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Stupid simple question -- MIDI Out to multiple devices MIDI Processors
Old 4 days ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Stupid simple question -- MIDI Out to multiple devices

Hey one and all!

I am switching from all VSTs to all hardware and am trying to figure out what I need to get to do what I want. My question is simple:

I use Cockos REAPER and have 4 (and more) hardware devices. I would like to perform with these live. What hardware would be best for this? I understand I can daisy-chain the midi from the single USB interface I have but I heard this causes trouble. What is the preferable method for this? And what hardware components (interfaces, etc) would you recommend?
Old 4 days ago
  #2
Quote:
Originally Posted by stolasxiv View Post
What is the preferable method for this? And what hardware components (interfaces, etc) would you recommend?
Don’t try to MIDI chain. Just get something like a USB to MIDI DIN interface like the Roland UM-One and a MIDI Solutions Quadra Thru as a splitter/thru box. And some MIDI DIN cables, of course.
Old 4 days ago
  #3
It really shouldn’t cause trouble if the cables are short. Not sure about reaper, but you can usually offset the delay in the daw.

Just midi through and make sure every device is set up to work on a different channel.
Old 4 days ago
  #4
Gear Guru
 
fiddlestickz's Avatar
Depends what you want to send to each device, if they all just need MIDI clock you can use a MIDI merger 1 in 4 out, if they all need something different like note data to one device and clock to another then the prefferred way is to assign it's own channel and daisy chain using MIDI thru, but if you want the devices to recieve the same note data then just use a MIDI merger.

example at the moment I'm using a MIDI merger that recieves everything from an Arturia keystep to the mergers IN, one out feeds the drum sequencer clock, another out sends pitch and note to MS20, another out sends clock to Monologue and the 4th out sends pitch and note only to AS1.

MIDI solutions Quadra thru is the box I use it's pretty cool, oh and it takes power from the host.
Old 4 days ago
  #5
Gear Addict
 
tricera's Avatar
One of the Mio series from iConnectivity will give you a lot of control anf flexibility. Then if you don't have enough MIDI outs add a thru box, preferably something powered like the Kenton or MeeBlip boxes.
Old 4 days ago
  #6
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

- You can daisy-chain a few 5-pin MIDI devices, all from a single-port USB>MIDI interface, via their MIDI THRU jacks - but many small devices don't have a MIDI THRU port (Volcas, etc.). The part about it potentially "causing trouble" is mostly an old wive's tale from the era in which some low-end devices could induce a slight delay in the data that's send via MIDI THRU. This is not really something to worry about with modern gear, but if you're mixing and matching golden-age gear like a Poly-800, a Sequential Six-Trak, and an Ensoniq Mirage, then you might want to avoid just daisy-chaining it all via MIDI THRU jacks. With most modern gear this won't be a problem, but still - using MIDI THRU to daisy-chain multiple receiving devices is not ideal. It technically does work, and can make your setup compact (fewer cables) but it's... not the best way to go. In that situation you're cramming all of the keyboard parts down a single cable, each on its own MIDI Channel, so there are two drawbacks to that - A = you're limited to 16 simultaneous keyboard parts, and B = if you have lots of quantized parts, rapid-fire 16th notes, etc. you may experience some "smearing" or what feels like a "lack of rhythmic tightness". This is because MIDI is a serial protocol, so only one thing happens at a time. Trying to trigger a four-note chord on each of four synths at the same time may result in their notes being spread out in time - by only milliseconds, sure, but depending on how snappy the attacks are on the sounds you're using you may or may not notice it or think it's a problem.

- If you're suffering from a lack of MIDI THRU ports on some devices, you can use a MIDI THRU BOX, also commonly referred to as a MIDI Splitter. Devices like the MIDI Solutions Quadra Thru and T8 take a single MIDI input and duplicate it to four or eight outputs. Note that the restrictions and problems mentioned above, referring to trying to shove too many simultaneous events down a single cable, STILL APPLY. The only problems that a Thru Box will cure is those relating to not having MIDI THRU jacks on devices - you're still sending a single MIDI stream containing no more than 16 channels of information down a single wire. Still, these gadgets are a big help when you can't find a way to cable everything up. Cheap-n-cheerful solutions.

- The ideal and most robust solution is to use a true Multi-Port MIDI Interface, like those from MOTU, iConnectivity, or the ESI M8Uex. These connect via USB to the host computer and provide up to eight simultaneous, parallel MIDI data streams. Typically you'd connect each receiving device to a single port, so only the data intended for that device is sucking up space on that port's 5-pin MIDI cable. Now the tight four-note chords going to device A aren't trying to fit down the same MIDI cable as the tight 16th-note baseline going to device B. (Well, they are on the same USB cable, but USB is so much faster than MIDI that this won't be a problem.) This is the "right" way to do it, but creates more cable clutter (and expense). Back in the olden days of all-hardware setups it was common to use multiple 8-port interfaces at once. I've had up to eight of the trusty Unitor8mk2 interfaces going at once for a total of 64 hardware synths, each all by itself on its own dedicated MIDI port. Good times.

- Be sure you use the correct terminology when discussing this stuff though, or you may wind up with things not working as expected.

MIDI IN = data goes INTO this jack, intended to control this device from another device.

MIDI OUT = data comes OUT of this jack, generated by this device and intended to control or be recorded by another device.

MIDI THRU = data that appears at this device's MIDI IN will be "echo-ed" or duplicated unchanged and come out of this jack, intended to daisy-chain to other devices. Data generated by this device will NOT also come out of this device; it is simply a duplicate of the data that appears at the MIDI IN.

SOFT THRU or MIDI MERGE = There is one exception to the rules as described above for MIDI OUT and MIDI THRU, and that is if a device (usually a synth or drum machine) has a SOFT THRU or MIDI MERGE function, usually toggled somewhere in the system setup pages. This DOES allow the data generated by that device to be internally combined with the data that appears at its MIDI IN, and the combined stream will then appear at the device's MIDI OUT jack. In this case the MIDI OUT jack will usually be labelled "OUT/THRU" or something like that to indicate that it is software-toggleable to have this function.

THRU BOX = A standalone box (like the MIDI Solutions Quadra Thru or T8) that has a single MIDI IN and multiple MIDI OUT jacks, and all of the MIDI OUT jacks contain an exact copy of the data that appears at the MIDI IN jack. Think of it like a splitter. Contrary to what fiddlestickz said above, these are not "MIDI Mergers" and in order to reduce confusion should not be referred to as such. "THRU BOX" is the correct term.

MERGE BOX = This is a special-case unit, like the MIDI Solutions Merger, Quadra Merge, or M8, which actually DOES merge multiple MIDI data streams together. Typically these have two, four, or eight MIDI IN jacks and a single MIDI OUT jack. Very handy, but there are some caveats - since MIDI is a serial protocol, the merger has to find a way to cram multiple incoming streams into a single outgoing stream, and if you're sending it multiple, already-maxed-out streams then the output could get delayed and/or data could get dropped. Especially in the case of sending SysEx dumps (patch dumps, remote parameter control, etc.) which are bricks of data that basically take up the whole MIDI data stream while they're active. Another scenario in which a Merge Box might not work as expected is if you send MIDI Clock into two of the MIDI IN jacks at the same time. Since a single MIDI stream can only contain one Clock, something not-good will probably happen. Most Merge Boxes will give precedence to the Clock on the lowest-numbered MIDI IN jack, ignoring other Clock streams if they are present. But this is up to the manufacturer, so check the documentation. Usually, a 2-into-1 or 4-into-1 Merge Box would be used to allow two or four keyboards, to control a single receiving device (or chain of devices), or you could use a 2-into-1 box to allow you to shove Clock from one device, merged with live keyboard playing on another device, into a single receiving device (or chain of devices). But keep in mind the possibility of problems when trying to merge multiple Clock streams when planning your setup.
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