The Akai Music Production Centre - or MPC as it’s more commonly known - has been a staple piece of kit for hip hop production for decades. Even with virtually all DAWs having the capability to perform the duties of the MPC, many vouch for the more tactile workflow afforded by incorporating it into a setup.

Beyond the workflow, the MPC has its own sonic character, particularly so in the earlier models like the MPC60 and MPC3000, which have a thicker, warmer sound than their modern counterparts. The MPC also has unique feel and groove programming capabilities that can yield different results when compared to a software sequencer.

The Akai MPC is a hardware sampler, primarily used a drum machine. Its designer, Roger Linn, was an important figure in the development of electronic musical instruments, creating the world’s drum machine to utilise digital sampling, called the LM-1 Drum Computer. After several successive products, his company, Linn Electronics, closed business and Linn was brought on by Akai to design what would become the first in the line of MPC models, the MPC60. At its core, this and the subsequent revisions are a desktop unit into which audio samples can be loaded, then played using its 16 (with the exception of the MPC500, which has 12) trigger pads. Its built-in sequencer can manipulate the timing/groove of the playback, one of the key features of the MPC’s sound.

Since its initial release in 1988, it’s capabilities and specifications have evolved from 12-bit/40kHz conversion, 26-second sample time limit and floppy disc storage, to 24-bit/96kHz conversion and processing power only limited by that of the user’s computer, as well as the introduction of additional features like effects processing. Despite the progressive upgrades, older models are still favoured by some for their particular sonic characteristics and ability to integrate into specific setups, with each revision of the unit still having its dedicated users.

The MPC is particularly prevalent in the creation of hip hop, with producers like Dr. Dre, Kanye West and DJ Shadow citing it as their instrument of choice, though the way in which it inspires creativity sees it embraced by artists of all kinds.

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