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Issues with MIDI timing in a studio using external hardware synths

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Connected remotely with a client in the Channel Islands using hardware synths in his studio.

Started by discussing his setup and looking at how everything is currently connected around Pro Tools and Ableton Live in his studio. He explained to me that although the setup is working he was experiencing inconsistencies with the timing of the MIDI notes being played back by his external equipment.

This sounded very similar to issues I add experienced myself when setting up external synths to work with a Logic Pro studio a few years ago. After a lot of testing in that situation, we found the problems disappeared when we switched from using the synths’ internal USB MIDI interfaces and ran the MIDI over 5-pin DIN instead.

I diagnosed that in this situation, the likely cause of the errors was the number of USB hubs my Channel Islands client was using in his studio. I recommended he switched to a dedicated multi-port USB to MIDI interface and showed him online the brand I recommend. (In some situations budget gear is fine but I don’t recommend using cheap USB to MIDI interfaces, in my direct experience they can misread data and often have timing errors.)

My client ordered the new interface and DIN cables and we connected remotely again a week later. I talked him through the installation of the interface and where to connect the DIN cables. We needed to consult the manuals to change some of the synths’ settings to use DIN rather than USB MIDI.

I showed him how to set up External Instrument presets in Ableton to make his synths quicker to access.

Caught up with the client a week later and confirmed the synths were running fine with no timing problems.

About the Author


I’m the owner and lead technician for Audio Support, a small company based in London, UK that connects remotely with clients worldwide to help them with their music technology issues. I’ve run Audio Support since 2005 and in that time I’ve seen and solved thousands of recording studio problems. 

Outside of Audio Support, I run music workshops at a local school, play bass in a 90s tribute function band and perform modular synth jams with friends on Twitch.

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