Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

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albiedamned
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Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by albiedamned » Wed Jan 01, 2020 4:00 pm

Has anyone done tests to compare the quality of the MIDI clock in various DAWs? I'm wondering if DAW x produces a steadier clock than DAW y. I realize there are other factors, such as the MIDI interface being used and USB vs DIN. In general, what combination of software and hardware has produced the best MIDI clock from a DAW for you?
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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by andybizarre » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:17 pm

None at all. I got best my results in syncing stuff by mostly abandoning MIDI. Seriously, if it has to be MIDI clock, using a spare audio channel of your interface with things like USAMO or E-RMs Multiclock gives the the best, low jitter clocks. Heck, even the wonky BSP derives rock steady MIDI clocks via its analogue sync input.

I`m syncing with a custom Reaktor patch (basically a few Blocks and an ES-5 encoder) and some Expert Sleepers Modules (ES3, ES5 + 2x ESX 8GT expanders) and the difference to MIDI sync was like night and day.

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by criticalmonkey » Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:30 pm

i think most the daws have fixed their midi issues
apple and microsoft have some midi issues in their implementations - i think as it seems to vary on an upgrade
crappy usb hubs seem to be a source of latency

i too use the expert sleepers stuff to control modular or modular controlling computer, but combine with midi - i can dead sample accurate sync a VI, the modular/pre midi gear and midi hardware with no issues on playback/tracking -
since most my work ends up being mixed in PT as audio, I always get a good look at sync
recording midi with a vi can be funky sometimes when buffers are set too high or my audio/vi track count is to high

btw I still use 2 motu usb midi timepieces - still works for me and makes having all my hardware setup easy
i have had issues with some of the usb devices that also act as interfaces but mostly cheap stuff that is getting old

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by soon_come » Wed Jan 08, 2020 5:16 pm

criticalmonkey wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:30 pm
i too use the expert sleepers stuff to control modular or modular controlling computer, but combine with midi - i can dead sample accurate sync a VI, the modular/pre midi gear and midi hardware with no issues on playback/tracking -
since most my work ends up being mixed in PT as audio, I always get a good look at sync
recording midi with a vi can be funky sometimes when buffers are set too high or my audio/vi track count is to high
And what is the master clock source in this case / how is it outputting clock? I've found MIDI clock to be generally terrible from Ableton / FL Studio / Bitwig in terms of jitter. If you do this via USB MIDI (not through a decent interface), it gets even worse in most cases. These days I try to have the DAW slave to MIDI from a decent module (I'm using the FH-2), if it can. FL cannot slave; Ableton & Bitwig both can. The other option (if the DAW must be master) is to sample a pulse, max out its volume, and send it to an independent output straight to a clock input on the modular. This is "crude" but honestly works just fine, even if you don't have DC-coupled outputs on your soundcard. Any kind of clickish sound will work if you don't feel like using a short pulse, rim shot should work fine, just crank it...

In any case, I've definitely found MIDI timing to be very wonky coming from any modern computer. You can also measure this jitter if you want to convince yourself. I'd love to hear more about your setup, criticalmonkey - anything I can do to simplify my MIDI routing or make things a bit tighter would be very interesting to me. Thanks!

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by pottering » Thu Jan 09, 2020 2:48 am

soon_come wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 5:16 pm
criticalmonkey wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:30 pm
i too use the expert sleepers stuff to control modular or modular controlling computer, but combine with midi - i can dead sample accurate sync a VI, the modular/pre midi gear and midi hardware with no issues on playback/tracking -
since most my work ends up being mixed in PT as audio, I always get a good look at sync
recording midi with a vi can be funky sometimes when buffers are set too high or my audio/vi track count is to high
And what is the master clock source in this case / how is it outputting clock? I've found MIDI clock to be generally terrible from Ableton / FL Studio / Bitwig in terms of jitter. If you do this via USB MIDI (not through a decent interface), it gets even worse in most cases. These days I try to have the DAW slave to MIDI from a decent module (I'm using the FH-2), if it can. FL cannot slave; Ableton & Bitwig both can. The other option (if the DAW must be master) is to sample a pulse, max out its volume, and send it to an independent output straight to a clock input on the modular. This is "crude" but honestly works just fine, even if you don't have DC-coupled outputs on your soundcard. Any kind of clickish sound will work if you don't feel like using a short pulse, rim shot should work fine, just crank it...

In any case, I've definitely found MIDI timing to be very wonky coming from any modern computer. You can also measure this jitter if you want to convince yourself. I'd love to hear more about your setup, criticalmonkey - anything I can do to simplify my MIDI routing or make things a bit tighter would be very interesting to me. Thanks!
I don't think what you say about MIDI jitter in Ableton is true.

This page shows Ableton Live has correct MIDI timing, no jitter:

http://expressiveness.org/2012/12/04/midi-jitter

(Edit:)

https://www.ableton.com/en/manual/midi- ... es-control
Last edited by pottering on Fri Jan 10, 2020 3:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by soon_come » Thu Jan 09, 2020 8:04 am

Believe what you want, it’s measurably true for any software DAW on a modern OS outputting MIDI clock as master, *especially* via MIDI over USB directly. You won’t notice it as much for notes / sequences, but you can hear it in clock signals even without measuring it. Try outputting a 24ppqn MIDI clock, use a MIDI to CV clock converter, then dividing it down to eight notes or whatever and have it trigger a simple drum sound.

I’m not dissing your choice of DAW, for the record. This isn’t anything special re: Ableton or any other DAW, it’s really just a deficiency of modern computers / multitasking and the ability to reliably time the pulses. If it doesn’t bother you, then great! But it’s measurable, and there are some factors which exacerbate it. Use a MIDI monitor or any tool you like to see for yourself.
Last edited by soon_come on Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by The Grump » Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:36 pm

Yeah, I'm going to have to go ahead and second that one on Ableton. The jitter and latency change when you switch devices in Live on or off. If you hover your cursor over a device, Live will even tell you what that device costs to process, measured in samples. So go ahead and use that little track delay setting discussed in the other recent thread addressing Live's timing, to line things up then power up another couple of devices, and listen to your alignment go directly to shit, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Basically, if you really want to maintain timing stability with Ableton, you should probably get one of these to sync your external sequencer with Live.

http://circuithappy.com/themissinglink/

And all of this is because from day one, when Robert and Gerhardt cooked up the Max patch that would become Live, it was all still basically built around an audio engine, with midi as kind of an afterthought.

However.... Logic, from the time is was Pipes and Bars has always been built upon the foundation of the midi environment, audio or no audio engine. Its timing is almost invariably better, but occasionally still leaves a little something to be desired. Now that being said, unfortunately, modern machines all kind of suck when it comes to midi timing because quite simply, the video invariably takes priority over the audio or midi timing in the processing cue of the CPU, which to me is completely and utterly fucking stupid, and there's no way to change that. Apple basically doesn't give a fuck because more people buy Macs to do video or other activities unrelated to audio, so they're not going to change the kernel to reprioritize, not even for their own audio software.

That's why I sequence external hardware with a hardware sequencer, and then record the audio into Live, and do my best to keep Live's midi activities to a bare minimum. Hope this helps.

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by Kattefjaes » Sun Jan 19, 2020 3:12 pm

Even using a realtime-patched Linux kernel you're going to have issues. Any modern OS with a flexible scheduler and multitasking not built from the ground up to be an RTOS is going to have unpredictable micro-latency issues.

There's a reason a lot of studios kept old Atari STs around for years after they were obselete. Co-operative (shitty) multitasking in TOS meant that Cubase running on it had a far more predictable clock than similar software running on something with pre-emptive multasking/scheduling.

Ideally, you want your clock source to be something dumb and very accurate- and if possible, not even MIDI.

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by criticalmonkey » Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:21 am

totally agree with the dream of perfection of a dedicated clock, but not gonna happen anytime soon so on we go

i clock off internal - midi and audio - 2011 mac, dp9 or protools - yes it does jitter (midi and audio) under some conditions but i can usually avoid easily, usually video/graphic related so i just hide the offender -

maybe midi 2.0 will fix it all

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by Kattefjaes » Tue Jan 21, 2020 8:54 am

..or maybe it won't :twisted:

I don't see near-perfect sync over a bunch of devices over either side of D/A and A/D etc. without some kind of massive overkill, like having devices that support PTP natively. That's not going to be an option for a bunch of old analogue synths, nor much of the cheaper digital gear, as it needs non-trivial infrastructure.

I've seem sample accurate sync demonstrated between boxes in London and Manchester, a few years back- when you inverted one they nulled each other out gratifyingly too, which made for a cool demo. However, the system doing that was expensive and certainly not free of latency.

I think your approach of "make the best of it and sweep the rest under the carpet so it still looks and sounds good" sounds pragmatic and wise. Better to get the job done, move on with your life!

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by hageir » Mon Mar 23, 2020 7:52 pm

Howdy,
you guys are overlooking a very important factor here;
protocol.

The USB protocol is just designed with a different use in mind (it sends messages in intvervals which causes delay/jitter and all that "jazz")
*a very informative thread is over at the Sequentix forum (albeit deep in the vaults somewhere)

FireWire on the other hand, I've found is much more stable (sometimes takes a few bars to lock up to external clock but is quite impressive)
then again it is an entirely different protocol, especially in the Macintosh environment. It has different priorities to the CPU and is well implemented.

But the timing of the DAW itself does play a large role. Ableton is a bit whacky, I'm gonna try to use MTC in the future
(I want my DAW clocked by an external source)

Audio Pulses are good as well but I feel the CV Tools are lacking in detailed control (one might need to edit the device in Max to make it better +accept different PPQN values)

I have so many clock converters, MIDI, analog pulse, DIN-Sync, FSK, Tape, SMPTE, MTC, etc.
I'm trying to cook up a method to create a DIY pseudo Innerclock Sync-Gen type of "locking". Any ideas?

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Re: Difference in MIDI clock quality between DAWs?

Post by soon_come » Tue Mar 24, 2020 8:47 am

hageir wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 7:52 pm
Howdy,
you guys are overlooking a very important factor here;
protocol.

The USB protocol is just designed with a different use in mind (it sends messages in intvervals which causes delay/jitter and all that "jazz")
Like I said:
Believe what you want, it’s measurably true for any software DAW on a modern OS outputting MIDI clock as master, *especially* via MIDI over USB directly.

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