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MIDI: Out vs. Thru MIDI Processors
Old 3rd March 2016
  #1
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Syphax's Avatar
 

MIDI: Out vs. Thru

So i need MIDI interface as a go between from DAW and/or standalone sequencer to my synths that do not have MIDI Thru or only have MIDI In.
In researching which interface is best for me, I narrowed it down to two units: MIDI Solutions QUADRa Thru & M-Audio MIDIsport 2x4.
How is MIDI Solutions QUADRA Thru different from M-Audio MIDIsport 2x4 i.e. what will only having MIDI Out not allow me to do that MIDI Thru will (or possibly vice versa - if applicable)?

(FYI between my laptop/DAW and whichever interface I end up going with will lie a MOTU FastLane)

Thanks in advance.
Old 4th March 2016
  #2
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Look for an older MOTU Express XT. Got mine for $20 off eBay, gives you a lot of options (8 inputs, 8 outputs, all kinds of filtering/routing options).
Old 4th March 2016
  #3
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i can't really say i recall ever seeing a midi interface with thru on it?
usually they're just ins/outs. midi is a slow serial protocol, so usually "through" means "lag". personally, i'd just opt for a discrete out for each device.
Old 4th March 2016
  #4
All MIDI Thru does is take a copy of what comes in at the MIDI In and passes it along to whatever its connected to. Its only really useful when you have multiple synths and need to play back something from a sequencer that only has one MIDI output.. Your data comes out on multiple MIDI channels from the sequencer, and each synth only plays back and reacts to the data coming in from the channel its set to respond to. But it will send a copy of that entire data stream to the MIDI Thru port, so the next synth thats set to MIDI channel 2/3/4/5/etc can play back their corresponding MIDI tracks. After about 3 or 4 devices though you could start running into lag receiving data which can cause the playback to be off on the machines further down the chain.

MIDI Out on the other hand, doesn't do anything with the MIDI In data and only sends whatever output the synth is doing when you hit keys, or mess with a controller knob, so you can record it back into the sequencer..

If you're going to look at the MOTU MIDI Express XT, just make sure you get the USB version. Theres two versions of it. The 'older' one is a serial/parallel port based interface, and Im pretty sure your laptop doesn't have those 'ancient' connections anymore. I just did a quick search on eBay, and the USB versions, no matter how old are nowhere near $20.. The old ones might but even some of those people are trying to get $100 for em (there was one for $289 that made me laugh out loud hehe). The USB XT's run about $400 new so $20 is wishful thinking, or just dumb luck. I had the original one and it was pretty awesome, but ditched it when I moved to a Mac in like 2001 and ended up with a USB Emagic AMT8 which is basically the same thing, only aside from serial ports, its USB.. Im shocked Apple is still supporting it in OS X, but its never given me a single issue in the 10+ years Ive owned it and is still my MIDI hub to this day.
Old 4th March 2016
  #5
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^^ good advice.
in my experience, if it went from one device "thru" to another, there would be a bit of lag. but to be fair, even in a workstation (k2000s), there was typically lag between channels 1-16 if multiple channels were hit at the same time...the nature of a serial protocol...
Old 4th March 2016
  #6
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Thanks to everyone for all the useful advice. I did in fact know about MIDI channels and corresponding playback, but did not know that lag was a product of multiple Thrus.
Yes, I do have multiple synths that need to recieve MIDI data which only have Ins & Outs (some are strictly only MIDI In with no Out). I am switching my studio over to simultaneous multitrack recording, hence the need for the equipment.
What I will do is just shoot out the MIDI Solutions and MIDIsport side-by-side and see which works better!
Old 4th March 2016
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Syphax View Post
Thanks to everyone for all the useful advice. I did in fact know about MIDI channels and corresponding playback, but did not know that lag was a product of multiple Thrus.
Yes, I do have multiple synths that need to recieve MIDI data which only have Ins & Outs (some are strictly only MIDI In with no Out). I am switching my studio over to simultaneous multitrack recording, hence the need for the equipment.
What I will do is just shoot out the MIDI Solutions and MIDIsport side-by-side and see which works better!
You may be overthinking this a bit, ala shootouts. I'd be surprised if any dedicated MIDI interface made by reputable manufacturers in the last 15 years has trouble with this basic stuff unless it's defective.

Interface Out 1 ----> Synth IN (rinse and repeat).

I never needed MIDI through, and doubt interfaces have it. My sound modules do. I've used MOTU MIDI interfaces since about 1996. Never had a problem.

I use a Mac so I just setup the devices and connections in Audio Midi Setup and the DAW sees them just fine and loads the patches if they are in the database. If you do get the MOTU Express XT it also comes with routing software for custom routing, but doesn't sound like you need anything like that. If you're just planning on playing MIDI straight from a controller into your DAW (recording MIDI and playing it back) and controlling your synth patches with CC, I don't think you'll have any problems with simple OUT to IN connections.

+1 What @ Monotremata said. If you get a used MOTU make sure it's not an ancient one with Serial outputs and has USB. I switched my serial one to a USB when they came out ages ago. It just sits there and blinks and never has a hiccup.
Old 4th March 2016
  #8
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+1 to what Monotremata said as well.

Midi out is sending your main control info and SYSEX data from the synths for patch backup and all that, the thrus are just a copy of that info. Most midi boxes that say out on them are in fact THRU ports. Like my midi patchbay. My controller is on one port and the other OUTS are going to my synths so they are really a THRU port

I use a MOTU MTPAV USB here, no issues, 8 in and 8 out. I have a 2nd one networked to it for 16x16
Old 4th March 2016
  #9
Oooh I totally missed the MIDISport thing in your original post.. Im not sure if M-Audio has done any further work on the drivers for those (my Oxygen8's driver is ancient) or released newer versions of the MIDISport line after about 2002/3 but I would steer clear of them until you do some research.. After I had to bail on the MOTU interface, the first one I bought was an M-Audio MIDISport 8x8.. This only lasted about a week at my house and I took it back to Guitar Center and swapped it for the AMT8.. It had a really big flaw in that it could not send MIDI sync to all 8 ports at once. Ive been using Logic for ages and you didn't mention your DAW but.. In Logic's MIDI sync options, you get 2 destinations to send the sync signal too.. On those destination menus is a list of every MIDI port connected to your computer, with one of them being 'ALL' to keep everything running at the same tempo.. Since Ive always had multiple devices on their own set of ports, I set it to all. The old serial MOTU worked flawlessly and each individual MIDI output on it received a clock signal and everything including LFOs/effects/internal sequencers were all nice and dandy and played in sync with one another.. However, the 8 port MIDISport I had could not do this.. If you set Logic to All, it would only receive a signal on ONE MIDI port. So basically I was stuck using Destination 1 for Port 1, and Destination 2 for Port 2, which left my other 3 or 4 synths/drum machines receiving no clock signal and were useless if I needed anything mapped to tempo.. After emailing their support back and forth for a couple days (and having to repeatedly explain what I was trying to do) I was basically told that the MIDISport interfaces can't do that. I don't know if that was a hardware issue or just a simple driver issue, so its possible that could have been fixed, or maybe they've even come out with a new line of the MIDISports that can. But that was the whole reason I took it back and exchanged it for the Emagic interface.. Since you're using multiple synths, Im sure you want them all in sync so make sure it can actually do this before you buy one. MOTU has always been on the ball with this as well, so you can rest assured a MOTU interface will do it, MIDI was their specialty long before they made audio interfaces, or changed their old MIDI sequencer Performer into a full-fledged DAW called Digital Performer, so they're one of the top folks to go to when you need MIDI solutions.
Old 5th March 2016
  #10
For needing a solution to use multiple midi devices, I much prefer to use a proper midi router. This is what I did after initially daisy-chaining, using THRU etc. After buying my 1st used Motu 8X8 router (MTP-AV's), that was a great move, and was so much better. I was also happy that I got these things for pretty cheap, typically selling from $40-$100 from eBay...$20.00 may be possible, but you'll be waiting a while for that price. I'd say $50.00 is a very fair buying price for how good these thing things are and do.

Even those 'older' Motu MTP-AV 8X8 midi 'SERIAL' version routers can work just as well as their 'less older' USB versions. I have 'both' and I don't even use their USB out into my PC's, I use one of the eight standard midi outputs into my audio interface's midi in. It really depends on your needs and what you want to do.

I use midi routers for most all of my midi gear. But I have 4 Yamaha DTXpress III drum trigger modules for my custom/extended ekit, which only have Midi In & Midi Out. Within these drum modules parameters, I can make a setting that also allows their 'OUT' to act as a 'THRU' simultaneously. So I run my 4 drum modules in succession (in a daisy-chain), then the fourth module go's out, into my Motu router. Wiith using my drum modules, I can only hit so may trigger pads at any one time. It's not like a sequencer spitting out TONS of midi information. I have no issues at all with my drum trigger module's being daisy-chained....even though I have spares! Though I won't daisy-chain the rest of my midi gear.
Old 5th March 2016
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gradivus View Post
I never needed MIDI through, and doubt interfaces have it. My sound modules do. I've used MOTU MIDI interfaces since about 1996. Never had a problem.

I use a Mac so I just setup the devices and connections in Audio Midi Setup and the DAW sees them just fine and loads the patches if they are in the database. If you do get the MOTU Express XT it also comes with routing software for custom routing, ...


I use the MOTU line as well (since mid 90's and after Opcode stopped making the great Studio5 etc), and currently have an ExpressXT and MicroExpress.

.. One problem I have had over the last few years though, and wondering if anyone else has encountered this, because it drives me nuts...

is that my Audio/Midi setup wants to create NEW instances of MOTU midi interfaces all the time... which is a PITA with a lot of external midi, (redragging midi i/o all the time etc)... It happens at BOTH my studios, so I don't think it's specific to my system... and happens with BOTH devices... and has happened from OSX updated from 10.6.8 to 10.8.5... I download their new drivers or reinstall them once in awhile to try and make the problem go away to no avail...

Anyone else deal with this, have experienced it? or know a fix?

thanks...!
Old 5th March 2016
  #12
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..just did another google search on my problem.... found an old thread about perhaps it being a bad battery/ and/or a bug with MOTU's software.... but since I have 2 different units, that DO save settings, I think it must still be a bug,... hmm.... oh well, hoping someone else here has insight!
Old 5th March 2016
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monotremata View Post
All MIDI Thru does is take a copy of what comes in at the MIDI In and passes it along to whatever its connected to. Its only really useful when you have multiple synths and need to play back something from a sequencer that only has one MIDI output.. Your data comes out on multiple MIDI channels from the sequencer, and each synth only plays back and reacts to the data coming in from the channel its set to respond to. But it will send a copy of that entire data stream to the MIDI Thru port, so the next synth thats set to MIDI channel 2/3/4/5/etc can play back their corresponding MIDI tracks. After about 3 or 4 devices though you could start running into lag receiving data which can cause the playback to be off on the machines further down the chain.

MIDI Out on the other hand, doesn't do anything with the MIDI In data and only sends whatever output the synth is doing when you hit keys, or mess with a controller knob, so you can record it back into the sequencer..

If you're going to look at the MOTU MIDI Express XT, just make sure you get the USB version. Theres two versions of it. The 'older' one is a serial/parallel port based interface, and Im pretty sure your laptop doesn't have those 'ancient' connections anymore. I just did a quick search on eBay, and the USB versions, no matter how old are nowhere near $20.. The old ones might but even some of those people are trying to get $100 for em (there was one for $289 that made me laugh out loud hehe). The USB XT's run about $400 new so $20 is wishful thinking, or just dumb luck. I had the original one and it was pretty awesome, but ditched it when I moved to a Mac in like 2001 and ended up with a USB Emagic AMT8 which is basically the same thing, only aside from serial ports, its USB.. Im shocked Apple is still supporting it in OS X, but its never given me a single issue in the 10+ years Ive owned it and is still my MIDI hub to this day.
Non USB work fine if you just want a patchbay. Front panel buttons give a decent amount of options too. Really the only thing the drivers/serial connection does is allow you to use it as an interface and open up some filtering options, but for a basic I/O patchbay, the work great.
Old 5th March 2016
  #14
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Did you contact MOTU? They're pretty fast at responding to tech links.

Used to happen to me with an audio interface from MOTU (not the MIDI interface) and I would delete the phantom ones from Audio Midi Setup. They might have a suggestion or a patch for your specific interface.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lestermagneto View Post
I use the MOTU line as well (since mid 90's and after Opcode stopped making the great Studio5 etc), and currently have an ExpressXT and MicroExpress.

.. One problem I have had over the last few years though, and wondering if anyone else has encountered this, because it drives me nuts...

is that my Audio/Midi setup wants to create NEW instances of MOTU midi interfaces all the time... which is a PITA with a lot of external midi, (redragging midi i/o all the time etc)... It happens at BOTH my studios, so I don't think it's specific to my system... and happens with BOTH devices... and has happened from OSX updated from 10.6.8 to 10.8.5... I download their new drivers or reinstall them once in awhile to try and make the problem go away to no avail...

Anyone else deal with this, have experienced it? or know a fix?

thanks...!
Old 5th March 2016
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gradivus View Post
Did you contact MOTU? They're pretty fast at responding to tech links.

Used to happen to me with an audio interface from MOTU (not the MIDI interface) and I would delete the phantom ones from Audio Midi Setup. They might have a suggestion or a patch for your specific interface.
thanks for getting back gravies! I did contact MOTU a year or 2 about this, never heard back, will try again....

so this does happen with OTHER interfaces then midi....

I DO delete the phantom ones, but then have to reconnect all existing midi devices etc.... hopefully there is a patch for this, according to motunation, it's a bug... but who knows..... just a bit of a problem.... and work stopper...
Old 5th March 2016
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lestermagneto View Post
thanks for getting back gravies! I did contact MOTU a year or 2 about this, never heard back, will try again....

so this does happen with OTHER interfaces then midi....

I DO delete the phantom ones, but then have to reconnect all existing midi devices etc.... hopefully there is a patch for this, according to motunation, it's a bug... but who knows..... just a bit of a problem.... and work stopper...
Sign up for an account on their website (motu.com) if you haven't done so and then click the link on the sidebar for "MOTU Tech Links" and post a ticket. They usually respond to me within a few hours, day at the most.

Yeah, that blows if you have to reconnect. I haven't had a problem with my USB interface from them. It was an audio interface that kept having phantoms.
Old 6th March 2016
  #17
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Make sure your MOTU is turned on before booting the Mac as it will show a non connected unit in the AMS and when you turn it on after boot up a 2nd one will show up.

I had this issue here as well. I think I trashed the AMS setup, trashed the .kext file for the MOTU and trashed the drive. Installed the latest driver. I think this was happeing on Mt Lion, Maverick, I dont think Ive had it with Yosemite or El Capitan

you can trash the apple mide setup in prefs as well. Youll have to re- do the AMS though
Old 6th March 2016
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shanabit View Post
Make sure your MOTU is turned on before booting the Mac as it will show a non connected unit in the AMS and when you turn it on after boot up a 2nd one will show up.

I had this issue here as well. I think I trashed the AMS setup, trashed the .kext file for the MOTU and trashed the drive. Installed the latest driver. I think this was happeing on Mt Lion, Maverick, I dont think Ive had it with Yosemite or El Capitan

you can trash the apple mide setup in prefs as well. Youll have to re- do the AMS though
I think this was what was happening to me as well.

Maybe he's using a bus powered interface?? That might make it kick in later and cause the phantoms.
Old 6th March 2016
  #19
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For any of the MOTU MIDI units that have batteries, the multiple appearance thing in AMS is sometimes a symptom of a weak or dead battery.
Old 6th March 2016
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chucks View Post
For any of the MOTU MIDI units that have batteries, the multiple appearance thing in AMS is sometimes a symptom of a weak or dead battery.
Yep, I changed mine hear for giggles as well
Old 6th March 2016
  #21
Thats weird its happening with my 828MKII audio interface too.. I haven't fired up AMS since getting my new Mac and moving to El Cap, but I did after reading the thread yesterday and yep, Ive got the original 828MK2 and now an 828MK2#2 in there. Never had this happen in Lion/Snow Leopard..
Old 6th March 2016
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monotremata View Post
Thats weird its happening with my 828MKII audio interface too.. I haven't fired up AMS since getting my new Mac and moving to El Cap, but I did after reading the thread yesterday and yep, Ive got the original 828MK2 and now an 828MK2#2 in there. Never had this happen in Lion/Snow Leopard..
If you migrated your old data and settings to the new Mac, I can see this as a possibility. I think I had that happen once with my 828mkII. If you get rid of the one that's greyed out, you should be good to go. It wouldn't be the same issue as the MIDI only interfaces (and there are no batteries in the 828 series).
Old 6th March 2016
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by chucks View Post
If you migrated your old data and settings to the new Mac, I can see this as a possibility. I think I had that happen once with my 828mkII. If you get rid of the one that's greyed out, you should be good to go. It wouldn't be the same issue as the MIDI only interfaces (and there are no batteries in the 828 series).
Yeah it could also be this is my second one as well. I didn't think of that until after I posted haha.. My original one died on me back in November, and this is its replacement, so Im guessing this ones got a different device ID or something like that and created a new entry in the MIDI setup window.. I just deleted the old one and renamed this one. Not that I ever use the MIDI I/O on it but I like to keep the connection window nice and tidy hehe. Yeah I didn't think it had a battery in it. I opened my original one to replace the burned out LED on the screen and don't recall seeing anything like that in there.. Thank god it doesn't cause these things are a pain to get apart and get into.
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