Ok, if you do not know it, then probably nobody know it

Hello again (I like here)

You obviously know a lot about midi and midi clock. And I am always surprised by the approach that you guys have on things, which is much different than the one I read in other forums.

Well, lately I am concerned with a problem which I personally never had yet, but which I read that it is very common: sync problems when using ableton to record audio while slaved to an external gear.
Well, I need to do that. Ableton and Octatrack, together, both as loopers, so, both recording audio. The OT must be Master. So we have a problem.
How can I solve it?
There are expensive products, like Innerclock System. They are apparently high class, but I am not sure if in my case I really need them. And sincerely, I would like to avoid spending money in something if I am not sure I really need it.
Maybe you know of other products, even DIY?
Or of any other solution?

The informations which I have right now are:
-Ableton syncs better in its last build, the one I have. So, a little hope for me.
-it is not clear if the problem comes from Ableton or from how the OS manage the clock. In the second case, maybe I am covered by my audio interface:
“QUAD-CAPTURE incorporates a high-performance crystal master clock, providing a fundamental solution to “jitter” (time-based fluctuations of the clock) that causes latency and other issues. By syncing the digital circuitry, driver, and DAW program to this clock, jitter is reduced to a minimum, allowing the flow of audio data to be controlled by constant amounts. This results in an optimized buffer size, achieving latencies as low as 48 samples at 44.1/48 kHz, or approximately one millisecond with an ASIO driver”.
-a well configured notebook is better. In this aspect, I have already bought an SSD and more ram. I can’t do more than this, surely I can’t buy a Mac. What I can do, it is to install an OS in the SSD and use it only for music. SUggestions on which OS and on how to configure it, are welcome. I had a look in internet, lot of guides on how to disable useless services, but none specific for music.
-ehm, no much more…

So, what would you do?

Well there is two problems that you have to takle down. one is MIDI latency and the other one is Audio latency. In a mixed setup you will have to deal with both, but it’s better to keep things separated.
First of all keep on mind that a latency of 10ms is totally acceptable and nobody will really notice anything. This is what most systems nowadays are able to produce. If you get a latency of 48 samples without clicks, well then great, but usually that will not be feasible. Anyway if you get something like 256 to work for you, that’s totally ok.
Of course when using the interface in full duplex you will have to take in account that the latecy is double (since you have two buffers that introduce latency, plus the processing)
Right now how much latency do you have?
The octatrack of couse will have a lot less problems with that :slight_smile:
Now about MIDI clock and stuff: I don’t think that is your problem, especially if you set the OT as a master and slave Ableton to it.

Maybe first you should try out if you really have a problem…
And sometimes the solution is to work around the problem. Why do you need to have the OT as a master? What is it that you are trying to achieve with your setup?

I have the feeling Ableton hasn’t a fixed MIDI latency (which which you could deal), it seems to be a bit floating hence killing the “tightness”. I have no measurements/evidence whatsoever because i just stopped using it, its just that i had the feeling that Ableton isn’t as tight as Logic when using OS X and the glorious AMT-8/Unitor Interfaces. This is an effect you will well notice within the 10ms Window, you can’t tell exactly why but it stops grooving…

In General i found DAW/MIDI Interface Combos not that good in timing as in the old Atari days - my Notator was far better in Timing (and rosch will join me in this conversations as soon he’s back from rehearsal and sober - ok, unlikely coincidence…)
There are a Zillion layers of Software running on your Machine so the more complex your OS gets the less likely is good timing as there might always something more interesting to compute, like 5D UI Tile Animations or “Updating” your private Files to a social Network with a Blue Logo or something.

So what would I do:

  • use a Interface with RockSolid™ driver. On MacOS X this is the AMT-8/Unitor Series, and i also have heard much good things for the GM-5 Based Interfaces. I have no Clue what works for Windows.
  • Sync the External Gear to the DAW - your special purpose Box will sync better and quicker to your DAW than the other way round - its the Super Oil Tanker U-Turn Picture
  • Use an old fashioned Hardware Sampler instead of Ableton and tie all together via MIDI, getting rid of the double Audio / MIDI Sync Problem. Hardware Samplers tend to have a very very very low and even more important fixed and consistent Latency. You can Pick up an Emulator 4X for less than 150€!
  • Use an MPC and use its Sequencer as Master and its sampler as Looper avoiding Ableton in total. This is reference Tightness speaking in Lennys words.
  • save some money and enroll for a Sequentix Circlon
  • pray that someday there might be a Mutable Instruments Sequencer

… or ditch sampling and start to build a modular synth! :smiley:

The GM5 interface is supposed to be really tight on windows, provided you use the custom driver supplied by ploytec, and not the default windows one… :slight_smile:

The advice about rethinking why you need to do it a good place to start.

Do you want to start stop with the external gears buttons, or use the tempo control on the external box? If so can you just send the start / stop / tempo commands to Ableton and use Ableton as the master?

We both know where its gonna end…

I have been working on an intimately inter-connected hardware and software setup with bi-directional communication of MIDI and CV for some time now and there are only two ready made products for jitter free MIDI clock - the Innerclock stuff, and Silent Way. I went the Expert Sleepers route with ableton and haven’t looked back!

MIDI is a compromised protocol at every level and especially so when it is utilized in a computer based setup - essentially the Expert Sleepers solution allows you to treat all MIDI output as audio streams, thus they are sample-locked to your soundcard output and thus have no more jitter than your audio does (although your MIDI hardware will jitter a bit when receiving this signal, of course). Inside a DAW itself, there is no MIDI jitter - it’s only when you send MIDI output from a jittery bus that you will notice - generating MIDI entirely inside ableton, and sending it to software synth will result in perfectly repeatable sample accurate recordings - bounce that same MIDI out your USB bus (or even a PCI MIDI bus) and back in to that same soft synth and you are asking for a world of hurt!

fwiw the Innerclock solution is much more plug and play, but there is an obscene amount of things that Expert Sleepers/Silent Way will do for you if you dig into it

in short, if you don’t want to be pulling your hair out or spend $$ on turnkey solutions for the MIDI jitter issues, there’s a lot to be said for just ditching the computer and going for an MPC (or your octatrack) as master sequencer

What causes problems in this situation are:

  • The general problem of latency/jitter on systems which are not designed for realtime (such as Desktop OSes).
  • USB polling of bulk transfers limited to 1ms (ie, everything transmitted over USB is quantized to a ms grid - except sampled audio which is in a different class of transfer).
  • The general problem of synchronizing stuff happening on different computer subsystems, with sometimes different APIs, drivers and hardware interfaces.
  • The general problem of synchronizing something isochronous (sampled audio) with something synchronous (sparse, timed events).

None of these problems are specific to MIDI, so I wouldn’t call MIDI a “compromised protocol”…


@rumpelfilter: full duplex is when you record and play at same time, so also using ableton as a looper, or am I wrong?
About the latencies of my soundcard, I never changed the Cubase default setting and all was good: input latency 9,729ms, output latency 18,104ms.

>I don’t think that is your problem, especially if you set the OT as a master and slave Ableton to it.

@shiftr: In this moment I do not have time to make music, so I am just learning things. I’ve read of these problems. If I start investigating now, when/if I will have them I will know what to do. If I will not have them, I have anyway learnt lot of things :slight_smile:

This is the answer of Elektron support about why the OT needs to be set as Master WHEN USED AS LOOPER (= it can perfectly be slave when used as sampler):
“When the OT is using the Pickup machine (= looper), it needs to have sample accurate clock so that the Timestretching and Pickup machines work together. Therefore, the OT must be Master.”
(this answers to Dunk too)

Now, what he did not say is WHY a 1250 euro machine is not f!$#ng able to have accurate clock when slaved.
But maybe it is normal and I am ignorant.

@fcd72: a guy told me this: "what the later versions of Live do is to ignore the slight variations in the time (caused by how the PC mistreat the midi clock info) and to average the time between each of the midi clock ticks, resulting in a pretty accurate interpretation of the clock signal it is receiving."
We’ll see what Ableton will do when I will send to it some swing with the midipal…

I thought that my soundcard had rocksolid drivers. This is at least what I have read often.
But what about the GM5? Is it available as assembled, or as kit? Or as spare components?
I only find a page with bulk order. But I notoriously suck with google.
Elektron make a midi interface called TM-1 which have a turbo boost. According to some users, it gives good result for the midi clock theme even if it was not made for that.
It is relatively cheap, 84 euro. Worth trying.

Mmm, I am not sure to understand what this cirklon does. It looks just like a Ableton controller, plus a sequencer. No loop, no sample. Right?

@defenestration: I did not understand what you mean with ditching. According to google translate you are saying that I should throw my notebook in the see.
Sincerely, I really want to make Ableton work. I like the idea of being able to (n) have lot of different samples/loops and launch them in any moment with a launchpad or other controllers.

Tell me, this Sleeper, I do not have modular, and it seems all for modulars. What do you suggest?
I think there is anyway a third option, SND ACME.
But it is not cheaper thn Innerclock. Maybe worse.

@pichenettes: another 15 hours working day?
Well, and, ehm…, which could be the best and not “innerclock cost” solutions to those points?

Good night.
I seriously must stop stealing time to the sleep.

MIDI is insufficient - it is a serial protocol - try using all 16 channels at once sending lots of CC automation along each one - or chain many units using MIDI thru - from my perspective it was only really meant for controlling one synth at a time directly with a midi controller or sequencer, which is the ideal situation

add in USB and other bus interfaces that are not sample-locked to your audio and you just add another layer of crap, as Olivier is pointing out

@Mr53rg10 - by ‘ditching’ I simply mean ‘don’t continue to use a computer with your setup, just go all hardware’ - if you want a fairly straightforward and simple solution

Os from expert sleepers should make a simple MIDI out standalone adat or spdif device that doesn’t need to be put into a modular, it seems like there is a market for it, I wonder how expensive it would be. I’m all about modular at this point so it works great for me but I see that it’s not for everyone (expert sleepers actually kind of got me into modular).

every digital Protocol is Serial in the end… and look at your computer theres no parallel Port anymore.

You are right, MIDI is suboptimal with handling high loads, otherwise its a perfect, lightweight, no overhead Protocol, the proof is its around now for almost 30years, check the Jacks on your Computer collection on the attic to compare the amount of Protocols for your Mouse (most likely (RS232, PS/2)or(ADB), USB, BLUETOOTH). And where is the problem nowadays having 16 or 24 dedicated MIDI Ports?And how can you tell in your DAW is no Jitter when the ways in and out to measure this have already jitter (warning! logical problem)?

There is a solution to the OS induced MIDI Jitter: use Logic with an AMT-8/UNITOR Interface. It uses the “Advanced MIDI Transmission” Technology which is quite clever: Logic sends the MIDI Data in Advance, together with a Timestamp and lets the MIDI Interface deliver the Data at the right Moment thus eliminating the Jitter/Latencies the Transport Layers (USB) produce. Sadly Apple ditched these when acquiring eMagic but Logic still supports them. As they are build like a Tank (and i mean the Leopard II Class ones…) theres no problem with age…

full duplex is when you record and play at same time, so also using ableton as a looper, or am I wrong?
About the latencies of my soundcard, I never changed the Cubase default setting and all was good: input latency 9,729ms, output latency 18,104ms.

Yes that’s full duplex, so if you have a latecny of 10ms on the input and 18 on the ouput (rounding that up) you will end up having 28ms of latency, which is not optimal. In a looper setup this means: let’s say you play guitar and loop some riffs, you will start the looper and play some notes. The sound goes into your sound interface (10ms delay going in) then it gets processed by Ableton, if you have plugins processing the sounds they might add even more latency (3-5ms is normal I think, but depends a lot on the plugin). then Ableton spits out the signal through your soundcard (add 18ms of latency). In the end you have 30ms of delay, wile your OT wil have 5ms (just guessing) so if the OT plays a beat and you jam with your guitar on it through the Ableton looper you’ll have that notes will be off for about 25ms. Now add MIDI jitter to it and you’re in the soup :slight_smile:

Anyway, as I have said, I don’t know how MIDI problems affect your problem. Is the OT running on it’s own or is it really getting triggered by Ableton? If it’s not, I think it will be a minor problem, but if it get’s triggered (like notes being sent to it) then you might hear unconsistencies in timing.

>I don’t think that is your problem, especially if you set the OT as a master and slave Ableton to it.

Well maybe I’m wrong. Could be better to do it the other way around. It also depends which one of the two is more likely to run off sync and which one plays a more important part in the setup…

in the DAW (specifically Ableton in my case) there is obviously no jitter with internal MIDI and softsynths because I can resample any audio running through it that is generated internally via internally stored MIDI played into a software synth or sampler and analysis of the audio shows absolutely perfectly repeatable sample accuracy - with an external analog synth controlled by latency-compensated CV generated from MIDI inside ableton but being sent out an audio port using silent way I can achieve nearly the same thing (certainly sample accurate rhythmic communication) - it really is a beautiful thing.

all of my conclusions stem from my empirical analysis of the audio generated by various methods - I don’t really care about anything else, just the audio I get in the end

MIDI isn’t just a serial protocol, it’s a serial protocol with a max transmission rate of like 1.5khz which I find to be terribly shabby for this day and age and just barely acceptable in general for musical applications - the serial protocol running through your processor stack is at a slightly higher clock speed (and these days you usually have four of those…), also, no synchronous events?

“When the OT is using the Pickup machine (= looper), it needs to have sample accurate clock so that the Timestretching and Pickup machines work together. Therefore, the OT must be Master.”
(this answers to Dunk too)
When you are talking about sample accuracy this is the digital audio clock, surely not the MIDI clock as well? Does this machine not allow external MIDI and internal Digital Audio clock?

I wonder how easy it would be make a VSTi plug-in that would take the DAW MIDI events as its input, and spit them out as binary manchester code or 16-QPSK or 16-QAM or whatever was from my digital communications textbook, on a 96000Hz audio track (so that it works on interfaces which are AC-coupled and is relatively robust to whatever analog transformations might happen on the channel). It might not be the most pleasant sound to hear if it accidentally gets to your hear, but then it would be dead easy with simple hardware to sample it, decode it, and reencode it to MIDI. TADA! MIDI data locked-in with audio from your DAW.

The next big thing from Mutable Instruments: a simple Hardware Piece that converts this back to MIDI and the VSTi/AU Plugin - Id buy one. Blutig kopulierend brilliant™

Edit: by the time i write this Olivier probably is finished with breadboarding the Hardware Part…

Cool idea! I’d take it and run with it were such a device available :smiley: