How to get connected? (Audio + MIDI interfaces for 4 Synths)

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How to get connected? (Audio + MIDI interfaces for 4 Synths)

Postby root2 » Mon Feb 03, 2014 11:28 am

Hi there,

let's take the time and let me introduce myself with this first buying guide post.

I'm a 30 years old hobby producer located in Germany. My main focus is on electronic music like Uplifting Trance, Ambient, Chillout and a little bit of D&B.

At the moment my equipment-box looks like this...
DAW + Software:
- FL Studio
- Ableton Live (only the version that comes with my X-Station)
- Some VST Plugins (mostly free ones beside the ones that came bundled with some hardware)

- Korg X5DR
- Novation X-Station 49
- Roland JV-1010
- Yamaha S30

M-Audio Keystudio 25
Alesis QX49

ESI Midi Mate II

Mixing + Soundcard:
Fostex VM04
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio PCI Express

On the audio side both of the rack-synths (Korg + Roland) are connected via 1/4" mono jacks to each of the Fostex' Inputs and then routed via optical SPDIF to the input of my soundcard. The X-Station is connected just via USB. The S30 is not connected at all (that's why I post here! ;) ).

On the MIDI side both rack-synths are daisy chained and connected to the PC via the ESI Midi Mate. The X-Station is connected via USB. The S30 is not connected at all.

Now that was my setup - here's my dilemma I'm actually facing:
1) The audio latency of the two rack-synths is quite heavy (I think round about 100-200ms), so recording them "live" in a session is a pita.
2) I don't have enough audio ports to get a proper signal handling. Of course I could hook the S30 on my X-Station but then I'd be nailed down to either use the S30 OR the X-Station as a tone generator because the X-Station can't handle both simultaneously.
3) I don't have enough MIDI ports to get a proper handling there as well. Instead of daisy-chaining all synths I'd rather have a MIDI interface that supports 4 separate dedicated MIDI lines.

That finally leads me to my "buying guide" question for you, folks:
It seems I really need a new MIDI interface and also a new audio interface. I'm not keen in spending thousands of bucks into the latest top-rated gear (as you can see most of my equipment is a bit "aged" and I bought it second hand). But at least a decent bit of quality should be there.

What do you recommend me in terms of a new MIDI interface?
My wishlist would be:
- 4 dedicated MIDI ports
- 1 USB port for connecting to the PC

Nice to have features are:
- low latency (I think the audio latency matters way more than the MIDI latency)
- flexible routing options and maybe autosensing (IN/OUT) for the MIDI ports

What do you recommend me in terms of a new audio interface?
My wishlist here would be:
- ability to record (at least) 4 stereo inputs simultaneously
- low latency (so I can record them live in a session or at least compensate the latency evenly using my DAW tools)
- connected to the PC via USB, Firewire (a PCIE card would also be okay but I tend to like the external solutions more)
- mixing and routing controls in software (preferably for use with the two DAWs I mentioned above)
- hardware controls (knobs, sliders, ...) are not so much my concern

In terms of the MIDI interfaces I found three that might come close to what I want:
- ESI M4U XT (looks quite good and my singe ESI Midi Mate never let me down so far)
- M-Audio MIDISport 4x4 (almost the same price as the ESI, but I read of some failures in the hardware that lead to non-functional devices after some time)
- Miditech MIDIface 4x4 (I don't know much about this, it just seems to be half the price of the other ones)

In terms of the audio interface I'm all yours ;) You can just read what I want to achieve with the interface, so I'm very open for any suggestions from your side. Please just keep in mind that I don't wanna spend thousands of bucks into this gear - so even an interface that's a bit outdated but does the job well when bought second hand, might be of interest.

Edit: After some research I found two audio interfaces that might be of interest:
- MOTU UltraLite Mk3 Hybrid (USB and Firewire with 8 1/4" Inputs and a bunch of great sounding tools + drivers, small footprint and big LCD)
- Mackie Onyx Blackbird 16x16 (Firewire, a bit cheaper than the MOTU, "only" 96kHz sampling rate, not so fancy looking as it holds no LCD, a bit bigger full sized 19" rack)

So for the moment I tend more towards the MOTU, especially as I could try getting one for around 300€ in mint conditions.

Thank you a lot for your input (and sorry for the lengthy post :) )

Best regards
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Joined: Mon Feb 03, 2014 9:42 am

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