A big improvement is the simplified external synchronization. Before, it was a challenge to adjust the speed of the integrated arpeggiator to your DAW. Honestly, I couldn’t get it going with Ableton Live at all. And an arpeggiator that is not tempo-synchronized is only so useful. With the mk3, it’s a simple push of a button and a button away, and it works flawlessly.
Nevertheless, I wish that the arpeggiator offers some new functions. It’s exactly the same set as on the mkII, which is still very good, but has since been defeated by the Launchkey line as the best arpeggiator on board. While other controllers add TRS MIDI for direct control of hardware synthesizers, Akai only sticks to USB. The addition of transport controls for recording and playback would have been a welcome addition to the MPK Mini.
However, one of the MPK Mini’s biggest selling points remains its price.
At $ 99, it’s one of the best portable MIDI controllers out there. Nobody offers the same combination of finger drum-friendly pads and a piano-style keyboard at this price. And the integration with Akai’s free new MPC Beats software and the small bundle of free soft synths and sample packs that come with it only sweeten the deal. However, keep in mind that the MPC workflow is relatively unique. So if you come from Ableton or Logic, there is a certain learning curve. Not only are they an independent app, they can also be used as a plugin in a DAW of your choice. So you can use the legendary MPC swing and sample chopping functions without completely abandoning your existing workflow.
Akai hasn’t done enough to make the MPK Mini the clear king of the portable controller hill again. But the improvements have made you likely not feel disappointed when you buy one.
Update 12:20 p.m. ET: Akai has revised prices for the MPK Mini to $ 119. It still remains a solid controller for the price. But maybe a little less of a clear leader in the Bang for Your Buck department.