Akai has just announced their new, innovative MPC called the "Renaissance". I won't lie, it looks dope! Over the years, hip hop production was ruled by boxes like the E-MU SP-1200, then everyone upgraded to the MPC, along with many workstations like the Triton keyboard, but then along came Native Instruments a few years ago and they completely changed the game. The Original One of the main drawbacks of the MPC series was the fact that even though it was a powerful machine, it kept everything within the box itself and you would have to physically upgrade it by putting in a ZIP or CD drive. Even after all of that, it was still a task to expand and do the work you really wanted to do because as the years went on, the need for larger file storage and usage grew tremendously. When companies such as Cakewalk, Cubase, Emagic, etc were releasing their software-based DAWs, computers now took on a life of their own and became the centerpiece for most recording studios. Using a software DAW is great because of the flexibility, such as virtually limitless tracks, the ability to use whatever plug-in you throw at it, and as much hard drive space as you needed for your samples. The Combo Since everyone was jumping on the software bandwagon, that left many MPC users back in time, still banging away on those 16 pads and trying to use what Akai gave them. When Native Instruments introduced Maschine, this changed everything. Now you could use your computer's power and NI's software, with the Maschine hardware controller. This was like a piece of heaven was actually hand-delivered from God himself, straight to every beat-maker out there. It's almost as if Earth smashed into the Sun and boom - Maschine - that's how powerful this combo is. Ever since the dawn of Maschine, hip hop producers galore have flocked to it and have made countless dope tracks, stuff that they would not have been able to do before. Even for myself, I was never a big fan of MPC-style pads and was very comfortable using just software alone but then when I saw Machine I just knew it was for me, and sure enough - I love it. The New Era Native Instruments has great support. From what I've seen, they listen to their customers and release updates regularly with bug fixes and software improvements, making everything just better. However, one of the main features that most hip hop producers love to use is time-stretching, which Maschine does not have yet but I am confident they will soon. Akai has finally seen what Native Instruments has done and that is quite simply, change the game. It's great that Akai has stepped up and released their own software/hardware combo and all of their loyal followers throughout the years are in their glory right now, but I have one question - why didn't Akai do this first? No disrespect intended to Akai, but this leads me to believe that they're only releasing Renaissance in order to compete with Native Instruments because of the countless customers they've lost to them. Since Akai was the leader for many years, why didn't they have the idea to integrate their MPC controller with their own software? Over the years I thought that they would have done this, and in fact they did (to an extent) with their MPD series, but we all know that was just a controller and nothing else. It was hard to integrate with certain programs and was a pain to set up in certain cases. Conclusion Akai has done a great thing by releasing this new era of MPC and it competes directly with Maschine, so this should be very interesting to see what happens. Will Native Instruments take it a step further and put time stretching in their next update? Will Akai continue the Renaissance over the years to come, or continue putting out newer versions like they did with the MPC? Only time will tell, but until then - what do you think?