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 Post subject: Tight midi control over external devices with Live
PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2018 2:41 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 08, 2018 2:25 pm
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Hello gents! I'm gradually putting together my live setup and I'm starting to get concerned by Ableton Live as, just like in countless sets (I'm thinking to Caribou, for example), it will be used to send midi sequences and melodies to external devices, to send a midi metronome and start/stop programs and to play backing tracks here and there.
I'm doing my best to lower the audio tracks and the plugin counts to a minimum, though these are the machines that still need to be managed by Live:
- Oberheim Matrix
- Nord Electro 2
- Behringer Deepmind
- Modular synth (midi interface is Doepfer A-190-2)
- Arturia Minibrute 2S
- midi metronome
- Elektron Octatrack MK2.

Matrix, Deepmind and Nord need to receive notes, while Elektron OTMK2, modular synth, Arturia Minibrute 2S and the metronome need to receive tempo and start/stop messages. Right now my midi out is that of a RME Babyface Pro, so that's where all midi messages would hit a Kenton Midi Thru 5 (that will probably be replaced with a larger midi hub). My concern is with latency as the only time I've tried to control something through Ableton it was my modular system back in the days when I had an Expert Sleepers ES-4 S/PDIF interface. I used to use the "Silent Way" plugin but the latency simply made it all unusable. On another occasion, I tried to give the drummer Ableton's audio metronome by routing the cue output to another output of my then-soundcard (Focusrite Saffire PRO24) but I assume every out apart from 1-2 has some sort of latency, so that was out #3 and I guess it was manageable but still, well… not on the spot.

The question is: is there any way I can have rock-solid timing on midi sequences/melodies/chords/tempo and start/stop messages without having to calibrate each latency via the compensation device? I've heard of Innerclock Systems Sync Gen-2 Pro, I know there's the turbo midi TM-1 interface out there… I wonder if any of those interfaces are needed or there's a much more cost effective and easier alternative with the items I already have (namely the aforementioned RME Babyface Pro).

Thank you all in upfront!


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 Post subject: Re: Tight midi control over external devices with Live
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:53 am 

Joined: Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:33 pm
Posts: 156
Live is super solid for this as long as you have a good system.

Thou I see you have the octotrac. I would personally use that as the master and the rest as slaves.

And maybe rather than daisy chaining the midi (which does cause small amounts of latency) use something like the motu express.

So the chain would be octotrax ----> motu----> each out put to a synth or ableton.

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 Post subject: Re: Tight midi control over external devices with Live
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 1:02 pm 

Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 2:22 pm
Posts: 14483
if using an external device as the midi clock source and Live as the slave - Live deactivates all audio stream plugin delay compensation. That means that the two midi clocks will be in time, but inside Live all the tracks will be out of time with each other! In depth explanation

Its amazingly bad.

The only solution is to have Live as the clock master and then automatic PDC is active and available.

I have no idea why the turn off PDC when Live is the slave as audio sync is a totally separate and urelated thing to the clock sync. But Ableton decided to do this, so its unusable as a slave.

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 Post subject: Re: Tight midi control over external devices with Live
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 1:26 pm 

Joined: Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:33 pm
Posts: 156
Really???
I didnt know that. Does seem silly.

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 Post subject: Re: Tight midi control over external devices with Live
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:04 pm 

Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 2:22 pm
Posts: 14483
Yeah. there's probably some ancient reasoning behind it.

You can test it for yourself. If you have a midi device activated in prefs as a sync source -
In session view in Live click the little D marble next to the master fader. You should see all those ms/sample offsets beneath each track.

Now click the button in the transport header near the BPM marked [EXT]. Notice that the manual track delay offsets are now all deactivated and can no longer be used. So if track 1,2, and 3 had a necessary manual offset relationship set here the simple inclusion of an external BPM source discards the internal relationship.

Very odd. And unfortunately necessitates a lot of awkward workarounds.

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 Post subject: Re: Tight midi control over external devices with Live
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2018 9:04 am 

Joined: Thu Nov 08, 2018 2:25 pm
Posts: 2
Unfortunately Angstrom is right, that's what happened when I tried using exactly the Octatrack as master, so I assumed it had to be the other way round. Just for the sake of it, I'm running Ableton 9 on a MacBooK Pro 13" non-retina (should be late 2015) so it should be pretty solid.


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 Post subject: Re: Tight midi control over external devices with Live
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2018 4:56 pm 

Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 2:22 pm
Posts: 14483
Yeah, I now run Ableton as the master clock and use an external hardware device to change Live's tempo via midi . It's not the best but it's the only way to maintain Live's internal timings.

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 Post subject: Re: Tight midi control over external devices with Live
PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:23 am 

Joined: Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:33 pm
Posts: 156
I have used the octotrack as master and was amazing with other external gear. But never with Live.

I never thought it would cause this problem.

Do you have a midi external unit like motu express.

I think that would help a little instead of daisy chaining.

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 Post subject: Re: Tight midi control over external devices with Live
PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2018 4:42 pm 

Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 2:22 pm
Posts: 14483
The problem is not with lag or jitter or latency in the external clock - it's that activating External Sync in Live will deactivate all audio latency modification features. Those include deactivating the offset parameters in External.Instrument Device, External Effect Device, the track manual offsets, and the automatic plugin latency offsets.

To be clear again : midi timing and audio synchronisation are two separate subjects but for some reason in Live if an external midi sync is active the Live deactivates audio synchronisation and offset functions.

I don't have a LINK clock source, but it's possible that using LINK the audio synchronisation functions will remain active, as link is in active development by Ableton while clock seems abandoned. It's worth testing a Link master clock.

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