Review: Akai Pro/Retronyms iMPC Pro 2

Expanded workflow puts full songs on tap
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For 30 years, Akai’s MPC workstations have helped steer the course of sample-based music production, evolving their features with new technologies while remaining centered on sample flipping with a classic 16-pad workflow. While the latest flagship MPC X hardware represents the pinnacle of the series’ achievement, on the other end of the spectrum, iMPC Pro 2 remarkably distills the core capabilities of the latest desktop MPC workflow into a sleek iPad app.

In iMPC Pro 2, you can play a hosted Audio Unit plugin instrument with the MPC pad interface, including Note Repeat, the touch-pad Flux Link performance effects, and more.

In iMPC Pro 2, you can play a hosted Audio Unit plugin instrument with the MPC pad interface, including Note Repeat, the touch-pad Flux Link performance effects, and more.

With Akai and Retronyms as joint developers, the huge iMPC Pro 2 update mirrors many of the new features from the recent MPC 2.0 desktop software, including full audio track recording and real-time time-stretch and pitch-shifting for warping that recorded audio and other clips to match tempo changes. With iMPC 2, you can also sample directly from Spotify music, record from Inter-App Audio (IAA), upload your tracks directly to YouTube (as well as SoundCloud), and, my favorite, host iOS Audio Unit plug-ins.

In addition to its existing Drum Tracks, which construct MIDI tracks from the sample banks of 16 MPC pads, iMPC Pro 2 adds two track types that help make the app a full songwriting workstation: Audio Recording and Audio Unit tracks. You can record to an audio track from the iPad’s internal mic or an externally connected microphone, a line input, or from an IAA-compatible app. The recording screen provides a VU input meter, and recorded audio can be split, reversed, duplicated, and time stretched/pitch shifted when you change a project’s tempo, with pleasant-sounding results up to ±30bpm.

An Audio Unit track will host any compatible app on your iPad, and you can play it and record it either from a piano-style keyboard set to any scale you like, or from the classic 16-pad MPC environment, including Note Repeat, Note Variation, Time Correct, and iMPC Pro’s Flux Link touch-pad performance effects. Not only is it amazing to add full tracks to your iMPC project from great synths like Moog Model 15 for example, but also playing them from the MPC interface adds a new twist to favorite instruments.

The overhauled iMPC Pro 2 interface matches the black color scheme of today’s MPC hardware and software. Additionally, it adds more title-bar and menu options, a new Track view, and has an improved Song view for stringing sequences together. Moreover, it does a great job utilizing the full iPad screen in six view modes for performing from the pads, tweaking sounds, editing tracks from the timeline, and working the 64-track mixer (with 3-band EQ and four effects per track).

Several all-new soundpacks draw from modern hip-hop/trap and electronic styles, but the addition of the Spotify catalog to the sampling Turntable (along with your iPad’s iTunes library), really skyrockets your available sound palette. You only get a 30-second clip of a Spotify song that’s supposed to have the best hooks to sample from, but nonetheless you can take any one-shot or loop and use the full suite of editing tools to give them a feel of their own for your tracks.

That, along with Audio and Audio Unit tracks make iMPC Pro 2 a whole new song-production world built atop the good old MPC beat-production foundation.

Audio Recording tracks. Audio Unit plug-in tracks. Track view. Sampling from Spotify catalog. Realtime warping of audio to match tempo.

Not as many editing features and effects for Audio tracks as for individual samples on Drum tracks. Sampling from Spotify limited to 30-second clips.


Markkus Rovito writes words and music from the Urban Hermitage in San Francisco, California.