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Jason Halogen

keys: USB MIDI vs. MIDI through an interface?

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Heeeeeyyy, I have a question for y'all.

Thinking of picking up a small MIDI keyboard to bring to work (I'm blessed with downtime and privacy). My satellite setup is a nice laptop and a Focusrite Saffire 2i4.

My concern with getting a directly connected USB keyboard is that the additional processing required to take in the MIDI data will mess with the Saffire, since it's already got its own MIDI inputs. I could have this backwards, the USB3 connection might actually provide faster response time than the old school Saffire, but wanted to throw it out there and see what people think.

Thanks!

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Thinking about it as I typed it I don't think it'll be an issue, because all I'm really doing is changing the signal flow... but still. Advice or experience welcome.

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Midi data, through  either USB or DIN, is insignificant in size/quantity, to affect processing/performance. 

I recommend using USB-connected devices for sending and/or receiving midi data, which is what almost all moderncontrollers/keyboards are designed to use.

Bob Bone

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I bring my A-500 controller in via USB. I have a Roland HP-20 that comes in via the midi port 2 on the UFX.
I still have a couple of outboard synth's, that rarely get used on midi port 1.
As far as response time, when using soft-synth's, that's all down to the ASIO latency of the project.
MIDI data on both USB and DIN are, as Robert said, instantaneous.
HTH,

Tom

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I generally prefer to use MIDI DIN connections on the audio interface when available to minimize the chance of introducing hum into the sytem with a ground loop. Next best would be MIDI DIN connections on a separate MIDI interface.  This is more important when using keyboard synths that have both MIDI and audio connections to the DAW - less likely to be a problem with a controller-only keyboard. 

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1 hour ago, David Baay said:

I generally prefer to use MIDI DIN connections on the audio interface when available to minimize the chance of introducing hum into the sytem with a ground loop. Next best would be MIDI DIN connections on a separate MIDI interface.  This is more important when using keyboard synths that have both MIDI and audio connections to the DAW - less likely to be a problem with a controller-only keyboard. 

I make sure every device that is part of the same rig, meaning controllers, computer, interface, monitors, display, internet router, cable modem, EVERYTHING, is all running on the same circuit.  Additionally, It all gets conditioned power, from an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), that has automatic voltage regulation, so there is never any issues with the voltage, and no chance of a ground loop's hum. 

Since losing a bunch of electronics to a lightning strike last summer - that hit the ground right outside of my house, and rather than tripping the UPS safety protection, the lightning's massive jolt of juice came through the ground, and traveled up the 100 foot Ethernet cable that was buried in the yard, and it blew things up from THAT directions - rather sucked, mightily, as I lost a motherboard, router, cable modem, Ethernet switch, high-end video card, and another computer's motherboard and video card. 

Anyways, after a couple of weeks of down time, getting things replaced, I now additionally make sure to run my incoming coaxial cable from Comcast, and the Ethernet cables, through the UPS, so I will never again have lightning travel backwards into my electronics.  (sorry for the long story - I highly recommend folks protect their electronics from the massive surge of a ground strike.   (even though warranties and protection plans got most of the pricier components replaced, I lost several weeks to the whole event and aftermath).

Bob Bone

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I have both the Keyboard usb and the connections from my interface. Never had an issue with with either of them. Cakewalk lets you select which one you want to use. 

The larger issue is usually getting a controller than transmits damper pedal instructions correctly if you are a pianist. There have been pianists here who were getting delays in the response. I'm sure some of that is the damper pedal itself sometimes. The piano being their main instrument, they notice things like that. If you  simply input notes with no mind to make it sound like realistic piano it probably isn't a concern. Some controllers are better than others in that regard.

 

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10 hours ago, David Baay said:

I generally prefer to use MIDI DIN connections on the audio interface when available to minimize the chance of introducing hum into the sytem with a ground loop.

I believe you can only get ground loop hum (that 60 hz obnoxious drone) in analog audio circuits.

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11 hours ago, RobertWS said:

I believe you can only get ground loop hum (that 60 hz obnoxious drone) in analog audio circuits.

True, the hum will emanate from the analog section, but all ground paths in a system can introduce the small voltage drops between component grounds that cause it, including  USB and MIDI cables. For whatever reason MIDI DIN connections are less prone to cause ground loops than  USB connections in my experience, even if the MIDI interface is ultimately connected via USB to the PC.

And referencing Bob's comment about plugging everything into one AC circuit and using a UPS, that certainly helps, but it doesn't guarantee you won't get ground loops. A weak ground or current leak anywhere in any component or its connection to that common ground can lead to voltage differences across grounding paths that cause hum.

Edited by David Baay

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4 hours ago, David Baay said:

True, the hum will emanate from the analog section, but all ground paths in a system can introduce the small voltage drops between component grounds that cause it, including  USB and MIDI cables. For whatever reason MIDI DIN connections are less prone to cause ground loops than  USB connections in my experience, even if the MIDI interface is ultimately connected via USB to the PC.

And referencing Bob's comment about plugging everything into one AC circuit and using a UPS, that certainly helps, but it doesn't guarantee you won't get ground loops. A weak ground or current leak anywhere in any component or its connection to that common ground can lead to voltage differences across grounding paths that cause hum.

Quite correct - and that is why I also use an Uninterruptibnle Power Supply (UPS), with Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR), as it 'cleans' the power, and conditions it, so I always get stable voltage.  It also instantly switches to its battery backup if the voltage drops, etc....  With the combination of my entire rig running through the same wiring circuit, and the UPS, I never have ground loop hum. 

When I perform live, the UPS does a FANTASTIC job of protecting me from crappy old building wiring, where the voltage frequently drops slightly - and not long enough to affect things like power amps or instrument amps, but IS enough to dirsupt my laptop or audio interface - the UPS keeps everything running smoothly on a constant and correct voltage.  The UPS I have ran around $150, if memory serves - I actually have two of them - one for the studio rig, and the other goes with me for performances or mobile recording sessions.

Bob Bone

 

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On 1/10/2020 at 6:59 AM, Robert Bone said:

... It all gets conditioned power, from an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), that has automatic voltage regulation, so there is never any issues with the voltage, and no chance of a ground loop's hum...

I have a UPS, but I don't like to overtax it with too many items of outboard gear, so I only have 3 items connected to it, including the computer. I'm not sure whether ground loops ever occur in my system. The UPS itself hums continuously anyway, so sometimes it's hard to tell.

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This is a rather long response to @Kev, regarding my UPS usage, so if not interested in that (as it deviates from the actual overall OP's thread, though an offshoot of the resulting discussion), feel free to skip the following. 

If curious/interested, however, feel free to read on.  (I certainly do not want to waste anybody's time, so I am confessing up front).  I typed out the following, because of how important I feel using a UPS is, and if a single person benefits from either protection from a surge incident, or having clean/conditioned power at a performance or remote recording session, then kewl.  :)

My primary purpose for using a UPS, is voltage regulation, because of there being frequent occasions where the power in a club or other location, is just wiggly enough to wreak havoc on both the computer and the audio interface - when remote.   The automatic power conditioning, provided by the UPS, plus the added benefit of giving me plenty of time to get to a point where I can do an orderly shutdown, in the event of a complete loss of power, make it an incredibly valuable piece of gear/kit for me.

I NOW have the added discipline of making sure ANY connection to my studio rig runs through my 2nd UPS, precisely because of how catastrophic lightning ground strikes can be. 

The UPS doesn't have that many powered devices connected to it - desktop computer, 2 studio monitors, an HDTV I use for a display (an HDMI TV draws very little power), an 8-channel audio interface and occasionally an 8-channel expansion, a cable-modem, and Ethernet switch. And, only the desktop is actually run through the plug that includes the battery backup - the other devices just use the surge protection plugs.  So, not too much taxing the UPS.

My primary desktop computer has well over $10k worh of components, and it would potentially take me multiple weeks of work (or more) if I had to reinstall everything and tweak settings and get updates, etc..... Yes - I have external backups of data, and I take bi-weekly images of my boot drive, but even with the Windows 10 hardware abstraction layer's ability to (on 2 occasions) handle the swapping out of a replacement motherboard - it is a GIANT pain to have to reauthorize somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300-1,500 plugins and applications, due to hardware changes resulting in most of it deciding I was trying to use the software on a completely different computer.

Additionally, I am extraordinarily fortunate to have had extra protection for each and every of 10 internal hard drives, the CPU, the memory, and the video card, because I would have been out of luck on around $1,400 worth of cost to replace the motherboard and video card that got zapped by the lightning, without that insurance.  Because I found out the hard way, that electricity can come through the ground and into any buried cables, and instantly fry components, I now run all of those cables through the UPS, which has ports for Ethernet and Coax, to protect against that precise kind of surge.  I will never again be potentially exposed to getting gear zapped, unless the lightning were to literally come through the roof and melt my and my computer.  :)

And, lastly, I have the UPS unit and my desktop computer, located about 20 feet from my display, using a 25' HDMI cable, and wireless mouse and keyboard - where there is a 20' USB cable that connects to a cable-connected USB port that holds the wireless transmittor, so that there are no issues with mouse or keyboard glitches.  I run a single power strip from the UPS to the vicinity of the HDTV, the audio interface, and the studio monitors, to power those devices off the UPS, and there are several open plugs available on that, for anything else I might need/want to plug in near me.

Anyways - I had already been happily using a UPS, when the lightning nearly wiped out my rig, and I am now completely wedded to the notion of using one for any DAW setup I ever will have, for the rest of my days.

Bob Bone

 

 

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Sorry to hear about the lightening strike Bob. It seems that you have a nice setup now. 

I had an issue with static noise getting into my interface. Turned out the be the cable company who had recently ran a new feed didn't have it grounded well. 

I still occasionally get a static hum that comes and goes. Nothing too overly loud but enough to annoy. Not sure where it's coming from.

I don't have a UPS. ....yet.When I had the issue mentioned I bought an outlet strip that had lightening protection and RF filtration. Most all of the power strips you buy only have some level of lightening protection or surge protection. Took some doing to find one with RF filtration made by a good company.

I wired my own electrical service. It's 200 amp. I made sure everything was properly grounded. Simple power loss likely isn't as serious using SSD as it is using HDD. Power loss with a surge or brownout  is another story. UPS is certainly the way to go.

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We had a power outage a few weeks ago and I was happy that my computer remained on while everything else in the house was off. Outages are not uncommon here, but also power dips have been have been more of a problem. I used to get random crashes on both my PCs and I suspected that they were caused by power dips. I have never had any random crashes on my DAW PC since I connected it to the UPS, but I still get them on the family PC.

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