The Incredible Shrinking Studio, Part 3: Akai LPK 25 Keyboard

This is continuing from The Incredible Shrinking Studio article. I had to pick up an AKAI LPK 25 because my Korg nanoKey broke. This was right in the middle of writing the music for Arvale: Treasure of Memories and I was on a time-line since I had to finish before heading out to Budapest (I’m link happy today!).

So I researched a bit to find anything similar to the Nanokey in size but was a bit more sturdy. I was in luck, as the AKAI LPK 25 was recently released and they have a pretty good history of solid keyboard products.

Apparently, it’s a common problem with the Korg nanokey breaking right where the USB port is:

And if I had another mini-USB piece and knew how to use a soldering iron without burning holes in my fingers, I probably could have fixed it.

But I don’t. So I didn’t. The above damage was not how it originally looked (it looked pretty much fine, just a little loose), that was after I pried at it with a some needle-nose pliers for a bit. Honestly, I wasn’t even that tough on the nanokey, it was just a small drop while it was plugged in. This is the weakest link, so to speak.

So the first thing I checked out on the AKAI LPK 25 was of course the same jack. This seems a bit more reinforced and sturdy. It also looks as if they had the foresight to see that the mini-USB jack might break at some point in time, so they have a quick access door which is opens from those two holes. I hope I never have to use it.

Enough blather about the mini-USB jack, onto the Keyboard itself!

It’s pretty. It’s not as sexy as the nanokey (which is all black with grey keys), but it more than makes up for that with it’s playability. The keys actually reach all the way down like a normal musical keyboard and not like a computer keyboard (which the nanokey is like).

However, that does make it a bit more thick than the nanokey.

And it’s slightly longer, but still quite svelte and not much wider than my laptop.

Another nice touch to the LPK 25 is the Arpeggiator+ Tap tempo buttons. I rarely use them as I prefer to use Digital Performer’s midi plugins for that, but it would be great for live performance.

They also included a sustain pedal button (which is awesome since there is no out-jack for a sustain pedal, this is one thing I miss from the M-Audio Oxygen 8 when doing sustain parts).

This plus the two octave up/down buttons are all made of soft rubber, which is a nice change from the laptop-clickey keys from the nanokey. They all have pretty lights too 😉

I don’t think the AKAI LPK 25 came with any software, just a cable. Not that you need any software, but I still like the free Virtual Instrument that came with the Nanokey which has some decent GM sounds that I use every once in awhile.

There are a few features of the nanokey I like better. For example, the nanokey has a pitch bend button. You can also program any midi instructions to any keys on the nanokey with its included software, which was really useful sometimes. Not necessary since you can do all the midi operations in your sequencer, but still… I’m lazy and I had set up all sorts of shortcuts for volume and panning on the nanokey, so I feel a bit let down on that.

Also, when you do multiple octave shifts on the nanokey, the LED changes color. On the LPK25, they only stay lit one color, so you forget how high or low you are on the keyboard sometimes. Minor Quibble, I know.

Something else rather strange, I noticed the octave buttons on the LPK 25 are reversed? Shouldn’t the up arrow go up an octave and the down arrow go down an octave?

Aside from all that, I would absolutely recommend the AKAI LPK 25 over the nanokey. It’s built better, it plays better, it still runs off of USB power, and still easily fits in your Gear Bag (still link happy!).

Next up for the Portable Studio, the chair! 😉

Arvale: Treasure of Memories, Episode 1