Akai MPC Renaissance Product Review by Steven Williams
The Akai MPC Renaissance was one of the most widely anticipated products to be released in the last year. Any MPC product could be considered a bold move from Akai, but even more so when using the hardware in conjunction with new MPC Software. Classic MPC models have been the product of producers for decades varying from a vast range of genres, thanks to their intuitive interface, remarkable sound quality and incredible versatility. Famously DJ Shadow produced the entire Entroducing album on one MPC unit. But to what effect will the Software have on what is such a consistently rich heritage? The phrase ‘best of both worlds’ comes to mind.
Before I first used the MPC Renaissance, I watched the videos and read the specs knowing they simply wouldn’t do it justice, and I was right. Putting into words its feel and swagger proved a surprisingly difficult task. Despite its solid structure it feels much more luxurious and sleeker than its photos would have you believe. The controls on the unit such as the jog dial and trigger pads feel typically stable and weighted. At first I thought the padded leather strip was there for aesthetics, but after a while I realised that Akai had even thought to make it as comfortable as they can for the long periods in the studio, a pleasant touch!
If you have used an MPC, you’ll be glad to know there’s been no significant changes in terms of the interface, as there’s not much you could do to improve upon it. But I’m glad to see Akai has stuck to what’s tried and tested, rather than a controversial new outlook; thankfully everything’s where and how it should be. In feel also it’s typical punchy sound and instantaneous timing remains, however is this almost in the MPCs DNA by now.
But it is a new unit, therefore it does have some unfamiliar features, one of them being long-samples can now be streamed from the hard-drive. With the addition of the software comes the advantage of receiving clear and detailed visual feedback so you can precisely edit samples or notes much easier than ever before. But the most exciting feature for me was the ability to change the sound out-put from the clean standard audio to imitate the crunchy retro sound from the early MPCs like the iconic MPC-60. It’s a simple yet brilliant idea, and one I believe will regenerate the passion from older MPC users, and will really appeal to them.
Obviously, the main feature of the Renaissance is the ability to integrate it seamlessly to a Mac or PC via the MPC software. It can be connected through a VST, AU or RTAS plug-in. Speaking as someone who as owned many MPCs over the years, they have always had undoubtedly high quality but lacked the ability to physically see what you are doing. The integration with the Software just makes everything so much more clear and fun, plus editing is unbelievably easier. If like me, you’re upgrading your old MPC unit, the Renaissance is also compatible with all previous MPC file formats, so you don’t lose any previous work.
Akai seems to have perfectly captured what the MPC represents, and the integrated software enhances every aspect. It’s arguably the best MPC Akai have produced, and that’s a bold statement. Like I said earlier, without trying it for yourself, it’s difficult to describe its feel, but watch this video and you’ll see what I mean.