I was down in Santa Cruz at a friends house this thanksgiving weekend with some people trying to get a jam session going. Everyone brought a piece of gear. All counted, we had my TR-808, my x0xb0x, a MacBook Pro with a MOTU and Ableton Live 7, an Elektron Machine Drum and a Korg electribe sampler and a “Pocket Thru” Midi splitter. So far, so good.
We hooked the MIDI from the laptop to the thru box, and into the Korg, the Elektron and the x0xb0x. The TR-808 was slave synched via the DIN out on the x0xb0x. All audio was going directly into the MOTU, coming out on different tracks in Ableton. The rig was a thing of beauty… we were all set.
We fired the boxes up and noticed the timing was really wonky. Fine, we attempted to adjust the MIDI pre-delay in Ableton to match what we were recording. We saw something like 36ms of latency in the 808 kick (yikes!). We pre-delayed the works by 36ms and fired it up again, only to find that the MachineDrum sounded like it was rushing. I switched the x0x out for a MIDI->DIN sync box I got from europe… still the same issue. The bottom line was that we could not get the Elektron to match the TR-808 no how, no way.
After hours of toiling away trying to get this stuff to match and agonizing about the MIDI chain, we eventually gave up and didn’t record one single lick of music. Disappointing is an understatement. I’m starting to really believe the rants of this MIDI sync guru over at innerclock systems. And I’m so desperate to get these sync issues worked out that I’m going to get one of his $300 sync shifters.
Moreover, I think this is a prime example of a great problem that has yet to be solved. Someone needs to design and build a box that takes one MIDI in and can individually shift 4 to 8 MIDI / DIN outputs.
This whole MIDI sync mess needs to end, the solution needs to be dead simple and it needs to be something that can be done live so that everyone with old gear can have tightly locked tempo synched jam sessions.
While looking at the Ableton forums, I found the following thread that explains everything:
The gotcha here is that our sync was all working perfectly until we started running the audio through the computer. At that point, everything was 30ms off! Bad on Ableton for letting a bug like that slip.