Adventures In Audio
Akai MPC 3000 MIDI Production Centre (part 3)

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Thursday January 1, 2004

Well built?

As I said earlier, Akai is a company that considers the user. It’s all
very well employing an arty designer to make a product look good in the shop,
but most of us really do want to use the equipment. I find it amazing that equipment
is still legended with grey lettering on a black background, just to give one
instance of inappropriate ergonomic design. I can hardly see the buttons on
my keyboard when I’m on stage and I often have to work my way round by
touch. I dislike this aspect of the keyboard so much that I gaffer tape over
the manufacturer’s name on the back (which is much more boldly printed)
as a protest! In complete contrast, Akai’s traditional beige colour scheme
and black printing makes the unit a real pleasure to use.

The MPC 3000 is large and chunky - thoroughly workmanlike in appearance in
fact. When you arrive at the studio and take this out of its case, the producer,
engineer and other musicians will know that they are dealing with a pro. When
they see the ease with which you can put drum sounds together and sequence them
into a song they will be certain. You will need to put in quite an investment
in time with the machine, but since it is a mature system and very precisely
directed at its task you will probably find yourself getting more out of it
faster than with a computer sequencer. On the control surface there are nine
groups of buttons and knobs. The grouping has a certain logic to it in which
the groups all have a distinctly different look about them. I’m sure arty
designers would say that it doesn’t really look aesthetically pleasing
but once again I would say that it’s a machine meant to do a job and the
most important thing is that your finger should fly to the right button almost
of its own accord, and with a little bit of experience it will.

Around the back we have an interesting range of connections, including a stereo
output and eight individual mixed outputs, rather reminiscent of Akai samplers
in fact. Could there be the guts of an S3000 lurking inside the MPC? The analogue
audio connections appear on quarter inch jacks sockets, as they should, and
there is an SPDIF stereo digital input on the usual phono connector. The digital
input only works at 44.1kHz so don’t bank on using it with your 48kHz DAT
machine. Also on the back we have eight MIDI sockets arranged as two INs and
four OUTs. “Where’s the MIDI THRU?”, you ask, and I have to say
that I don’t know what happened to it on such an otherwise well specified
piece of equipment. There is a soft THRU of course, but to my mind there is
no substitute for having a genuine THRU which mimics exactly the data present
on the IN connector with an absolutely minimal time delay. I don’t think
manufacturers should make assumptions that THRUs are sometimes not necessary
because they don’t know how imaginitively individual users want to set
up their systems. Still on the rear panel, there are connections for synchronisation
so you can run the MPC 3000 along with a multitrack via SMPTE (with the SMPTE
option installed), and there is a SCSI connector for an external hard disk,
if you would like to have access to more samples on-line than the high density
floppy drive will allow. Finally on the rear panel are two foot switch jacks
which you can assign to a number of functions, among which you may find the
stop/start and drop in facilities very useful.

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