Akai MPC 3000 MIDI Production Centre (part 3)
As I said earlier, Akai is a company that considers the user. Its 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 Im 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 manufacturers name on the back (which is much more boldly printed) as a protest! In complete contrast, Akais 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. Im sure arty designers would say that it doesnt really look aesthetically pleasing but once again I would say that its 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 dont 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. Wheres the MIDI THRU?, you ask, and I have to say that I dont 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 dont think manufacturers should make assumptions that THRUs are sometimes not necessary because they dont 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.