One huge improvement is simplified external syncing. Previously, getting the tempo of the on-board arpeggiator to line up with your DAW could be a challenge. Honestly, I could never get it working at all with Ableton Live. And an arpeggiator that isn’t tempo synced is only so useful. On the mk3, it’s a simple button press and a knob turn away, and it works flawlessly.
That being said, I do wish the arpeggiator offered some new features. It’s exactly the same set found on the mkII, which is still very good, but has since been bested by the Launchkey line as the best on-board arpeggiator. Also, while other controllers are adding TRS MIDI for controlling hardware synths directly, Akai is sticking with USB only. Even just the addition of transport controls for recording and playback would have been a huge welcome addition to the MPK Mini.
Still, one of the biggest selling points of the MPK Mini remains its price. At $99, it’s one of the best bang-for-your-buck portable MIDI controllers out there. Nobody offers the same combination of finger drum-friendly pads and a piano-style keyboard at that price. And the integration with Akai’s free new MPC Beats software, plus the small bundle of free softsynths and sample packs that come with it, only sweetens the deal. Just be aware that the MPC workflow is relatively unique, so if you’re coming over from Ableton or Logic, there’s a bit of a learning curve. But, in addition to being a standalone app, you can also use it as a plugin in your DAW of choice. So you can take advantage of the legendary MPC swing and sample chopping features, without completely abandoning your existing workflow.
Akai didn’t do quite enough to make the MPK Mini the clear king of the portable controller hill again. But, the improvements it did make mean you probably won’t feel disappointed if you buy one.