Akai MPC series
1988 – present
Akai’s MPC series is the ultimate cult classic of the sampler world. Launched as the MIDI Production Center and later rebranded as the Music Production Controller as the concept evolved, the MPC inspires an almost religious devotion from its admirers. You could argue the case for plenty of others on this list as all-time classics, sure, but the MPC wins by sheer weight of numbers. That’s largely down to the fact that when we say ‘the MPC’ we can’t immediately pick out a specific model. Launched in 1988 with the MPC60, the range has evolved and developed over the years to offer a little bit of everything. Whether you’re after 12-bit 80s grit, a classic 16-bit boom-bap hip-hop sound, portability, ultimate 24-bit modernity or even a contemporary software approach, there’s a solution in the MPC range.
You can't approach MPC production the same way you'd approach using a DAW
MPC creator Roger Linn denies there’s anything ‘magical’ about the MPC’s sequencer, which some users claim possesses the ability to swing like no other. Instead, what makes the MPC concept so appealing – regardless of which era, which sampling engine or which spec you go for – is its distillation of the production process to its raw essence. You can’t approach MPC production the same way you’d approach using a DAW, but that hasn’t harmed its popularity one bit. Whether they’re used as sequencers to control other MIDI gear or simply as tools to record, edit and sequence samples, MPCs have defined thousands of producers’ creative processes over the last quarter of a century.
In 2012, the MPC Renaissance (a flagship hybrid system based around a controller and software), Studio (a more affordable hybrid) and Fly (an iPad-based version) were released, bringing the concept right up to date. But one of the most interesting aspects of the MPC series is that every model has its own specific strengths depending on your approach to making music. For some the 24-bit 4000 or the 5000, with its multi-track recording capabilities and built-in virtual analogue synth, might be the holy grail of MPC technology. Others will crave the simplicity and classic sound of the Linn-designed 60 or 3000. The 1000 and 2500 can run the extremely popular JJ OS, a custom operating system which adds a range of features. The 500 is the most affordable MPC yet and also portable for making music on the move. The 2000 and 2000XL offer a cheaper and slightly more modern alternative to the Linn-designed versions.
Whichever one you go for, it’s not hard to see why the MPC series boasts the most committed fanbase of any hardware sampler you can name.