The Akai MPC key 61 is a worlds first true All-in-one Daw or as close as you can get to it. It was a dream coming true for me and I knew once I saw it in use I had to have it.
All my life I've loved working "off-daw" meaning me and Daw systems never got to be too good friends since there was always some kind of limitations even with a 16 core super pc, either Asio drivers wouldn't work properly or the setup depending on a pc would be too cumbersome for me. I like old school instruments that just are there for me when I switch it on - instantly.
I've had it for 14 days now and it's everything I expected and more. To understand my excitement you have to first understand that I was new to the entire MPC universe and I had no idea the MPC series were so versatile, and now it even comes integrated with a keyboard.
Many people who don't own it yet says it's just an MPC one/live/X with a keyboard attached to it - and I can so far from watching 100's of youtube videos + using it myself tell you it's not.
Why? The major difference is the addition of the keyboard, the extra TouchFX ribbon bar that is one of the most versatile Ribbon bars I've ever tried. I have the Yamaha Montage with a ribbon bar and that works entirely differently as it cannot handle several fingers on the ribbon at the same time, the Akai MPC key 61 can - and it gives you the versatility to make special "jumps" and effects placing double fingers various places on the ribbon and with Leds to indicate where your finger points.
Another difference from the entire MPC lineup is that the Direct-buttons for the various functions are quite differently placed and have different shortcuts from for example the MPC Live etc. It was made and tailored specifically for the workflow of a workstation like this.
It also comes pre-loaded with a bunch of plug-ins (25 to be exact) with various instruments available to us, this usually costs like 500$ if you upgrade your regular MPC models if you purchase the Plug-in Bundle, AKAI says it's 1K bundle value. I'm a bit split on the value of that.
But the workflow is nothing short of amazing and finally there's a true sampling / VST / Integrated DAW keyboard for those who had the same dream as me, and it works. I can churn out new musical pieces by the minutes instead of fiddling with setups, midi, multi-track recorders and mixers, and it's a world class sampler/looper just like the rest of the MPC series as a bonus.
The Con's and Pro's:
Remember it's a worlds first, so it's bound to come with some release errors, software flaws and first-edition limitations which I fully expect AKAI to adress in the future. One of the initial bugs that I discovered was that ONE key on the keybed was too loud, like if you had a "stuck" velocity sensor on an older keyboard - fortunately hammering on it fixed that issue and I didn't ever have that issue since.
Secondly, something this fresh from the factory made my entire house stink of chemicals for a week, oh well - I guess that proves it really came directly from the factory after this early release.
The keyboard is a bit "stiff" in comparison to my Yamaha Montage - but WAY better than cheaper keybeds like on wavestate and MODX and similar cheaper lineup of keybeds.
It accepts digital external units such as USB Mixers and USB microphones, but with a caveat - you cannot separate the input/output drivers for these yet, so if you use an USB Microphone as a sampling device it will think that your entire USB Microphone is a sound-card as well, and you'll have to switch back to AKAI MPC's internal keyboard to hear the recording, you can solve this by simply use it as intended - with a regular Line IN 6.3" jack microphone, or an XLR Microphone with Phantom power.
It also lacks some of the functionality of a real DAW like a "Select ALL" function when working with the GRID (Note Sheet), but you do have an individual note edit function and a Rectangular Select function.
For an instrument with supposedly 6000 sound presets, there's still a lack of certain instruments such as FLUTE, upon using the search function there was no such instrument available. But you have an unmatched chop-and-sample function so you can "steal" sounds from other keyboards or use it as a Master-Midi Sequencer for all your synths, and if you hook it up to a Digital mixer or use the XLR/Line in inputs from your analog mixer, you can Bounce (re-sample) the sounds from your external keyboards to use them internally on your AKAI. It has a time-stretch function too, and you can layer up to 4 sounds which can be spread across the entire keybed or drumpads.
It's truly Dawless workflow.
It's super simple to use, you require very little learning to get up and running, you simply press Sounds to select any sound -+ track on the screen below and press either Record or Dub on the dedicated buttons and it instantly starts recording your track. Recording the next track is as simple as repeating the above - NO MENU DIVING at all.
You have near unlimited bars (up to 999)
There's 128 midi tracks which also can be used with samples internally.
You can use 8 VST's at the same time.
The screen is Multi-touch and is super fast and responsive.
You can add an Internal SSD drive.