Introduction

VMPC2000XL is an emulator of the Akai MPC2000XL sampling sequencer. It is free and open source, and it works on the most popular platforms: Linux, MacOS and Windows. For all three platforms there is a standalone desktop application version. For Linux there are LV2 and VST3 plugins, for MacOS there are AU and VST3 plugins, and for Windows there’s a VST3 plugin variety.

Conceived by Izmar, VMPC2000XL started early 2014 as a vehicle for learning how to program. The first iterations were written in Java. Java’s memory model, however, makes it inherently impossible to implement low-latency, glitch-free, realtime audio applications.

In 2016 an effort to port VMPC2000XL to C++ was initiated. The first ports were based on WDL OL and then the VST2 SDK. Ultimately the project settled on JUCE, mainly for its ability to target all popular platforms and plugin formats.

Open Source

VMPC2000XL is Free and Open Source, with a GPL3 license. Check out the source code and issue tracking (for questions and support, reporting bugs and requesting features and improvements) at https://github.com/izzyreal/mpc/issues and https://github.com/izzyreal/vmpc-juce/issues.

Behavioral emulator

VMPC2000XL is a behavorial rather than a hardware emulator.

Good examples of hardware emulators are the many game console and arcade machine emulators available today. These model the CPU and other relevant circuitry of consoles and arcade machines, allowing you to run any copy of a game ROM, cartridge or CD that would run on the original hardware.

The same can be done for the early MPCs. A crude implementation of the MPC3000 is being worked on in MAME.

VMPC2000XL, however, models the behavior of the MPC2000XL as a whole. The source code of VMPC2000XL knows nothing about the microprocessors, DACs and other hardware of the MPC2000XL. Contrary to the MAME implementation, VMPC2000XL is not capable of running the original MPC OS.

In this approach we essentially care more about what can be done, rather than how it is done. The idea is that at the cosmetic and functional levels the emulator is similar enough to substitute the original in certain conditions.

More than a hundred LCD screens have been reproduced, in most cases with pixel-precision. Their functionalities have been reverse engineered and implemented from scratch. The application is congruent with the main functional specifications of the original:

  • 64-track sequencer
  • 99 sequences in memory at once
  • 32 simultaneous playback voices
  • digital sampling of sound
  • MIDI in/out

Additionally the MPC2000XL’s native file formats have been reverse engineered, allowing exchange of SND, PGM, APS, MCP2000XL MID and ALL files. If you have a real MPC2000XL, you can load and modify its projects in VMPC2000XL and vice versa.

Stability

At the time of writing, the latest version of VMPC2000XL is 0.4. The project is still in a phase of taking shape and fixing crucial bugs, though much progress has been made in the past year.

VMPC2000XL 0.4 is stable enough for hobbyists who can forgive the odd crash. But before 1.0 has been reached, VMPC2000XL is not recommended for professional use, certainly not in a live setting.

Community

It is unknown how many users of VMPC2000XL there are today. Interest in the project has fluctuated, and the Downloads page has been visited over 50.000 times, but it’s safe to say the community is still small and largely idle.

That said, the VMPC2000XL Facebook group is active and maintained by the author. Everyone with an interest in the emulator is welcome to join, ask questions, report bugs, make suggestions and discuss technical issues.