If you’re looking for free music production software, Akai might not be the first name that comes to mind, but today it’s announcing exactly that — a streamlined digital audio workstation (DAW) called MPC Beats.
You likely know Akai more for its button-mashing production gear like the MPC series, but it does have software chops too. Not only do the higher-end MPCs effectively come with a DAW built-in, Akai already offers desktop software that’s similar to the likes of FL Studio and Logic Pro, albeit at a cost.
MPC Beats looks like it takes the guts of Akai’s existing desktop software and boils it down to the essentials, but for the price of free, it looks pretty good. For one, you’ll still have access to three of Akai’s virtual synths (Bassline, Tubesynth and Electric) along with 80 effects plugins. On top of that, it comes with 2GB of sample sounds to get you started. Of course, you can (and probably should) use your own samples too.
You’re not limited to Akai’s own plugins, either. MPC Beats supports third-party VSTs, and can even itself be opened as a plugin in most existing DAWs (we guess, similar to how Native Instruments’ Maschine works).
Unsurprisingly, Akai has made sure MPC Beats integrates tightly with its own hardware, so if you already own, say, an MPK Mini Play, you can dive right in with the hardware pads immediately corresponding to the virtual ones in the software. This isn’t limited to Akai’s own gear though, popular controllers from big brands like Novation, Native Instruments, Korg and many others are also supported.
There are some limitations of course. Mostly in the number of tracks you can have. MPC Beats offers eight MIDI/instrument tracks and just two audio tracks. This is more than enough for basic song construction, but it might not be long before you find yourself yearning for more. Either way, given that it’s free, there’s no harm in giving it a try and seeing if it works for you.