Akai Pro MPD218 - Setup with Ableton Live 9 Lite

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The MPD218 is a USB/MIDI pad controller perfect for producers, programmers, musicians and DJ's alike. It's intuitive blend of MPC controls and technology mesh with easy USB connectivity to bring the feel of classic beat making into the world of computer music production. This guide discusses how to completely set up your MPD218 with the Ableton Live Lite software.



  1. Getting Started
  2. Ableton Live 9 Lite Software Setup
  3. Virtual Instruments and Plugins
  4. Big Bang Cinematic Percussion Setup
  5. Mapping the Knobs within Ableton 
  6. How to Setup: NRConfig Button
  7. Further Technical Support 



Getting Started 

  1.  If you haven't already, download and activate the included version of Ableton Live Lite. The video below will walk you through this process

  2. Once Ableton is installed, refer to our guide below for instructions on installing and authorizing the included Big Bang Cinematic Percussion and Big Bang Drums if you plan on using these with Ableton:

  3. Connect the MPD218 to a free USB port on your computer and it will power on automatically.

  4. Finally, before getting connected to the software, choose a preset by holding down the PROG SELECT button on the MPD218 and pressing any one of the numbered pads. This will tell the pads to match correctly with the software you're using.

    • For use with the Ableton Drum Rack, press PAD 4 to choose Preset 4.
    • For use with MPC Essentials (plugin or standalone), press PAD 5 to select Preset 5.
    • For use with the Big Bang plugins, download the preset here and use the MPD218 Editor to load this to any preset slot on your MPD.
      • Download and install the editor from the product page.
      • Choose File > Open to open the preset file.
      • Choose File > Send to Hardware to load the preset onto the MPD218.



Ableton Live 9 Lite Software Setup 

  1. Connect the Akai MPD218 series controller to an available USB port on your computer using the supplied cable, and launch Ableton Live 9 Lite.

  2. Open the Ableton Live 9 Lite Preferences window.  Choose your Audio Device in the Audio tab.  This will be dependent upon the audio interface that you are using.

    Select Live > Preferences or use the key command shortcut - [Command + comma]

    Select Options > Preferences or use the key command shortcut - [Control + comma]
    Windows Midi   Mac Pref Midi

  3. Select the MIDI / Sync tab from the left side of the window. Within the MIDI Ports section, adjust the settings as suggested below:

    • Next to Input: MPD218, toggle On the button in the Track and Remote columns as shown in the image below.
    • Next to Output: MPD218, toggle On the button in the Track and Remote columns as shown in the image be.

      Mac Midi Ports

  4. Next, at the top of the window under Control Surface, choose MPD218 from the drop-down list in row 1. Choose MPD218 from the Input and Output drop-down menus in row 1.

    Mac Midi



Virtual Instruments and Plugins

Note for Windows users only: If you have difficulty locating your plugin in your Plug-Ins category within Ableton Live 9 Lite, be sure Ableton Live 9 Lite is looking in the correct location. To do this:

  1.  Open the Preferences menu in Ableton Live 9 Lite.

    MAC: Select Live > Preferences or use the key command shortcut - [Command + comma]
    PC: Select Options > Preferences or use the key command shortcut - [Control + comma]

  2. Choose the File Folder tab.                                                                                                                                       

    Windows Pref   Mac Plugin Scan

  3. For Mac users, make sure Use VST Plug-in System Folders turned ON and Ableton will find and scan your plugins on its own. You can also turn on Use Audio Units to use the AU version of your plugins if you'd like.

    Mac Plugin Scan 1

    For Windows users, please continue with the rest of this section.

  4. Under the heading Plug-In Sources, toggle on the button next to Use VST Plug-In Custom Folder.

  5. Note the location under VST Plug-In Custom Folder. If this location is not set correctly, next to VST Plug-In Custom Folder, choose Browse and browse to the correct folder, and press OK.

    Big Bang will install to C:\Program Files (x86)\SONiVOX\

    Windows Plug

  6. Ableton will begin scanning for plugins in the selected folder automatically.


Big Bang Cinematic Percussion Setup

  1. Within the Ableton Live 9 Lite Session View, under the Categories heading, choose Plug-Ins.

    akai mpd232 big bang plugin

  2. In the right-hand column next to Categories, double click on BigBang16Out_x64 and it will appear in the first MIDI track. This will load Big Bang Cinematic Percussion into your Ableton Live 9 Lite session.

    Big Bang Open

  3. The Big Bang Cinematic Percussion interface will now open.

    Big Bang UI



Mapping the Knobs within Ableton 

Mapping the MPD218 is easy to do using Ableton's intuitive MIDI Learn.

In order to get this unit fully mapped, start by plugging in the MPD218 with the USB Cable that was provided. This will automatically turn on the MPD218. Before opening Ableton, you would want to set up your Ableton Preset

  1. For use with the Ableton Drum Rack, press PAD 4 to choose Preset 4.

    akai mpd218 2

  2.  Open Ableton Live 9 Lite, head into your Preferences section of the program. It's different for Windows and MAC Users. 

     Live Preferences > MIDI/Sync
    (Cmd + , on a Mac; Ctrl + , on Windows)

    Midi Mapping Pref

    You want to make sure that you have SYNC; on for both INPUT and OUTPUT under the MIDI Ports Section. 

  3. The next step in this process is to load sounds onto the MPD218. Navigate to the left side of Ableton and find the Categories section.

    Drum Rack 1

    *Double Click on the Drum Rack* 

    Drum Rack 2

  4. The next step is to choose a sound from the DRUM RACK. Double click on the chosen KIT and it will appear in the DRUM RACK as pictured below. You will now be able to hit the MPD218 pads and get sound out the unit. 

    Drum Rack 3

    Once we have sounds loaded onto the MPD218, it's time to MIDI map the knobs. You can MIDI MAP the knobs to anything you want inside of Ableton, but for the sake of this guide, I will be using the knobs to map with the volume faders. 

  5. Head to the MIDI Section, which is located on the upper right-hand corner of the program. 

    Change to Midi Mapping

  6. Click on the MIDI button to enter the control mapping mode. 

    Midi Mapping

    Midi Mapping 2

  7. Click on a channel fader and then move a knob on the MPD218 to map the knob to the channel fader. The fader will begin moving up and down with the knob and your mapped parameters will appear in the MIDI Mappings box at the top-left. 

    After Midi Mapping Knobs

  8. When you're finished press the MIDI button again to exit the mapping mode. 

    Change back to Orignal

    Congratulations! You just learned how to MIDI Map the MPD218 with Ableton! 



How to Setup: NRConfig Button

NRConfig will allow you to change the Time Division and the Swing of the Sound that you're producing within Ableton. 

  1. Before opening the software! Plug your MPD218 into your computer. This will automatically power it on.

  2. Now press and hold the PROG SELECT button and hit PAD 4 to select the Ableton preset. This will ensure that the MPD218 pads line up with the pads in Ableton.


  3. To make sure the MPD218 Note Repeat stays in time with MPC Essentials, set the MPD218 clock to External by holding down the NR CONFIG button and pressing PAD 15.

    Important Note: When you hold down the NR CONFIG button, you'll notice that at least three pads light up. This is because there are three different Note Repeat settings that can be adjusted: Clock, Swing, and Time Division. Each pad will be labeled with its setting option.

    • To adjust the clock setting (External or Internal/Tap Tempo) choose either PAD 15 or 16.
    • To change the Note Repeat swing amount, choose a pad between PAD 9 and 14.
    • To choose the Note Repeat time division, choose a pad between PAD 1 and 8.


Further Technical Support

Whether you are a customer or dealer, if you already own an Akai Pro product, or if you just have pre-sales questions, the Akai Pro technical support team is available to help! 

Visit the link below to connect with any of the following support options: online community support, phone support, email support. 



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