Is FXpansion GURU an AKAI mpc alternative?


Enter the drum GURU…

Over the years, software has constantly improved and offered the same and even better functionality to the hardware we are
used to using.

We’ve had drum machines, sequencers, drum samplers, slicers, dicers and food processors…okay, maybe not the last one.

But, many people, especially in the urban electronic genres like hip hop, techno, dnb, electronica, house, breakbeat, downtempo..well
you get the idea…we’ve been looking for something to give us the straight forward work flow we are used to from our legendary
akai mpc sampling drum sequencers.

Many have tried, few have succeeded.

Guru_boxshotOver the past few months we have seen many MPC-alike software rise up. MOTU bpm, and Native Instruments Maschine are the newest contenders, but one that many seem to forget about is the one that started the whole software mpc style program craze.

FXpansion GURU is the originator in MPC style software programs.

But the real question is, what has kept it relevant for so long, and does it really give the hardware style experience.

My MPC may get a little jealous

I’ve been able to spend some quality time with GURU since fxpansion sent it over for review, and I will say that I really like the work flow.

First off, it’s easy to get in and get a drum-loop going, I mean very easy.

You can use some of the included drum grooves, or load up the pads with your own loops and phrases.

The anatomy of a drum GURU..

guruGURU will take some getting used to, yet it’s familiar for many hardware users at the same time.

It has a 16 pad layout, and is broken up into 8 “engines” each engine can have it’s own set of 24 patters, 16 pads, effects, quantize, and everything.  Each pad has it’s own “lane” in the step sequencer window, so effectively this is like 16 tracks in each engine.

Slice in dice is easy as loading a loop

for those of you that like to mangle up drum loops and other phrases via slicing you’ll love GURU’s smart-slicing abilities.  Anything you browse to under the “loop” tab will be automatically sliced either by 16th or by transients, GURU will even  analyze the frequency and place the proper slices from a drum loop in the kick, snare, hi hat, and perc locations on the pads.  sweetness!

It’s also very easy to edit the slices it auto-generates for you, and messing with the sensitivity and accuracy also yields you more control over the slices you get.

But for me, I found an easy way to make my own slices without using the auto features. I like to load a phrase on one pad, set the start/end point, then copy to the next pad and pick my next slice. Old school asr-10 style baby!

I’d really like a way to just load in a wav sample and pick my slices then drag or assign them to pads, maybe in the next version, but this way works fine and is very quick for those of us that like to pick our own chops.

guru  layers

Layers like an onion.

One of the most useful features of the MPC series is being able to layer your sounds on one pad GURU does this with ease, all you do is go into the pad edit mode, and click layer, then pick any of the layers you want to add your sound to.   You can also set the layers to play all at once, by velocity, in round-robin mode, or random

FX for days…

Sometimes, especially on certain MPC models, you run out of fx or it’s not as flexible as you’d like, with GURU that’s fixed.

You can add effects anywhere you wish, to the entire group or “engine” as GURU calls it, to the pad, or to the overall output. You can also use some flexible routing if you want to send your pads/phrases to different locations inside your daw for more flexibility.

Feel the groove baby.

guru grooveGURU can apply many of the built in grooves, or it can extract the groove from your loaded drum phrases and riffs so you can later apply it to your other sequences.

Like the groove of the drum-loop you just put together? Cool, now save it and you’ll have it ready to use in your groove library.

Many people love this feature, and you can adjust the amount of groove you want to be applied, of course it’s all non destructive so you can change it at any time.

It’s the little things that count

A lot of little things that make hardware fun to work with are available in GURU.  Things like note repeat, pad chromatic, velocity spreading, note erase, and undo are just a few.  You can also use the audio export features to export your pad (great for creating custom drum kits to use in other programs)

your track, the current engine, or everything inside guru.

The final verdict

With all the software competing for the spot of your go-to grove machine, GURU remains a top contender for it’s easy of use and box and screen

There are some things I would like to see, like I said, the ability to drag a wave file in, apply slices, adjust the slices to my liking, THEN export the slices to the pads.  I’d like to see tap tempo functionality, I can’t believe this is missing.

I’d also like a count in feature when doing real-time recording, most all hardware and software sequencers have this feature…it should at least be an option.  I look forward to the next version or whatever the successor of GURU will be.

Will we get more engines? More fx? More slicing options? Integrated audio sampling?  More sample file import features like akai , battery, and all mpc formats? That would make the migration easier for us hardware heads.

What about some of their sexy synth technology under the hood? Like a software mpc 5000 with better implementation!

I could go on for days on my greedy wishlist, but the fact remains the product is a great one as is.

Whatever the future brings will be welcome, but let’s not overlook what we already have.

GURU is a very powerful machine, I’m just getting familiar so their is no doubt things I haven’t learned yet.  I will continue to play with it, and continue to share what I find.

GURU is definitely a software any drum machine/groove lover should have in their toolkit.

Go check it out on their website. FXpansion GURU

It’s a fun litt program that I really enjoy using.

Let me know what you think about it, please leave your comments below!


  1. Thanks for this post @saintjoe. I was thinking about purchasing Guru, but had 50/50 opinion about it slicing tool and anatomy. I was using Geist for a long time, but this software is kind of tiring me. It was totally useful review, and I’ll go more deeper in research about Fxpansion Guru. Is there any chance to try it trial ?

    Regards, Moll from


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