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Getting sound from the Akai LPK25 mini keyboard
on 4 March 2012
This is not so much a review as help for anyone who buys this mini keyboard and expects to play music with it 'out of the box' - even to test that it's working. It won't do anything without other software, but there's plenty around that is free.
As far as the LPK25 product is concerned, it's great and does everything it's supposed to. Apart from Amazon, there are plenty of positive reviews and video demos to support this. However, the LPK25 is not really intended for someone who just wants to start playing a music keyboard through a computer by paying as little as possible. In spite of the attractive price for a touch sensitive keyboard, this is actually more a digital music creator's tool. It's not a 'standalone' playable keyboard. The LPK25 is simply a MIDI controller, and there is a big difference. Nevertheless, using a suitable program (many are free), anyone can learn to arrange and play music with the LPK25.
A buyer could be forgiven for thinking the unit is faulty out of the box, as although it should be recognised when plugged into a USB port, apart from a light or two working, it will be otherwise unresponsive and no sound will come out of the computer speakers or other sound output when keys are played.
What to do now? Before assuming it might be DOA (as have others) I spent countless hours on research in forums, reading reviews, watching YouTube demos, learning about all the different programs you can use for various effects, musical composition etc - downloading, installing and trying them, and I still failed to get a single peep out of the b....y thing! Eventually the 'Aha moment' arrived, sound emanated and things became clearer. On the positive side, I have learned a lot!
So here's how to quickly check your LPK25 out and start making music (sound at least!) with it using a suitable music program to control it.
Note that the supplied Akai LPK25 Editor isn't for producing sound. It is only for controlling the 4 program presets and built-in Arpeggiator (notes play automatically in sequence). It's not even necessary to install it at this stage.
Any computer audio interface/card should work well enough for MIDI output using e.g. Windows MS GS Wavetable SW Synth; however, CoolSoft VirtualMidiSynth (free) gives better instrument sounds. Later you may move on to sound fonts and live instrument patches, but don't worry about that now.
The LPK25 needs only one program to play and/or record keyboard input to be sent to your computer speakers. Any MIDI sequencer, composer, mixer, DAW (digital audio workstation) will do. There are hundreds out there, a lot of them completely free or with usable demo versions. Any program that has a MIDI input port controller should work. The problem is that many of them have so many features, it's difficult to find out how to start playing a few notes without going through a whole tutorial - to then decide that you don't really like that program!
I tried many, but I found Sequetron LE (free) was very easy to install and use immediately to play notes. The first short YouTube video (search Sequetron 8.06) will be enough to get you going and also provides the publisher website from where you can download the program.
1. Plug the LPK25 into a USB port. The operating system should recognise it as 'LPK25' or simply 'USB Audio Device' and it will use a Windows or other system driver. Nothing else is needed other than speakers turned on!
2. Once Sequetron (or other program) is installed, run it and in Config, Ports, set the MIDI Input to USB Audio Device (LPK25). Close the dialog box, then click the Run (Stop) button (metronome moves in Run mode). Press keys on the 'virtual keyboard' with your mouse and play some notes on the LPK25. From either, you should hear piano sounds from your speakers. If you turn on the LPK25 Arpeggiator button/light, notes you hold should repeat in sequence. It's working! If you press Stop, sound output stops too. Press Run to hear sound.
You can change from piano to any MIDI instrument and do all sorts of wonderful things once you learn how by reading and watching tutorials and using your undiscovered musical talents with your eventual software choice!