Akai's classic MPC sequencer series has long been one of the most trusted devices for programmers, especially in the hip-hop realm; it's powerful sequencer with supertight timing and sampling delivered portable production power long before laptops could compete. Akai also created rubber MIDI pads; the MPC's 16-pad interface single handedly introduced the world to the idea of programming drums without a keyboard or step sequencer.
Several other companies have expanded the drum-pad concept, and now Akai has answered with the MPD24 (price TBA) USB/MIDI pad controller with 16 pads, six faders, eight knobs and MMC-enabled transport controls for a truly rounded controller. Anyone used to the feel of MPC pads will be right at home, and the large, backlit LCD gives plenty of feedback. In addition to its USB MIDI power, the MPD24 can also control stand-alone MIDI devices. The included PC/Mac software lets you customize the four banks of pad assignments without needing complicated hardware menus, and as a bonus, Akai has included its library of classic drum-machine sounds. The unit is USB bus powered or can use a power supply (sold separately).