Sunday, November 1, 2009
Here Comes a Challenger! Akai LPD8 vs Korg nanoPAD review
When Akai showed their new laptop controllers, It *did* look a bit "me too" on the part of Akai but I'd always wanted to mess around with an MPC or MPC-ish pads beyond annoying all of Guitar Center with their MPC5000. While I love the nanos, especially the PAD and have already made a few tracks with them, one of the great things about all these products is that the price makes them *almost* an impulse buy, so I picked up an LPD8 for shits and giggles. Does it deliver them, oh yes, and in a good way. Is it better than Korg?
1. The construction of the LP8 inspires confidence, the first thing I noticed after taking it out of the box (damn near identical to Korg's) is the nice heft and thickness (Oooer) of the LPD. (Even the USB cable is thicker)
2. LPD8 looks like every other current Akaipro product, while the Nanos (like pretty much every Korg product of the past ten or so years) look pretty random.
3. LPD has 8 pads to nanoPAD's 12 and while I'd rather Akai covered all of it with 16 pads, the LPD has 8 knobs. Korg, zero.
4. Korg does have the x/y pad and roll/flam/hold buttons which make creating little fills hella fun.
5. Akai's pads are backlit (ringed anyway) in red, while they only light up when you strike them and thus I'm not sure this would help much in the dark anyway, it does look better as those on the nanoPAD don't light up @ all.
6. Finally, Akai has better pads. Akai has better pads. Akai has better pads. I couldn't stop playing with the pads on the LPD. They are *not* MPC pads - the small size should give that away - and they don't even feel like MPC pads, I think they feel *better*. And certainly better than the Korg's which are quite stiff and thick and unmoving, providing next to zero tactile feedback. There's a nice tactile thump to the LPD's rubber and there's a bit more give than the Korg, though perhaps not as much as the MPC? When it comes to velocity sensitivity, I was pleasantly surprised, the LPD is @ least as good as the Korg; what I'd always heard, and in my experience was true, about MPC and MPD/MPK pads is that you really had to bash them to get full velocity and little taps to make smaller beats (entirely possible on the Korg) was out of the question. Not on the LPD, quite sensitive with a decent range of control. I even found you can make little fills and stuff quite easily by drumming on the same pad.
I *do* miss any kind of fill button, which Akai *could* have included; think it'd basically be an arpeggiator for drums and Akai's sister product, the LPK keyboard does have an arp. Still there is no reason I couldn't use both the Akai and the Korg. (I will)
The pads on the Akai are also evenly spaced; those on the nanoPAD have more space inbetween the rows than the columns which makes fingerdrumming a bit harder. (My main problem with the Korg.) They are also larger.
Opening up a Drum Rack in Ableton Live to test with the LPD revealed a shortcoming. It's not any better mapped to the notes in Drum Racks than the Korg. And @ least the scenes on the Korg were set to different ranges on notes, while on the Akai (called "programs") they are not. Both devices can be reprogrammed and remapped using software available form Korg and Akai, and they should be, to take full advantage of Drum Racks; just for the lazy person, the Korg works better out of the box.Knobs on the LPD have to be midimapped in Live to even work, but once you do that, it works *perfectly* with Drum Rack's macro controls. One great thing to do with any pad controller is to use it to control chromatic synths (instead of a keyboard) since it forces you (or at least we who are untrained) to come up with melodies you wouldn't usually. Here, with the knobs controlling synth parameters, its like...fun. Here's a short piece fucking around in Drum Racks and Claw:
The knobs also mean I'd even put the LPD up against Korg's nanoKontrol. There, well you dont get the transport buttons and the Kontrol gives you 9 each of buttons, faders and knobs, but the LPD could knock out a 4-track Live mix in a pinch. (Or even not in a pinch.) And if you had to get *ONE* controller, I'd get the LPD.
On a side note, the LPK sports "real" keys, well Casio or MicroKorg minikey style, while the nanoKEY is more like a cheap laptop qwerty keyboard.
Alternatively? The best competition for these devices come from Korg and Akai themselves. Akai's MPD18 sports 16 pads and a single fader for $100. (unfortunately, like the nanos and laptop controllers it's only USB, no midi jack) The 24 adds a bunch of knobs and faders for less than $200 (the MPD32 is a bit more) and Korg's padKontrol comes in @ $200 with 16 pads, that x/y pad and 2 knobs.
Advantage, still would miss Korgs x/y pad, but Advantage: Akai