MPC File Compatibility Guide Part 1
There are many different models of MPC, and unfortunately they don’t all play nicely with each other! While each newer MPC tends to pretty much support the MPC file formats of older MPCs, the reverse is rarely true, and with the introduction of JJOS, things got even murkier! Let’s try to get to the bottom of it all.
MPC Sound Files
The original MPCs used a specialist audio file format called SND. All MPCs (including JJOS) still load SND files without any problem, although since the MPC1000, it is not possible to save in SND format.
Since the MPC4000, WAV files have become the standard audio file format for both loading and saving. However the MPC2000XL is also able to save in WAV format (although it’s not the default saving format), and the MPC3000 and MPC2000 are both able to read WAV files, as long as you are running the most up to date OS for them. WAV files need to be ‘PCM’ format, which most WAV files tend to be, so this is rarely a concern.
Bit Rates and Frequencies
Most MPCs save audio files in 16 bit, 44.1Hz format. The MPC60 saves in 12 bit format. The MPC4000 can read 24 bit/96 kHz samples, while the MPC5000 can read 24 bit sounds, although they don’t appear to be officially supported.
For best compatibility with all MPCs, SND files are the best option. However support for SND files within a computer environment requires specialist software, e.g. MPC Editor or the up and coming ‘MPC Software’ that comes with the MPC Rennaissance and MPC Studio.
Therefore 16 bit WAV files would be the best option for producers looking to work in both MPC and computer environments.
MPC Program Files
The standard MPC program file format is the PGM file. The original PGM format is found in the MPC3000/60. This type of DRUM program can be loaded into every single MPC on the market, but only if it runs Akai OS. It looks like JJ dropped support for the MPC3000 format PGM in OS ’XL’ – trying to load one of these produces an ‘unknown file type’ error message.
For MPCs that support the MPC3000 PGM format, all the basic program parameters are carried over, such as sound assignments, tuning, SIMULT settings etc. However some parameters are sometimes ignored or converted. For example, the MPC5000 does not have a simple ‘decay’ envelope parameter, instead it has more complex ‘decay, release, sustain and delay’ settings for more control over the way the sample is shaped. Hence a ‘decay’ of 5 from an older MPC3000 PGM is converted within the MPC5000 to a ‘Release’ of 50 (which unfortunately is not a comparable conversion…)
From the MPC1000 onwards, Akai implemented a new PGM file format, most likely to help cope with the additional complexity required of the format. This unfortunately meant that MPCs made before the MPC1000 are not able to read this new MPC format.
If you prefer to use JJOS in your MPC1000/2500, then compatibility really depends on the version of JJOS you are running. 'Free JJOS' programs load without issue in Akai OS 1000/2500 (and vice-versa), and on the whole you should also be fine with JJOS1 in both directions.
With JJOS XL, there are a number of additional issues. We have found that, while programs created in JJOSXL load into MPC1000/2500 Akai OS (and free JJOS), the resulting programs emit no audio when the pads are played. To date we have not been able to confirm an end user fix for this.
When loading Akai OS or free JJOS projects into the JJOSXL, you'll discover a different issue. In JJOSXL, all programs use a chromatic pad order (pad A01=note 36, pad A02= note 37 and so on) instead of the random MIDI note order of traditional MPC PGMs (which runs A1=37, A2=36 etc). So when loading a legacy MPC program, JJOSXL adapts that program to become chromatic; it does this by changing the MIDI notes assigned to each pad (while keeping the same samples assigned to their respective pads). So if the legacy program featured a kick on pad A01 and a snare on pad A02, this would still be the case after a JJOSXL import, however the MIDI notes assigned to those pads would be different.
This has an obvious impact on any associated sequences, as events in MPC sequences use MIDI note numbers to identify which pad to trigger. Thus your original kick events (MIDI note 37) will now trigger the 'new' JJOSXL MIDI note 37 which is now a snare. The workaround is to then manually transpose all your sequencer events, which can be a long and daunting process. We however work around this by ensuring all our legacy programs are already in chromatic format, so JJOSXL doesn't need to perform any MIDI note rearranging.
JJOS XL programs also have the additional ‘INST’ (instrument) switching option which produces a different program interface optimised for creating keygroup programs. These features are not compatible with any Akai OS MPC, nor are they compatible with the free JJOS or JJOS 1.
Other MPC Program Types
Beyond the native PGM format found in many MPCs, there are a number of other program types found in the more 'advanced' MPCs.
The MPC Software (MPC Renaissance, MPC Studio, MPC Touch etc) features four different program 'types' (DRUM, KEYGROUP, PLUGIN and MIDI), that all use the extension 'XPM'. These are not backward compatible with any legacy MPC. The MPC Software will however read all legacy MPC program types, although the results are somewhat variable. It will also export in MPC5000 and MPC1000 format, but again, there are some bugs that need attending to.
The MPC5000 introduced another 'drum' program type, the 50s - only the 5000 and the new MPC Software is able to natively read this format.
The native program format on the MPC4000 is the AKP. This can be configured to be either a DRUM or KEYGROUP program. AKP format is supported by both the MPC5000 and the MPC Software, but only basic information is successfully transferred.
The MPC5000 also introduced the ‘50v’, which is a synth program used to control the internal synth on the 5000. This is, naturally, an MPC5000-only program.
As you can see, creating sound packs that work in all MPCs is a very complicated task!