Sunday, 29 April 2012

Akai LPK25 USB keyboard controller review

Following in the footsteps of their legendary line of MPC controllers, Akai have been forging new fame with their lines of USB controllers, including the LPK25 keyboard controller. I just picked one of these up to do some basic keyboard jamming to come up with ideas for chord progression and space is at a premium at the moment.

The LPK25 is a feature-light USB Midi keyboard controller, designed to plug into either a Mac or PC and allow you to play and record a keyboard performance. For virtually all popular DAWs (Cubase 6 and Madtracker 2 tested) no additional drivers are required aside from the basic USB drivers of your OS, leading to true plug in and play functionality. Editing software is included with the controller, allowing you to program the controller in any manner you chose for one of the 4 program banks for specific DAWs, although most users will find it easy enough to set up the controller from scratch..

This controller comes with 25 velocity sensitive keys covering two octaves and best described as small, solid and springy and they respond well to play. As with most keyboard controllers these days, the notes played can be transposed three octaves in either direction to play notes from C0 through to B8. The unit itself is about the same width of a 15” Macbook Pro and other laptops of similar size and weighs very little, so it's an excellent option if you're looking for something ultra portable or discreet in your studio setup. For me, I wanted something I could hide away easily if I wasn't using it and this does the trick perfectly. It's bus powered with a mini B USB cable (also included); my only problem with it is that the plug on the unit itself is a little loose and sometimes turns itself on and off unexpectedly during some heavy jamming and requiring a DAW restart.

There are some obvious things to note with a keyboard of this size. The lack of aftertouch (alongside pitch bend and modulation wheels) is to be expected for a keyboard of this size and price and whilst the keys are small to fit the small form of the controller, they are still easy to play. It should also be noted this keyboard is never going to rival more expensive kit from the likes of Edirol (Roland) for example, but should provide a good entry to music production and even live performances, especially when hooked up to virtual synthesisers.

An interesting extra function of the keyboard is the built in arpeggiator, with tempo control assigned either by a user-defined tap button or pre-defined tempos. The arpeggio can be held with the sustain key as well as transposed across several octaves. Whilst some VSTs come with an arpeggiator function, for those that don't this can be both a fun and useful option, especially when jamming or experimenting with key changes with your favourite VST synths..

In conclusion, a sturdy little keyboard that would be perfect for an entry level musician or for someone looking for a lightweight and portable keyboard for performance use. The arpeggiator is a great bonus to have and overall the unit provides excellent value for money and ease of use.

Also of interest:

This unit is also available as the Akai MPK Mini, which combines all the features of the LPK25 keyboard controller together with the LPD8, an 8 pad / 8knob USB controller in the same package. If you want to get a keyboard with some additional controller capabilities, then I would definitely check out the MPK Mini as well.