MIDI pad controllers have become more and more popular in recent years, not just for production but also live performance. So what do MIDI pad controllers actually do and which one should you go for? Today i'm looking at the most popular MIDI pads and give you a little glimpse into what they can do.
USB Powered MIDI Pads
The most affordable way to get into this game is to opt for a USB MIDI controller. These generally are powered solely via USB and work in conjunction with whichever DAW you are using. These have great advantages however can also be limited in their functionality.
The Akai MPD226 is just £159.00 and for that you get a really versatile instrument. It has 16 velocity and pressure sensitive pads that can be assigned into 4 banks which gives you 64 assignable pads! The 4 faders and knobs are also independently assignable. Akai has a rich history with drum machines and samplers and they use some of these well known features in this unit such as the MPC swing, note repeat and tap tempo setting. It comes with Ableton Live Lite and a heap of other software such as Akai Pro MPC Essentials. Its hard to beat this Pad controller for the price.
Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MK3
The biggest competitor to Akai at this kind of price is the Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MK3. This comes in at around £179.00 and is the baby brother of the more fully feature packed Maschine. It may be smaller but can work with your DAW or on its own and it manages to pack in some great features from its pricier sibling. 16 pads with a built in sequencer and really intuitive workflow. You can easily switch between pad mode, to playing notes or chords and even perform effects live into the recording. Along with the great Maschine software it comes with Ableton Live lite. You also have access to the brilliant native instruments virtual instruments which will give you access to lots of new sounds to create something new and fresh every time.
Ableton Push 2
The Ableton Push 2 is designed to work seamlessly with Ableton Live and focuses on a fast workflow. Unlike the previous 2 it comes with 64 pads. The grid splits into 3 sections which let you control different functions. The bottom left offers you pad mode while you can also see a full sequencer on the top section. At £559 it comes much dearer than the previous 2 however gives a slightly different approach to using pads and is a great tool to include into live performances as you can switch between different modes so easily. Add to that, that its made by Ableton for Ableton, the integration is seamless.
Stand Alone Samplers and MIDI PAD Drum Machines
The more comprehensive solution is to get a stand alone device that you can make music on independently of having to plug it into your laptop etc. These are obviously much more expensive however with units like this you can create entire compositions without the need to use anything else!
The Akai MPC
range goes down in legend as the kit behind some of the most genre defining sounds throughout years of expertise. This builds on the reputation and the knowledge gained from prior models. At a price of £1,721.00 this unit really lets you get a lot more in depth. You can control endless parameters with the 16 assignable touch sensitive knobs. Add to this the 8 built in CV ports which let you control other analogue synth gear with the MPC, whether its the pitch, velocity or gate. The unit comes packed with 10GB of sounds for you to go to town on. The Akai MPCX has alot of history to rely on and it really doesn't disappoint.
Pioneer Toraiz SP-16
The newcomer to the scene is Pioneer with the Toraiz SP-16. This unit comes with a few clever tricks though and really gives beatmakers some serious food for thought. at £1389.00 it comes in a little cheaper than the Akai. It comes with loopmasters samples pre-installed for you to get started. As you can see it has 16 pads which are pressure and velocity sensitive and the bottom shows you a 16 step sequencer. This can be expanded by using the Toraiz Squid multitrack sequencer which adds a whole heap of performance tricks to help you with ideas to create new ideas. The SP-16 midi pad controller comes with a Dave Smith instruments filter built in which makes it stand out from the rest. Pioneer have taken time to create a unique product which offers a really usable interface and a great workflow lets you start creating within minutes.
For most, a USB powered MIDI Pad controller will be enough to get the job done. It will add improved workflow to your work on DAW's and doesn't have to break the bank. These USB powered units mean you can take these units anywhere and make music wherever you have access to your laptop. However if you are a more accomplished producer a stand alone unit will definitely take your production to the next level. These units are all about making it easier to create something and even though you may be able to come up with the same thing without it, it will take you endlessly longer to accomplish.
You can pick up any of the midi controllers at djtechdirect.com