We had a visit from Akai's MPC specialist Andy Mac - with him came the new MPC flagship product - the MPCRenaissance.
Essentially, its an MPC control surface which takes all the best bits of the various MPC products - as specified by numerous pro users during a lengthy consultation process. This is combined with the software component which takes care of the audio and sequencing. The hardware also acts as a 4-channel USB audio interface allowing direct sampling via the combi or phono input - yes folks turntable sampling is supported.
All the familiar MPC functions are in there - 16 velocity/pressure sensitive pads, 16 levels, mute buttons, repeat and sequencing too.
What makes a real difference to the workflow are the 16 touch sensitive rotary encoders which make real-time tweaking and control more possible. This includes control of third party plug-ins and effects which integrate into the MPC host software.
The Renaissance comes with over 8GB of Akai library - including all the MPC60 and MPC3000 sounds and the software will read older Akai formats. Speaking of older machines, the hardware emulation is another interesting feature - with MPC3000 and MPC60 emulation you can crunch up your final mix for both monitoring and bouncing internally.
The Renaissance is just becoming available in the UK, priced at £699