Electronic Wind Instrument Information and More

Quick PC Setup Guide

Setting up the EWI USB on a PC isn't that difficult, however the instructions from Akai are incomplete, make many false assumptions, and in general are useless to the public at large... Here's a simple step by step guide.

  1. Plug in the EWI USB -- Yes, I say do this FIRST! The DVD that the EWI comes with contains no actual drivers for the EWI. The EWI USB is a generic MIDI over USB device, which Windows Vista and 7 include default hardware drivers for; and that windows XP can automatically grab from Microsoft. THERE ARE NO SEPARATE EWI DRIVERS FOR WINDOWS, it's built in! Allow Windows to go through the normal process of installing a USB device before proceeding.
  2. Install ASIO4ALL if needed -- If you don't know what ASIO is, most likely your Windows PC doesn't support it. 99% or more of Windows PC's do not have ASIO driver support, and as such are NOT out of box compatible with the ARIA Software for the EWI!.
    Download ASIO4ALL from the official site, run the installer. That's it.
  3. Install Aria from DVD -- Just run the installer as per installing any other PC software.
  4. Aria Preferences Start Aria and configure ASIO and MIDI -- A 'fresh' install typically does NOT auto-detect your configuration properly, so you have to go into ARIA's menu and make sure it's all set correctly. The shortcut/icon should be labelled "Akai EWI USB".

    So once you start ARIA go into the menu, Tools -> Preferences and you should see a page much like the attached picture. You want to go through both "Input Midi Devices" and "Output Midi Devices" and make sure that ONLY the EWI in both sections is checked off. No other devices should be selected/enabled!.

    Below that are two options for "Audio Device API" and "Audio Device". The first one should be set to simply "ASIO", the latter should be set to "ASIO4ALL v2", or if your machine actually supports ASIO native (yeah, right) choose that device instead.

    Because of a lack of options for setting lower buffer sizes on the other audio API's like DirectSound or WaveOut, those are completely unsuited to realtime music playback inside of Aria, don't even bother trying.
  5. Troubleshooting -- if you are lucky, boom, it's done. You're ready to go. If you select a sound from the sound bank (left click on one of the boxes that say 'empty', choose a sound) You should be able to start playing the EWI.

    The most common problem is ASIO4ALL failing to start due to conflicts with the "Microsoft GS Wavetable" midi synth. The solutions for this problem are mostly random hit or miss. In theory going into the properties for your sound device and disabling "Allow applications to take exclusive control" and "enable audio enhancements" will fix this, but I've found that to be... well... fiction. A fix that does work but is a little strange is to go into "Playback Devices", (right click on the volume icon, choose "playback devices"), select "speakers" or whatever your default playback device is, and then "properties", and under "device usage" choose "Don't use this device (disable)". This disables all normal Windows sound playback, but for some weird reason ASIO4ALL is now able to latch onto the sound card. This method/fix SUCKS since you have to go back in and re-enable to use sound in any other software, but at least it does make it work.

    A better alternative is to use a software like Reaper which lets you load the Aria synthesizer as a VST. Reaper actually lets you play with the number of buffers and buffer sizes to get waveOut or Directsound down to where you can actually use them for realtime audio playback! Check our Reaper Review Page for more information on configuring Reaper to function without ASIO.

    The only drawback to using Aria as a VST is you have no control over the EWI's configuration settings.

That's really all there is to it. Unfortunately even with all the above a lot of computers just don't work with the EWI USB. A lack of testing and planning on Akai's part, proper support hardware and drivers found in normal computers in terms of professional audio equipment, and general difficulty level of troubleshooting when it does go wrong means that flat out, the EWI USB is not a Consumer Grade Product. It is definately NOT for the technologically timid.

Which to be brutally frank is part of why I built this site; I love my EWI, but the packaging, documentation, marketing and price are very misleading.

Though if you own a Mac you're probably scratching your head going "what was this all about?" since you've got ASIO "out of box".

Helpful Hints

  1. Never touch any of the metal bits on the EWI while plugging it in, the capacitive keys will not calibrate properly.
  2. Always plug in the EWI USB and allow Windows to recognize it before starting any software (like Aria) you want to see it. Most programs cannot see devices you plug in after you start them. You start Aria, then plug in the EWI, Aria won't be able to see it!
  3. On the octave roller your thumb goes on TWO rollers at once, not perched on a single roller. This is the most common thing people ask about in my contact form. At the bottom two rollers you can take your thumb off completely and it will drop an octave, instead of trying to wedge your thumb against the plastic 'stop'. Likewise on the high end if you remove your thumb it will go up an octave... so three octave spaces between rollers, one above, one below.
  4. If your hands are particularly dry and you are not grounding to the right hand thumb plate properly, you may find the keys don't respond right/well. Simply applying some hand cream to moisten the hands solves this issue instantly.