The MPK Mini has long been one of the most popular keyboard controllers you can buy in its various forms. The MPK Mini Mk3 is a 25-key controller with MPC-style pads and encoders. It blends powerful performance and creative features in a compact, portable package.
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Final verdict on the MPK Mini Mk3
The MPK Mini is my favorite small MIDI controller and one of my favorites overall. I say this because it has been around for so long, and with each new version, I see significant 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.
What I like
- MPC-style pads.
- Endless rotary knobs.
- Note repeat/arpeggiator.
- Great software bundle.
- OLED display.
- Good build quality.
- Improved keyboard.
What I don’t like
- Some users would prefer pitch/mod wheels.
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The MPK Mini Mk3 might not have as many assignable controls as some of its competitors, but the ones it does have are fantastic.
Assignable rotary knobs
These eight control knobs are probably the most premium-feeling I have found on a 25-key controller. The encoders are endless, making them perfect for switching between instruments or plugins.
Besides feeling premium, they are more substantial than you’ll see on most similar products, so they feel much more robust, too.
The MPK’s four-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.
I have been generous with my score here, but it’s more about the quality of the features than the quantity.
8 MPC-style pads
The MPC-style pads are possibly the feature that I 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.
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 long.
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 Mini.
A lot of that hands-on workflow comes from the rotary knobs and the fact that the pads are so good, but I can also attribute it to the handy OLED display. Again, like other similar mini controllers, the screen is pretty small, but I feel it’s better quality than most.
Connectivity is probably the only area where the MPK Mini Mk3 doesn’t overdeliver. The connectivity is limited to USB type B and a 1/4-inch sustain pedal input. It’s not overly impressive, but it’s on par with most competitors.
The MPK Mini Mk3 comes with the Complete Music Production Starter Kit. As you’d imagine, the kit has everything 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 and MPCs, the workflow 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.
The Gen 2 keybed is entirely new for the MPK Mini Mk3. When I’m talking about a 25-key controller with mini-keys, I 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 I would have to agree. I would go as far as saying it’s not just better than the previous model, they might be the best-feeling mini keys I’ve played.
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 I can definitely see improvements in the MPK Mini Mk3.
The unit’s body 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.
Compared to other keyboard controllers
As I already said, the MPK Mini is the best mini MIDI keyboard on today’s market and one of the best MIDI controllers overall. It’s hard to find 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.
Akai MPK Mini Mk3 vs Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3
The Launchkey Mini Mk3 is a great little controller that is optimized for use with Ableton. I recommend it if you’re an Ableton user; otherwise, stick with the MPK.
Akai MPK Mini Mk3 vs Novation Launchkey 25 Mk3
If you have a little extra to spend, you like Novation/Ableton, but you want full-size keys; this controller is for you.
Akai 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, I’d suggest sticking with the MPK, but it’s worth a look.
Who is the MPK Mini Mk3 best suited for?
The Akai MPK Mini Mk3 suits anyone! It’s great for beginners, pros, producers, performers, hobbyists; if you make music, it suits you.