Although it’s just as compact as and sometimes even cheaper than the musical keyboards you can buy at Toys “R” Us, Akai Professional’s MPK mini MKII has enough tricks under its sleeve to be a good companion for traveling musicians.
As indicated by the product name, the MPK mini MKII is indeed tiny, making you feel like an oversized gorilla pouncing on a child’s toy. It will take a couple of hours to really get adjusted to the 25 synth-action mini keys, but once you do you’ll start appreciating its portability more and more. A dedicated Octave Up and Down button expands the keyboard to the full melodic range, and a sustain pedal input is built in for expressive playing and recording. An onboard arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range, and modes makes it easy to create intricate melodic lines with little effort.
One of the biggest upgrades you’ll see over the original MK, released in 2010, is the dynamic pitch and modulation control in the form of a 4-way thumbstick similar to what you would see in your Xbox controller. In the original version, users had to assign the pitch bending and modulation function to 2 of the 8 customizable knobs (located in the upper right-hand side of the product), but now the control is much more intuitive and fun to use.
The MKII obviously doesn’t offer all the functions that a full-sized MIDI keyboard controller does, but keep in mind that the price is only about $100. If you’re a beginner or a professional musician constantly on the go, you’ll have a hard time finding an alternate product that delivers better bang for your buck.