Elka DMP-18 Bass Pedal MIDI Controller

pedals front 1
pedals front 2
pedals back

Last Update 09-24-2009

I was trying to get a band together when we fired our bass player because he could not remember the songs and he was a terrible player.  I took over playing the bass and suddenly we were three piece - drums, bass, guitar.  The guitar player suggested MIDI foot pedals so I could play my Alesis Andromeda with my feet.  I kinda always wanted a bass pedal MIDI controller so now I could get one out of necessity.  Well the current pickings for new MIDI bass pedal controllers on the market were pretty expensive.  And then what to my unbelieving eyes, this set of Elka pedals shows up on the 'bay.

I landed them for a decent price and these rarely ever show up for sale.  This is no great mystery.  Reason may have been that they were poor sellers and they didn't make very many.  The reason they may have been poor sellers is because frankly they are not very good MIDI controllers.

Features of this MIDI controller:
Sounds cool, right?  So why am I so sour about them?
  1. Cannot store multiple configurations - cannot store any!
  2. Transmits MIDI active sensing, cannot be disabled
  3. The five buttons send MIDI SYSEX by default - you have to configure it to send MIDI Program Change
  4. Once you configure for MIDI Progran Change, you can only assign program "n" to button 1 - then button 2 sends n+1, button 3 sends n+2...
  5. Does not retain settings on power down
  6. Because of (5)
  7. Must be good on your feet - if you bump a neighboring note, neither note sounds (not a problem with Poly=ON but must configure every time)
This specimen arrived non-working due to the mains transformer breaking off its plastic (?!?) mounting tabs and in the process breaking one of the secondary wires from its terminal.  I was able to re-connect the secondary wire and I established a more secure method of mounting the transformer.  The buttons had also physically rubbed against the clearance holes and the frame had to be shifted to line them up properly.  Between that and the easily cracked plastic shell, these pedals are NOT sturdy enough for gigging.

From the datecodes on the ICs under the hood these pedals were made in 1985.  MIDI was in its infancy then (introduced in 1983) and many MIDI accessories during that time were not great products or well thought out.  This had the potential to be a great product but Elka blew it by omitting important MIDI controller features like patch storage and made some odd choices in operation.  There isn't a RAM IC or backup battery to be found under the hood.  I had no user manual and none could be found online, so I had to figure out the operation of this thing by monitoring the MIDI output on my PC.

There's a button marked PLAY/PROGRAM ACCESS.   The unit powers up in PLAY mode.  Pressing this button enters PROGRAM ACCESS which lets you configure the controller and the unit sends sixteen note off commands at zero velocity and sends zero value monophonic aftertouch MIDI controller #123.  The "MIDI CHANNEL" LED lights up and using the template on the top of the unit, you press the associated key to set the MIDI Channel.  Press PROGRAM ACCESS and the next LED lights, allowing you to set the octave shift.  Repeat presses of PROGRAM ACCESS cycles through each setting, then returns to PLAY mode.  When in PROGRAM ACCESS mode you can return to PLAY mode quickly by pressing the high F key (sort of an "escape" key).

I'll explain some of the non-obvious configurations.  When KEY VELOCITY is OFF (default is ON), the MIDI note on commands have a fixed velocity of 64.  While velocity sensitive bass pedal keys sound cool, in practice they simply don't work reliably with feet.  When POLY is OFF (default) the unit responds monophonically, ON is polyphonic mode.  Since the unit defaults to monophonic mode on power up, if you bump a neighboring note it sends a note off command for the note you wanted to play!  Elka made a poor choice of operation, they should have implemented a "low note priority" in monophonic mode instead of a "last note priority".  This forces you to be really accurate with your feet, which isn't easy in a standing position.  When HOLD is ON (default is OFF), MIDI note off commands are inhibited.  This lets you sustain any key without holding it down, which can be useful when playing with feet.  It is recommended that you do NOT use this in polyphonic mode.  You can turn off notes by entering PROGRAM ACCESS and pressing the high F key.

PROG CHANGE does several things.  Press the B note and the "Performance Registration" buttons send MIDI Program Change, press high C note and they sent MIDI SYSEX (default, a very poor choice IMO).  Remember that Volume foot wheel controller?  Press high D note and the wheel sends MIDI Controller #4 (foot controller), press high E and it sends MIDI Controller #7 (volume).  You can select MIDI program 00 to 99 using a two note entry in which the first note is the first digit and the second note is the second digit.  Use the template on the top of the unit to find the associated digit with the pedal note.   Ah, but the way it works is say you select program #34 - button one sends #34, button two sends #35, three sends #36, four sends #37, five sends #38.  Not exactly flexible.

Yeah real intuitive if you don't have a manual.

The lack of configuration retention means you must manually configure your custom setup every time you power the unit down.  Yeah that will be fun if the band blows a fuse during a gig.  And re-configuring gets old real quick.  The fact that you cannot store multiple configurations and it does not retain settings after power down severely limits the applications of this MIDI controller. 
So I worked around these shortcomings by configuring the multitimbral mix programs on the Andromeda around the power-up default configuration of the DMP-18.  Now I can play bass pedals, strings, pads, etc although it is restricted to sending MIDI note on/off commands.  That was a decent compromise but if your module or keyboard isn't this flexible then the DMP-18 may not work for you.  Despite these shortcomings, the DMP-18 does have some useful features that do not exist on any other bass pedal MIDI controller.  Oh, that band?  We never made it out the basement.

I decided that my Moog Taurus II controller is a better feeling controller.  There are MIDI retrofits on the net that I can install in the Moog, so I sold the Elka pedals.

contact info