There are three drum machines that can legitimately be called “iconic:” the Roland TR-808, Roger Linn’s original LM-1, and the Akai MPC series—the first models of which were designed by Roger Linn himself. While the TR-808’s utterly unique analog sound and definitive step-sequencing interface is the source of its enduring status, the MPC’s luster comes from a more ephemeral place: a groundbreaking approach to composition combined with an innately groovy feel.
PROS: Faithful recreation of the MPC vibe. Massive selection of samples. User sampling includes the ability to scratch your iTunes files like vinyl. Built-in effects and compression. Also available for iPhone.
CONS: Strictly patterns—no song-length creation tools. No editing beyond quantize and erase. Version 1.3 no longer supports the original iPad.
Bottom Line: A legendary production tool in your backpack—or pocket.
$4.99 | akaipro.com
When it was first released in late 2012, iMPC made serious waves, thanks to Retronyms’ (the co-developer of the app) slavish attention to detail in recreating the feel of the original. Since then, iMPC has grown into a full-featured production environment that, like its hardware brethren, is tailor-made for making hip-hop and R&B music.
Much like the current crop of MPC hardware, iMPC features four 16-pad “tracks” for creating your grooves. The most common approach is to use one track for drums and the other three for sample-based instrumentation. Akai clearly knows this, since many of its massive collection of factory drum kits also include related bass and instrument presets.
Feature-wise, iMPC includes many of the same tools that make the hardware version so useful. You can tap any pad and then assign it to all 16 pads for playing precise variations in tuning, velocity, length/duration, and filtering. There’s also a slider for users who prefer a more tactile approach.
The MPCs’ legendary swing is in full effect here and to my ears, it has an identical feel to that of the original hardware. As for the other quantization options, they range from eighth-notes to 32nd-notes, with triplet versions for each. This is more than enough for most pop applications.
Sampling with iMPC is a breeze. You can use the iPad’s built-in mic or access any of the tracks stored in your iPad’s music collection via a clever turntable interface that actually allows you to scratch your audio as you record it. I honestly had a blast with this and it’s a fantastic inclusion. From there you can adjust start and end points to get your sample just right.
Also on board are three basic effects: Bit-crushing, delay, and compression. The first two can be applied globally to any of the four tracks, while compression/limiting is tied to the master outs.
As for iOS amenities, the iMPC is packed with them, including Korg’s WIST wireless sync tools, AudioCopy, AudioPaste, Retronyms’ Tabletop interface, and iOS 7’s new Inter-App audio protocol. There are also a ton of social media tools including in-app publishing to SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. As iPad amenities go, this app is fully compliant. Finally, there’s an iPhone version as well, for those who haven’t yet snagged a tablet.
For five bucks, iMPC is a must-have iPad app for musicians of all types—if only for bragging rights. This is a total Key Buy.