear.
- A built-in arp & chord modes are standard on both controllers.
- Pretty obvious, but both these controllers have 37 semi-weighted keys. Although we would say that one controller does have the slight edge when it comes to keys. Carry on reading to discover which that it…
- Both controllers give you access to a display when controlling their various functions/ modes. However, that you get on the Akai is not only OLED (instead of LED), but it also allows you to be that bit more accurate.
- Regardless of which controller you choose, you’ll get access to a bunch of transport controls. Both controllers are pretty basic when it comes to this sort of control, but at 37 keys it’s really all you need.
- In terms of software, while both have solid bundles, we’d say that you get with the Arturia (Analog Lab Intro & Ableton Live Lite) is going to appeal to more people. While MPC Beats is pretty rad, it’s hardly what you’d call a mainstream DAW. Sorry Akai.
- In the arena of keys, we’d say the Arturia does have the slight edge. With the Keystep 37 having slightly longer keys which sit on a deeper keybed, when compared to the MPK Mini Plus, you do get that bit extra feel. Something that makes the Arturia a tad more playable.
- Sticking with the keys, those you find on the Keystep 37 have aftertouch. Those on the MPK Mini Plus unfortunately do not.
- In terms of form factor, the Keystep is that bit heavier (due to its metal base) as well as longer too; the extra gear is situated alongside the keys, opposed to above them like on the MPK Mini Plus. So if you’re after portability, the MPK Mini Plus has the most compact footprint of the two.
- Pitch and mod on each of these controllers is completely different. With the MPK Mini Plus it’s assigned to the 2 dedicated wheels, while on the Arturia you control P&M via a set of touch strips. A slightly more compact approach, although for accuracy, you cannot beat the wheels you get on the MPK Mini Plus.
- Bit of a fussy detail, but if you’re going to have you controller plugged in all the time, you can turn the Keystep 37 on/off with a physical switch on the back of the keyboard. A switch you don’t find on the MPK Mini Plus.
Akai MPK Mini Plus VS Novation Launchkey 37 MK3
- Regardless of whether you opt for the Launchkey 37 MK3 or the MPK Mini MK3, you’ll get 2 dedicated wheels for controlling pitch & modulation. Arguably the most accurate way to do so; with touch strips (& especially joysticks) it can be quite difficult to gauge your sound.
- Both keyboards come equipped with transport controls, however it’s only fair to mention that those on the Novation are that bit more in-depth than those you’ll find on the MPK Mini Plus. Either way though, they both work really well with the majority of mainstream DAWs.
- There’s a total of 8 assignable knobs on each keyboard controller. Although a point goes to the Akai for having endless knobs, opposed to those on the novation, which have both a start/ end point.
- If you’re after built-in an arpeggiator or scale mode, then either of these keyboards will suffice. Both have these features built-in & in both cases they work really well.
- However, if you’re after a set of keys with aftertouch, then you may have to look elsewhere – neither of these keyboards come with aftertouch for the keys.
- Most noticeably, then Novation Launchkey 37 has a whopping 16 drum pads; a contrast to the 8 you get on the MPK Mini Plus. Although as finger drummers will probably already know, the feel of the pads is far better with the Akai. Sop really, it’s give & take.
- If you’re after integration with Ableton Live, then the Akai may not be for you. While it does come with basic integration out of the box, that you get with the Launchkey 37 is SO much more in-depth. You can trigger clips, alter sends & even navigate session view all with a couple of taps on the pads or a quick turn of the knob.
- While both do have the same amount of keys, the keys themselves are substantially different. Those on the Akai appear to be the same mini-sized keys you get on the smaller MPK Mini MK3, while those on the Launchkey 37 are full-size. Aside from being far longer, they also sit on a deeper keybed. And while they aren’t the most weighted keys in the world, there are plenty of options for adjusting their sensitivity.
- While the pads on the Novation may not have the feel of those of the MPK Mini Plus, they do have polyphonic aftertouch. A nice easter egg!!
- If inputs/ outputs is your thing, then the Akai is for you. With the Launchkey 37, you have to make do with 5-pin Midi Out, USB and sustain. While the MPK Mini Plus gives you all these, plus: Midi In, CV Gate, Clock i/o. Perhaps that’s why they call it the ‘Plus’?
- As for software, bith have good bundles, BUT for 90% of players, the Novation’s is better. Buy the Launchkey & you get a bunch of software including: Abelton Live Lite, Spitfire Audio Labs Expressive Strings, Serato Sample LE, a 2-month membership to Splice Sounds, XLN Audio Addictive Keys & much much more!!
Is the Akai MPK Mini Plus worth it?
In most cases, we’d say yes – the Akai MPK Mini Plus is more than worth it.
And we say so because, despite its few shortfalls, this is easily one of the most well-equipped 37-key midi controllers you can buy; as an overal package, the MPK Mini Plus is hard to beat! Have this in your studio & unless your a multiplatinum producer who’s chasing every perk under the sun (in which case you’d probably benefit from an 88 Key Midi Controller instead), then you’re going to be just fine.
If you’re just after a beefed-up more capable version of the MPK Mini MK3, then look no further.
In fact, the only real reason we’d suggest buying another type of midi controller of this size would be if you’re specifically after nerdy levels of DAW integration. As that is something that both Novation & Arturia do that bit better, especially in respect to Ableton Live.
So yeah, as DAW controller and keyboard, the MPK Mini Plus ticks a LOT of boxes & is 100% an improvement on the MPK Mini MK3.
All that’s left for you to decide is: does it tick the right boxes for you?
Grab your Akai MPK Mini Plus today…
Enjoy this review of the Akai MPK Mini Plus, & eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Midi Controller Reviews, as well as our Knowledge About Music Production. Recently we’ve also done a full Review Of The Donner DMK 25 Pro + another on the Best Midi Controllers For Logic Pro X, which may also be a good read.
Or if your heart’s set on Akai’s MPK Mini Plus, keep reading to discover yet more about this impressive keyboard controller…