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Review: Akai MPD232

November 30, 2015

The original MPD32 lasted years as a popular pad controller for music, DJing, and other MIDI applications. But the MPD232—the flagship of the new MPD2 line—steps up the game in just about every respect (see Figure 1).

As the bottom line on any MPD product, the 16 pressure- and velocity-sensitive pads have been modernized with 16-color illumination around their edges and a new feel to their playability. There’s also iOS compatibility, a 64-track/32-step sequencer, four pad banks, three control banks, and 30 presets, including factory templates for popular DAWs. Two massive drum libraries are included (see “The Big Bang Facts” sidebar).


Fig. 2. The MPD232 comes with adapter cables for 5-pin MIDI I/O connections.
All the new MPD controllers slim down their frames for greater portability and extend less than two inches above the tabletop. That makes the MPD232 too thin to accommodate full-size 5-pin MIDI ports, so adapter cables for the MIDI I/O ports come in the box (see Figure 2).

The newly configured pads feel a lot more firm (rather than squishy) as well as more responsive. In fact, the lack of give on the pads may cause noobie finger drummers a little discomfort, but that’s all the better to build up the strength of those digits. And those who require the utmost precision in their pads should appreciate how the MPD232’s pads respond precisely all the way out to the corners, perfect for two-fingered rolls. And if your drum rolls need help, you have the Akai MPC legacy Note Repeat button for playing drum rolls from a single pad press and the Time Div button for setting the Note Repeat value from 1/4-note to 1/32-note triplets. You also get the classic MPC Full Level and 16 Level buttons for the pads; the latter lays out the sound from the last pad touched across all 16 pads in incremental volume levels.

Pad Banks A-D offer 64 pad controls, grouped by color in the presets. On the other side of the unit, a set of eight endless rotary encoders, eight button switches, and eight 45mm faders also come with Control Banks A-C, for a total of 72 controls. The encoders possess a smooth action and are well spaced apart, while the faders have a familiar plastic-controller feel and are certainly adequate for slight, incremental movements or quick, toggle-like fades.

The smaller options in the MPD2 line—the MPD226 ($399) and MPD218 ($199)—pare down the available control sets and the number of banks.

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