The Akai MPK Mini has been a home studio must-have ever since its initial release. With each new version, it has seen new and improved features without losing its original appeal. The MPK Mini Mk3 is no exception; let’s find out why.
MPK Mini Mk3 overview
The MPK Mini MkIII is a 25-key controller with MPC-style pads and encoders. It blends powerful performance and creative features in a compact, portable package.
Despite being a very small controller, the MPK Mini MkIII is still pretty feature-packed.
8 MPC-style pads
The MPC-style pads are possibly the feature that we like most about the MPK Mini Mk3. It’s not that pads are rare on keyboard controllers, but no one does them better than Akai. Akai’s history in hip-hop with the MPC is unrivaled, and it’s that history that’s seen them develop the most responsive pads in the game.
The OLED display is small but unbelievably helpful. It’s one of those features that we didn’t know we needed till we got it. Previous models never had a screen.
The MPK’s 4-way thumbstick might not be what everyone would choose over modulation and pitch-bend wheels. However, in such a small space, it’s the most intuitive option. Once you start using it, it becomes second nature and encourages manipulation that you couldn’t achieve with two wheels.
8 control knobs
The knobs are endless and fully assignable.
The Gen 2 keybed is completely new for the MPK Mini Mk3. When we are talking about a 25-key controller with mini keys, we have to be realistic; it’s never going to feel like a piano or any decent weighted keys.
But, you can feel a massive improvement from previous versions. Akai claims that the new keyboard delivers enhanced dynamic expression, and we would have to agree.
Note repeat and arpeggiator
The MPK Mini Mk3 is all about creating quickly and easily. That’s the tradition it inherited from the MPC, and that brings with it some shared features like note repeat and the arpeggiator. The note repeat is especially useful when laying down tracks. You can easily add 16s or 32s to your hi-hats on the fly while recording.
Integration depends on the software that you use. If you are using the included MPC Beats DAW, the MPK Mini Mk3 will be perfectly mapped to the DAW. If you are using any other popular DAW, you’ll have to do some mapping yourself, but it doesn’t take very long. The main thing is that it’s compatible with all major DAWs.
In terms of plugin integration, you have eight endless rotary knobs to utilize. So, if you take a minute to set up your plugin or virtual instrument before you start, you’ll have everything at your fingertips, which isn’t always the case with such a small controller.
Overall, it doesn’t auto-map to everything, but it’s not a hassle either.
In the studio
As cheap as the MPK Mini Mk3 is, we think every studio should have one. It doesn’t have to be your main controller to add a lot of value. Sometimes it’s good to step back from the desk and focus on one thing; the MPK Mini Mk3 lets you do that. You can comfortably lay down entire tracks using nothing but the MPK.
If it is your main controller, that’s great too. It’s the perfect fit for a small home studio with limited space.
The MPK Mini Mk3 is more playable than ever with its upgraded keyboard, making it better for stage use. Being able to play with more expression and dynamic control makes it a much more reliable instrument. The OLED display is another new feature that will help you keep track of things on stage.
One of the best things about the MPK Mini Mk3 is that it’s so small yet does so much. There are lots of small controllers that you can throw in your backpack and make music wherever the mood strikes. But, few of them do as much as the MPK; with the MPK, you have great keys, MPC-style pads, note repeat, etc.
All of those features make it possible to create high-quality beats anywhere with just the MPK Mini and your laptop.
Keyboard controllers this small are never going to have a solid metal chassis or anything like that. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t be well-made, and we can definitely see improvements in the MPK Mini Mk3.
The body of the unit has very little flex in it; it’s a very rugged plastic that doesn’t creak when you move it. The design is much sleeker, despite being a touch larger than the previous model. All of the edges are sharper, and it looks like Akai has put a lot of attention into every tiny detail. No space is wasted.
The keys aren’t the only thing that feels better; all of the controls have a more premium feel, especially the rotary knobs.
The MPK Mini Mk3 comes with the Complete Music Production Starter Kit. As you’d imagine, the kit has everything that you’d need to start making music right out of the box.
The free DAW is Akai’s MPC Beats, which is like a streamlined version of the full MPC software. If you are used to working with samplers, MPCs, the workflow that you get from MPC Beats will be very familiar to you.
It also comes with six virtual instruments, including Bassline, Tubesynth, Electric, Hybrid 3, Mini Grand, and Velvet. Much of the software provided comes from Air Music Tech.
Hybrid 3 is the most versatile of the bunch, and it’s known as a workhorse synth. So, it’s an excellent place for a beginner to start. Along with the instruments, you also get access to 2 GB of sample content that you can chop up and throw straight into your tracks.
Compared to other keyboard controllers
It’s hard to find small controllers that offer the same value for money that you get with the MPK Mini Mk3. However, there are a few worthy contenders; check them out.
MPK Mini MK3 vs. Novation Launchkey Mini 25 Mk3
The Launchkey Mini 25 Mk3 is a great little controller that is optimized for use with Ableton. If you’re an Ableton user, we recommend it; otherwise, stick with the MPK.
MPK Mini Mk3 vs. Novation Launchkey 25 Mk3
If you have around an extra $50 to spend, you like Novation/Ableton, but you want full-size keys; this controller is for you.
MPK Mini Mk3 vs. Nektar Impact LX25+
The LX25+ offers full-size keys and plenty of features on a budget. If you don’t need full-size keys, we’d suggest sticking with the MPK, but it’s worth a look.
Final verdict on the MPK Mini Mk3
It’s our favorite small controller and one of our favorites overall. We say this because it has been around for so long, and with each new version, we see great improvements. It does a lot of things, but it also keeps everything simple. If you want to make music with no fuss from one small device, this is it.
Who does it suit?
Anyone! Beginners, pros, producers, performers, hobbyists; if you make music, it suits you.
- MPC-style pads.
- Eight endless rotary knobs.
- Note repeat/arpeggiator.
- Great software bundle.
- OLED display.
- Well built.
- Improved keyboard.
- Sustain pedal jack.
- Mini keys take some getting used to.