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    The MIDI Messages Forum
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  1. Bruno Gaeta
  2. MIDI Connections
  3. Sunday, 13 March 2016
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I'd like to hear people's experiences in managing very large MIDI setups. As a bit of a collector who can never manage to sell gear, I have something like 40 MIDI synths, controllers and processors that I want connected so I can easily play any synth from any controller as well as playing them from my DAW running on a Windows PC.

At the moment I am relying on antique technology to do that as nothing else seems to have the capabilities: everything is connected to 3 networked Opcode Studio 5LX interfaces/patchbays, which are themselves hooked into an antique Power Mac G3 running OMS on MacOS 8.6. For those unfamiliar with these beasts, the Studio 5's each have 15 pairs of MIDI ins/outs but only antique Mac serial ports for connection with a computer. The Opcode software running on the PowerMac gives me total flexibility with regard to connecting anything with anything as well as allowing some quite complex MIDI processing (channel filtering, velocity tweaking, controller re-mapping etc). I am unaware of any modern hardware that offers these capabilities and number of MIDI ports. What's really nice is that the Studio 5's still work as standalone patchbays/processors without the Power Mac. I need to turn the Power Mac on only when I want to reconfigure the connections

In order to connect this rig to my modern DAW/PC I am using an iConnectMIDI4+ with its 4 DIN outputs plugged into the Studio 5's. That works but it's quite cumbersome to do any kind of recording: I have to turn both the PC and the Power Mac on, use the Power Mac to patch the synth I want to use to one of the iConnectMIDI4+ MIDI ports, then choose that port in my DAW etc. Not a good setup for spontaneous recording of impromtu synth jams, especially when I compare it to what was available back in the days of classic Macs and Studio Vision etc where the DAW could interface directly with the synths through OMS.

I am very aware that both the Studio 5's and the Power Mac are already way past their expected lifetime and are likely to expire any day, and am trying to think of something to replace them with that will work both with a computer but also as a standalone patchbay so that I can play the synths without having to turn the computer on. What are other maniac synth collectors using these days for something like this?
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Frederic PARISET Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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You should look at the new iConnectivity MIDI interface MIO10
I also have a collection of vintage synths I could not manage easily I first bougt a iconnectMIDI4+ and I will order soon a MIO 10 MOI10 able to manage 56 user-configurable 16-channel MIDI ports connect PC and Mac together and have MIDI over Ethernet it also provide a USB Host Port supports a USB MIDI Class-Compliant device (add your powered USB hub and connect up to ten devices such as Controlers and Master Keyboards)
They also have power to Route, Filter, remap MIDI signal ... and can bu used with iPad, iPhone easily
Hope i helps
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. MIDI Connections
  3. # 1
zxc Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Forget USB MIDI interfaces, even the best interface will not be able to manage this amount of gear with a correct timming.

Your problem has two sides, each one of equal importance:

1) The new computers that relay in a PCIe architechture (it doesent matter if they are PC or Mac)
2) The MIDI interface itself.

With the first problem there is not a satisfactory repply, the newer computers will give you a noticeable worst timming than your Mac G3, so dont replace the computer until it would be strictly necessary.

For the second problem, the replacement interface, there are new solutions that are not widly tested but the look that would be possible solutions.
This interfaces are generally called LAN interfaces an are connected to the computer via the Ethernet port, (RJ45 connector).

The Ethernet base protocol is widly more efficient than the USB and supports better asynchronic comunication of MIDI.

There is a condition that´s necessary to consider: The Ethernet bus can be connected, in general, directly to the south bridge of the chipset, that´s the best option, or it is usually connected to a PCIe bus, many times sharing the bus with other peripherials of the motherboard.

In any of both cases for a stable and gapless comunication it is very important that the LAN Ethernet connection DO NOT SHARE its direct connector with other device (like USB or SATA, etc) and/or not have its PCIe bus shared with other devices (like USB or SATA, etc). So you will need to search a motherboard that acomplish this requirements

This is the only way to be sure that the hardware will have a REAL IRQ (not a virtual a REAL like in the old machines) only for its own usage not shared with anything else.

The advantage of LAN Ethernet interfaces is that you can reduce the ASIO or Audio Units buffers to really very small sizes, which implies low latencies and better MIDI timestamp.

The two marks of LAN interfaces that I know run under different and uncompatible enviroments and both support Mac and PC and 64bit drivers.

One works with Copperlan (http://www.copperlan.org) that is free, is the one I use and works incredibly well. It is used by the Alyseum AL-88 and AL-88c http://www.alyseum.com

The other works with rtpMIDI from Tobias Erichsen, it is easy to find it in the web, and it is used by the iConnectivity interfaces Mio 4 and Mio 10.
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. MIDI Connections
  3. # 2
Bruno Gaeta Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Thank you for the info about MIDI over LAN products. I am a big fan of the Copperlan spec but I've never used it as it seems not to have gained traction in the industry sadly. There are very few products that use it, and out of these only the Alyseum AL-88c seems to be not outrageously expensive (but still pricey given I'd have to buy 4). But more importantly Alyseum has now ceased supporting Copperlan and has ditched the AL-88c. I don't know of any other product that supports it now.

I have a mio 10 but haven't played with rtp-MIDI. The limitation is that you can only access 4 MIDI ports over rtp-MIDI, compared to 16 over USB. So I've stuck with USB MIDI at the moment
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. MIDI Connections
  3. # 3
Carl Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Midi~Kuper allows you to connect anything to anything MIDI and create scenes of these connections. You can use all your synths and route any controller to any synth at the touch of a button. The scenes can be assigned to songs that can be organized into set lists. When you perform live, Midi~Kuper walks you through each song in its scenes at the touch of a button on a tablet or phone, and smoothly switches between synths. And it does it seamlessly with smart transition features.

You can create massive layers with many synths on a single keyboard, create splits, transpositions, do control filtering and more. You can also merge MIDI sources onto the same MIDI output. Check the website mdikuper.com. They have video tutorials on YouTube too. This is software. You have to have the hardware with enough MIDI ports for all your instruments of course.
References
  1. http://www.midikuper.com
  2. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCjbYzoy5e-vdGt6kGr8u4w
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. MIDI Connections
  3. # 4
Carl Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Hey Hans-Peter,

Hey Carl,

Carl wrote:

Please contact me via this site if you want to know more about it. I would love to see what you can do with it.

Carl


... I really like your idea, sounds interesting. A few years ago I used one of these "hire a developer" platforms to start a project for something similar. I am probably one of the longest time user of MIDITEMP MIDI matrix systems. Bought my fist one in my hometown where they started after leaving the university.

On what platform are you working? What hardware will you support?

Don't know if it is possible to writ a PN on this board, would like to hear from you ...

Bests,

hp


The product is already released, so you can get your own free 30-day trial copy that is fully functional and try it out. Just go to muckuper.com, register and download it.

It currently runs on any PC with Windows 7 and above. I even tried it on an inexpensive (<$180) Windows 10 tablet and it ran great. Working on a Mac version next. It comes with a file to integrate with SONAR, instructions on how to integrate with Ableton Live, and a Lemur template to remote control your performance from your iPhone or iPad. If you have a touch-screen PC or tablet then you probably will not need the iPhone control because the performance mode buttons were designed for a touch screen.

You can use any MIDI hardware, MIDI bridge like LoobBe30, and connect to anything that can send or receive MIDI. You can use it with as many physical synths and virtual synths as you want, (in case of virtuals, as many as your computer will handle), And you can layer and split any of those synths onto the same keyboards or pads, make chords out of notes, make intervals, transpose, convert control messages, and lots of such goodies. You can even merge MIDI from different sources to the same device (for example a separate pad controller and keyboard). In the end, it lets you organize all these layers, splits, etc.as scenes that you assign to songs. You then assign songs to a setlist, launch performance mode, and the program will step you through each scene like you have a new gear setup for every song. And it does it smoothly with no glitches, so long as you are mindful of the limitations of the synths you are using.

If you follow the YouTube link on the site you can view demo videos. My playing is mediocre, but you will get the idea of what can be done. Let me know what you think!

Carl
References
  1. http://www.muckuper.com
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. MIDI Connections
  3. # 5
Sean Leland Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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It seems like you have quite the collection! I have a couple of eMacs that are sitting in my studio running OSX 10.3.9 currently and I have not even begun to get these to connect with anything else as of yet. I know they have potential even if they have small hard drives. If you manage to get all of your gear connected, that will be quite an accomplishment. You are not the only one with more gear than you know what to do with. Good luck.
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. MIDI Connections
  3. # 6
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Sounds like a lot of fun! I haven't built a system with that many nodes yet, so I may not know all the details or intricacies involved and/or sought after. Although, I have found this MIDI router that is expandable to suit the number of connections needed, specifically the MIDIX-HD (although the article is based around the MIDIX) Hinton Instruments MIDIX/MIDIX-HD. I didn't see any prices on their site, I think you would need to contact Hinton Instruments for more info, although there is a "view cart" button on the page in that link. Motu also makes a MIDI router, though it is an 8inx8out 1u unit MIDI Router. One would want to find a Rack to mount those units in, I think audio gear is typically has a form factor of 19" wide (there are other form-factors, one is 23", and the other is smaller, with the audio units mounting vertical instead of horizontal - I just didn't find it again). The MIDIX/MIDIX-HD uses an RS232 port to connect to a computer, where the MIDI Express XT uses USB. You could probably find a RS232 PCI-X/PCI card for your computer if you don't have one on your Motherboard/Logic-board (although I would definitely make sure to talk to Hinton Instruments about that.;) )
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 7
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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I was thinking, the Hinton Instruments MIDIX/MIDIX-HD is a 6u unit: the MIDI Express XT is a 1u. Seems like you would need 5 MIDI Express XT to between 5u - 10u needed depending on how you mount them. I wouldn't want to use all those USB ports on my computer, so I'd imagine that something kinda like this would help - USB to Thunderbolt2 dock. The reason why I would want thunderbolt is because it is much faster than USB 2, so the competition for bandwidth wouldn't restrict performance (bottleneck). I am not sure though, because I don't know how much MIDI data you will be sending, so I suppose it may be possible to get away with a USB to USB hub. I just did a quick google search, and there are pcie/pci-x thunderbolt 2 cards out there.

A quick read and comparison between these two showed me that they are "different" in what they do (or at least in what their product pages are showing about themselves). I suppose it may possible that they are the same or very similar for what you need/may-need.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 8
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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I just thought that I'd add that Hinton Instruments web-site shows that they build custom MIDI solutions. Sometimes I think if I'd ever want to have something custom built, I'd try to find others who would buy the same thing I would, and order a few at the "same" time, perhaps creating the chance for a volume-discount (I don't know though, most likely depends on how many units or how many features of the custom build are needed, who knows, might be worth a shot).
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. MIDI Connections
  3. # 9
Steve Cooper Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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I still use an old JL Cooper "SYNAPSE" with my MIDI gear, but I'm afraid it isn't a better solution for you. It is a stand alone device that has 16 MIDI ins and 20 MIDI outs with the ability to merge any 3 inputs at one time. It has some other MIDI processing capabilities as well. I also used to have an Anatek MIDI Studio Merge- it merges 8 inputs to one output- came in very handy when I wanted to do data dumps from certain units into my computer, I just plugged it into my SYNAPSE and used up only one input for 8 devices (the merge device would strip MIDI clock, so don't plug workstations into the merge box). There is now a company called MIDI Solutions that has a very similar device available.

I hope this helps.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 10
Bruno Gaeta Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Thank you Garrett and Steve. I was not aware of Hinton Instruments. Interesting design. It looks to me like it would work as a patchbay but I'm not sure it would work as an interface. It sounds like the RS232 connection is for configuring the routing not for actually passing MIDI from a DAW. Plus it would be quite expensive: they have an old MIDIX16 for sale on the website which they say is on special and is an ex-demo unit but they still want 1250 pounds for it! They may be interesting to talk to for a custom design as a last resort though but they wouldn't be cheap.
The MOTU MIDI Express XT would work nicely as an interface. As you pointed out I'd need several. I'd need to find out how a DAW handles multiple identical interfaces plugged into the computer. The downside there is that they wouldn't work that well as standalone patchbays when the computer is turned off. Each can be configured as a patchbay however I'm not sure they would be able to communicate with each other - for example to have a controller plugged into one XT play a module plugged into another XT. I guess sacrificing one pair of MIDI input/outputs on each XT for communication between patchbays could work, together with clever patching to minimize inter-patchbay connections.
The SYNAPSE also looks good as a patchbay but not as an interface. And it has the same problem as the Studio 5's: old and impossible to find replacements!

One solution I'm thinking about at the moment is using multiple iConnectMIDI4+ interfaces together with an old iDevice for processing and controlling. I have one iConnectMIDI4+ and it works nicely as an interface. In my DAW I can have up to 16 MIDI ports that can be routed in the iCM4+ to 4 MIDI DIN ports plus 8 ports off the USB Host socket plus 4 ports on the Ethernet/rtpMIDI link. So in principle it could work as a 16 in/out interface plus configurable standalone patchbay (with full MIDI merging capabilities) but I'd need to have 8 devices connected through USB MIDI. I do have a number of synths that accept USB MIDI, and a cheap class-compliant USB-MIDI converter could work to increase the number of DIN ports: I have tested something like this and it worked - although not sure of latency. It would also need 4 devices connected through the rtpMIDI/Ethernet port, and that's harder to do as the only rtpMIDI to DIN converters I could find are the Kissbox ones and they are rather expensive.

But it's still not enough ports so I'd need to get at least a second iConnectMIDI4+ plugged into the computer as well. Then I could use the Ethernet/rtpMIDI port to connect the two iConnectMIDI4+ together to allow cross-interface communication when the computer is off, and it would still give me 8 MIDI DIN ports plus 16 USB MIDI ports that could be addressed directly from the DAW as well as routed internally in standalone mode. That's 24 ports to play with, and some of these ports can be shared between multiple monotimbral synth modules that only require one MIDI channel (so for example I can have 8 synths on one port using an 8 output MIDI thru box). The iConnectMIDI4+ iConfig app is pretty involved and allows lots of routing and MIDI processing (filtering and channel remapping) but the interface can be arcane, it doesn't allow saving and switching configurations internally, and changing configurations on the fly is difficult. The iCM4+ can also be plugged into one or more iPhones/iPads which can provide some processing. I have experimented with plugging an ancient iPhone 4 into mine, running the Midibridge app, and that worked quite well for simple MIDI processing.

But I haven't been able to get an answer from iConnectivity yet as to whether multiple iCM4+ plugged into one PC are recognised properly and the type of latency I would get. I'm also not clear as to whether I'd be able to use the rtpMIDI ports for communication, or if there are better alternatives to the Kissbox converters (a third iCM4+ could actually work for that but it's getting a bit expensive for an extra 4 ports).

Another MIDI patchbay option I have come across is the MIDIbox MIDI matrix. Rather impressive specs - up to 56 ins and 56 outs. But it's only for patching/routing as far as I can tell - the 56 ports are not directly accessible from a DAW. And there's no MIDI processing or merging available. And it sounds like you need to build it yourself!
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  1. more than a month ago
  2. MIDI Connections
  3. # 11
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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"I'd need to find out how a DAW handles multiple identical interfaces plugged into the computer" ASIO4ALL. that program make a bunch of stuff possible. I don't know if everything talks to it, but they should be able to
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 12
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Just an addition, I haven't plugged on those MIDI routers in and see how ASIO4ALL handles it. My context for interfaces was transparent.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 13
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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I meant, I haven't plugged in, not plugged on
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 14
Bruno Gaeta Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Does ASIO4ALL do something special for MIDI? I thought it was only for audio interfaces
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 15
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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I don't know if ASIO4ALL is supposed to do that. I am thinking that the way ASIO4ALL works (what little I know of it) would be beneficial "in analogy" in this application for MIDI routers. I guess ASIO4ALL is just a clue or hint.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 16
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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I am used to the automation of TCP/IP packet switching routers. I'd have to look into whether those MIDI routers have something similar.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 17
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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With that amount of namespace (40 MIDI talking electronics), understanding how the central "switchboard" keeps track of each instance/entity ... just thinking aloud.
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Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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I don't know if this helps, but after reading through your post, I was reminded of a fact I experienced in my gear/rig: Nonnoticable audio output didn't sound good when attempting to output 8 channels of audio between two usb audio computer interfaces. When I used an interface that had 8 output channels, it sounded good. This is pretty much after MIDI in the process-chain, but could be indicative of something.
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  3. # 19
Garrett Christopherson Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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so everything needs to talk to everything, and how much do they have to say each time?
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 20
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