this must be the place....goin strong , yeah baby!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Escape from MPC2KXL Hell

Come on a journey with me as we take the Akai MPC to a level of nerdom you might not have thought possible...but it just might bail some poor sap out.

Here's the scenario:
I've got a late 90's model Akai, the MPC 2000XL.
The problem all began when I decided to take some stereo samples I had and convert them to mono.
I do this because I like to use my 8 output card, and when I'm playing live, I don't always care about stereo. By converting my stereo sample to mono I not only save space, but I can keep my 8-output routing scheme intact (BD on channel 1, SNR on channel 2, etc).
By default, 'converting' a stereo sample to mono internally on the MPC results in two files:'SAMPLE________-L' and 'SAMPLE________-R' (assuming the stereo sample is named 'SAMPLE').

The thing to notice here is that the length of the filename is set to the maximum the MPC can handle - 16 characters.
Seems straightforward enough...until you save your samples to a compact flash or SD card, and then back them up on your PC; you are about to kiss your nicely formed sample programs goodbye.

What happens when you start manipulating these files on the PC, is that the filesystem truncates all the filenames to FAT16 standards...which happens to be 8 characters + a 3 character extension (in this case, WAV or SND). Suddenly, the samples you just made with 16 character names are just lopped off at 8 chars. The PC freaks out, and to make matters worse, 2 of these files now appear to have the same name (both 'SAMPLE________-L' and 'SAMPLE________-R' get truncated to 'SAMPLE__', or something similar).
The next time you go to load your PGM or APS file, the MPC complains saying it cannot find the file 'SAMPLE________-L', or 'SAMPLE________-R'.

This can be a pretty devastating occurence depending on the program you are trying to load. In one particular case, I 'lost' about 40 samples (drums and chops), and there would be no way I could remember where each sample went if I wanted to recreate the program from scratch. I almost just gave up, and figured I would just send that track to the grave (something I really hated to do).

Then I started to get an idea. I knew the samples WERE there, just with the wrong names, all I had to do was recreate the files that the MPC claimed were missing.
I originally tried to do this on the PC, pretty much knowing it wouldn't work, and of course it didn't. For posterity though, what I originally did was make a copy of one of the 'corrupt', misnamed files, and rename it to what the MPC was expecting. Of course this failed because the FAT16 filesystem pretty much just went ahead truncated that file name as well.
The key here is to do all of this from within the MPC, before you connect to a computer and screw it all up again. Also, please read all directions BEFORE you start trying it, it's very important to do things in order and to NOT overwrite the files that might potentially bail your ass out! I had the tendency to want to save, but if you save your 'broken' program, it basically loses all memory of the lost samples. So be patient and work through this dilligently.

Here's the procedure:
1) Try to load your PGM or APS file as normal, it should complain about missing files.
2) Make a list of EVERY file that the MPC is missing. You need to just hit the 'SKIP' button instead of 'ALLSKP' so you can be sure to note each file that the MPC needs.

Once the butchered program is loaded (with the files missing), you get to work recreating the original sample names.
3) Go into the LOAD screen and, following the list you just made, load the sample that you think matches the first missing sample. For example, if the missing sample is 'SAMP1_________-L', you will probably want to load 'SAMP1___'. Do this for every sample in the list.
4) Time to start the renaming process. From the TRIM screen, find the first sample you are going to fix, ie. 'SAMP1___'. Hit the OPEN WINDOW key on the sample name, and rename this sample to the correct name, 'SAMP1_________-L'. Repeat this for each sample you loaded and want to fix.
5) Go into the SAVE screen. Starting with 'SAMP1_________-L', save this sample into the same folder as your busted programs. Do this for each sample.
6) Now, go back into the LOAD screen. Try again to load your busted program. If you did everything correctly, the program will find the samples you just saved, and will load them into the proper slots of your program. SWEET RELIEF! but it aint over yet.
7) At this point you have the option to save. However, the samples you just saved will still be corrupted once you load them to PC, so save if you want, but bear in mind that you are only covering your ass as long as you keep it in the MPC.
8) So let's fix these damn file names. Go into your PROGRAM screen, and from the ASSIGN window, just start hitting pads looking for any long sample names.
*Protip - any sample name that extends to under the letter 'P' in 'Program Assign' is too long.
9) When you find a sample name that is too long, hit the OPEN WINDOW key with the sample name selected and rename it something that is no more than 8 characters long. BE CAREFUL and name your samples uniquely...if any two samples ever share the same name, prepare to enter a world of pain that I don't dare touch on right now. Using a song identifier (ie. a shortened version of the track title) + an incrementing 2 digit number is pretty good, and hopefully less likely to cause conflict than something like 'BASSDRUM'. Do this for every sample you can find, in any program you are trying to fix.
10) Finally, you can start to save legit PGM or APS files. I'd recommend saving both a PGM file for each program, and also an APS file. I'd also recommend naming them something different so you know which file is good.

The MPC2KXL is an incredible machine. Yes it's old technology, and yes, sometimes you have to fight it, but it's good to work at what you love and to get down and dirty sometimes. My situation might be a little specific to my own way of working, but it's such a horrible feeling to lose work you love; I just share my experience in hopes of helping out somebody struggling with some of these same types of issues.


  1. i heard somewhere writing things down is a form of therapy

  2. the real catharsis was being able to play this particular song last night for the first time in two years.