How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliable?

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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Strophoid » Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:39 am

To be honest I never tried maxing out a midi cable, but I guess you'll be fine as long as you're not sending continuous controller data on every channel.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby JMCecil » Thu Sep 19, 2013 4:21 pm

Reliably? 0 .. Zero .. Nada ..
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby swamptone » Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:19 pm

The cable is not the limiting factor.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Elektrobolt » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:23 am

Steve Fogal wrote:...at least in your experience :idea: Ok, I know that 16 midi channels is the 'maximum' ... but I'm talking 'reliably'.

Until the other day, the most midi channels I've send down a single cable has been maybe 5 tops! And that figure wasn't met until a couple/few months back.
As of last night, I think I had about 13 or 14 midi tracks all sending on a corresponding channel. So far so good..though my machine froze and had to be restarted..but that's happened with far less too, so not sure if a lot of midi tracks & high channel count was the issue.

But I read the other night, that in order to relieve midi conjestion of a single cable & midi port...multiple ports are sometimes used with more midi cables...each carrying a limited number of midi channels.
I'm in the proccess of putting this to the test..that is piling up the midi channels...I just ran out of time to get a few more or so midi tracks to the full 16. Me, I'm not using many midi messages (not that I know anyway). The only thing I'm use is Velocity..no other intentional perameters.

But maybe if other things in the way of midi automations etc, would limit a full 16 channels??

Technically you can send 3,125 bytes per second on a MIDI cable (that is the speed a MIDI interface) and considering that the typical MIDI message is 3 bytes, it can more or less send one message per millisecond. It's variable because o other messages, e.g. MIDI clock or active sensing. That ought to give you an idea of what you are facing in terms of timing. :)

I use several MIDI splitters (one port is split into more ports, exact copies of the original) so that each device gets their own cable. Each of the out ports from my Midex8 goes directly into a MIDI patch bay (with 16 ports in and 20 ports out) and each out port from there is connected to a 1/4 splitter box (small and very fast). So essentially all of my equipment is constantly connected, and available with simple commands or via button pushing.

The same thing goes for keyboards, drum machines and other controllers coming in. They are summed by MIDI mergers (this can be a little trickier depending on the devices) and those are routed to the Midex8. Some devices just don't play nicely with others! ;)
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Elektrobolt » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:14 am

I've used an entire rack (6-9 or so synthesizers) for live performances before (granted it was a long time ago, but MIDI is still MIDI) and I don't recall any complaints about poor timing, or irregular beat/melodies.

So, I think you'll be fine with one or two cables. ;)

Unless you are planning on maybe twisting pitch benders, spinning mod wheels, and send CC messages like crazy... :P
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby JMCecil » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:55 pm

wait until you try to send MIDI clock .........
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby JMCecil » Fri Sep 20, 2013 4:56 pm

Just so you know, you can enable sending MIDI clock in Cubase on a per port basis (as it is global), CTL+Click on the transport to access the settings. For example, a couple of my MoogerFoogers will synch to tempo via MIDI port, but have to have the clock. Or, my Voyager can sync its LFO to MIDI clock.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby JMCecil » Fri Sep 20, 2013 5:17 pm

In the config you tell cube who the source is. So you could tell cubase to use the motu as midi clock
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Strophoid » Fri Sep 20, 2013 9:29 pm

I don't think you'll need midi clock for your application. I use it for syncing up the arps on my MO6, the click on my DTX etc.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Elektrobolt » Sat Sep 21, 2013 12:09 am

Steve Fogal wrote:Elektro, I guess it sounds like 'it all depends' with this stuff. At least I'm gathering some information here now on what things can be done when the time comes that my midi is scewing me :idea:

Yeah, MIDI is one of those interfaces that was created from the concept of this-should-be-enough. Of course, nowadays EVERYTHING is included in the "musical instrument digital" part, and the "interface" piece is stuck in the past and there really is no viable alternative. Many companies have created possibilities, but none that stuck, like MIDI.

I think in general, you should be good. Like I said, and to add to JMCecils comment about the clock, it was included on our live performances. (Though there were problems frequently.) Back then there were no "computer" sequencers, only hardware sequencers. The MC-4 was awesome (I still have one packed up, and in decent condition too!) which didn't even have MIDI, and some of the follow up ones, like MC-500 (also have one of those in box, as a matter of fact). With MIDI, a couple of drum machines synced to it, and a bunch of MIDI synths (some of which were not even synced, but with approximate tempo set internally). Those were the times! :D
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby twilightsong » Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:21 am

Steve Fogal wrote:I've never used or needed any kind clock on midi before. Actually, even on digital audio I've not been able to perceive any difference with clock or no clock.



MIDI clock is used to synchronize multiple MIDI devices; wordclock is used to stabilize multiple audio devices. All communication between digital audio devices uses wordclock (it's embedded in the signal on units that don't provide a separate output).


I've read where big setups, like the ones used on big-name tours, will use a master wordclock unit to help stabilize MIDI sync. To be honest, I'm not sure I completely understand how this works, or why. I assume it only pertains to units that handle both MIDI and audio.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby twilightsong » Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:00 pm

Yeah, that guy explained it really well. I'd alter his explanation slightly: it's true that a wordclock master signal sets all the units that are slaved to it to the same sample rate, but that is just a baseline of sorts -- it's real function is to make sure all the units are sampling at the same exact time. Even the best wordclocks have some timing errors, or drift (also known as jitter) to them, and it's not even a matter of technology, but physical law. Some clocks, however, are better than others (you pretty much get what you pay for here): the clock is generated by the vibration of a crystal, and some units use cheaply made crystals, and some use very precisely made and thus more expensive ones.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Elektrobolt » Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:22 pm

Yeah, people mix terms all the time.

I've seen a few devices that has MIDI and word clock or other sync protocols, e.g. SMPTE. These devices don't mix data in any way, e.g. between MIDI and SMPTE, but rather makes sure the onboard protocols are synchronized properly and across devices.

Here are some additional resources on the sync topic Sweetwater and another forum HomeRecording.com.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby andyoc » Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:44 pm

Just want to make sure you're aware of the difference between word clock and midi clock...

I'll start with word clock....
If you want to integrate more than 1 digital audio device in your system, you will need word clock.
If you have, for instance, your Motu AV, connected to a digital mixer, and they are both running on internal clock,
ie both are clock MASTERS, you will definitely hear clicks and pops over time. This is because they are clocked independently. THe way to avoid these clicks and pops is to make 1 device a master, and the other a slave. This is achieved by connecting a word clock cable [generally BNC to BNC] between the word clock OUT of what you designate as the master to the word clock IN of the slave device, and selecting Word Clock slave on the Slave!!. Which one as master/slave??? Depends on how "good" the clock is. There are heated arguments as to the quality of different word clocks - better stereo imaging, 192 Khz vs 96kz v 48k/44.1k.... At a minimum, either as Master and the other as Slave should end your clicks and pops. If you have more digital devices, a master synchronising clock with multiple clock outs should be used to feed all the digital devices in your system, guaranteeing a common reference.
For example, my system has 3 computers - Comp 1 has RME MADI and Raydat interfaces [over 100 channels of audio in and out], Comp 2 has RME 9652 [26 chnls i/o], and Comp 3 has MOTU 2408. An SSL MADI AX converts analog outputs from various synths feeding into Comp 1. THere is a DAT machine, an AKAI S5000 with 8 digital outs, a Roland XV5080 with 8 digital outs. THe AES [digital stereo] output of Comp 1 feeds a TC Finalizer 96k, which returns to the Computer to print a stereo mix. There are other digital devices in the system.
All are clocked via a Swissonic WD8....the system works extremely well, and other than pilot error from time to time, I have been very pleased with its operation for the last number of years.
NB...the only thing transmitted from the Word Clock Out, is digital audio synchronising data.

On the other hand,
Midi Clock is part of the MIDI protocol, and is transmitted with other messages through the 5-pin DIN - also know as MIDI-cable.
Midi Clock is tempo-related. A device sends 24 Midi Clock messages per quarter note. If a project has a tempo of, let's say, 120 bpm, that means there are 2 quarter notes per second, i.e. 48 Midi Clock messages.
These MIDI clock messages are generally used to :
1] Synchronise two MIDI sequencers - you could have a software and a hardware sequencer, and synchronise them, so that they would consistently run relative to each other.
2] Control audio devices that have "timing" functions, eg delay units....Midi Clock output from a Master [eg your Cubase program] will "tell" such a device what the bpm is, and it will calculate delays accordingly. Changes in tempi on the Master will be observed on the slave device.

SO!
There is no direct relationship between Word Clock and Midi Clock....they are two completely different protocols,
Digital audio systems will work quite well without Midi clock, and trying to put word clock into a delay device will not give it tempo information!!


The answer to your first question is down to "How much" info is on the Midi line. Some years back, I would have had perhaps 30+ Midi instances [Midex 8 + 2 Yamaha 256's etc] - ie 30 Midi cables worth, each going to and from a seperate device - in use, so as to avoid any clogging. This has been much reduced in the last few years, with plug-ins inside the DAW, and with VSL Ensemble PRO running on the slave computers via ethernet.

Sorry that this has moved away from your opening question, but you seem to be following where it's going, so hope this helps.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby twilightsong » Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:03 am

Steve Fogal wrote:
So... with that said, the question is; How important is Word Clock & Midi Clock?
This, as opposed to the common syncing of different devices, running in their own PLAY mode


With regard to wordclock, what is important is setting up your devices correctly. As andyoc pointed out, you need to determine which device you want to be the source of your set-up's wordclock -- a.k.a. the "master" -- and then setting all the others to slave (sometimes called "external"). The master device should be whichever one is most likely to output the best wordclock signal -- usually the most expensive piece of gear. For most of us, who have an audio interface feeding a DAW, the wordclock signal is going through the same cable the digital audio signal is. Some devices have a dedicated BNC-type wordclock output/input to ensure even better integrity of the wordclock signal (since it doesn't have to share the same cable with other signals). As Andy said, you can record with a setup where the wordclock isn't set up correctly, but you'll almost invariably have pop & click issues.*


*I've actually recorded whole songs without issue only to realize later I had both my A/D and Cubase set to Master
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby twilightsong » Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:20 am

I did a bit of reading and I think I now know why big set-ups use wordclock to help enhance stability in MIDI playback. This is because big setups like those in a big live act use SMPTE for synchronization, usually because they're also syncing lights and video playback to the music (or editing video to the music later on). The problem with SMPTE however is that there's a bit of drift built into it, so the addition of a wordclock signal helps eliminate this. I think I have that right 8-)
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby twilightsong » Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:34 am

Steve, if you're just triggering external sound modules and synths etc. with MIDI recorded inside Cubase, you don't need any sort of synchronization. The purpose of synchronization is to allow devices that have any kind of tempo and/or song position capability to be controlled from ONE central unit, called the master. My understanding is that MIDI clock only provides a way to start and stop the devices, as well as perhaps "return to beginning." If you want the ability to sync the devices in terms of position within the song, you need a timecode. There are several formats of timecode you can chose from. One of them is MTC, which I used to use a lot to sync Cubase to the sequencer on a keyboard (and vice versa). The pro's use SMPTE.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Elektrobolt » Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:22 pm

Steve Fogal wrote:Ok, steering back to the original topic... if running the full 16 midi channels going through a single 5-pin midi cable is too much, or not. For which the replies I got indicated that it can depend on how much controller event information is also being fed through along with it. Since I'm not exactly sure of what's being sent along with my midi test tracks - which are very simple parts that I've not 'purposely' added controller messages too - And so I procceed...

Well I'll be a monkeys uncle.... just last night I added more midi tracks for my testing. I had 13 midi channels before (not 14) going through the one midi cable. I've now reached the full 16 channels... so far, absolutely no problems running them for over an hour (not straight).
While these 16 midi channels were playing, on I was having a look at my resources on both quad computers. But 1st I eliminated my main DAW's original few loaded VSTi's when setting the test project up. I just wanted to see those little bit of resources drop! (there's no audio in this midi test tune).
On the midi receiving machine, surprisingly, I had fairly low CPU resources being sucked up.., except for ram was at 1st up to 90+ %. While the midi sending machine with only midi tracks & no VSTi's loaded showed extremly minimal resource usage ... I couldn't even see the yellow memory graph & the VSTi meter was almost nothing.
I was continuing to check things...closed the projects...reopened & very oddly, the receiving computers ram usage that
showed over 90% just before, was now showing almost nothing, and still playing fine... this cannot be :shock:
Maybe before I had a ram spike for some unknown problem going on. I'm actually going to do more testing now. It's either that the midi receiving VSTi computer is maxed, or it's not...but it's certainly not stuttering, crackling/popping or
anything yet. On just my main DAW, far less VSTi's - though had lots of audio & FX's did a bucking bronco number on
me!
For another test; I'll be sending this same midi test tune with 16 channels to an outboard midi sound module to see if they cave in

Well, I doubt you'll have any memory/CPU problems on account of MIDI, per se.

Consider MIDI at up to 3,125 bytes per second, and in comparison, a basic 44.1kHz 16-bit stereo audio channel which has a constant flow of 176,400 bytes per second. That's 56 times the amount of data for one channel of audio, and that's if you to max out the MIDI throughput.

Try adding some Pitch Bend, Modulation and After Touch data to your MIDI tracks. That'll give you a marker on when MIDI limitations become noticeable. I think we did some test back in the old world, but unfortunately those memories have long since expired.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Elektrobolt » Wed Sep 25, 2013 1:26 am

Excellent. I am glad things turned out positive for you. You need anything you know where to find us, mate! :)
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby knuckle47 » Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:13 am

Gee Steve, you have seriously gone MIDI crazy....I have read every post here with great enthusiasm for you and my limited understanding. I was about to try and sum it up as Electrobolt said initially but he brought it out again and that is: you are just not yet exceeding those 3,125 bytes/sec. Sounds like you can keep pushing it
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Strophoid » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:38 am

It's not so much about getting 3.125b/s though. The 'problem' with midi is that it can only process 1 message at a time. If you continuously send messages at exactly the right interval, you can make it to 3.125b/s without a single error. However, you're not doing that, you're making music so you are very likely to be sending a couple of messages at the exact same time. Midi can only handle one at the time so the others have to wait for the first messages to be sent.
This happens quite fast, but if you're sending 20 notes at the exact same time, I'm sure you'll have a measureable delay between the first and last note to arrive. This is where CC information plays a big part, because it's many more datapoints when compared to just your note on/off values. Doing that on 16 channels does quickly create a traffic jam.

At least this is how I understand it works ;)
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby andyoc » Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:30 pm

Let's take Strophoid's [correct] analysis a little further.

Maximum transmission rate is 3,125 bytes per second, serial....one after the other - for all 16 channels on the line.
Let's divide the second into frames - and let's say 30fps, the US standard. This means we can have a maximum of 104 bytes per frame. [You will hear the audio difference easily between 2 frames]

We play a key and then release it. Each note on message uses 3 bytes....at very best, the note-off uses 2, rather than 3. So, we can play maximum of 21 note on/offs per frame, per 16 channels!

So in your sequencer, set up 16 tracks, 1 for each midi channel. Place 2 short [less than 1 frame in length] notes in a part, copy that part to all 16 channels, play.....and you have already exceeded the MIDI bandwidth :!:

If you play a modern midi keyboard, it probably has the ability to transmit aftertouch - at the very least channel aftertouch. You can generate hundreds of Aftertouch messages by changing the pressure with which you depress the key. If your keyboard is top of the line, with Polyphonic aftertouch, these multiple messages will be transmitted for every key you press :lol:

So, on the face of it, it appears that your quickly going to be stuck in a Midi quagmire of stuck notes and mixed up messages....

Reality is, with judicious use of MIDI, this does not happen....

1] I switch off Aftertouch, unless I expressly want it on a part [Preferences/Midi Filter/Switch off Atouch Thru and Record]
2] By using MIDI distributors....units like a Midex 8, Yamaha UX256, Motu Expresslane 128....These devices connect to the host computer via USB 2, and they then distribute at least 8 inputs and outputs....you can also connect multiple devices....offering much greater bandwidth than is available on a single cable. There are also options of connecting other computers or hardware via ethernet. Here's a few figures:

MIDI bandwidth [single cable, 16 channels] 31,250 bits per second
USB 2 bandwidth 480,000,000 bits per second
Ethernet [1G] 1,000,000,000 bits per second
USB 3 4,800,000,000 bits per second

Any modern computer has multiple USB2 and ethernet - and lately - USB 3 ports....use them :D

Bye for now....lunch :)
Andy
PC1 i7 4790k/32G/RME MADI & Raydat
PC2 i7 2600k/16G/RME 9652/VSL Symph
PC3 i5 2600k/MOTU 2408Mk3/VSL Symph

Cubase 7.5.30/ Nuendo 6.5.30/Wavelab 8.0.1
VSL Ensemble PRO 5.3.13407
Sup Drum 2/VG Gtr2/Omnisphere/Trillian/Stylus RMX
Hardware synths / SSL Alpha Link MADI AX
Komplete Ultimate 9/EZ Keys
Mackie MCU / NI Maschine
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby JMCecil » Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:15 pm

and this all goes back to my original statement ... When you use the word "reliably" and MIDI in the same sentence, you are fooling yourself. I've had really complex multi-channel, multi-port daisy chain (with merge boxes and splitters) configurations that worked rock solid. I've had a 1 synth multi that wouldn't work for *flower*.
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby andyoc » Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:58 pm

Absolutely, Steve.....it's all a learning curve....and it very much works by trial and error....
Some of us here have been at this stuff for years, and I may be a bit "academic" and "tutorial" in approach, but I still recall the "smiling face" syndrome when some technological plan produced a good musical result.

And always at the heart of this is the music, and good music can be made this way. :)
So enjoy the journey, and I hope your efforts lead you to great experiences.....

Andy
PC1 i7 4790k/32G/RME MADI & Raydat
PC2 i7 2600k/16G/RME 9652/VSL Symph
PC3 i5 2600k/MOTU 2408Mk3/VSL Symph

Cubase 7.5.30/ Nuendo 6.5.30/Wavelab 8.0.1
VSL Ensemble PRO 5.3.13407
Sup Drum 2/VG Gtr2/Omnisphere/Trillian/Stylus RMX
Hardware synths / SSL Alpha Link MADI AX
Komplete Ultimate 9/EZ Keys
Mackie MCU / NI Maschine
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Re: How many midi channels on one midi 5-pin cable is reliab

Postby Dipmcus » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:55 am

Steve Fogal wrote:...just because I'm nuts! :D


Clearly.

Indiana Jones wrote:"...it ain't the years, it's the mileage, baby..."


As Indy said, sort of, is that it ain't the channels, it's the data. How much data can fit into a time slot, before that data is interpreted by the tympanic membranes, in combination with the cerebral cortex, as stale or late?

;)
Stuff, lots of it.
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