Recently Akai Pro & Retronyms teamed up to create the iMPC iOS app for iPad. The iMPC is the long awaited iOS app designed to work with Akai’s MPC Fly. Although the MPC Fly has yet to hit the streets, the iMPC app is already in the hands of iOS musicians and beat making enthusiasts everywhere.
So what does the iMPC offer? It offers 4 tracks of sequencing, a 4 track mixer, 2 effects (DDT bit crusher and ED2 Delay), a master compressor / limiter, sample direct from music library and classic MPC features such as note repeat, 16 levels and time correct swing.
The iMPC is fun for sketching beats out on the iPad. The classic look is rather inspiring. You can even see the pads darken when played and during sequence playback. Once you’ve learned your way around the iMPC it’s pretty easy to bang out a few tracks but it’s best to get acquainted with the export function if you want to take it any further than a sketch.
Although there are only 4 tracks of sequencing, the ability to layer sounds from the given program is present. When loaded, a programs is linked to a track. Unlike a real MPC you cannot record separate parts from one program to different tracks.
Digging a bit deeper into the program editor, it was nice to see that you can actually sample directly into each pad of the program. Samples can be taken from your music library or even recorded from the built in iPad mic. Once a sample is on a given pad the level, tuning and play mode (one shot or hold) can be edited and /or adjusted to your liking.
The 4 track mixer allows for muting, soloing, panning and leveling of sequenced tracks. The EFX section allows the DDT bit-crusher to be turned on or off per track while the ED2 delay allows you to control the amount of delay on each of the four tracks. The MCL master compressor is a master effect that affects the overall output of the 4 tracks. It would be nice to be able to assign an effect to one pad rather than the entire program, unfortunately effects are only assigned to an overall track and in turn to the entire program.
In use the iMPC is, in spite of its fervor, lacking many of the features that one would expect to see in the iOS app incarnation of the classic sampling drum machine. Although the capability to sample is apparent, one should beware of the lack of any capable chopping facilities.
Where sampling is concerned, it is ideal to be able to sample directly from your iPad’s iTunes music library. However DRM protected tracks, described as “formerly sold on iTunes”, will not load and will only yield an error message inviting you to upgrade these particular tracks to iTunes plus. This is most unfortunate in the case of someone that uses iTunes Match. Because iTunes Match allows your entire music library to be stored in the cloud and pushed down to all of your devices for convenience, even files that were not bought thru iTunes appear to iMPC as DRM protected tracks. I know this because even my own original music files that have been uploaded to iTunes Match are treated as DRM protected tracks. It’s worth noting that this is an Apple issue rather than a Retronyms issue. I must say that I understand the intention behind the DRM deal but it is more of a nuisance than anything useful in my beat making process. One, in fact, that will likely drive me to other means of hassle free beat making.
To be fair, I suppose Retronyms intended to provide an affordable beat making app reminiscent of the classic MPCs of yester-year. For those of us that wish to have more advanced features, it should be noted that iMPC is a Tabletop Ready app. According to Retronyms “iMPC works in Tabletop adding advanced sequencing, arrangement, FX routing, midi mapping and more.”
Overall, iMPC is a decent effort but it falls short of the expectations of any experienced MPC beat maker. I‘m hopeful that in subsequent versions of iMPC there will be more tracks, more robust efx routing, a more fleshed out and full featured program editor (maybe with filters, LFOs, layering etc.) and most of all a chop shop of some sort. The iMPC may be a good fit for some but for a more experienced beat makers there are other more full featured and more robust apps available. I will hold out hope. Otherwise, there is still a ways to go yet.
iMPC is available for $6.99 in the Apple iTunes App store. In this price range, the iMPC delivers a rather capable iOS beat making experience. At very least, the “1200 exclusive samples” just may be worth the price of admission. Still, I’d say buyer beware of the limitations.
- TableTop Ready (adds advanced sequencing, arrangement, FX routing, midi mapping and more.)
- Classic MPC 2000XL look
- Classic MPC features such as note repeat, 16 levels and time correct swing
- Plenty of preloaded Samples (1200 to be exact)
- Share directly to Soundcloud
- No sample chopping facilities
- DRM protection when sampling from iTunes music library
- Only 4 tracks of sequencing
- Not nearly as full featured as a real MPC
- Program editor is limited
- Limited effects routing
Here are a couple of example tracks made by BBoyTechReport.com with iMPC
Take a listen to the iMPC community