Each week Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that's coming out, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment:
This week, Akai announced the
MPC-2500. If you've listened to the
radio in the last decade, you've heard an MPC - the series of sampler/sequencer/drum machines used by pretty much every
hip hop producer. Dr Dre has five MPC-3000s lined up in a row in his studio, because he doesn't like changing disks. DJ
Shadow recorded 'Endtroducing' using just an MPC-60, a turntable and a multitrack.
Predictably, there's a thriving market in MPC customisation. Forat Electronics in Studio City will take your MPC-2000XL, replace the front panel with (in Kanye West's case) Louis Vuitton print, and add wooden side panels and hack the display.
The original MPC-60 (launched in 1988) was designed by Roger Linn. He was the creator of the
Linn LM-1, the first
programmable sampled drum machine. It cost $5,000 in 1979, and he only sold 500 of them, but every one seemed to end up
on a hit record. Linn drums were the sound of mainstream pop all through the early ?80s (think The Human League?s
?Don?t You Love Me?), and sounded ironic by the time Prince used his LM-1 on ?Kiss?.
Linn went bust, and ended up working for Akai, the Japanese company who produced the first affordable samplers. His MPC-60 was a perfect early-generation machine, like the first Palm Pilots, or Mac Classics. It had 12 seconds of crunchy-sounding 12-bit sampling, big touch-sensitive rubber pads, and a quantize (auto correct) function that sounded right. And it had a pimpin? leather wrist rest and wooden side panels.
After developing the MPC3000 (stereo and 16-bit), Roger Linn left Akai. He now runs his own company, producing the Adrenalinn guitar effects box. Akai have continued producing increasingly uninspired MPCs without him. The 4000 is now top of the range, high spec but buggy. The 2000 the most common mid-level machine, and the 1000 is a smaller, cheaper ($1000) box.
And now there?s the 2500, which is hard to get excited about. For something that?s unlikely to cost much less than $2,000, the specs are remarkably poor: 16bit/44.1 hz sampling, 16meg memory, an optional 80gig hard drive. So, if you?re looking for genius hard/software design and crunchy hip-hop beatmaking, seek out a vintage MPC-60 or 3000. If you want a great sampler with some rubber pads, use your laptop and Akai?s MPD-16, which is a MIDI controller with the same pads as the MPC range.