Hey guys, I hot-rodded an MPD32 recently, and wanted to detail the steps on how and why.... it all started from this post I saw on the Cakewalk Sonar forum, which I wanted to quote here, and add to....
"I imagine quite a few people bought one of these planning on tapping out rhythms in Sonar. However, the pad sensitivity isn't really very good and a very firm finger tap is needed to trigger it. After playing around for a little while I just gave up and put it on the shelf. It was easier to use the keyboard for drum parts.
This was a big disappointment, and it only felt worse the other day when I played with the Korg Pad Kontrol and realised how much more sensitive its pads are to the Akai. Sigh, another bad purchase.... I sulked back into the studio and glared malevolently at the Akai.
But wait.... Since it's sat on the shelf for two years, it's sure out of warranty. Let's pull the lid off and see how those big rubber pads do their thing. To do this, remove all the screws and gently pull the fader knob off the front, then just lift off the lid and the rubber pad assembly just peels off..... hmmm.... there's a circuit board with black square sensors, covered in mylar film. Tap these and, hey, it's really quite sensitive. hmmmm......
Looking at the rubber pad sheet, there's a convex dome underneath which makes contact with the sensor pad. But it isn't actually quite touching the sensor pad. This means you have to give the rubber pad a fair old whack before you get any kind of a MIDI event out of the Akai.
Anyway, after a little bit of thought, I came up with a cunning plan which ended up working brilliantly. Also, as a modification, it's totally non-destructive, no glue or anything like that.
You need a roll of pipe repair tape for the trick. Most hardware stores should have this; it is black rubber tape that is just under an inch wide and about 1/32 inch thick, and it has a peel-off plastic backing. I think it's also known as amalgamating tape. Anyway, all you do is cut squares of this tape, about the size of the outer border of each sensor, and peel off the backing tape, then place the smooth side of the rubber tape (one side is textured, the other is smooth) to face the sensor surface. The tape will sit without sliding around. When you have all 16 sensor pads covered, just rub a sheet of paper over the whole thing to make sure that the rubber tape is pressed down firmly, then replace the pads on top. Now put everything back together again.
Now the unit should respond to the lightest finger tap. If any pad appears not to be operating any more, press each side in gently, as it may have temporarily jammed on the case frame; that happened to me putting the unit together. After that, all was fine. Now I have an actually useful gadget that is actually doing what I expected of it in the first place!
PS: The USB driver for this thing is total crap. It will crash your system and/or it will exhibit erratic MIDI timin'g when the system gets even moderately busy. Save your sanity and connect an external powerpack and use the MIDI port instead!."
Ok, so back to me and my ultimate success with the MPD32 modification...
Here's my response to his original post:
I did something similar last night with my MPD32.... except using electrical tape instead of the tape he mentioned. I cut them into little squares just about the size of the circular rubber pads which push against the sensors, and, layering the tape up 4 layers on most of the pads (2 layers thick on one row, which is all it needed)-- the sensitivity of the pads is DRASTICALLY improved... my god, it's like the PadKontrol (which has perfect pads). I even can lower the sensitivity and up the threshold in my MPD32 (I had lowest threshold before and max sensitivity and the pads STILL sucked before modding). Everyone should try this if they use an MPD32 or MPD24. As a control surface, the MPD32 is fantastic... but I was going to sell it because I hated the pads so much. After this mod, I have a perfect control surface as well as a killer pad combo.
Now, I don't know if this will work for the MPK49, MPK61, or MPK88, but it's worth a try. If I owned any of the three, I would open them up to see what's going on in the circuitboard section (not key section of course). I heard the keys are fantastic (although you can't set the key velocity curve, which is annoying). But yeah, this mod definitely works for the MPD18, MPD24, and the MPD32. Definitely worth checking out, guys...
I actually made a YouTube video of this mod, but I need to re-edit it as it was too long and boring... when I finish it, I'll respond to this post.
Akai is a good company, but as everyone agrees with, their pads are just the worst feature. I even hate the pads on the MPC, and I own two MPCs. They're just not sensitive enough. They are designed to be pounded on, and some of us just don't like "pounding"... we like full dynamic range.
Let me know what you guys think of this... it doesn't seem like there are many people talking about this on google or any of the forums I frequent. In my opinion, it's damn good information that needs more eyes.