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V01b mounting bracket for Guy Wilkinson's VFD module for the MKS-70

After fitting a couple of Guy Wilkinson's VFD modules and realising that the controller PCB needs to be mounted to the rear of the MKS-70 front panel by drilling holes and using hex-spacers, I figured on trying to re-purpose my old V01 bracket. By adding three more holes, the V01b mounting bracket for the MKS-70 VFD module was suddenly born! 🙂

Custom mounting bracket for Vecoven PWM mod for MKS-70
Here's my original V01 which removed the necessity to drill holes into the MKS-70 voice-boards, so as to mount Fred Vecoven's original PWM daughter-boards.

When I was installing a lot of Fred Vecoven's original PWM kits, I designed a bracket to make things easier. The V01 could only be fitted to MKS-70s that had Guy Wilkinson's P0004 power supply as it occupied the space previously taken up by the transformer. My original V01 however, removed the necessity to drill holes into the voice-boards to mount Fred's PWM daughter-boards.

Custom mounting bracket for Vecoven PWM mod for Roland MKS-70 installed
Here's my custom V01 bracket holding a pair of Fred Vecoven's original PWM daughter-boards.

Fred Vecoven then released his fabulous digital PWM upgrade which easily mounts to the MKS-70 voice-boards in place of the original MKS-70 counter chips. My V01 wasn't necessary anymore.

Guy Wilkinson's VFD module for the Super-JX is amazingly popular and rightfully so. Retaining a good degree of visual familiarity when compared to the original display, it's a great bit of tech and a super upgrade for these old machines.

The two components of Guy Wilkinson's VFD kit for the Roland Super-JX
The two components of Guy Wilkinson's GU-280 VFD kit for the Roland Super-JX; the display itself and the controller module.

The GU-280 comprises two components; the actual VFD (display) and the controller-board. The installation requires holes to be drilled into the MKS-70 display-board (to mount the VFD) and according to Guy's installation instructions, the front-chassis, facilitating the mounting of the controller-board to the rear of the front-chassis. While the former can't be avoided, the latter isn't exactly a prospect that everyone will relish. Using my V01b however, means that at least you won't have to drill holes into your MKS-70 metalwork!

V01b mounting bracket for Guy Wilkinson's VFD module for the MKS-70
Just like my original V01 bracket, the V01b still mounts in the space originally occupied by the transformer, using the M4 transformer mounting studs. This means that you'll need Guy Wilkinson's P0004 installed to use my V01b. Incidentally, Fred Vecoven's digital PWM daughter-board for the top voice-board can be seen in the top right.

IMPORTANT: I know I've already mentioned this but I feel I need to be quite clear that the V01b bracket occupies the space taken up by the MKS-70 transformer. Hence, it can ONLY be used if you have a P0004 power supply installed.

V01b mounting bracket for Guy Wilkinson's VFD module for the Roland MKS-70
Note that the cables that Guy supplies with his GU-280 to connect the display part of the kit to the controller-board, reach just fine, when using the V01b.

When mounting the controller-board to the back of the front-chassis, only the top two screw points on the PCB can be used, as the front-panel ribbon cable running along the back of the front-chassis, prevents drilling of holes lower down. With the V01b, all four screw points are utilised, making for a more secure fixing. The VFD controller-board isn't going anywhere!

Guy Wilkinson's GU-280 VFD for the Roland MKS-70
Guy Wilkinson's GU-280 VFD for the Super-JX, installed in a Roland MKS-70. Although functionally quite different, the GU-280 visually resembles the original Roland VFD more closely than the OLED.

By the way, if you don't know about this, then you're missing out! Hey, you can read all about Guy Wilkinson's GU-280 VFD module for the Super-JX here.

V01b mounting bracket for Guy Wilkinson's VFD module
If customers ask for it, I mount my Live-Forever battery upgrade under the V01b bracket. Convenient, eh?

My V01b mounting bracket for the MKS-70 VFD module will be available in my on-line store soon. I just need to get a few V01s drilled out! Don't hesitate to contact me if you're interested, though.

Roland M-64C Cartridges

The humble Roland M-64C memory cartridge which was used to store data on soooo many Roland synths, drum machines and other gear, back in the day. The problem is, that just like the memory inside your favourite eighties synth, the memory in the M-64C is retained using a small battery. These cartridges have stored our patches for decades but the internal battery won't last forever. Here's a little post on the Roland M-64C battery change procedure.

Yes, I know there's quite a lot of clever people out there, who have made some awesome  replacements which have huge memory storage and no battery but many of us still have M-64Cs and if all you have to do is change a battery once every couple of decades, then why not?

The case of the M-64C is held together with only two screws but... you'll have to remove the label to open it. YouTube videos suggest that the label is cut but actually, that's not necessary. The original Roland label is printed on to a type of self-adhesive metalized medium and NOT anything that's paper based. Hence, if you're careful, you can peel it off and there's no need to destroy it. The customer who supplied the example pictured in this post, unfortunately didn't know that! 🙁

Roland M-64C in bits

Once open, make a note of the orientation of the battery. The positive terminal is facing the top of the cartridge, furthest away from the edge-connector.

Roland M-64C Battery and PCB

The battery is a CR-1/3N which is (still) readily) available although it might be challenging to find one with solder tags. Yes, that's right. The CR-1/3N normally turns up WITHOUT solder tags and if you're like me, then the idea of soldering directly to a battery, isn't particularly appealing.

CR1/3N Batteries
Original CR1/3N battery on the left and replacement version on the right.

Okay so I need to own up! 🙄 I thought I'd try something. Your average CR-1/3N has a capacity of about 160mAh. The CR2032 however, has a capacity of about 210mAh and so I thought I'd give it go, LOL. There was just NO WAY I could get the CR2032 to fit inside the M-64C case, LOL. There goes that idea!

Roland M-64C with new battery
When mounting the new battery, take care to keep it as close the the PCB as possible, otherwise the two halves of the M-64C case won't snap together.

Performing a Roland M-64C battery change isn't as difficult as you might think and as mentioned, the CR-1/3N battery is still available. The annoyance however, is that you might have to scrap the label. Hey but don't worry. Half-an-hour with a ruler and a little Adobe Illustrator magic and....

I'm currently designing a replacement self-adhesive label for the M-64C which I will make available soon.

Replacement Labels for the Roland M-64C
Coming soon, my replacement label for the Roland M-64C.

If your M-64C label is a bit tatty, then watch this space. 😎

Back in October 2019, I published a post discussing how I took advantage of the Yamaha GPI protocol on my DM2000 and which I use to remotely switch equipment on and off in my studio, from the mixing desk. Unfortunately, my new premises isn’t quite as large as what I had before, so ergonomics have been sacrificed slightly and one of the compromises is the position of my mixing desk. Situated away from my DAW desktop, I had to build myself a remote switch for talkback; The Big Red Button remote talkback switch!

Big Red Button remote talkback switch for Yamaha DM1000, DM2000, 01V
A little convenience; a remote talkback switch for Yamaha DM1000, DM2000, 01V and other desks equipped with Yamaha GPI.

My Big Red Button remote talkback switch is a little more versatile than the switch on the DM2000 itself as it actually comprises two switches; a momentary push button switch and a miniature toggle switch. I decided to implement the latter to give me the option to ‘lock’ talkback in the ON position, just in case I needed both hands free, while talking to an artist in the vocal booth or the my keyboard room.

Big Red Button is more versatile than the on-board talkback on my Yamaha DM2000
The miniature toggle switch allows you to lock talkback on, if you need both hands free.

The challenge with the project was finding a suitable momentary push switch, ideally a very quiet DPST. After trying several, I settled on a particular product by Apem which although ridiculously expensive for a bloody switch does the job perfectly. The toggle switch didn’t impose such problems.

Big Red Button remote talkback switch for the Yamaha DM1000, DM2000, 01V
Connection to the desk is via a 3-pole (stereo) 3.5mm jack going into a 25-pin D-connector.

On top of the box, there's a status indicator in the form of an ultra-low current LED. If I just had the push button momentary switch, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this but it does act as reminder, just in case you leave the toggle switch on.

Big Red Button
Cute little adhesive, no-slip feet on the bottom of the case, ensure Big Red Button is always where you left it!

It's difficult to get a sense of scale so the picture below is where my Big Red Button normally sits. My overhead condenser microphone is on the right hand side of the monitor.

Big Red Button in situ

My Big Red Button remote talkback switch, is way to expensive to release as a commercial product. Just the push button switch alone, is 25 GBP. As the example shown is not a production item however, I can tailor things to suite your specific requirements. Hence, if you have a Yamaha GPI mixing desk and would like one of these or something similar, please don’t hesitate to get in contact. I can make several variations to accommodate varying requirements.

Below is an example of a more basic version with no status LED or talkback lock ON switch. Small Red Button, perhaps?

Small Red Button remote talkback for Yamaha GPI

 

Fred Vecoven's Digital PWM Kit - daughter-boards
Much smaller than the original PWM daughter-boards and a whole lot easier to install.

He's done it again! Fred was talking about this for quite some time but a few months ago, his talk became reality. Fred Vecoven's new digital PWM kit for the Roland Super-JX is just amazing. Simple, elegant and delivering great PWM for this much loved classic, this is a must have for every JX-10 or MKS-70 owner.

Anyone familiar with installing Fred's original PWM upgrade, will be aware of just how involved it was. Without my V02 mounting bracket, the daughter-boards  needed to be secured to the Super-JX's voice-boards which meant drilling holes! 🙁 Then there's the wiring... and there's a lot of it.

As its predecessor, the new digital PWM kit for the Roland Super-JX, still requires the changing of the 8031 processors on the Super-JX's voice-boards but the new daughter-boards only need to be fitted to the holes left after removing the 82C54s counters (IC19 - IC22) . Although straight-forward, it's still a very time consuming task.

Roland Super-JX voice-board being prep'd for Vecoven digital PWM daughter-boards
In addition to removing the 8031 (IC10, top left), the four 82C54 ICs also have to come off each voice-board.

The daughter-boards generate square and PWM waveforms and as a side benefit, they consume less power than the original 82C54 counters, which isn't a bad thing.

As mentioned, installing Fred's new PWM kit for the Roland Super-JX is much more straight-forward than the original version. The simplicity of the installation also means that the likelihood of error is also greatly reduced . Extreme care however, needs to be taken when removing all those ICs!

My supply and installation service for the new PWM kit is therefore much cheaper than what I was charging for the original kit.

Fred is full of surprises and indeed things seem to be continually happening around the Roland JX-10 and MKS-70 and in the Super-JX community. To make fault diagnostics easier if anything ever goes wrong, is another reason why I put sockets in-place of the counters, thereby allowing Fred's digital PWM daughter-boards, to be snapped in and out (if necessary), from the voice-boards.

Socketed digital PWM for Super-JX
Socketing Fred's latest PWM upgrade makes installation a bit longer but future proofs your Super-JX and means that the daughter-boards can be easily removed, if ever necessary.
Digital PWM installed on Super-JX Voice-Board
Simple and elegant, Fred Vecoven's new digital PWM upgrade for the Roland Super-JX is quite simply beautiful.
Digital PWM daughter-board for MKS-70 In Situ
And here's the re-assembled MKS-70, showing a digital PWM daughter-board installed on the top voice-board.

A lot of orders for Guy Wilkinson's P0004 MKS-70 power supply
Ne batch of P0004 PCBs arrived from my dear friend Guy Wilkinson, this morning.

I'm wondering just how many MKS-70s Roland made! While I've been building P0004 power supplies for a while now, recently things have gone nuts and this weekend looks like it's going to be a P0004 weekend.

I've had so many orders that yet again, I had to ask my friend Guy Wilkinson to send me more PCBs, which all turned up this morning (THANKS Guy). 🙂

2 x MKS-70 in for upgrades

If you don't already know about this, you're seriously missing out, or rather your synth is missing out!

Guy's P0004 power supply for the Roland MKS-70, uses AC / DC converters and some very clever (and beautiful) filtering, providing nice and steady supply rails to the Roland JX-10, MKS-70 and the JX-9P.

Switched-mode power supply for Roland MKS-70
Switched-mode power supply for Roland Super-JX and JX-8P.

Read more about Guy Wilkinson's P0004 power supply for the Roland Super-JX here.

rtpMIDI

A year ago, I posted an article explaining the relatively new concept of the ‘USB host’. With so many modern MIDI controllers sporting a USB type B socket in place of a conventional 5-pin DIN socket (or sockets) for MIDI, the only way to address a lot of vintage equipment without having to switch on your computer, is through a USB host. Anyway, I'm now going a step further and here I'm going to tell you about my recent rtpMIDI adventures

Over the past twelve months, I’ve been working on my new premises (a lot of decorating, painting and stuff, which I hate) and a few weeks ago, I made the bold decision to move in my office and my studio. My lab went over a few months ago.

Well, of course it wasn’t that simple and several weeks were taken up with planning equipment placement, multi-cores, routings, etc. I’d already started building 19-inch rack enclosures, so I obviously had a rough idea of equipment placement and which rooms were going to be used for what.

My rtpMIDI Network
This schematic clearly shows how my two iConnectivity mio XLs are at the heart of my new rtpMIDI network.

To be honest, the set up wasn’t going to be too different from my previous studio, just a bit scaled down, really. Hey, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Indeed, the biggest change was going to be how I get MIDI into my computers (yes, I have two).

Due to the fact that I had to have a separate keyboard room (a bit weird when you consider that I’m a guitarist), I took another look at the iConnectivity mio XL and rtpMIDI.

iConnectivity mio XL
My second iConenctivity mio XL links up everything in my keyboard room to the computers in the control room. Before you ask, the very old Behringer SNR208 8-channel denoiser was modified by me in 1989 and works as an 8-channel, -10dBm to +4dBm unbalanced to balanced converter. I actually have two of these.

Hey, you know what, this kind of seems fairly straight-forward. The iConnectivity mio XL can support twenty-two MIDI ports, comprising eight pairs of DIN inputs / outputs, two additional DIN outputs and ten USB hosted ports, with lots of insane configuration options. So if I buy a few class compliant single MIDI interfaces, I’d have more than enough connections to go around, right? Wow! This sounded great!

After a couple weeks, everything was in place. My Mac and my PC were ready to fire up. It took a couple of days to get comfortable with the computers as I had a new single (shared) desktop between the two computers and a new Asus 43-inch 3840 x 1200 curved monitor.

Anyway, things went relatively smoothly and it was time to look at my new rtpMIDI network. Suddenly I hit quicksand and everything slowed down….

Page 2 of the iConnectivity mio XL user manual, states that the minimum system requirement for OS X is 10.11 and above. Well, this wasn’t quite right, for a start. iConnectivity’s website states that Auracle-X, the software used to conveniently configure the mio XL (and others like the mio XM, for example), will only work on 10.12 up. Disappointed, I persevered and found another iConnectivity application called iConfig. Great! I’ll grab that instead. Err… NO!!!!! iConfig doesn’t support the XL series interfaces. Seriously?!?!!? So, you guys have got a bit a of a gap here. Hmm….

By now I was communicating with iConnectivity customer support and indeed the misinformation was acknowledged straight-away, with a huge apology. A couple of weeks later and the misinformation remains. Okaaay!!!!

I was lucky though. I’ve also got another computer alongside my Mac running Windows 11 and I was able to address my two mio XLs via Auracle-X, using Windows. I could do this easily on my new rtpMIDI network, without having to squeeze behind racks or crawl under desks to change connections.

Auracle-X and rtpMIDI on Windows
Auracle-X and rtpMIDI running on Windows 11.

rtpMIDI needs Apple Bonjour. A standard background service in OS X, you'll need to install it if you're running Windows.

Bonjour basically allows devices on a netowrk to resolve names without the need for a Dynamic Name Server, or DNS. This makes setting up of things like rtpMIDI a breeze as you don't have to bother with configuring a DHCP server like on a router, for example or mess around with IP addresses. Plug in your rtpMIDI gear and Apple Bonjour makes sure that everything can see and talk with everything else. 🙂

It took a while (see later) but once the mio XLs were configured, setting up rtpMIDI in OS X was straight-forward enough.

After checking, double-checking and triple-checking, I switched on some gear to test the network.

Oh! What a disappointment. Lots of stuff just didn’t work! Items were showing up in the rtpMIDI configuration window and in Auracle-X but MIDI wasn't getting through to everything.

So let’s start with my Nektar Impact LX61+ MIDI controller keyboard.

Firstly, the LX61+ isn’t just a keyboard. Like many similar, modern keyboard controllers, it has a load of conveniently placed transport controls that interface with the DAW. These controls are usually on a separate virtual MIDI port which you need to assign appropriately in the mio XL and rtpMIDI and in the same way as if the keyboard was connected directly to your computer via USB. You have one physical connection but two virtual MIDI ports. This however, wasn’t the problem. The problem was that when I selected the rtpMIDI port assigned to the LX61+ transport controls in the remote section of Cubase, nothing happened.

The process of fault-finding led me to capture MIDI data generated from the transport controls on the LX61+, with a utility like SendSX. This proved that MIDI from the transport controls on my Nektar Impact,  was coming into my computer. It was just that my DAW wasn’t responding to it.

After a few days of waiting for a reply from Nektar, I was told that the LX61+ transport controls will only work with a direct USB connection to the computer. The actual explanation was a little more involved but I won’t bore you with that.

I've checked out a couple of other MIDI keyboard controllers and of course, many  use standard protocols like HUI and / or Mackie, to interface with DAW transports. Some even use MIDI Machine Control (MMC), so I guess I'll be looking to change my Nektar Impact LX61+ to something a little more standard. Such a shame. 🙁

The next issue I had was that while I wasn’t able to test any of my synth controllers like my Retroaktiv machines and my Roland MPG-80, addressing my synth modules from my LX61+ keyboard, through the mio XL just wasn’t wasn't working reliably. As previously mentioned, gear was showing up. It was just that MIDI wasn't getting through the system. Now this was a major problem.

You’ll recall me mentioning earlier that I bought a few class compliant MIDI interfaces. The device I settled on was the ESI MidiMate EX. Well, I used these to connect eight of the USB host ports on my first mio XL, to my synth modules and programmer / editors. In my keyboard room, I only needed one of the USB host ports, connected to the PC (programming) port on my old Nord Micro Modular.

ESI MidiMate EX
I bought ten ESI MidiMate EX USB MIDI interfaces and although the mio XL and rtpMIDI saw them just fine, they didn't work with a lot of my gear.

The connections to my Korg EX-8000 and my Roland JV-1080, seemed to work okay but a lot of my gear didn't respond and was quite dead. That included machines like my Roland MKS-70, Roland MKS-80 and Roland D-550.

So I’m using class compliant interfaces which show up in iConnectivity Auracle-X. I can route them and assign them in rtpMIDI but… they're not talking to my gear. Grr…

Side stepping for a moment, I’m still amazed that after twenty-three years, the software editor for my Nord Micro, still works! Running under Windows 11, this app’ is brilliant but in my new set-up, the software just couldn’t lock on to the hardware. Every few minutes the Nord editor would acknowledge the Nord Micro hardware and then after a few seconds, it would lose the connection. You know what’s coming; GRR…

Nord Micro Editor
More than twenty years on and the Nord Micro and Micro Modular editor still runs perfectly well on Windows 11.

I went downstairs to the lab and pulled out an old M-Audio Uno and an Alesis USB-MIDI cable. I use these devices to back up memory on customers’ equipment, when it comes in for repair and they’ve been working for years. With the mio XL however, the M-Audio Uno didn’t work at all but the Alesis interface did.

I tried the Alesis USB-MIDI cable in-between my first mio XL and the synth modules that didn’t work with the ESI MidiMates and suddenly there was MIDI life! Oh wow, this is exciting. I then connected the PC ports on my Nord Micro Modular to the second mio XL using the Alesis USB-MIDI cable. YAY!!!! That all worked too. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever known the Nord Micro editor to pick up the hardware so quickly.

Nord Micro Modular
A little vintage music tech, my Nord Micro Modular. Such a great little thing, I just love it.

I immediately pulled all the ESI MidiMate EXs and although it would seem that I’ve wasted like 200 GBP on these things, it would also seem that I have at least found a potential solution.

After removing the ESI devices, I noticed something weird; everything seemed a little faster, a little snappier.

Before buying a load of these Alesis interfaces, I had a thought; somewhere in a cupboard, I had an old ESI M8U XL 8 x 8 MIDI interface which I used on my Windows box many years ago and if I remember correctly, it didn’t need any drivers. A quick look on-line and ESI indeed states that the M8U XL was class compliant. If I could plug this into one of the USB host ports on the mio XL, perhaps I could get eight MIDI inputs / outputs with just one USB connection.

ESI M8UXL
Although driverless and described as being class complaint, my old ESI M8U XL wasn't recognised at all by my new iConnectivity mio XLs. It would have been amazingly convenient if it was... I think. Perhaps I should try another 1U multi-port USB interface.

To cut a long story short, it didn’t work. In fact, the M8U XL didn’t even show up in Auracle-X. That was a big shame but the concept is worth considering for anyone else thinking about buying this MIDI monster. Plugging in a class compliant, multi-port USB MIDI interface into the mio XL, should allow you to reserve MIDI ports corresponding to those on the USB interface, to the USB host ports on the mio XL, a bit like the virtual ports on the LX61+ that I mentioned earlier. Well, that’s the theory, anyway.

So back to the humble Alesis USB-MIDI cable which I soon discovered has long since been obsolete. Indeed, many websites that came up in my search, showed ‘Out of stock’, ‘Discontinued’ or ‘End of life’, blah, blah, blah. That wasn’t surprising, really but then one popped up suggesting that this particular company did have stock. I called them and not only did they have stock but they had lots and were also prepared to give me a 10% discount when I told them that I wanted to buy ten! The company in question was The DJ Shop in Southampton (UK).

Alesis USB MIDI Cable
I found it hugely ironic that out of all the MIDI interfaces I have, the now obsolete Alesis USB-MIDI Cable was the only one I could get to work in between my music gear and one of the most powerful, modern MIDI systems.

The next day was a Saturday. The weather seemed like summer had finally arrived. I have friends and family in and around Bournmouth, Poole and Christchurch (a few miles to the west of Southampton), so Julie and I decided on a mini south-coast tour for the day, starting at The DJ Shop in Southampton!

Julie and I had an awesome day hanging out with my sis' and later on, with some lovely Brazilian friends of ours who we hadn't seen for several years. In fact, we didn't get back ‘till early Sunday morning.

Well, I couldn’t wait to get my rtpMIDI network up and running. While unpacking my Alesis USB MIDI cables and connecting them to my gear, it dawned on me how amazingly ironic it was, that I could only get one of the newest, most powerful and most radical MIDI interfaces to work properly, with some USB interfaces that had been discontinued many years ago. Of course, other than the ESI MidiMate EX, I hadn’t tried any newer brands. Perhaps it’s something I can do over the next few weeks.

A WORD ABOUT AURACLE-X

I have to say that my personal experience with the mio XL editor, Auracle-X was terrible. I’ve already made reference to the software editor for the Nord Micro which still works great under Windows 11, so what on earth is going on with the iConnectivity editor?

Auracle was intermittently clunky. Sometimes it would slow right down. Initiating a command via a mouse click for example, often resulted in a painful wait of several seconds before anything happened on the screen. This behaviour would last for a whole session and rebooting the mio XL or quitting and relaunching the editor didn’t fix the problem. Don't get me wrong, sometimes Auracle-X fired up and worked just fine... but not all the time.

Auracle-X was unreliable. The option to reserve MIDI devices against USB host ports is a great feature… if it worked properly. Selecting a device wouldn’t always select that device! When I was configuring the Alesis USB MIDI cables for example, I’d often get a device reserved, the name of which was a weird mixture between the Alesis device and the now completely disconnected ESI devices. Sometimes it was an abbreviated version of what actually appeared in the dropdown selection and sometimes it would get it right! It was as if some cache somewhere, was having issues.

Auracle-X would intermittently not connect to the hardware. Yes, that’s right. I had a couple of occasions when my mio XLs didn’t even show up in Auracle-X. I new the mio XLs were there, as all the ports were visible in rtpMIDI and random tests showed that many were working in my DAW. Oh boy… This was seriously testing my patience.

Auracle-X No connection with hardware... again
rtpMIDI sees both of my mio XLs but once in a while, Auracle-X doesn't. I've tried logging out / logging back into Windows, rebooting both mio XLs and even restarting my computer. Oh and every time I launch Auracle-X, it opens it opens fuuuuuuuuuuuuuull size!

One minor GUI issue with Auracle-X, is that the program doesn't remember the window  size when it was last closed. I have a 3840 x 1200 monitor and as you can see from the image above, Auracle-X opens up with a BIIIIIG window.... every time. Come on iConenctivity. That's an easy fix, guys.

I've already mentioned that the ability to 'reserve' specific USB MIDI devices against USB host ports on the mio XL, is just great. The problem comes however, when several of the same USB MIDI device are used. Trying to select specific USB MIDI devices becomes difficult as you just have a list of the same device in the reserve drop-down menu. This caused me lots of problems.

Multiple USB MIDI interfaces of the same make and manufacturer makes USB host port reservation difficult on the mio XL
Multiple USB MIDI interfaces of the same make and manufacturer, makes USB host port reservation difficult on the mio XL.

So, I really didn’t like this software, well not on Windows anyway and I couldn't run it under my version of OS X. 🙁 Luckily however, you only really need Auracle-X to initially configure your mio XL and if you wish, back up / load mio XL presets to / from your computer or write / recall presets to / from memory locations within the mio XL. I have to admit that I didn’t have any issues saving and loading presets.

The good news is that once everything’s set up on the mio XL, rtpMIDI runs in the background on your computer and you don’t have to cross paths with Auracle-X ever again.

I tried to research rtpMIDI and the components I intended to buy, to make my rtpMIDI network, as best as I could but there was so little information out there. That's why I decided to write this post; a small attempt to potentially help anyone who’s considering going down the same path.

I guess that before you decide going rtpMIDI, you should ask yourself why. What are the advantages of rtpMIDI and is it worth it?

In my situation, the layout of the studio at the new premises, meant that my previous USB MIDI patch bays would potentially be some distance from my computers. rtpMIDI offered a solution. As it turned out, the distance between interfaces and computers wasn’t as much as I thought it would be. By the time I realised that however, I was already committed.

Alternatives to the iConnectivity series of rtpMIDI MIDI interfaces, are very thin on the ground. In fact, at the time of writing, I could only find the Bombe BombeBox, the MIDI2TR and CM-MIDI2 by KissBox and the Cinara MidiGateway. All these products are frightfully expensive and simply don’t have the port count of the iConnectivity mio XM, let alone the mio XL.

One last comment about the iConnectivity mio XM and mio XL is that they can both be connected to your computer, via USB. In fact, firmware updates can ONLY be done via the USB connection. Unfortunately, the USB B socket on both machines, is on the front panel. Guys, I get it, like you’ve got a lot of stuff going on ‘round the back, so not much space but it’s really inconvenient!

The MIDI port count is reduced if using the USB to computer connection, simply due to the bandwidth of USB 2.0. For me, I was specifically looking for a rtpMIDI solution so a USB connection was irrelevant.

So to conclude, here are some point s to consider, if you’re looking at rtpMIDI:

  1. Do you need it? Think carefully. MIDI is a simple, serial data protocol. Due you really want to potentially complicate things?
  1. I installed separate network cards in my computers and used a separate switch for my rtpMIDI network but I’m not sure that was necessary.
  1. If you’re going to take advantage of USB host ports on something like the iConenctivity mio XM or mio XL, then make sure that your USB / MIDI interfaces are class compliant.
  1. Keep things simple and don’t even consider elaborate USB MIDI interfaces. Some automatically detect MIDI in / out connections, for example. While class compliant, the ‘MIDI’ (DIN) end of some interfaces, won’t work with a lot of equipment. I have a feeling that this is why the ESI MidiMate EX didn’t work. I;m also aware that some budget USB MIDI interfaces don't even have an opto-isolator on the MIDI IN port. Make sure you do a little research and if you can, try before you buy!
  1. rtpMIDI is part of OS X but you’ll need to download it for Windows here.
  1. I learnt the hard way but although you can have one device like a keyboard, connected to the ‘IN’ port of a pair of DIN MIDI ports and another device connected to the ‘OUT’ port of the same pair of ports, at the moment, rtpMIDI doesn’t allow you to name them separately. rtpMIDI only allows you to assign one name per pair of DIN ports.rtpMIDI - Separate devices, same portTake a close look at DIN ports 4 and 6 on my mio XL #2, in the diagram above. I have a Studio Logic SL-990 88-note keyboard going into the input of DIN 4 and a Kurzweil Micro Piano connected to the output of DIN 4. Similarly, I have an Evolution MK-149 49-note keyboard connected to the input port of DIN 6 and a Roland SH-101 connected (via a Kenton Solo) to the output port of DIN 6. I have had to name DIN 4 ‘SL-990 / Piano’ and DIN 6, ‘MK-149 / SH-101’. Yeah, I know, not too much of a big deal but annoying, non-the-less. Everything works just fine of course but it would have been tidy to be able to separate the input and output devices.

One really handy feature of the iConnectivity mio XL specifically, is the easy-to-use pre-sets. So why on earth would you need pre-sets in a MIDI patch bay / interface?

Simple; I have one pre-set when using my DAW and another when I need to play devices from keyboards without switching on computers. You remember? For a bit of fun!

iConnectivity mio XL pre-sets
Pre-sets; a handy feature and easy to use on the iConnectivity mio XL.

Back in 1996, my very first MIDI interface was an Opcode 2-port box which seamlessly connected to my Apple Power Mac 9500, via the serial port. Eventually, I saved up enough to buy the huge (at the time) Mark of the Unicorn Midi Time Piece A/V USB. By then, my DAW hardware had changed to an Apple G4 and I recall having big  problems with using USB for MIDI . The intermittent connection between the computer and the MTP A/V resulted in Apple giving me another computer. That didn't help of course and in the end, I installed a G-Spot serial interface in place of the modem port and it wasn't until I bought a G5, that USB MIDI started to work properly. In fact, my recent rtpMIDI adventures reminded me of those early days.

How things have moved on... 😀

I'm quite aware that this post might appear to be rather critical of the mio XL but in my opinion, if you can accept the minor failings as I've mentioned here in this post and which I like to think that iConnectivity will address, this is one of the best MIDI interfaces out there. Also note that some of my observations concern rtpMIDI itself and NOT the mio XL. Put it another way, I'm keeping my two mio XLs.

CONCLUSION: In my humble opinion, the iConnectivity mio XL proves that rtpMIDI works sufficiently well to pull a reasonably large MIDI studio together.

Plasma Music Telephone +44 (0) 1442 395614
Plasma Music Telephone +44 (0) 1442 395614.

After almost eighteen months, I'm delighted to announce that my phone line is now back up 'n' running! 🙂

This afternoon, BT came out to my new premises to reconnect my telecoms. Broadband and telephone again, at last.

If you're too far away to call me or haven't got the time, don't forget that you can always message me here. I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

We Stand By Ukraine

Over the past couple of decades, close friends and relatives will be familiar with my half-joking, self-reference as a “Cold War Child”. Born in 1958, I was 4 years old when the Cuban missile crisis occurred. In the sixties and seventies, images of the war in Vietnam were sadly commonplace as 'we' fought the threat of communism spreading throughout southeast Asia. Many will remember the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Many will remember the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

1968 invasion of Czech Republic
1968 - Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. I remember it well. I was 10 years old.

My industrial training was linked closely to defence and many of us leaving university in the eighties, simply took it for granted that we'd do our stint in the defence industry. Why? Because I was brought up not to trust the Chinese and the Russians. Of course I refer to respective regimes and not people!

Like the rest of the world, I rejoiced when the Berlin wall came down. It was a new dawn. People of the world could finally get on with their lives. I'm saddened to admit however, that decades later, buried under hope, promise and optimism, that mistrust still sits deep down in my soul.

Unfortunately, we have a situation whereby the leader of one of those old adversaries (Russia) is also a cold war child but unlike me, he’s able to act on his programming of mistrust and hate and bring fear and misery to millions of people.

Over thirty years (almost half of my lifetime) have passed since the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact alliance and many people across the world simply have no idea of the environment my (pre) generation grew up in.

I remember the ‘Protect & Survive’ training at school. Living a stone’s throw away from the NATO Allied Maritime Command base in Northwood, even as a child, the idea of painting the dining room table white and hiding underneath it, when the four-minute warning went off, seemed positively stupid and futile.

Despite the potential for fear, no one imagined M.A.D. (mutually assured destruction) would actually happen and so we just got on with our lives. In fact we had a great time!

Like millions of people around the world, I am shocked at the events of the past few days and pray that sanctions, which will adversely affect the new generation of Russian millionaires and billionaires, will help them somehow get rid of Putin and his cronies.

Sadly, Russia seems to have lost its opportunity for democracy and Putin has plunged his country back into the dark ages of communist dictatorship, threatening his own people with arrest and imprisonment if they voice objection. This crazy man now has his finger on the button. 🙁

Ukraine, we are with you.

 

I regularly receive two questions from those interested in my PML-TX01. Both are about the Marshall JMP-1 input voltage selection:

  1. Is the PML-TX01 replacement transformer for the Marshall JMP-1, 240V or 120V?
  2. Are the voltage selector components diodes, ferrite beads or just fancy wire links?
Marshall JMP-1 Input Voltage Selection
Here are the link locations to select the voltage rating of the primary windings for the transformer in a Marshall JMP-1. The example shown is set to 230V.

The answer to the first question is, just like the original TXMA-00014, my PML-TX01 has two separate primary windings, each rated at 115V. So…

  • EUOPEAN / UK VOLTAGE SELECTION. Wired in series, the primary becomes a single 230V winding. To wire in series, connect ONLY LK2.
  • USA / CANADA / JAPAN VOLTAGE SELECTION. Wired in parallel, the primary becomes a single 115V winding. To wire in parallel, connect LK1 and LK3.

The Marshall JMP-1 input voltage selection is quite easy to change. The JMP-1 can make it look complicated, especially with the use of those eighties style wire links but the original links were JUST WIRE LINKS and nothing else, so you can use wire.

SIDE NOTE

One might ask why the two individual primary windings are put in parallel for 115V. Why not just use one winding?

Well, a system uses a certain amount of power. Power is the product of voltage and current: P = V x I.

You can probably see now that if you half the voltage, you'll need twice the current to deliver the same amount of power. Placing the two primaries in parallel does just that, it doubles the current going into the system. 🙂

Check out my PML-TX01 low heat and low noise replacement transformer for the Marshall JMP-1 here.

Component shortages 2022

It’s amazingly reassuring that MKS-70 and MKS-80 owners are so interested in the stuff that Guy Wilkinson and I have designed and built. Indeed, it's been a busy few days.

Pictured are three of Guy’s P0004 power supplies for the MKS-70, one of my Aurora power supplies for the MKS-80 and one of my Nebula output boards which gives the MKS-70 balanced outputs and upgraded MIDI hardware.

You may notice that there are a few components missing! Except for the nebula, the power supplies are currently unfinished!

It seems that it’s not just the likes of Mercedes Benz and Jaguar that are victims of the global component shortage. A few months ago, it was reported that Jaguar delivery times have increased by three or four months, due to issues precuring processors. Well, it seems that even passive components can be difficult to get hold of, at the moment.

The Y2 safety capacitors that I use on the power supplies have become really quite thin on the ground. When looking for alternatives to those originally specified, it’s not just the electrical characteristics that must match. The physical dimensions are also crucial as anything that’s a different size, would require a change of the board lay-out. Well, I’m pleased to tell people that they are finally on order, in stock and I’m expecting them any day. 😊

The keen-eyed will also notice a lack of one specific AC / DC converter. Well spotted! These are also on order and I’m hopeful that they’ll also be here shortly.

I still have a load of stuff to build for a MKS-70 that's just arrived from California and I'm in the middle of building and installing Fred Vecoven's PWM kit into another MKS-70.

I'm also arranging to meet a customer from Holland who's bringing over this slightly ill MKS-80.