These two midi keyboards leave a lot of people wondering what exactly is the difference between them.
On the surface, they seem very similar but there is quite a price difference between them. They are both very good options and you will also find them in our selection of best midi keyboards.
Let’s dive into the details and see how they fair against each other and if the price difference is justified.
Both keyboards have similar keys in terms of features and functionality. They both have 49 keys, they are both semi-weighted, velocity sensitive and with aftertouch.
If you are new to keyboards, being velocity sensitive means that the harder you press the keys the louder the sound is. It can also determine other characteristics of the sound depending on what the software does with this information and how it is configured.
Aftertouch is a feature whereby once you hit the bottom of the key you can push the key a bit further triggering another signal. Again, this can have different outcomes depending on what the software does with it and how it is configured.
Semi-weighted keys are a middle ground between synth keys and fully-weighted or piano emulating keys in terms of how they feel.
Synth keys are very light to press and quick to spring up while fully-weighted keys are a bit harder to press and have kind of bouncy comeback (it’s the best I can come up to describe those right now). If you’ve ever played with a piano, that is the feel that fully-weighted keys try to emulate.
Semi-weighted is somewhere in the middle and the main reason they exist in the first place is that they are cheaper to make that the fully-weighted ones. At least that is what I understand. A fully weighted system is more complex thus more expensive.
They are nicer to use than synth keys, at least in my opinion and probably many others, since is a good marketing checkbox for most keyboards these days.
Here we have quite the difference between the two devices we are looking at. The most obvious difference is the number of pads, the MPK249 having 16 while the Impulse only has 8.
On both items, the pads are pressure and velocity sensitive and also backlit but on the Impulse, there are only 3 colors and that depends on the mode they are in and what they do at the moment, it’s not something that you change yourself.
On the MPK the drum pads section is very advanced compared to the Impulse, and it to be expected, Akai is the creator of the famous MPCs.
So, let’s start with the Impulse, you can use the pads to trigger sounds or sound clips in Ableton. You also have a roll feature or note-repeat and you can also shape arpeggios with them. And that is about it.
On the MPK249 you get a few more features including aftertouch, color selection, grouping, tap tempo, triplet-based time division, swing, and others. Also, you have easy access buttons for 4 banks right next to the pads, which is nice.
On the Impulse, there are 9 while on the MPK there are 8. One notable difference is that on the Impulse they have a very flat shape while on the MPK they are more ‘traditionally’ shaped.
The reason they did that on the Impulse is so it would be easier to put in a bag without those catching on to something and breaking. A small detail, it depends on your use case how much you care about it.
On both devices, you can use these to control your mixer levels but you can also assign them to other controls of your choice.
There are a few more buttons and transport controls differences, sort of, but they are pretty insignificant so I won’t waste space for that. They work on both keyboards as they work with most keyboards.
How all the buttons and knobs are positioned on the keyboard may not be something you really pay attention to, but I think that comfort and ergonomics are quite important.
The major difference between the Impulse 49 and the MPK 249 in terms of layout is the drum pads section.
You’ll notice that on the MPK the pads are somewhat in the middle area of the keyboard while on the Impulse are on the right edge.
If you are going to play around with drums to find that ideal pattern and you end up spending a lot of time on the pads, that middle ground position will be more comfortable and will not require you to twist to the right.
It’s not really a big deal but it can become if you find yourself in weird positions for long periods of time.
On the flip side, I like the positioning of the Pitch and Mod wheels on the Impulse because they are right next to keys as opposed to above like on the MPK.
This allows you to rest your arm on the desk or on the edge of the keyboard as opposed to keeping your hand in the air to avoid hitting keys.
Thank being said, the MPK uses most of the space that it can very efficiently, making it more compact than its competitor while still having twice the amount of drum pads.
Like with most MIDI keyboards, these come with a few things in the box, software wise starting with Ableton Live Lite, which both include.
If you are new to music making, Ableton Live is a DAW (digital audio workstation). It’s your main software where you create your music. Inside of it you can load samples and various plugins and lay out your musical ideas.
The version included is a limited version of the Live software so if you are serious about your music you’ll probably still need to buy a complete version of it or maybe a totally different DAW.
I would suggest trying a few of them before making a purchase decision, most of them have free trials so go for it.
Back to our keyboards, alongside with the DAW, both include other things as well.
The Impulse also includes Bass Station, an analog bass synth and XLN Audio’s Addictive Keys, a very nice piano oriented plugin and you also get a 4GB sample pack from Loopmasters.
The MPK249 comes with MPC Essentials a groove oriented software that can be used both standalone or in your DAW, Hybrid 3, an analog synth that allows you to create your own sounds if you’re going to get into some sound design and also SONiVOX Twist, another very nice synth plugin.
Overall, I like the MPK software package more but the thing to keep in mind is that you’ll still end up spending probably a lot more than you really need to on other software, sample packs and so on, so I would say don’t get too hung up on software when you intend to buy a keyboard.
In many ways, these are very similar keyboards. The thing is, so do are most of them on the market these days. What it boils down to is what features are you actually going to use.
A lot of people just care to have some keys, maybe some pads. If that sounds like you maybe both options are overkill.
If you want to have a bit of everything, the Impulse is a good option for you. But if you want the best package of features with probably the best drum pads on the market today, then the Akai MPK249 is the way to go.