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For many years, the venerable line of Akai sampling drum machines has enjoyed nothing less than cult status in certain musical production and engineering circles — hip-hop owes a lot to these devices — and legions of musicians have looked forward to iMPC on iOS, which is available in separate iPad and iPhone releases. While it comes with loads of sounds, we found some major omissions that severely limit the overall usefulness of this drummer, especially compared to other iOS alternatives.
The Akai iMPC app looks a lot like the real hardware, and you can instantly hear what it’s capable of by playing with the loads of built-in Sequences (something we’d typically call “Patterns”), most of which fall squarely into the dance, rap, dubstep, and hip-hop genres. There are more than 1200 sampled sounds included with the iPad version, while the iPhone version only offers half that many, which is a bit disappointing, However, the built-in sampler lets you make your own sounds, a really nice touch. The rotary dial lets you dial in the “next” sequence while the current one is playing, which is great for live performance, but the app lacks a “song” mode, which would allow you to string together a specific order of various sequences for building an entire tune.
Using the iMPC to play and record your pad-thumping musings is relatively easy (and quantization automatically makes everything fall in line), but it’s here where the first major “gotcha” hits you: the app doesn’t take advantage of the accelerometer to help you create velocity-volume effects, wherein hitting pads harder would make them play louder. Instead, Akai sells a $200 hardware accessory for the iPad, the "Fly," with physical pads that register velocity.
Worse, iMPC doesn’t work with external MIDI or Audiobus, which we found maddening, but it is indeed compatible with the free app TableTop, offering a partial workaround to these limitations. You can edit samples as you make them, but there's no editing after the fact, and while SoundCloud is supported for saving your beats, we’d love to see integration with iCloud and Dropbox for easier ways to move samples around. The built-in effects include a compressor, bit-cruncher, and delay line, but the omission of a reverb in a drum machine is unforgivable.
The bottom line. We had hoped for more, and perhaps future updates will address the many holes we encountered in iMPC. Simply put, there are better beatboxes (like DM1) available for less cash.
iPad running iOS 5.1 or later
Excellent sound library. Built-in sampler.
No reverb. No MIDI or Audiobus support. Lacks a song mode.