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  1. Jörgen
  2. Sherlock Holmes
  3. MODX Series Synthesizers
  4. Tuesday, 12 January 2021
I was reading another forum post where Bad Mister mention an option in Cubase Pro, adding MODX as an external instrument
and use it as a VSTi.

Since I'm using Cubase Pro, I thought I should give it a try. If I understand it correctly, this would let me add external effects before printing the midi as audio and also let me use the audio mixdown feature instead of manual record every midi track to audio recording process which can be quite time consuming.

I added the MODX as an External Instrument in Cubase and assigned the Yamaha Steinberg USB ASIO driver as Audio Device and the audio ports. I also created a new midi device. There was an option to import a MODX instrument definition file, but I dont have that and not really sure if it exist one?

After that I was able to find MODX in the VST Plug-In-Manager and I could create an Instrument track in Cubase, select the MODX and record some notes.
So far so good, but I noticed that when I did an audio mixdown, I got a message telling me that an external plug-in is used and the mixdown must be done in realtime, which took the same time as recording an audio track the traditional way.

Also I could hear some slight difference in sound comparing a midi track vs the instrument track using the exact same midi data on both tracks. I didn't use any effects or eq on the instrument track so I thought they would sound identical. When I record from midi to audio the traditional way, the result sounds identical, at least to my ears :)

So did I configure everything the right way or should I have done something different?

Thanks
/Jugge


Update. Found a post over at Motifator (perhaps by Bad Mister?)

"Because the XS is a Hardware synthesizer and external to the computer, you will notice that rendering will be processed in real time. You can have Cubase 5 add the stereo mixdown to the Audio Pool and as an Audio Track within the Project."

So I guess the same applies for MODX & Cubase 10.5 as well.
Responses (4)
Bad Mister
Yamaha
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Since I'm using Cubase Pro, I thought I should give it a try. If I understand it correctly, this would let me add external effects before printing the midi as audio and also let me use the audio mixdown feature instead of manual record every midi track to audio recording process which can be quite time consuming.
”Time consuming”, hmmm, — let’s deal with that first. Recording is time consuming. Saving time is not really one of the goals, here... if a particular thing, like being able to add plug-in effects to your MIDI playback before it is committed to audio, is a feature you find appealing, by all means, this is how you should develop your workflow. But I will make no promises, that it will ‘save you time’. Here’s why:

I say that because, truly, it’s about getting the most out of your gear. Once you start to work like this, you’ll wind up getting more ideas, you’ll wind up wanting to experiment and try more things — this workflow kicks a door open that many, who just use CUBASE AI (or some other entry level software), never consider because they don’t know the possibilities exist.

Get into this because you want more control over your music production; Get into this because you want to get better results, (not to save time). This disclaimer is important to state at the very start.

If you are in a hurry, just print a stereo wave — you can record a stereo Wav from the MODX directly to a USB stick. MIDI data typically is generated so that you have time to ‘try out’ ideas and importantly, change your mind about the sounds you use and the accuracy with which you documented them.

This External Instrument routing scenario is for those who want to explore the deeper sonic possibilities available. Cubase Pro can, of course, do the easy stuff, however, this is the same software that is used in Hollywood to score your favorite movies, and to make some of the world’s best music albums... etc. it is a deep and mature DAW program.

It’s like MicroSoft Excel - sure it can be a basic spreadsheet... or Adobe PhotoShop - sure it can be a basic photograph editor... Cubase Pro can do the basics... but put these software tools in the hands of an ‘artist’ and what can be accomplished is beyond imagination!!!

Once you recognize you are no longer limited by the 16 Parts of your synth, who is to say you won’t wind up recording more musical parts. Who’s to say, you won’t want to use a Multi Part String Orchestra sound rather than a Single Part String sound (because you want it to be *showcased* rather than just a background Part).

Once you realize you can take an individual audio Output on each principal Drum Kit sound, who’s to say you won’t want to take advantage of this? If your doing a dance track, this might be essential. Once you start seeing the possibilities you may find yourself taking far more time on each Project (not less)... I must warn you about this, so that you don’t go into this thinking it will be quicker (it may very well be, but that’s only if you don’t starting getting “all creative” with the stuff! lol.

YamahaSynth — we can get you started using Cubase Pro...
Important as a starting point will be what version of Cubase Pro... since the MODX came out there have been several Cubase Pro versions... the latest (just released) is Cubase 11. There are some changes in the instructions from Cubase Pro version to Cubase Pro version. This is why learning the fundamental concepts is so important — exactly how you apply them to your Project is something you will decide.

... I noticed that when I did an audio mixdown, I got a message telling me that an external plug-in is used and the mixdown must be done in realtime, which took the same time as recording an audio track the traditional way.
That’s correct! And a fundamental concept that needs to be understood!

The computer is not generating the audio (as with a plug-in), your external (VST) instrument is hardware and is generating the audio.
Playing back real audio must be done in real time!

Cubase Pro and the External Instrument/External Effect Concept
Steinberg innovated the concept when they introduced VST (Virtual Studio Technolgy) back in 1996... a way in which you could include devices not in their DAW software... be it a hardware synth or effect processor, or a third party plug-in software synth or effect processor. Most people are familiar with the soft synth plugins and effects, but are totally unaware that you can include external hardware devices into the DAW environment, as well.

Advanced “Delay Compensation” is handled by Cubase Pro, so that your data is automatically going to wind up in the right place, timing-wise.

“Virtual Audio” — when you are using a soft synth, that is generated on the computer, it does not directly print an audio track... rather you monitor what it will sound like when you do what is called MIXDOWN (the process of creating an actual .wav file). When using a soft synth what you are listening to is real time playback. You can process it with other plugins (effects). This is al virtual, no .wav data has been written.

You click on File > Export > Audio Mixdown in order for the computer to place the zeroes and ones on a Track (and it draws a pretty picture to represent the audio waveform). Because the computer is also generating the synth sound, (robots making robots) the MIXDOWN is done by the CPU once you click the button. Zip, zip done!

When your VST (Instrument or Effect) is hardware, and is external to the computer entirely, we using Routing to deliver the audio to the DAW. When you setup your hardware as a VSTi, it will deliver audio to the DAW where it arrives at a virtual audio lane, where you can monitor it, even process it exactly as you can the software synths... one big difference is since the computer has nothing (whatever) to do with generating the external synth’s sound, it cannot render the AUDIO MIXDOWN itself... it must receive the audio in real time.

So yes external instrument’s send real audio into the DAW, and it must be recorded in real time.

Also I could hear some slight difference in sound comparing a midi track vs the instrument track using the exact same midi data on both tracs. I didn't use any effects or eq on the instrument track so I thought they would sound identical. When I record from midi to audio the traditional way, the result sounds identical, at least to my ears :)
You will know you have things setup properly when it is absolutely impossible to tell the MIDI playback from your rendered audio. They should sound EXACTLY the same.

Likely what is happening to you is, you, at some point are listening to audio through two routing pathways... remember, the MODX is an Audio Interface. It delivers sound to your speaker, Directly (normal)... but it is also delivering digital audio to the computer (Cubase) which then returns the audio to the MODX acting as Audio Interface.

You likely are listening to doubled single in one instance (setting up to record), and just the single instance, when playing back.

You must CHOOSE which feed you want to monitor while recording, and ensure it is the only one you are monitoring. By hearing both, during record, and only one during playback will account for that difference.

No simple answer without knowing your particular setup... But in general...
During initial record... if, for example, you are recording the MODX as a 16 Part tone engine, one-track-at-a-time, then you will want to setup to record each Part to its own MIDI Track (not an Instrument Track). Each MIDI Track will contain the data for one Part... you can monitor this with DIRECT MONITOR = ON, the Cubase Audio Lane can remain “m” (Muted) during this process (thus eliminating the doubling you’re hearing. You are monitoring what you are Sending to the computer while muting the audio post (after) the computer.

If, however, you wish to actually record with a plug-in effect, then you need to monitor post (after) the computer... the Audio Lane should be active (not muted) and the MODX’s DIRECT MONITOR = OFF. (This breaks the direct path from the MODX to its analog Outs.

I was talking with Dom Sigalas, about his workflow...there are so many workflows. Please realize that there is no one single way to work. You can, once you gain some time working with it, develop unique methods to accomplish your goals.

There are different workflows for recording Multi Part instruments (example “CFX Concert” ) where multiple Parts make one instrument sound.
You might use a different workflow for recording Multi Part Performances (example “DJ Montage” ) where multiple Parts are creating an ensemble/band situation, where there are several discreet instruments with Arpeggios.

The Cubase “Instrument Track” (different from the Cubase MIDI Track) is typically used when you are treating the MODX as just one entity (one Instrument - with just one Stereo Output)... where it may not be doing the band/ensemble thing. This workflow can be useful to know about... Instrument Tracks are a quick/easy way to work with MODX sounds that are complex, interactive, morphing between Parts, bring in and out different stuff...with the Super Knob, etc.,
_ an Instrument Track can document what you play, it can be set to record all Parts... you can edit the MIDI data** and then use the RENDER IN PLACE function to immediately create an Audio version of your playing (which will mute the original MIDI data and let you work with the audio rendering. It also is a speedy way multi-track... rather than housing 16 Parts in the MODX, you can record each Performance program from its own Home screen... “Render in Place” is used to print MIDI to Audio — giving the best of both MIDI and Audio.

**you can use the Cubase “MIDI” > “Dissolve Parts” to split data by Channel - then moving it to a MIDI Track you can edit this data. I mark this with an asterisk because editing complex morphing Performances is something that most often is handled by editing the synth program. The MODX allows you to erase and redo things like morphing movements; most can be done at the synth not in the DAW (But that is another topic).

Final words: Exactly the best way to proceed will be determined by what you are attempting to accomplish. I highly recommend that if you are thinking about using Cubase or you are a long time user of Cubase... to join the Club Cubase — they have regular streaming sessions that can go deep into the workings of Cubase.

The External Instrument function will work for any and all external synthesizers... ask your MODX specific questions here... but to develop a deeper understanding of the DAW you want to visit the Steinberg’s YouTube Channel, and participate in the Club Cubase online hangout... try to master a skill a week, do t think it is completely knowable in one sitting. That disrespects what Recording Engineers do for a living, it disrespects the depth of the software, and it sells yourself short. If you outgrow your software in one sitting you will remain where you are (and that is fine for some) but every time I sit with Greg Ondo, I learn something new about the power of Cubase... and it opens another doorway of possibilities.
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Thank you. Tons of useful information in your post like usual :D
I'll dedicate the upcoming weekend to sit down and explore different workflows.

I have watched a coupled of live recordings of Club Cubase before and It's very good. Highly recommended for all Cubase user.

Thanks
/Jugge
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Howdy to you both. I am in the same boat as the gentlemen above. It seems that once you do the following:

1. Create the Midi Device looking at MODX Port 1
2. Create an external instrument that leverages the above midi device
3. Set the return bus of the external instrument to the desired MODX inputs (i.e. USB Main L&R)

I can successfully create a MODX VST instrument, but with some pretty quirky results (Some strange doubling occurring,
that can be eliminated but then comes back while using the keyboard) .

I am starting to wonder if the fact that the MODX is also an interface might make this method challenging.

Seems that regardless of what you configure in the utility page, as soon as I bounce back to the performance (in Play/Rec mode) where I am
setting up my set instruments, if I go back to Utility -> Settings -> Quick Setup, the settings default back to "Standalone". I imagine this has to
do with how the Play/Rec page mode works.

It seems the best scenario would be an ability to create a MODX instrument track that receives data on all MIDI channels and then dissolve
if you ever change your mind on something. The instrument track would allow you the convenience of exporting via audio mixdown without
needing to record several midi tracks to audio beforehand. I hope I am thinking about this right.

For now I am still using the MODX template provided with Cubase and trying to think of the best way to overcome the limitation of 10 USB
outputs when my sounds may outnumber the available output buses. I think those of us who fell in love with the Motif VST instrument miss
the convenience of audio mixdown, but definitely also enjoy the simplicity of MODX/Montage Connect. Worst case scenario its not entirely all
that much work to render to audio if that ends up being the most practical way to go.
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Seems that regardless of what you configure in the utility page, as soon as I bounce back to the performance (in Play/Rec mode) where I am
setting up my set instruments, if I go back to Utility -> Settings -> Quick Setup, the settings default back to "Standalone". I imagine this has to
do with how the Play/Rec page mode works


No.

The [UTILITY] "Settings" -> "Quick Setup" screen does not attempt to show you which profile is currently in use (Standalone, etc). It does not read the settings and then highlight the button that matches the current settings. The purpose for this screen is to change settings. It's not to set a mode. It's not to tell you which button you pressed last - or which settings are currently in use.

I compare the "Quick Setup" screen to an old car radio. Where you have 5 buttons you can push in to change the radio station. On the car radio, these are configurable station presets to make your radio "jump" to a particular station. When you press the 2nd button from the left, it goes in and sets the station to whatever that button does then the button pops back to its original position. You can't look at the buttons and figure out which station you are set to because the buttons are meaningless as feedback. The buttons are only there to a) automatically jump to a particular setting (radio station) and b) provide a means to edit the buttons to jump to a user-configurable radio station.

And like the radio buttons - the buttons on the "Quick Setup" screen are NOT designed to give you feedback about which one was pressed last or which "station" you're on (what the underlying parameters are set to). On the radio - you have to look elsewhere to know really if the radio's station matches any particular button. You have to look at the value of the current station "parameter" not on the buttons - but at the station indicator. Or, if you didn't want to guess (with the radio) - you'd press the preset button again to be doubly sure it was on the right station. On your keyboard - you can either adopt the same redundancy or look at the underlying parameters to make sure they are set how you want them for the various modes.

And - just like the radio example - there are things that can knock your keyboard out of alignment with any given template button ("Standalone", etc). In the radio example, the station could stop matching the button press if you start turning the dial. This would adjust the "parameter" on the radio of current station and then even if you had marked which button you previously pressed with stick-it note - the station would no longer match that button after turning the dial. On your keyboard - if you change Performances or change any of the parameters that the template buttons set then this change the settings away from what "Standalone" or any other quick setting template buttons would do.

These buttons do not change a MODE. That's not the deal. They do not lock down anything. They just nudge a series of parameters to equal certain values which are set inside the template button's configuration. Recalling Performances (factory preset ones, user, or library) can also set these same parameters. And just because you pressed one of those template buttons does not shield Performance changes or other actions from setting them a different way.

For those buttons to be useful - you have to understand which parameters they change and why those parameters matter. And then know which actions are likely to (outside of pressing these buttons) change the same parameters away from the template-adjusted values. This is so you know when to and when you do not have to press the template buttons again.

The value of the template buttons is that with one press - a bunch of parameters are changed. So it's a shortcut.

Also note that these shortcuts change two levels of parameters. Some are "system" level - ones that would not change as you recall different Performances because they are "global" to every Performance. And some settings the template buttons change are indeed Performance-level settings like Part-by-part output (Main L&R vs. USB for each Part).

... and - loading up a user file (X8U or X7U) can also change all of these settings (System/Global and Performance) - so that's an action that can knock things off-center.

Just pretend when you press any of those buttons "Standalone" or any of the other ones - that the button doesn't change color. That all buttons just stay one color and never indicate anything. Because that's what is really happening -- they just nudge values then spring back. If you think the highlighted button has meaning - you will be led astray.

I personally think this is poor UI design (the button highlight issue) because it implies something that is not true.
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