External vs internal MIDI

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HUBA
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External vs internal MIDI

Post by HUBA » Sun Sep 30, 2018 1:09 pm

Couldn't find anything specificly about this issue anywhere:

When playing on an external MIDI keyboard, it seems there's less jiggle room for MIDI glitches than whith gear that has keyboard or drum pads integrated. Don't know if it's just a psychological thing or real. There's definately a difference in latency when comparing DAW and MIDI keyboard to a standalone keyboard or synth, though. Seems nearly impossible to get the input latency as low with computers as with just about any hw synth. So I thought it might be a connection.

Also, when those note on and off signals travel internally inside gear, is this still MIDI or converted to something else? With DAW's there's usually sample accurate MIDI timing internally, within the DAW, seemingly no matter the ammount of MIDI data, and it's the MIDI moving into or out of the computer that has latency and jitter issues, so... How does this really work? If it's complicated to explain, a link to the subject being discussed would be highly apprechiated.

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by meatballfulton » Sun Sep 30, 2018 4:11 pm

Internal timing can be much tighter than external MIDI, whether talking about hardware or timing inside a DAW (which can be sample accurate). When not dealing with the timestamping of a serial interface, processing can be highly parallel. For example, playing a ten note cluster over a MIDI cable requires ten note-on messages. One start bit, eight data bits, and one stop bit result in a maximum transmission rate of 3125 bytes per second. If nothing else is on the wire, the time between the first note arriving at the receiving device and the last is going to be a minimum of 9/3125 seconds, or 2.88 milliseconds. If there are other messages on the wire at the same time, the delay between notes could be significantly longer. Imagine striking ten notes on all 16 channels at the same time, 160 total. The delay between the very first note and the last note would be 159/3125 seconds, or 50.88 milliseconds which would be very obvious!

Inside a DAW playing a software instrument, all ten notes could sound at the exact same time. Inside a hardware instrument, it depends on the speed of the processor. When physically playing the keys, the reponse of a modern instrument is probably well below 1 millisecond. For analog monosynths or "divide-down" polysynths with no processor generating the triggers, the only limitation is how quickly the EGs can open in response. Onboard sequencers will vary, there are many devices which have been known to get out of time and even drop notes when the sequence has too much data (not just notes, but lots of controller data).

This is why many users of external hardware controlled from a DAW who are obsessed with timing prefer analog CV gear (esp. modulars) because there are now ways to get sample accurate CV triggering from DAWs, like Expert Sleeper's products. This allows layering both externall and internal percussion sounds without getting unwanted flamming.
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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by HUBA » Sun Sep 30, 2018 7:43 pm

Thanks for the in depth answer!

So with say a digital hardware sequencer or synth, with pads and keys respectivly, there will be less of a timing issue because there's no MIDI cable involved? So in theory there would be less of a timing issue with playing a synth with keys integrated than with the rack version of the same synth played from an external MIDI keyboard?

Also, with (digital) hardware sequencers, when thinning data to prevent sluggish timing behavour, this is necessary because of the processor being stressed or the sequencer is running low on memory, and has nothing to do with MIDI?

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by HUBA » Sun Sep 30, 2018 7:56 pm

meatballfulton wrote:This is why many users of external hardware controlled from a DAW who are obsessed with timing prefer analog CV gear (esp. modulars) because there are now ways to get sample accurate CV triggering from DAWs, like Expert Sleeper's products. This allows layering both externall and internal percussion sounds without getting unwanted flamming.
Yes, but MIDI out timing from a DAW can be eliminated. The problem is MIDI in, and if I'm not mistaken, CV sequencers are all about quantized sequences and wont take realtime input of note data from a keyboard(?)

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by meatballfulton » Sat Oct 06, 2018 7:49 pm

HUBA wrote:Thanks for the in depth answer!

So with say a digital hardware sequencer or synth, with pads and keys respectivly, there will be less of a timing issue because there's no MIDI cable involved? So in theory there would be less of a timing issue with playing a synth with keys integrated than with the rack version of the same synth played from an external MIDI keyboard?
Yes, in theory.
Also, with (digital) hardware sequencers, when thinning data to prevent sluggish timing behavour, this is necessary because of the processor being stressed or the sequencer is running low on memory, and has nothing to do with MIDI?
If you have ever looked at the actual MIDI messages generated by adjusting pitch and mod wheels, expression pedals or knobs you might see hundreds of messages within the space of a quarter note. The bottleneck can be at the sending device, the receiving device or both. Sequencer memory is almost never an issue in modern hardware that can hold hundreds of thousands of MIDI events.
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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by Zamise » Sun Oct 07, 2018 2:58 am

I have been messing around lately with playing external midi in to VSThost to Serum using a Focusrite Scarlette 2i4 interface and MS surface notebook. I feel your pain. It is the initial note on delay/latency that is killing me, not processor lag or jitter. I turned up the ASIO driver's buffer to 1024, the highest setting, and it seems to have helped. It is not immediate or instant still, like hardware seq to hardware synth, but it is getting close. Turn up you ASIO buffer then reboot etc... Hope that helps? Or maybe find an optimal setting perhaps, this article I just read may help some more:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... -interface

Other than that I am going with sampling and editing start points..
<ZQS> [....<OII>.....soundcloud player v2.42.....................link]

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by HUBA » Mon Oct 08, 2018 6:59 pm

meatballfulton wrote:
HUBA wrote:Thanks for the in depth answer!

So with say a digital hardware sequencer or synth, with pads and keys respectivly, there will be less of a timing issue because there's no MIDI cable involved? So in theory there would be less of a timing issue with playing a synth with keys integrated than with the rack version of the same synth played from an external MIDI keyboard?
Yes, in theory.
Also, with (digital) hardware sequencers, when thinning data to prevent sluggish timing behavour, this is necessary because of the processor being stressed or the sequencer is running low on memory, and has nothing to do with MIDI?
If you have ever looked at the actual MIDI messages generated by adjusting pitch and mod wheels, expression pedals or knobs you might see hundreds of messages within the space of a quarter note. The bottleneck can be at the sending device, the receiving device or both. Sequencer memory is almost never an issue in modern hardware that can hold hundreds of thousands of MIDI events.
I see. So sample accurate or close to sample accurate MIDI should be achievable internally in modern hardware sequencers like it is within DAW's, and it's the in and out MIDI that is the source for timing issues like with connecting MIDI hardware and computers?

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by HUBA » Mon Oct 08, 2018 7:00 pm

Zamise wrote:It is the initial note on delay/latency that is killing me
Yes me too. Some manage to get the latency quite low, but many don't. Me included. And the jittering with Widows 7 and 10 is also an issue. I've given up on using DAW's for this reason. At least for now.

There are latency issues with hardware too unfortunately, especially when connecting several devices in a MIDI chain. Like playing a synth with a MIDI keyboard through a separate sequencer.

I've started looking for a hardware sequencer with integrated keys for bass playing. Hopefully with low note on latency and overall solid timing. Seems that means getting a workstation of sorts. Those are all big and clunky, and made for all kinds of other purposes that I have no use for, but if I can just find something that let me play without lags and timing issues I'd be happy nonetheless.
I'm pretty much set with the gear I have, and ergonomics and timing have been my main concerns for a while. I wouldn't want anything bigger than it needs to be, but I'm fed up with timing problems and want something that just works. If that means a huge workstation in the centre of my setup than so be it if it helps keeping me in the zone when plaing.

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by meatballfulton » Mon Oct 08, 2018 10:19 pm

HUBA wrote:
meatballfulton wrote:So sample accurate or close to sample accurate MIDI should be achievable internally in modern hardware sequencers like it is within DAW's, and it's the in and out MIDI that is the source for timing issues like with connecting MIDI hardware and computers?
High accuracy is possible within hardware if enough processing power is available. That said, there are many documented cases of hardware sequencers that will glitch under heavy enough loads. Both the Roland MC-303 groovebox and the Yamaha EX-5/7 workstation are notorious for this. If you take any hardware sequencer and really max out the load, say constant 32nd notes plus multiple constant controller streams (wheels, pedals, aftyertouch) and throw in program changes, sys-ex messages and so forth on every single channel you can probably make it glitch.

Yes, there are always some timing issues with external MIDI cabling. To most users it's insignificant, to some it's horrendous. Unless you are using an Atari ST computer (which has MIDI integrated into the OS), the computer itself adds some timing slop. In general, computers are just not as tight with external MIDI timing compared to hardware sequencers.

You might enjoy reading about Black MIDI.
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by clubbedtodeath » Mon Oct 08, 2018 10:28 pm

Sequencing external equipment does bring in latency, which is why the track latency offset in software like Ableton is so important. And then there’s audio latency on top of that. That all said, I get to with two glorious screens of sequencer with all the detail and control I’ll ever need. It more then makes up for the latency issues; but your mileage may vary.

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by HUBA » Mon Oct 08, 2018 10:33 pm

meatballfulton wrote:You might enjoy reading about Black MIDI.
I do, thanks! :thumbleft:

If it sonds half as cool as it looks it must be pretty awsome :lol:


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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by HUBA » Mon Oct 08, 2018 10:43 pm

clubbedtodeath wrote:Sequencing external equipment does bring in latency, which is why the track latency offset in software like Ableton is so important. And then there’s audio latency on top of that. That all said, I get to with two glorious screens of sequencer with all the detail and control I’ll ever need. It more then makes up for the latency issues; but your mileage may vary.

Cheers
There are indeed huge advantages working with DAW's and computers, and the MIDI out is now possible to get jitter free if you're willing to put some $ into it.
The problem is realtime MIDI when playing a keyboard. That is a pain with computers IME, and can be with hardware as well when playing via a sequencer. Especially when there's lots of other MIDI stuff going on at the same time.

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by Tekhed66 » Tue Oct 09, 2018 8:48 am

clubbedtodeath wrote:Sequencing external equipment does bring in latency, which is why the track latency offset in software like Ableton is so important. And then there’s audio latency on top of that. That all said, I get to with two glorious screens of sequencer with all the detail and control I’ll ever need. It more then makes up for the latency issues; but your mileage may vary.

Cheers
There is/was a manufatcturer in Australia of a fantastic piece of kit called the Sync-Gen Pro ... the company can be found here but I'm not sure if they still manufactuer the gear:

https://www.innerclocksystems.com/

Basically, it used an audio loop click track (sounded like a buzz... not sure what the pulse rate was but it was very fast) ... this audio was played by your DAW and then routed to an independent input of the Sync Gen which, in turn, used it to generate Midi sync info or CV output... the amount of jitter barely registered... all external hardware locked onto the DAW and if the DAW software varied in timing, the Sync-Gen followed it and therefore so would your external gear.

I bought one ages ago and it's rock solid.

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by HUBA » Tue Oct 09, 2018 10:40 am

Tekhed66 wrote:There is/was a manufatcturer in Australia of a fantastic piece of kit called the Sync-Gen Pro ... the company can be found here but I'm not sure if they still manufactuer the gear:

https://www.innerclocksystems.com/

Basically, it used an audio loop click track (sounded like a buzz... not sure what the pulse rate was but it was very fast) ... this audio was played by your DAW and then routed to an independent input of the Sync Gen which, in turn, used it to generate Midi sync info or CV output... the amount of jitter barely registered... all external hardware locked onto the DAW and if the DAW software varied in timing, the Sync-Gen followed it and therefore so would your external gear.

I bought one ages ago and it's rock solid.
Yes, that takes care of the MIDI out jitter part, similarly to the Exper Sleepers products, but not the MIDI in latency unfortunately, when playing the DAW from a MIDI keyboard.

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Re: External vs internal MIDI

Post by madtheory » Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:37 am

Zamise wrote:It is the initial note on delay/latency that is killing me, not processor lag or jitter. I turned up the ASIO driver's buffer to 1024, the highest setting, and it seems to have helped.
A LOWER buffer will reduce the latency though.

I often record the MIDI performance with buffer at 128 so timing is tight, and minimal plugins running so processor doesn't glitch. Then put it back up when mixing. If I had a faster computer and a Thunderbolt interface, that would not be necessary.

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