So here it is. The first shots of the MPC-500 pocket-sized sampler/drum machine have leaked to the MPC Forums. It has twelve pads. Runs off 6xAA batteries. Stereo ins and outs on 1/4" jacks. Nice MPC-2500 style cursors, which are missing from the MPC1000. No word yet on sample time, or storage, although a CF card seems likely. I can't see a USB port, but it seems very likely. The tiny LCD display (with switchable backlight) means the wonderful screen/soft-button interface (in place since the MPC3000) is lost, partially replaced by new single function buttons (the ubiquitous 'window' button is also gone). I'm not sure about the three-in-a-row pad arrangement. One of the most fun things to do on an MPC is playing slices of loop samples across the pads. The 4x4 grid works very well for 4/4 time signatures. Perhaps Akai are expecting a waltz revival? Price seems to be settling at $749, although that, like everything is TBC. Fans of conspiracy theories will note that this leak comes just 48 hours before version 1.0 of the hacked MPC1000 OS is released by JJ...
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Rumour mills are turning, and it looks pretty likely that Akai will be launching an MPC-500 in the not-to-distant future. It's not a new rumour - GearJunkies reckoned it would be announced at MusicMesse 2005, back before the MPC2500 was launched. The message board concensus seems to be that it will be smaller, cheaper, and less powerful than the MPC1000. There are certainly corners to be cut - the 1000 has six outputs, digital ins and outs, hard drive support, a chunky metal case with a built-in PSU - so it might be possible to produce a cheaper, maybe plastic, maybe DJ oriented unit. In March 2006, Numark/Akai registered MPC500.com, and last week Matrix reported that NovaMusic now have a product page saying: "BREAKING NEWS!!New ultra portable MPC available late October" and taking pre-orders, quoting a price of $1099, reduced to $799. This seems steep, considering used MPC1000s go for $600 on eBay US. If you know any more, please get in touch. And if you created this splendid MPC/PSP mashup, thank you! UPDATE: This from the MPC Forums, from someone who spoke to NovaMusic: "The MPC500 can be run on batteries, making it totally portable! There will be 12 pads total. This gives you a good idea on the size of the unit. Picture a mini 1000.It looks like it will cost $749"
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The goldmine of weird vintage drum machines that is eBay Germany continues with This MPC-1 drum machine. It was made in England by MPC Electronics, who also made The Kit, and first shown at MusicMesse in 1983. Inevitably, Depeche Mode used one, and equally enevitably, the company soon went bust. It seems to be an analog, semi-modular drum machine with 8 playable pads. It has no relation to Roger Linn's rather more successful Akai MPC series. More info. This one is currently €249, and my Babelfish translation of the German description suggests that it's pretty much working, but don't bid unless you're sure... More German eBay craziness here and here and here.
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It used to be that the only way to get yourself a Louis Vuitton custom MPC was a trip to see Forat. But now MPCStuff.com have a full range of DIY die-cut vinyl 'skins'. They cost around $42, or for $70, they'll print a custom skin with your own image. One cool thing is that they come with labels to match the unofficial 'JJ' operating system - because it totally changes the way the MPC works, the labels printed on the box no longer make much sense. In other JJ news, the mysterious programmer has reported that the OS memory space is now full - so discussions have changed from 'we want this new feature' to 'what shall we chuck out to make way for new features?'.
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I'm not sure how Music Thing became the clearing house for incredibly talented MPC beat-makers looking for gigs, but it's no bad thing.
The video above is Jel from Anticon, who plays his MPC live, with no sequencing. His new blog speaks for itself: JEL IN BEDROOM LOOKING FOR GIGS!!.
Meanwhile, Londoners now have no excuse for not seeing Anchorsong playing live. He's playing at Jimi Mistry's Sunday afternoon session at The Brickhouse in Brick Lane this Sunday, then doing two nights with The Woodentops at the Water Rats in Kings Cross on 10/11th December.
That's it for talented MPC folks looking for gigs for a little while...
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Here's the one and only prototype of Roger Linn's Midistudio. It was announced at NAMM in 1986 as the replacement for the Linn 9000. That machine had velocity-sensitive pads, but the Midistudio added sampling, and put the pads into the famous 4x4 grid. This machine was the demo model used by the sales team, and it's for sale in the current Vemia auction - currently for £880. Linn went bust in 1986, the Midistudio was never manufactured, and Roger went to design for Akai, releasing the MPC 60 in 1988. It's great watching design evolve. This has the sliders from the Linn 9000, but the colour from the MPC. The cool removable control panel (a 100ft extension cable would have been available) didn't re-surface until the Akai S6000 from 1998, by which time the hardware sampler was all but dead.
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At the moment it's just a render on a poster on the Dave Smith Instruments stand at NAMM, but this could be the new drum machine from Dave Smith (of Sequential Circuits, man behind the Prophet 5, Pro-One and Evolver range) and Roger Linn (of the Linn drum machine and Akai MPC range). It's a new analogue/digital drum machine, obviously inspired by the Evolver, but with the 4x4 pads of the MPC range. No details, and a chance the whole thing is a hoax, but it's wonderful to see such a cool boutique thing being talked about allovertheforums, with the most sensible analysis at the MPC forums: "Cant they just make it a black case? Whats with the gay 80's rocker pants design?" Quite.
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So, the MPC-500 is now up on the Akai site with full specs, and Harmony Central, which drops the small bombshell of the price: $1,299 (see updates below). Yes, that's $300 more than the street price for a new MPC1000 (and just $200 less than the list price). If that price sticks (and HC aren't just wrong), you'll need to be either a) Really, really keen to carry your MPC about or b) Insane to buy one of these. And damn, that screen looks awful. In a world where you can buy mp3 players with full colour OLED screens for £25 on eBay, it's just embarrassing. (Thanks, Roger from Viper Fantastic) UPDATE: Real world prices: Digital Village have £549, and Akai are saying that the US street price will be $799.
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Also: 10 MORE greatest beat making videos ever | Hip Hop producers on YouTube | All MPC coverage
1) Here is Masaaki (aka Anchorsong) from Tokyo, playing live with an MPC2000 and a Triton keyboard, building the tracks as he goes along. More great clips here and here.
2) Here is Daltron from Melbourne, playing an incredible live drum solo on the MPC4000 (it's a MySpace video. I'd say it's worth typing in your password, but not worth registering specially...)
3) Here is Pete Rock sampling, remixing and singing along with 'Love is a Battlefield'
4) In this report on an Atlanta beat battle, there's no live MPC action, but it provides several answers to the age-old question: 'What the hell kind of face am I supposed to pull when my music is playing on big speakers, people are listening, and I don't have any gear to fiddle with?'
5) Here is the old-school version - making beats on an Emu SP-1200. Love the sliders.
6) Here is DJ Shadow talking about his ancient MPC60, the machine he made 'Endtroducing' on. The clip has cruddy sound and Shadow always comes across as pretty irritating, but it's history.
7) Here, speaking the international language of Akai, is French producer 20Syl, with a step-by-step guide to making laid-back MPC/Rhodes/Loops hip hop for expensive Parisian bars.
8) Here is Just Blaze putting together a big horn sample and some beats. It's nice to see that even big name producers spend most of their time stroking their chin thinking: 'Hmm... This sounds OK, but what am I going to do next?'
9) Here, DJ Quik talks eloquently and at great length about his custom MPC3000.
10) If you've actually read all the way to the bottom of this list, then here is a treat to say thanks. (via 16pads and everyone else who posted these in forums...)
*Or, you know, today.
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If, like me, you've been kept awake at night wondering why Turnkey are selling those old Akai MPD16 MIDI drum pads for £79.99, here's your answer... The MPD24 is a new Akai midi box with 16 MPC-style drum pads, 6 faders, 8 knobs, MPC-style (i.e small) transport controls and a CD of classic drum machine samples. No price yet, but I'd love to see how this works with the wonderful Guru software beatbox. But what's up with the horrible shiny silver cheapo plastic finish? You don't see them using that on a £500 hardware drum machine, but they seem to think it's OK for something plugged into your computer. Product page (in German)
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Recently, I've started getting strange questions through the MT email. Can anyone help me answer them? "I received a Sliverstone guitar and amplifer for christmas . I am retired and a man of 53 years old ! You think I can pick guitar like the greats ? Been a fan of Pink Floyd , and Hinderx , but life struggles and such Kept me from playing the guitar. Now I Have one I am puzzled ? Don’t know anything about music . My Knowladge is nothing in the Subject . Tried to play when I was in the service my fingers are big and hit too many strings." James, 53 "Is it possible to buy/download the ARP-type backing track alone to Won't Get Fooled Again and Baba O'Reilly? I'd like to play them both live in my band, but the synth parts are somewhat crucial to the overall sound." Gary, Fenland "Can you please center your blog? I hate when everything is aligned left..." Evan, Iceland "Hello my name is Rajah, I am a 19 year old male. I live in Columbia Maryland and I have been making instrumentals for two years now. I use the computer program FL Studio. I would like to further my skills and the quality of my instrumentals. In order to do so I feel as though I need to step up my equipment. I cannot really afford an MPC but I still think it is mandatory that I have one in order to further my career in the music industry. I was wondering if it was possible for your company to lend me a helping hand. Wether it be with an donation of an MPC or by making an MPC affordable for me. This would be the best thing to happen to me since I taught my self how to use FL Studio." Rajah, Maryland
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Gear Junkies get the scoop on the Akai MPC2500, the new mid-range MPC sampler/sequencer/gateway to hip-hop stardom. Price is thought to be $2,000, which doesn't make it seem super-exciting, with 10 analog outs, 16MB of ram and an optional internal hard drive (seems a bit mean in a $2,000 machine). Sample quote from the MPC Forums: "The specs are getting my nipples hard". Damn, I want an MPC...
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So here's the new thing from Akai - the MPC5000 (That's the official site). It's the usual MPC sample/sequencer stuff, with a built in VA synth & arpeggiator, lots of effects and outs. Meanwhile, JJ, the mysterious programmer re-writing the operating system for the bottom-of-the-range MPC1000 - is going from strength to strength. Having refined and finessed the normal MPC functions as far as he could, he's announced JJOS2, a completely new system adding endless bonkers new features. I read the JJ forum every day and I can't keep up.
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A pleasant evening at Music Thing towers, spent fixing up and sampling this ancient Fisher Price record player from my parent's attic. The Swiss-made music box mechanism was rusted solid and the tiny clockwork motor doesn't really give enough juice to push the records round at the right speed, but a generous application of 3-in-1 got the music box part working well enough to sample a few notes. This Fisher Price Sample Pack at Freesound is just random notes, motor noise and winding sounds, but it works well enough mapped out across the MPC... Previously on Freesound: Spring Reverb and Cracklebox samples.
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I've had the Yamaha Tenori On for about five days now, so these are first thoughts. Summary version: It's awesome that this thing exists, that Toshio Iwai got a chance to make it. It's intuitive (in the pic on the right, Alex isn't just jabbing buttons, he's holding down a function key and selecting sounds). Does that mean you'll want to spend £599 buying one for yourself? Well, I can think of better ways to spend the money. Epic list of pros and cons after the jump. I'd also recommend Sonic State's video review if you want something more in-depth and less opinionated.
The good things: 1. It's unique. Almost every part of it - the shape, the look, the interface, the sound - is unlike anything else I've ever seen. 2. It's fantastic that Yamaha used a tiny slice of their profits from selling electric pianos and workstations to let Toshio Iwai get his dream manufactured and into the shops. Even if it's only in a few record shops in Britain at the moment. It must have cost them a lot, and it's the kind of thing that's normally left to passionate enthusiasts. 3. It's a complicated, sophisticated little machine. It's self contained, with a real operating system, a detailed display and so on. I LOVE that it has batteries and speakers. It's slightly unfair to compare it with the sexier, cheaper Monome, which is essentially a bunch of switches and lights in a pretty box, with all the heavy lifting done by the computer. 4. 16x16 step sequencing is great - very fast, intuitive, fun way to enter beats and chords. 5. It uses a clever key/scale system, which makes it even easier to enter notes. You can really just doodle with your finger and make something which sounds roughly like music. 6. In the dark, it looks incredible. The lights on the back look ace. Play it in the evening near a window and watch the reflections. 7. Many of the sounds are great - there's a definite Toshio Iwai sound, if you liked Elektroplankton, you'll like these. Warm and organic and original. 8. It's great while running on batteries - very compact, quick to load, nice to sit on the sofa and fiddle. The weight of 6xAA batteries also makes it feel a bit more sturdy. 9. Choosing presets with one key for each sound = Very nice. (I can see where Art Lebedev is coming from)
And yet... the bad things: 1. No getting away from it. It looks and feels like a toy. The main buttons don't feel great, and they all rattle. It may be deliberate, so you can run your fingers across a row, but it feels cheap cheap cheap. 2. I think the main chassis is aluminum, but coated in so much plasticy varnish that it looks and feels like plastic. 3. Maybe a third of the 256 sounds are non-great General Midi sounds - piano, strings, bagpipes(?). 4. There's no touch sensitivity, and I haven't found any easy way to add any dynamics apart from track mixing - which can only be automated in the 'record song' system. 5. There's no hardware volume control. You have to fish in a menu to change it. 6. It's designed for people with four thumbs. If you're holding the thing in both hands, you can reach the 'shift' buttons, but then can't reach the main buttons, so you have to put it down. 7. It's absolutely not a synth. You can't modify any of the internal sounds in any way - no filters, envelopes etc. They're mostly very short one-shot samples (some loop, and a few evolve interestingly). There are no musical sequences or loops. 8. Every note is fixed length across the sequence. You can't have a long and a short note together in any sequence. You can't slide or tie notes together in any way, even in the real time 'draw' mode. 9. It feels a bit churlish to say it, but the effects are hopeless - a reverb and a chorus/flanger, both master effects on the mix - and both on by default. 10. The MIDI out works - it was quite fun hooking it up to four channels on the Nord G2 and triggering sounds. It sends MIDI clock, but doesn't seem receive it (The manual is ambiguous, says it recieves clock, but also says it only syncs to another Tenori - anyone experimented with this more?). I briefly connected it to the MPC, which would have been great, except the notes ouputted didn't play nicely with my programs, so... it would be a blah to make a workaround. But most of all... It costs £599. That's $1,200. I can understand there are reasons for the price - a limited run, a more sophisticated machine than most boutique gear. But if they're selling this as an ultra-luxe treat for geeks, then it has to look and feel sexy and expensive. It doesn't. Yes, the comparison with the Monome is slightly unfair, but I suspect it would be a simple job to recreate all the Tenori functions on a Monome.
Many of my objections might be fixable with a software upgrade, but I suspect the Tenori is in a tricky place: I don't know if it's really lovable enough to be on every rich kid's Christmas list, and I'm pretty sure it's not geeky enough to be on mine. Which is a real shame. Most importantly, it's a really good lesson for geeks like me. It's easy to complain that big synth companies never do anything innovative or exciting. Then one comes along and does exactly that, and we're left saying 'not good enough'. Which is a real shame. But feeling sympathetic to Yamaha and Toshio Iwai wouldn't make me spend £599 on this.
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