As many samples as an SD card can hold, you can trigger via velocity-sensitive pads on this cute little box. Photos courtesy Akai.

As many samples as an SD card can hold, you can trigger via velocity-sensitive pads on this cute little box. Photos courtesy Akai.

Sometimes, there are designs that seem almost impossibly like an answer to a specific need. Let us illustrate.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a box that you could play, independent of a computer, that just let you mess about with samples directly from an SD card? And wouldn’t it be nice if it had MIDI jacks on it, too, and not only USB, so that you didn’t need the computer handy?

That’s the MPX8 from Akai Pro. It’s dead-simple, so you’ll do most of your sample manipulation away from the hardware. (There’s a free Mac and Windows sample editor for that.) The hardware itself only lets you adjust tuning and add reverb.

But what you do get is a heads-up LCD display, and the ability to trigger up to eight sounds at once with eight pads with eight voices, all with velocity sensitivity. And you can call up those eight sounds from the SD card, so you’re limited only by the size of your SD card in how many samples you can have handy.

There’s no arpeggiator or sequencer onboard – a “roll” function would certainly have been nice, and that’s even missing. But there is a MIDI in and out jack in addition to MIDI over USB, so you could use this alongside another sequencer. (MIDI DIN is provided via breakouts from 3.5mm / 1/8″ minijacks.)

And, again, it’s only a hundred bucks. Weighs half a kg (1 pound), powered via USB, headphone jack and balanced stereo 1/4″ jack plugs. (There’s no separate power jack, only the USB power adapter, but one is included. Clarification: Let me say that again – there is a USB power adapter. Basically, this isn’t so different from any other device that requires a power dongle. The one thing that’s missing is battery power, but you don’t need a computer to provide power over USB.)

Seems like a box that’s definitely not for everyone, but could be a godsend addition to some rigs for the people who want precisely this.

http://www.akaipro.com/mpx8

mpx8_top

  • Eyoo

    Wait, USB powered? Not battery? I hope that’s not the case, because then you may as well just have a standard controller….

    • amp

      You could use an external USB battery pack, no?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yes, or any USB power supply, too.

      You don’t need a computer for power (I realize maybe that was making some people nervous)

  • Refund

    This is pretty much exactly what I’ve wanted for quite a long time.

  • disqus_DLF2R3ymG7

    Does it playback stereo samples? No info anywhere regarding this …

    • Will

      Yes, according to their website’s Specs page.

    • Robert Dorschel

      Yes. The first firmware update they issued brought it up to stereo ability.

  • Will

    Like it, love the downsized idea, love the price but I don’t want it. Charge me another 25-50 dollars and put a sequencer on it. Not a step sequencer, just a simple midi recorder. The SQ Six-Trak had a 6 track recorder in like 1946, can’t be that hard for a company like AKAI to pull off! Tell me it loads (insert any previously popular drum sampler) kits automatically. There have been tons at this point – just pick one. Why not tap into that? Or, egad, let me actually sample with it.

    As it is, it’s a relatively expensive pad controller with the ability to load samples. My microwave loads samples at this point. I can totally get behind reusing tech from your product line but consider making *musical instruments* with that well tooled IP. There is nothing inspiring about this. Nothing lustful.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Hey, I could see someone assembling a DIY project that does what you want. So maybe this discussion will prompt someone to try.

  • DPrty

    This would be great if it met a few criteria .. Should be power-able with standard AAA. If it could sample out right I would buy it for sure.

  • DEll

    So. it’s a Roland MS-1 from about 1995 that I used to have. Or a Yamaha SU10 from 1996 that used to have. (now generally use sn SP404).

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, like I said – definitely a throwback.

    • nudephotomusic

      Neither of those have gigs of samples. In case of the Roland, it uses a decidedly obsolete storage card, and the yamaha doesn’t even have external storage at all. Would be nice to have some performance controls like the ribbon on the SU for sure. Personally, I find this a very compelling product due to the price and huge sample size. It’s perfect for off-loading a bunch of long samples off my MPC for live PA use.

  • http://senciso.com Sergio Enciso

    Perfect sound board for a morning zoo radio show.

  • Michael Walsh

    Everything about this was looking fantastic until I realized there is no battery option.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Right, you do need to take the power adapter with you.

    • Tess

      They sell external rechargeable batteries with USB ports for use as phone chargers, but they work with any USB-powered device. They fit in your pocket and can provide quite a bit of charge, depending on which one you get. Not as convenient as internal batteries, but it’ll get the job done.

  • dustinw

    I’ve been wanting to add a Roland SPD-sx to my electronic drum kit for a long time but could never justify the expense … this and a midi cord gets me 3/4 of the functionality for 1/8 the price.

    It may be comparable to a MS-1 or SU10 … but with a hundred times the memory and currently available, plus if you take the original street price and adjust for inflation: the MS-1 was around $900 in adjust 2013 dollars. 18 year of progress is pretty good, even if this product is just a nice packaging of stuff we’ve seen before.

    • Peter

      This is basically what Id use mine for.. and for a sample midi expander for my midi out enabled gameboy :D

  • Peter

    Ive read some gripes that it very slow loading kits from the sd, anyone actually own one yet?

    • Robert Dorschel

      Yes. See my post above.
      To be more specific, something I didn’t write?
      It was ridiculously slow. I had a long 84 second sample; it took 87 seconds to load.
      Seriously.

    • Peter

      Ok so *THATS* a real deal breaker. Hopefully they can fix this in a firmware update as they did the stereo stuff recently.

  • tripfontaine

    Wait… it looks like you can’t even use a power supply with it. Is that right?
    I could see this thing replacing a laptop in certain situations, which would be amazing.
    But I still need a laptop onstage to power it? Doesn’t make sense. Hope I’m wrong.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yes, you’re wrong. ;) It uses a power adapter that connects via a USB cable. So you can’t use battery power, but you don’t need a computer.

      It’s actually kind of convenient, because there are so many USB power adapters around (phones and whatnot)

  • Robert Dorschel

    I bought it. Then I sold it a week later.

    It didn’t have one very important feature that I personally needed:

    An Akai S950 (or S-01) in a box. I’m a keyboard player and kind of hoped it would have had an undocumented feature set or something in that regard.

    The feature I was looking for was polyphony playback per sample with ADSR envelope control, e.g. to throw a sample in there, loop it, adjust the attack and release time, then play it oldschool across the whole keyboard, complete with that Mickey Mouse effect. Or like that Fairlight or Emulator II sound. Even with an 8-voice limitation, it would have equaled my Akai S-01 I had from 1994.

    But unfortunately it’s nothing but a phrase sampler (or clip playback device, for all you Ableton users). This thing is strictly for the MPC crowd.

    I’m still searching for a dedicated hardware sample that’s modern, uses modern storage techniques (flash or SD), has MIDI, and that I can dump WAVs or MP3s into. And weighs less than 3 pounds. I don’t need a control interface (pads or otherwise), I already have controllers up the yin yang.

    • Peter

      Well you can tune the samples per pad, and since sample memory is cheap you can just transpose the pitch of the same sample over and over again across the pads. It would be polyphonic too.

    • Robert Dorschel

      Then you’re stuck to those 8 notes. I suppose that’s great for a minimalist piece, or, just about any Linkin Park song, but once again that’s the MPC use at heart. I want “tunable” sample playback, across the whole keyboard, playable on the fly.

    • Peter

      Well at that pricepoint there is always: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U3OL_s1dLA

    • Robert Dorschel

      Thanks for the reminder… I knew about the synth capabilities, but I didn’t know there was a soundfont player. So all I have to do now is 1) figure out how to boot the RPi without a monitor plus have it autoload a sampleset, and 2) find a soundfont creator app for OSX. :)

    • Peter

      1 is easy… I have mine boot to littlegptracker automatically from a flash drive, so you could do the same with the synth, and then edit the soundfont as you need it from the flashdrive.

  • Robert Dorschel

    sorry for the 100 edits, Peter, but I’ve said it all below.

  • fluffy

    liked the idea….but still I prefer my sp404 for it´s specs & limitations

  • kconnor9000

    Looks like a good fit for someone with an old midi drum machine around (er1, tr-505, etc.) that wants to replace the sounds with more modern (which means retro, apparently) samples.

    Thanks RobertD for the inside scoop. Rats, I was also hoping for a very basic chromatic sampler. I’m looking for the same thing, but the candidates are too little re. envelopes and filters (op1 , korg microsampler) or too much (nord wave).

    I’d be willing to dedicate an older iPad as a midi sampler. I love SAMPLR, but no midi. Any good suggestions?

    Thanks! kc

  • Newgreyarea

    This looked like a cool option for adding samples to my Drumkat as my only other sampler is an Octatrack which is no bueno in the sampling drum brain dept. I don’t even need the pads on the Akai! I don’t like that you have to use their software and that it only changes pitch by +- 4?! Any other modern samplers for an electronic drum kit?

  • Brand B

    I had noticed this on an AKAI press release a while back and it immediately piqued my curiosity. I am a big fan of hadware samplers and even more so of hardware samplers that include a control surface and even more for samplers that stream from disk. I see this as AKAI answer to the ROLAND SP line. The most current one (SP-404sx) streams linear pcm from SD, while all of them have streamed direct from disk (SP-808 zip drives, SP-202 5v 4 meg smart media, 128 meg smart media on the 303/505 and CF for the 404/555/606). This looks like a great xpander for anyone with an MPC or MPD32. The MPC/ SP combo is very popular with some producers. Paired with a Volca beats.. and things are looking fun. My questions has to do with the load time.. since I am sure it is not loading into RAM.. what exactly is being loaded? Is the file being translated from PCM into a lossy format like as done on the SP’s besides the 404sx? Is the file being indexed the first time and then ready to play after first load? Also is there a mute group setting for samples cutting off other samples? Gate Mode / Trigger / Loop? This excites me far more than the over priced MPD’s that AKAI is peddling as the new MPC line..

  • Chris

    I’m with Robert, looked hard at this but what I really want is a chromatically playable old school hardware sampler as opposed to a phrase player, useful though I can imagine that is in certain circumstances. Maybe there is an ipad app that would fill the bill but I haven’t found one as yet.

    • Matthew Battaglia

      What about the Korg Microsampler? It’s a little more expensive than this but could found on eBay pretty cheap.

    • Robert Dorschel

      I tried the microSampler, too. Small keys are killer if you’ve got big fingers; no ADSR (or there might be Attack, I don’t remember now); Release is only available on one-shot sampled, not looped – in other words if you loop a sample, you have no envelope control pointless if you want some sort of natural decay to a loop. No sustain pedal jack. No pitch/mod wheels. (Note those last 2 can be remedied by using another controller over MIDI). It’s nice that is has flash memory, but it’s a little slow to load and takes forever to transfer samples via USB; plus it’s memory not expandable or swapable. Getting around on the device and its menus is a little trying.

      I had more fun with my Akai S-01 back in the 90s.
      Just re-release that unit, but make it the size of a deck of cards, make it load faster than a floppy (or SD card for that matter) and I’ll be satisfied.

    • Robert Dorschel

      I’m told by my forum friends to get SampleWiz (the Jordan Ruddess app), but again I’m trying to stay away from iOS music as much as possible… In other words, I want a hardware sampler that should still work in 10 years

  • spazmatron

    Are the pads back lit, and if so, can you change the color of each one? The specs just say velocity sensitive pads. But the pics look like they’re lit up.

  • Bibi

    Owned it, sold it after 2 months…

    Why?
    I tried to use it on stage to trigger samples… and there is no way to trigger samples at a fixed volume, the volume will vary depending on your hit (and there is no way to deactivate that sensitivity).
    So that’s cool if you just want to do some “finger drumming” on stage.

    But if you simply want to trigger samples without the need of bringing a computer on stage… then … well, that’s not the toy you need !

    I bought it only to trigger some sample once or twice per concert, and I didn’t want to bother with a computer for that…
    Well… I sold it and bring my computer on stage…