Midi to audio latency (inconsistent results)

Hi all,

Finally finished my studio and I am now going through the setup phase.

I have hit a bit of a snag and am after a little help and advice if possible please…

I have numerous external synths and instruments that I wish to incorporate in to my setup.

I have a couple of E-RM Multiclocks running when using the sequencers of my hardware instruments and the clocking is perfect when they are in use.

However when the Multiclocks are not running and I send midi from Cubase to an external instrument the resulting audio latency/timing coming back is all over the place :thinking:

I have tried adjusting the midi latency but one hit can be early and the next late…

I have also tried using an External Instrument as well as Midi to audio track and no dice either way.

Both the Multiclock and midi to audio work perfectly and are on grid in Ableton Live further to some adjustments.

Is the clocking from Cubase a bit wonky?

Using Cubase 12 Pro and my system specs are below, all external instruments set to slave:

Windows 11 PC, i7 2600k, 64GB RAM, 1TB NVMe drive, RME RayDat, 2 X Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre Dynamic ADAT interfaces, all set to 96kHz with buffer at 32 samples (and doesn’t struggle)

Using 5 pin MIDI to instruments throughout btw…

I’ve been using the external instruments in Cubase with great success for over a decade. I was just talking with someone yesterday about why I’m still using Cubase after 30 years as none of the other DAWs are as good as Cubase when it comes to handling external MIDI instruments.

What MIDI interface(s) are you using?

Have you tried increasing your audio buffer just to check?
I’ve had it go wonky when using external MIDI with a low buffer size even though audio and virtual instruments are fine.

How all over the place are we speaking?

Currently I’m using a M1 MacBook Air with Focusrite 18i8 & Octopre with a Roland TR-8S in aggregate at a 128 buffer. I use the 18i8 MIDI ports for my master keyboard and a ESI M4U-eX as 8 MIDI outs to a whole variety of modern and vintage synths either direct via MIDI or via MIDI>CV interfaces.

I create a MIDI Device, create an External Instrument, assign the MIDI Device to the External Instrument, assign outputs and adjust the External Instrument delay so that the MIDI instrument is tight with a VST instrument. I do this by running the MIDI synth panned left and the VST instrument panned right. Record a bunch of 16th notes at quarter note intervals and check the delay between the left and right channels. Then I adjust the External instrument delay to match this.

I never have to adjust anything to match it to the grid. Whenever I make a change to my setup or add anything new I go through and check the timing of all my external MIDI gear vs VST instruments and they’re always fine allowing for a couple of milliseconds for MIDI jitter from both the interface or the instrument itself.

Thank you for your reply,

So I have just fiddled with the buffer to no avail.

As mentioned I have an RME RayDat with a couple of Octopre’s.

Took some images from Cubase vs Ableton, Ableton is spot on. Exactly the same instrument…

Yes I saw you are using a RayDat and Octopre but what are you using for MIDI ports?

From your screenshots it looks like you are using a MIDI track and separate audio tracks. What happens if you set it up as an External Instrument?

Here’s my TR-606 as an External Instrument vs Groove Agent with a TR-606 kit
The TR-606 is connected via ESI M4u_eX and it uses a Tubbutec Unipulse MIDI retrofit. It only has 2msec delay compensation required:

Instrument tracks:

Mixer channels:

Here’s the recorded output into Adobe Audition - TR-606 on left and Groove Agent on the right:

Here it is zoomed in:

This is my External Instrument setup for the TR-606:

Here’s the MIDI Device:

Here’s another recording of a Jupiter-X vs Retrologue - the Jupiter-X is connected via the Focusrite 18i8 MIDI ports - Jupiter-X on left and Retrologue on the right

Here’s a Juno-60 via ESI M4U-eX into a Kenton Pro-DCB converter:
Same deal… Juno on left, Retrologue on right:

And zoomed in:

I have 12 external hardware synths all connected up like this in my default Cubase template and all are this tight no matter how many I have running at once and mixed in with virtual instruments and audio tracks.

I know this doesn’t solve your problem but it shows that Cubase and external MIDI instruments can work fine.

I would suggest setting up an External Instrument / MIDI device combo and seeing if that works better than separate audio & MIDI tracks.

So I’m having the same result with an External Instrument tbh.

My RME has 2 midi outs:

I use RME Midi output 1 for my Analog Rytm and the pads are channels 1 to 12, also on RME 1 is my Analog Four channels 13 to 16.

On RME Midi output 2 I have my Avalon Bassline (ch1), Moog Grandmother (ch2), Prophet 12 (ch3) and SP-404 (ch 4).

I am using the iConnect MioXL to send both Multiclock timing information and note data. When using the Multiclock(s) the timing is bang on perfect. When they are inactive the clock data and notes come from the DAW and it is wandering, whilst I can live with a little variance it’s causing clipping when cutting up loops.

Unless I’m missing something creating an instance of an External Instrument ties up the preselected outputs meaning I can only access one of Analog Rytm’s Midi channels (leaving 11 pads/sounds unavailable). I could not create a second External Instrument for the Rytm.

In addition to this it’s inconvenient to have to bounce the track and even when I do the timing is still wandering.

I have been through an assortment of options tonight but none have yielded results.

In short the Multiclock is spot on but Cubase is not.

Very frustrating as Ableton does it perfectly :thinking:

I am however not giving up!

You add a MIDI track and point it at the External Instrument
Here’s an example with my TR-8S with a second track pointing at TR-8S but on MIDI channel 2:

This is part of what I really like about Cubase compared to other DAWs when it comes to external instruments. For example in Cubase I can define the TR-8S with a main stereo and 6 mono outputs… I couldn’t find a way to have a synth with multiple outputs treated all as one object in Ableton, Logic, Bitwig, Studio One
For each of these you needed a separate External Instrument configured for each audio output… unless I was missing something.

I don’t know what else to suggest. It’s working perfectly on my system and it has done for many years. I’m using Mac now but I was using a similar setup on Windows about 10 years ago with a m-audio Lightbridge, 3x ADA8000 and a Midex 8 with no problems either. So I don’t think it’s a CoreMIDI vs Windows MIDI thing. I had an Analog Rytm back then too and it worked fine with multiple MIDI channels.

I remember when I first switched from using a hardware mixer to plugging synths direct into an audio interface and mixing ITB that it all felt off using separate MIDI and audio channels until I realised you could use the External Instrument settings and I never looked back.

Maybe strip it back down. Set up an External Instrument with one synth to Cubase via USB to eliminate the MIDI ports on the RME / E-RM / Mio. If you can get one synth using no external MIDI ports to stay in time perfectly with a VST instrument then you can scale up until you find the problem.

I hope you get it working as it’s a really good way to handle external MIDI synths with a DAW.

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Thank you,

I think I’ll try the multiple midi channels option.

In relation to the audio I’m not separating the audio channels for the Rytm or anything else, everything is mono or a stereo pair.

Could there be a setting I need to adjust to tighten things up, I’ve been through just about everything?

I’m reluctant to dismantle my studio to get Cubase to do something that Ableton does without issue.

It may be that I have to use Live exclusively.