Akai has lost ground in the music production hardware business in recent years, but it's hoping to make a comeback with the appropriately-named MPC Renaissance. While famous for its full hardware solutions, the company is now adopting the common approach of pairing with a computer for audio production. Purists may be put off, but the added flexibility of the included software might make up for any disappointment.
The software will work with your preferred recording suite by running in VST, AU, or RTAS mode (or load VST plugins itself). It also includes a 6GB sample library and a vintage mode for reproducing the classic sounds of the MPC3000 and MPC60. On the hardware side, the Renaissance is a big controller in the truest sense — there's plenty of room for 16 backlit MPC pads, 16 Q-Link controls, and a ton of I/O, including USB, MIDI, 1/4-inch stereo, and a dedicated turntable input. You can catch a glimpse of all the bits and pieces in the video.
Although the Renaissance will be the flagship, it won't be alone in Akai's new strategy; the company is also releasing the slimline MPC Studio and an iPad app called MPC Fly. The latter may not appeal to traditional MPC users, but it could make Akai a familiar brand for budding producers without access to professional music production hardware. More details (and videos) on all the new products should be available at the NAMM show in a couple weeks.