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Akai MPD218 Review: Complete Beat Maker’s Guide

Akai Mpd218 Review

The Akai MPD 218 is the smallest of Akai’s new MPD2 range — but good things come in small packages. This Akai MPD218 review will tell you all about this reliable mini MIDI pad controller/drum pad.

Don’t let the name fool you, though; this is NOT an update of the previous Akai MPD18.

The MPD 218 is a completely new piece of gear that can’t be compared to Akai’s previous 18 pad MIDI controller, which lacked responsive, playable pads, knobs, and sufficient workflow.

You really are getting a massive bang for your buck when buying this high-quality MIDI controller with 16 velocity-sensitive pads, 6 rotary encoders, and 6 navigational buttons.

It’s also shipped with Ableton Live Lite (a great DAW for new hip hop music producers and veterans), Akai MPC Beats Software, Sonivox Big Bang Cinema Percussions, and Sonivox Big Bang Universal Drums software.

Let’s get to the review.

Table of Contents

The Complete Akai MPD218 Review

The Complete Akai MPD218 Review

If you’re reading this review of the Akai MPD 218, then the chances are you’re looking for pads to either finger drum or tap out beats like the masters of yesteryear such as Pete Rock, J Dilla, Prince Paul, and DJ Shadow did with the famous drum machines of the Akai MPC range.

If that’s the case, then you’re in luck; the Akai MPD series has put the soul back into these pads at a price that even the most broke beatmakers and producers can afford.

Akai themselves have coined these velocity-sensitive, rubberized, responsive, and grippy pads as FAT, their words not ours. But beatmakers and producers across the globe are inclined to agree that these are some of the best pads on the markets at possibly the lost price point.

The MPD 218 comes laid out like a traditional pad drum machine, and that’s great because you know the old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Akai has expanded the capabilities of this machine by adding 3 banks to the 16 pads, allowing users to quickly and easily switch between drum kits when doing live finger drumming performances.

You can also test, play, and add new sounds to your tracks from the loaded drum racks or instruments in any of the 3 banks, stopping producers from referring to the screen and mouse when in deep concentration.

Pros

  • 16 new high-quality FAT grippy MPC  style pads
  • Amazing Value
  • Great portable beat-making tool
  • 6 rotary encoders X 3 Banks
  • Great velocity range
  • Ableton Live Lite, Mpc Essentials, Big Bang Universal Drums and Cinema Percussion Software Included

Cons

  • No LCD display USB powered (only)
  • No MIDI In and Out
  • Really we can’t find that much wrong with the price and quality of this machine

Additional Features

The Complete Akai MPD218 Review

Okay, so we now know that the pads are extremely dope and what you need for creating patterns, beats, and textures that have depth and movement.

With the touch-sensitive response of the pads (plus some skills and practice on your part), you’ll be able to create some sick beats and patterns you’ve never even tried before.

However, what else makes this a great pad controller?

If you’re familiar with using an MPC or even the NI Maschine hardware, then you will know that the few features that the team at Akai included on the surface of the 218 are some of the major keys to success when creating beats on a pad-based system.

LEARN MORE: The Best MPC for Your Production Needs

Swing, Note Repeat, and Full Level have all been added to the bottom left-hand side of the real estate, which makes for easy flow and repetitive use with the left hand.

At the same time, you can arm these functions, control shortcuts, and keep playing with the right hand!

Plug and Play

The MPD 218 works on both PC and Mac with all the major Digital Audio Workstations in the industry at this point in time.

The MIDI over USB technology is a complete plug-and-play solution, so no more pesky driver to install and upgrade. Simply plug and play to start controlling drums, effects, and instruments from your computer.

Portability and Build

Gone are the days of dragging around an MPC1000 in a carry case to craft out beats outside of the studio.

And really, even with the MPC 1000’s portable size compared to its bigger brothers, it’s still a massive hassle to carry around. You’ll find yourself looking like a bit of a weirdo at Starbucks, smashing out hits on the cash register like a drum machine.

Alternatively, the MPD 218 pad controller is solid and lightweight, and the complete system easily fits onto your backpack alongside your laptop for producing-on-the-road and sessions outside the studio.

The 218 is made from plastic, but that’s not to say that it’s cheap and flimsy. It’s quite the opposite, and the 218 feels strong enough to move around without any worry.

The 6 rotary knobs are sturdy, but any time you have knobs, mod wheels, or switches protruding out of your controller, it’s a good idea to scour the internet to find a suitable semi-rigid case to avoid losing or damaging any bits while in transit.

Nothing is less sexy than a snapped encoder or even a bent knob. (pun intended)

Stacks of Value

The Complete Akai MPD218 Review

At the time of this review, the Akai MPD 218 is being sold on Amazon for around 100 bucks, which really is a bargain for the capabilities of this MIDI controller and what it allows you to create as a producer.

Not to mention the ultra-portable, high-quality build and stacks of free software that come included with its bundle.

If you’re a beat creator looking for a portable and playable version of the MPC, then go for the Akai MPD 218. You really can’t go wrong with this set of portable pad controllers for the price and what’s included.

Also, if you’re new to music production and you’re looking for your first MIDI pad controller to knock out beats on FL Studio, Ableton Live, Reason, Garageband, or any of the other software on the market, then pick the MPD 218 up as your first drum pads.

You’ll get quality without putting too much cash into your studio equipment.

Final Words

The Complete Akai MPD218 Review

If you’re looking for less portable and more hands-on MIDI pad controllers, you can also consider checking out the rest of the Akai MPD 2 range. They are some of the most capable pad controllers and all offer the same high-quality pads packed with faders, knobs, sequencers, and LCD screens to give you more overall control of your computer music production.

If you want to explore other options from different brands, we have other recommendations too.

Producers who have chosen Ableton Live as their weapon of choice love the power and workflow of the Novation Launchpad Pro and Ableton’s own Ableton Push 2.

MORE GUIDES:


Changelog:

April 11, 2022 – updated images

April 6, 2022 – minor content edits

May 18, 2021 – added new links

May 17, 2021 – added table of contents, updated product images and buttons, updated affiliated links, fixed and updated article formatting and content, added new article images, updated links

About the author

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After becoming obsessed with the beats that were the soundtrack to his youth, Nick became a student of hip hop, digging for vinyl records, looking for the perfect break. Before he got his hands on an MPC sampler, he would mash these records, beats, and breaks into mixtapes and live DJ sets.