Akai's MPC hardware is normally an expensive investment — you're looking at $699 for the 'entry' One production studio. That ecosystem just became much more affordable if you have a computer, however. The company has introduced an MPC Studio controller built solely to tie in with MPC 2 software on your Mac or PC. Plug it in and you can produce tunes with the signature 16 drum pads (with pressure, velocity and aftertouch control) as well as an assignable touch strip that lets you twist instruments and synths. A color LCD helps keep your focus on the controller when you're chopping samples or fine-tuning effects.
The software, unsurprisingly, plays a key role. Akai has been pouring much more of its energy into its MPC 2 software, including a large update in July that added AIR plugins and on-device pitch correction. You'll have access to eight plugin instrument engines as well as sampling, MIDI sequencing, arranging and other parts of the MPC workflow. Think of the MPC Studio as Akai's answer to Ableton's Push — it's hardware that brings out the software's full potential.
The MPC Studio is available today for $269. MPC 2 is thankfully included, so it's a relative bargain so long as you have a production-ready computer. This could make Akai's universe considerably more accessible if you're new to this kind of music making.
Update 9/21 6:10PM ET: Akai now says MPC 2 is included, not separate as we originally wrote. We've updated the piece accordingly. Needless to say, that makes the MPC Studio a sweeter deal for newcomers.