There’s no question that the AKAI MPK Mini has become one of the most popular MIDI keyboards for music producers. I just bought one a few weeks ago, and it’s easy to for me to understand the love for it. I’ve got the MKIII (the latest version), and I’ve got nothing bad to say. It’s inexpensive, plug-and-play, it has a quality key-bed, and it’s portable.
That all said, the AKAI MPK Mini has been out for over 10 years now, so naturally, the company has released 3 different versions of it since then. Unlike other companies who may not improve much on the original model, AKAI has done just that. The difference between the AKAI MPK Mini MKII and MKIII is a great example, but what about the original model?
The AKAI MPK Mini MKII features a few specifications that the original MPK Mini doesn’t have, including a modulation joystick, pad controls on the right-side, a slightly better key-ped, the inclusion of 3rd party software and plugins, actual MPC pads, as well as a sustain pedal jack.
In simple terms, the MKII model is a definite upgrade from the original AKAI MPK Mini. AKAI released the MKIII a few years later and it’s even better than the MKII model which I talked more about in my other guide, but I digress. Let’s talk in a bit more detail about some of the major differences between the MKII and the MPK Mini, as well as some other important things to consider.
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The Main Difference Between the AKAI MPK Mini MKI & the MKII
As I was saying a moment ago, compared to the original AKAI MPK Mini, the AKAI MPK Mini MKII changed the order of the buttons around, added a modulation joy-stick on the left-hand-side of the device, made the key-bed slightly better, and also added software and plugins to go with it.
I think the second thing to consider about the AKAI MPK Mini is that it’s a challenge to find the original model these days. I can’t find it in Amazon, zZounds, or on Thomann. It’s very possible you’ll have to search for it on eBay if you really do want the first edition.
In fact, I just found it at this link here. Though, I don’t understand why you would you want the original MPK Mini because the MKIIl version is so much better than the MPK Mini and the MKII for more reasons than one.
Differences Between the AKAI MPK Mini and AKAI MPK Mini MKII
|AKAI MPK Mini||AKAI MPK Mini MKII|
|Hard to find new||Easier to find new|
|Toy-like key-bed||A slightly better key-bed|
|No modulation joystick||A modulation joystick|
|Pad Controls on the left-side||Pad Controls on the right-side|
|No included software||Includes AIR Music Tech’s Hybrid 3, XPand!2, VIP, and the MPC Editor|
|MPC-style Pads||Actual MPC Pads|
|No Sustain Pedal Jack||Features a Sustain Pedal Jack|
More On The Differences Between the AKAI MPK Mini MKI & MKII
1) The MPK Mini MKII Has A Slightly Better Key-Bed
One of the things I talked about in my article comparing the MKII and the MKIII was the increased quality of the key-bed on the MPK Mini. They took it to the next level on the MKIII compared to the MKII, but even with the move from the original to the second edition model, there is still a noticeable improvement.
2) There’s A Modulation Joystick on the Left-Side of the MPK Mini MKII
The modulation joy-stick, which is really just like a pitch-wheel, does precisely what I just said except in the joystick form. I believe the reason why they made it go up and down and from side to side is so that it can function as more than a pitch-wheel which makes a lot of sense to me.
Part of me wonders how useful this is when using the drummer track in GarageBand, because much of its controls are also X/Y stick-based.
3) Pad Controls Are On the Right-Side on the AKAI MPK Mini MKII
Because of the introduction of the aforementioned joy-stick, the Pad controls had to be moved over to the right-hand side of the keyboard. To me, this change is merely cosmetic, but maybe there are some people out there who prefer having them over on this side of the device.
4) The Original MPK Mini MK Features No Software
The next thing that the MKII has that the original doesn’t is included software, although, I must admit that I don’t care much for these kinds of additions, as they’re usually either in demo form or in some other kind of limited format, ie, they feature timers or random noises to encourage you to buy the full version.
This is certainly the case when you get Amplitude 5 with the purchase of the iRig HD 2 which I’ve discussed before. You may recall in that article that you don’t get many amps and pedals. For me, the included software doesn’t matter much, especially considering I already have Xpand!2 from AIR Music Tech.
It’s definitely an awesome plugin to have because it has so many great sounds for a cheap price. If you don’t already have Xpand!2, this could be another reason for you to get the AKAI MPK Mini MKIII. I know that I bought mine a while back on Plugin Fox and I was really impressed by everything it gives you.
Regarding the MPC Editor, this is a tool you use for programming the keyboard to your liking. In case you didn’t already know, you can program your DAW to send certain sounds to particular keys on your keyboard.
This can be done in FL Studio and GarageBand, among many other DAWs. But the MPC Editor is for changing MIDI CC data. And finally, you get Hybrid 3 which is just a synthesizer from AIR Music Tech. I’ve never actually used it so I can’t comment on it.
5) The MPK Mini MKII Has Actual MPC Pads
The MKII, unlike the original MKI, also has MPC pads. One of the cool things about the AKAI keyboards is how the pads change color and light up. I think this played a role in why it was so popular to begin with.
The drum pads look really cool, they feel good underneath your fingers, and they’re illuminated. The same thing goes with my AKAI MPD226 which is just a drumpad without the MIDI keyboard.
6) The AKAI MPK MIni MKII Has A Sustain Pedal Jack
And last but not least, the AKAI MPK MKII also comes with the sustain pedal jack. In case you don’t know, this is a pedal that you plug into your device and it prolongs the note as much as you’d like.
It’s very similar to what the piano does with its sustain pedal. There are also some plugins that can do this too including Melodyne which I’ve written a full review on elsewhere on the site. But I digress. Now that we’ve discussed the differences, let’s talk about the similarities a bit.
The Similarities Between the AKAI MPK Mini MK and MKII
Ultimately, the fundamentals of the MPK Mini and the MKII are the same, including the note-repeat function, the 8 drum pads, arpeggiator, velocity-sensitive keys, 8 volume knobs, the appearance, and the feel of the keyboard.
Whether you use the MKII or the original MPK Mini, you’re still going to get much of the same experience. That said, this doesn’t mean I think you should actually get the MPK Mini, because, as I said before, even if you wanted it, you would probably have to get a used version.
If I’m not mistaken, AKAI doesn’t even make the original edition of the MPK Mini anymore. There’s one more thing I’d like to say about the MPK Mini series.
Other AKAI MPK Mini Series Articles
- How to Set Up the AKAI MPK Mini with GarageBand
- How to Set Up the AKAI MPK Mini with FL Studio
- Is the AKAI MPK Mini Series Bluetooth?
Important Things to Note About the AKAI MPK Mini Series
1) It’s Probably Better To Get the AKAI MPK Mini MKIII Play
If I had to do it all over again, I probably would’ve got the AKAI MPK Mini MKIII Play instead of just the regular MKIII model. While the MKIII is a huge improvement from the first two iterations, the Play version is even better because it has a speaker in it and can act as a stand-alone music-making device.
I talked about this in my guide on how to use the MKIII without a computer, where I stated that, if you’re trying to make music without a computer, you can either get the Play version, or you can just connect everything to an iPhone/iPad, or Android device.
The reviews of the MPK Mini Play MKIII have been mixed, but I think it’s super cool and I regret not getting it instead of the MPK Mini MKIII. I love to jam along with little chord progressions and backing tracks that I create on the fly, so a stand-alone device like that is great for me.
1) AKAI MPK Mini MKII (on Amazon)
3) Xpand!2 (on Plugin Fox)