Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3 Review: All Killer, No Filler?

Akai Professional MPK mini mk3

Key Takeaways: AKAI MPK Mini MK3 🎹

  • Improved Key Feel: Better than its predecessor, but not the best in its class.
  • Joystick Control: Replaces traditional pitch and mod strips. A hit or miss based on personal preference.
  • Endless Knobs: Sync with your DAW parameters but feel a bit loose.
  • Build Quality: Feels toy-like compared to rivals like Arturia Minilab and M32.
  • MPC-Style Pads: The standout feature. Responsive and ideal for finger drumming.
  • Limited Screen Feedback: Shows MIDI CCs but lacks DAW parameter names. Room for future updates.
  • DAW Compatibility: Best with Ableton. Manual mapping required for Logic, FL Studio, and GarageBand.
  • Performance Features: Built-in arpeggiator and note repeat are excellent for live sets.
  • Software Bundle: Comes with MPC Beats and a selection of Air instruments. Great for beginners.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly MIDI controller with excellent pads and some unique features, the MPK Mini MK3 is worth considering – it is very affordable and, for most users, will do exactly what they need.

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If you’re in the market for a budget MIDI keyboard, you’ve probably come across the Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3. It’s the latest iteration of one of the most popular keyboards in the sub-$100 range.

But is it worth your hard-earned cash? Let’s dive into the specifics to help you make an informed decision.

This review will cover everything you need to know about the Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3, including:

  • The overall build quality and construction
  • The feel of the keys and knobs
  • Its unique features – pads and joystick
  • How it compares to other MIDI Controllers
  • And which DAWs it is most suited to

At the end, you’ll understand why it made our 2023 list of the best MIDI controllers. Let’s dig in and get down to the details…

Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3 Review

Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3
4.5

The Akai Professional MPK mini mk3 is a compact, USB-powered MIDI keyboard controller featuring 25 velocity-sensitive keys, eight assignable Q-Link knobs, and eight backlit MPC-style pads. It is a brilliant little gizmo and it works with all major DAWs

Pros:
  • Ultra-portable
  • Feature-rich
  • Bundled software
  • 8 MPC-style pads
  • 25 mini keys

Design

Akai Professional MPK mini mk3 Joystick

The MPK Mini MK3 has improved its keybed, making it more responsive than its predecessor. The keys feel somewhat similar to the M32 from Native Instruments, which is a good thing.

However, if you’re looking for a keybed that will “wow” you, you might want to check out the Arturia Minilab MK2. The MPK Mini MK3’s keys are good but not groundbreaking.

One of the more polarizing features of the Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3 is its joystick, which serves as a replacement for the traditional pitch and modulation strips found on many other MIDI keyboards.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why this matters.

The joystick provides a two-in-one control for both pitch bending and modulation. Push it left or right, and you’re bending pitch. Move it up or down, and you’re controlling modulation.

This dual functionality can be a space-saver and offers a different tactile experience compared to touch strips.

From a user experience standpoint, the joystick can be more intuitive for some. It gives you a physical point of reference, allowing for potentially more precise control.

You can feel the joystick’s position, which can be beneficial for live performances where you might not have the luxury of looking down at your keyboard often.

However, if you’re transitioning from a keyboard with touch strips, there might be a slight learning curve.

Touch strips often provide visual indicators, like LEDs, to show the level of pitch or modulation. With the joystick, you’re flying a bit more blind, relying solely on feel.

It’s also worth mentioning that some advanced users might find touch strips more versatile.

For instance, some keyboards allow you to customize the touch strip’s functionality, assigning it to different parameters beyond just pitch and modulation.

As of now, the joystick on the MPK Mini MK3 doesn’t offer this level of customization.

Ultimately, the joystick vs. touch strip debate boils down to personal preference. Some users swear by the joystick for its tactile feedback and intuitive control.

Others prefer the versatility and visual cues offered by touch strips.

So, if you have a strong preference for one over the other, this could be a deciding factor in whether the MPK Mini MK3 is the right fit for you.

It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but it’s an important consideration that could impact your overall satisfaction with the keyboard.

Knobs: Endless but Loose

The knobs on the MPK Mini MK3 are a noteworthy upgrade from its predecessor, the MK2. Here’s why:

  • Endless Rotation: Unlike traditional knobs that have a start and end point, these are endless. This means they sync seamlessly with your DAW, providing a continuous range of parameter adjustments. No more worrying about the knob’s physical position not matching up with the software setting.
  • DAW Integration: This feature is particularly useful when you’re working in a digital audio workstation (DAW). As you turn the knob, it directly correlates with the parameter you’re adjusting on-screen, offering a more intuitive and efficient workflow.
  • Improved Size: The knobs are also larger than those on the MK2, making them easier to manipulate. This is a welcome change for those who found the MK2’s knobs too small for precise control.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows:

  • Loose Feel: One downside is that these knobs feel a bit loose, especially when compared to the Arturia Minilab’s knobs, which offer more resistance. This could be a matter of personal preference, but if you’re someone who likes a more tactile, “weighted” feel to your controls, this could be a point of contention.

So, while the endless knobs are a significant step up in terms of functionality and DAW integration, the tactile experience might not be for everyone.

It’s a nuanced feature that offers both pros and cons, and it’s worth considering how much the “feel” of a knob matters to you in your music production setup.

Build Quality: Still Room for Improvement

Akai Professional MPK mini mk3 review

When it comes to build quality, the MPK Mini MK3 falls short of the robustness you might find in competitors like the Arturia Minilab and Native Instruments’ M32.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Material & Weight: The MPK Mini MK3 is primarily made of plastic, which contributes to its lighter weight but also gives it a somewhat toy-like feel. This is in contrast to the more solid, substantial build of the Arturia Minilab and M32.
  • Budget-Friendly: It’s important to remember that the MPK Mini MK3 is positioned as a budget-friendly option. You’re not paying premium prices, so expecting a premium build might be unrealistic.
  • Competitive Comparison: If you’ve ever laid hands on an Arturia Minilab or M32, you’ll immediately notice the difference. Those keyboards feel more solid and less flimsy, providing a sense of durability that the MPK Mini MK3 lacks.
  • Limited Editions: On a positive note, the MPK Mini MK3 does come in limited edition colors like white and black, which some users find aesthetically pleasing. However, aesthetics don’t necessarily translate to build quality.

In summary, if build quality ranks high on your list of priorities, the MPK Mini MK3 might not be your go-to choice. It’s a functional, budget-friendly option, but it doesn’t offer the same tactile satisfaction or sense of durability that some of its competitors do.

The Winning Feature: MPC-Style Pads

Akai Professional MPK mini mk3

The MPC-style pads on the MPK Mini MK3 are the keyboard’s crown jewel, especially if you’re into beat-making or finger drumming.

These pads are not just an afterthought; they are responsive, have a satisfying amount of travel, and offer a tactile experience that can make your drumming sessions more engaging and precise.

What sets these pads apart is the dual-bank feature. You’re not limited to just eight pad assignments; you can switch between two banks, effectively giving you 16 different pads to work with.

This is particularly useful for those who like to have multiple samples or effects at their fingertips without having to constantly remap their pads.

So, if the quality of the drum pads is a significant factor for you, the MPK Mini MK3’s MPC-style pads could be a game-changer.

They offer a level of responsiveness and versatility that can elevate your beat-making process, making the keyboard a worthy contender in its price range.

Screen: A Missed Opportunity

The screen on the MPK Mini MK3 is a feature that, at first glance, promises a lot but currently delivers little in terms of DAW integration.

While it does show MIDI Control Change numbers (CCs) and their corresponding values, it falls short of displaying the actual parameter names you’re adjusting in your DAW.

This can be a bit of a letdown, especially when you consider that the keyboard comes with program modes specifically designed for various DAWs like Ableton, Logic Pro, and FL Studio.

This lack of DAW feedback on the screen feels like a missed opportunity. It’s a feature that could significantly enhance the user experience by providing real-time, at-a-glance information.

The hope is that Akai will address this in future firmware updates, turning what is currently a basic display into a more interactive and informative feature.

Given that competitors like Arturia and Novation don’t even offer screens on their comparable models, Akai has the chance to set the MPK Mini MK3 apart in a meaningful way.

DAW Compatibility: Best Suited for Ableton

Ableton Live cost

The MPK Mini MK3 does offer some DAW control, but it’s clear that Ableton users will get the most out of it right out of the box.

The keyboard provides device control in Ableton, allowing you to adjust parameters directly. However, if you’re using Logic, FL Studio, or GarageBand, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and manually map your controls.

This isn’t a plug-and-play experience for these DAWs, and it can be a bit of a hassle, especially for beginners or those who want to get up and running quickly.

This limitation is worth noting if you’re not an Ableton user, as it adds an extra layer of setup that you’ll need to navigate.

While not a deal-breaker for everyone, it’s an important consideration when comparing the MPK Mini MK3 to other controllers that offer more seamless integration with a wider range of DAWs.

Extra Features: Built-In Arpeggiator and Note Repeat

Akai Professional MPK mini mk3 front and back IO

The MPK Mini MK3 is equipped with a built-in arpeggiator and a note repeat feature, both of which elevate its performance capabilities.

These features are not just bells and whistles; they’re practical tools that can significantly enhance your live performances and creative sessions.

The arpeggiator allows you to play everything from simple arpeggios to more complex sequences, offering adjustments for rate, sequence, octaves, and swing.

The note repeat feature is a awesome for drum programming, enabling you to easily create repetitive drum hits with adjustable rates.

What’s particularly impressive is that these features are available at this price point, making the MPK Mini MK3 an even more compelling option for budget-conscious musicians and producers.

Whether you’re looking for a burst of inspiration or tools to enhance your live setup, these features add substantial value to the keyboard.

Software Bundle: A Good Starter Kit

The MPK Mini MK3 doesn’t just deliver on the hardware front; it also comes with a software bundle that can kickstart your music production journey.

Included in the package is Akai’s MPC Beats software, a user-friendly DAW tailored for beat-making. Additionally, you get a selection of Air instruments, including Hybrid 3, a versatile synthesizer; Mini Grand, a realistic piano plugin; and Velvet, an electric piano emulator.

For those who are new to the world of music production, this bundled software offers a solid foundation. You’re essentially getting a mini-studio right out of the box, allowing you to dive into creating music without the need for additional software purchases.

It’s a value-added proposition that makes the MPK Mini MK3 not just a MIDI controller, but a comprehensive solution for aspiring musicians and producers.

Final Thoughts

The Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3 is a decent keyboard for its price. It excels in certain areas like pad quality and has some useful performance features.

However, it also leaves room for improvement in build quality, key feel, and DAW integration. If Akai can address these issues in future updates, this keyboard has the potential to be a game-changer in the budget segment.

So, should you buy it?

If you’re an Ableton user who values pad quality and performance features, this could be a solid choice. But if you’re looking for a more robust build and better DAW integration, you might want to explore other options.

Remember, the best gear is the one that fits your needs. Choose wisely.

Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3
4.5

The Akai Professional MPK mini mk3 is a compact, USB-powered MIDI keyboard controller featuring 25 velocity-sensitive keys, eight assignable Q-Link knobs, and eight backlit MPC-style pads. It is a brilliant little gizmo and it works with all major DAWs

Pros:
  • Ultra-portable
  • Feature-rich
  • Bundled software
  • 8 MPC-style pads
  • 25 mini keys

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