AKAI Pro MPC Key 61 Review – “Impressive, But Unusable”?

In his latest video, Youtuber Benn Jordan reviews the new AKAI Pro MPC Key 61, the company’s first keyboard Music Production Center.

While their recent MPC workstations have generally been well received, Jordan isn’t impressed with the MPC Key 61. “I hate making videos this critical,” he notes, “but you can follow my journey from optimism to remorse and see why I did.”

For another take on Akai’s first keyboard MPC, see Loopop’s MPC Key 61 review.

Topics covered:

00:00: Intro
04:00: Demoing the pianos
08:50: 1 patch, 55% CPU usage
10:39: Severe Bugs
13:00: Day 2. Factory Reset
15:00: System crash
16:37: Recording a double bass
19:22: List edit for glitchy beats
23:26: THE SONG I Finally Made
26:10: Takeaways & Thoughts

Check out the video and share your thoughts on it in the comments. If you’re a MPC Key 61 owner, what’s your take on Jordan’s criticisms? Leave a comment and let us know how it’s working for you!

32 thoughts on “AKAI Pro MPC Key 61 Review – “Impressive, But Unusable”?

  1. Interesting how ‘day 1’ reviews are always positive, but reviews from people who’ve actually used their gear for a while are very different.

    I don’t trust any of the ‘day 1’ synth reviewers anymore. None of them. ALL of them have to give positive reviews, if they want to get early access to gear. The moment they do a review like this one, they’re never going to get early access to gear anymore.

    1. agreed. when you can find more problems with the reviewer than they can with the product; reviews have lost their meanings. I haven’t brought a product based on a review since… forever.

      1. I don’t know. I still trust loopop and Nick Batt pretty much. At least I generally pay attention to what they say, and I think both of them try to remain as unbiased as possible (knowing what that entails from doing it professionally for a magazine for the better part of 15 years).

        1. Trust loopop…lol.
          I value NIck’s opinion however.
          But if u watched this video carefuly it’s clear where the keyboard has its weak spots.

          1. Maybe “trust” wasn’t the correct word to use in the case of loopop. It is more of a matter of his videos being more like tutorials than sales pitches or even descriptions. Actually, I’ve never been dissatisfied with any gear I have purchased that I got interested in because of his videos. For example, I don’t think I would own a ‘the NDLR’ if it weren’t for him.

      2. All of this is not surprising when it comes to Akai, they’ve had a few decent instruments over the years used by many on alot of stuff but really have always been bugged & plagued by certain issues of some sort that has gradually forced them to cut, back & down their own product lines emmensely where they’re a mere shell of what was and still are considered the red-headed stepchild of the Japanese makers despite all this they continue to go ahead with the ‘let’s throw something together cheaply in a last ditch effort to stay somewhat viable in the market’ attitude that looks like it might work based on how this thing is selling but it may not (probably won’t) last kids, but again this has been their m/o for yrs now….Not having anything to do with said topic here but the Best controller’s on the planet still remain to be & for along time have been Kurzweil’s K2k & PC3 there’s really nothing out there that are as purposeful as pure cntrllrs with the midi features & flexible versatility of’em then & now thanx folks

        1. Not sure if I’d agree with that assessment.

          The recent MPCs have been almost universally embraced, like they finally got it right, after years of doing ‘meh’ MPCs or controllers that require a computer.

          1. Universally embraced by who? I have collected an enormous number of videos that I have found to have helped me in some way to get my MPC Live 2 to do something/anything. When I look at some of the videos (especially directly pertaining to the Live 2) they often begin with statements like, “Here’s a tip that I just figured out because Akai couldn’t provide help with this.” If that’s “finally getting it right”:, I shudder to think about what happens when they get it wrong. Seriously?

      3. It’s really out of touch with reality to expect quality reviews and not pay for them. If you want independent online journalism, subscribe to YT Premium and support creators on Patreon or with donations. As long as the manufacturers pay the bills, reviewers will have a hard time being unbiased.

  2. He may not have intended to make a funny video but I found myself LMAO through most of it. Except for an MPK-49 keyboard of some sort, I haven’t had a current Akai music product in my studio since the late 80s when I had an S1000 sampler. For whatever reason, about a month ago I got the idea that an MPC Live 2 would be a great addition to my studio, so I bought one. Given that it is so new, it isn’t surprising to find that the MPC 61 isn’t finished, given that the MPC Live 2 isn’t finished (or anywhere near finished), as well. Also, for that matter, even the MPC Software remains horribly unfinished. The first thing that quickly got my attention was the fact that none of the “current” Akais can deal with VST3. This wouldn’t be as big annoyance as it was if I hadn’t migrated all of my VST2 plugins to VST3. Then, one by one, the inconsistencies, bugs, and omissions began to take their toll. I now regret having ever bought the piece of s***. How they remain as popular as they are remains a mystery to me.

    1. that is pretty surprising. Being VST2 is discontinued and many plugins only have VST3 now. I still have a 60, 3k, and 4k they still work great today and fortunately i havent ever felt that i needed to upgrade. I have computers that do what they do and for me, I dont need to mix those together in one unit. That being said I thought it looked cool in theory.

  3. I had the MPC One and I thought it was fine. I didn’t do all I thought I could or, rather, wished I could accomplish with it so I sold it and got the Force.
    That thing was the answer I had been looking for. Namely, I could make a self-contained composition with it whereas I felt the One was of the ‘beat making’ orientation.

  4. Akai never again… lots of years ago contacted akaipro for a shematic/spare parts for a out of warranty S5000 sampler ( 3000$ puchase at this time… ) . Receveid a ” sorry but we do not support legacy products ! 1y after it get out of the warranty … ” this was the only answer ! … since the only Akai i’ve keeped is a old analog AX60 that i like a lot, but, never again a will spare a dime on this company….

  5. Here’s my thought on the AKAI Pro MPC Key 61: based on the specs I read, the core problem is it is simply underpowered CPU-wise and memory-wise. They are trying to cram more DAW into a machine than what it can handle. When you do that, bugs rear their ugly heads. So, give the machine much more headroom and really do the work to clean out the bugs before releasing it.

  6. I agree. The problem with Akai’s approach (and Native Instruments at this point) is that they’re essentially squeezing a lower powered Linux PC in a hardware form factor. Perhaps it’s so they can pack in as many features as possible to cast a wide net and compete with software DAWs. I actually prefer hardware more limited and specialized in scope if it does exactly what it’s supposed to do without much fuss. As soon as Benn started talking about managing CPU overhead and various plugins in the video, Akai already lost me. You buy a workstation to not deal with all that…to just turn it on and get to work. Same thing with a stage piano…it’s supposed to be a simple thing. You take it on stage, press a button, and just play it.

    Perhaps in 2 or 3 generations the whole PC/hardware hybrids will be the best of both worlds. If NI released a workstation keyboard that could run all of the Komplete synths and Kontakt libraries flawlessly…sign me up, but that’s probably a ways away.

    1. The thing is is that a lot people don’t want to dick around with a laptop, after they work on a computer all day.

      And no audience wants to watch you dick around with a laptop. They think you pressed ‘play’ and that you’re checking your email.

      Workstations definitely have a place, but companies have to get the firmware to where it’s rock-solid.

      It seems like AKAI was really ambitious with the MPC Keys design, but that it will take a few years for this platform to be mature. And buyers don’t know if there’s going to be enough demand for the MPC Keys for Akai to justify updating it for the next couple of years. It’s an unfortunate situation for everybody.

      1. Let’s be honest, the only people that care about whether musicians have some hardware workstation or a laptop with a controller on stage are the chin scratching synth nerds that hang out on synthtopia…

  7. You two beat me to the “underpowered” gate, but that’s the real issue. Its a shame, because the overall design feels good to me and I’m not even in the market for a controller, especially a muscle-car with weak calves. Give the little bugger a couple of 2 TB SSDs and I’ll bet it would smoke. Another example of a fine design that didn’t stay in the oven long enough.

    We’re mostly just synth weasels, but we ARE the buying audience. I get the feeling most of the companies rarely read the boards and tighten down a few of the screws we keep mentioning, like crap keyboard builds and stingy memory allotments. You could sell me a smooth-actioned 61-key controller keyboard with poly AT in a heartbeat. I’m thinking the Korg M3, whose separate key unit was sweet.

    1. The keyboard on the Waldorf Iridium Keyboard is amazing. It’s only shortcoming is that it is only 49 keys. However, those are 49 keys of polyphonic aftertouch wonderfulness. The action of the keys is very similar to the Fatar TP/08s (which I think is what it is with polyphonic aftertouch added). For reference, if you aren’t familiar with the TP/08, it DOES feel a lot like the keyboard on the M3, with the exception that the control zone for the aftertouch (mono- or poly- aftertouch) is a bit larger on the Fatar, giving you more room for control pressure discrimination. Anyway, the action is definitely a winner and I expect that 61- and 72-key versions will be showing up soon on synths that can support polyphonic aftertouch.

  8. I never had any problem with any of the hardware synths I owned back in the 80’s and 90’s. Things were better made in the “good old days”! 🙂

  9. I say this without having seen Benn’s video yet. I own a pair of Lives and a Force so I’m pretty familiar with this family of products.

    If we compare the MPC Keys 61 to a workstation product like the Kronos, the latter – while it takes a while to fire up – doesn’t feel underpowered to me. The Kronos has 3GB of ram, allows for disk streaming of sample libraries, and can have up to 16 multitimbral parts in a Combi or sequence along with a ton of FX which themselves are highly configurable. It has nine different synth engines and you are limited only by the processing power available. The Kronos is 12 years old. However, we have to remember that a Kronos costs about $4K new (in Canadian dollars) which is double the cost of the Akai. The Akai gets a lot of stuff right: it excels when it comes to sampling and sequencing which is probably not a surprise to anyone given its lineage. It has a great touch screen. The keybed feels pretty nice and of course the pads are great. It’s stepping into a market where it’s competing with mid-range products like the Nautilus and the Fantom-O series. In that way, I think it’s doing quite well and offers some unique advantages but those instruments ARE able to access a lot of sounds without requiring load times.

    One group of products are ROM based workstations that sample, and the MPC61 is a sampler that is trying to behave like a workstation. It’s an interesting approach that I haven’t seen in a while. I think it could make for an excellent 2nd keyboard in a pro rig.

    1. OK I just went through his video. Obviously the stability issues he encountered are significant. One of the reasons I like to use hardware is because it’s ideally more stable than a software environment. My Lives have crashed once in a while, but never on a gig once everything is loaded. He raises fair points about the Force being unfinished for a significant amount of time, though I will say that NOW it’s a pretty incredible product.

      I hope Akai can get this sorted and in a shorter period of time than what they did with the Force. I’m delighted to see them move into the hardware keyboard world, bringing a new perspective. Having a unit that does a few things well is better than having something that is trying to be everything at the cost of reliability, especially for live performers.

      1. “compared to Uli B. he is a true visionary…”. In your mind, maybe. Uli is a lot of things and I would put “Visionary” on top of that list. Singlehandedly, he pioneered the bringing of powerful music-making tools to the masses. Sometimes, the person who comes up with an idea isn’t as “visionary” as the person that actually does something with it. I’d like to see the totals, but I bet that there are a hell of a lot more Model-Ds (in either configuration) out there than there are MiniMoogs. I consider myself lucky to have had three different MiniMoogs in my studio at one time or another. I think I paid about $1400 for the last one I purchased sometime in the late 70s. I think I paid $275 for my Model-D when Sweetwater was running a pre-release sale on them.

        1. That’s revisionist. Korg introduced the volca series back in 2013, unless you don’t consider those music-making tools for the masses. The Novation Bass Station II was released in 2013 as well. It’s an affordable monosynth with keyboard and patch memory. There have been many excellent affordable instruments released in the past decade.

          All Music Tribe has done is apply a Chinese mass copying and production approach to the music industry. It’s hardly a single person effort; there are hundreds of people involved in the synth R&D effort and thousands taking part in manufacturing. None of this is visionary, it’s simply the application of Chinese Shanzhai copycat culture to a previously unexploited market niche.

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