TB-3 Editor (v2.19) with Patch Librarian

DOWNLOAD BUNDLE MAC/WIN (.zip)

DOWNLOAD PANEL ONLY (.bpanelz)

After many late nights and early mornings I finally got the patch save and recall functions added to the TB-3 editor panel. Now you can save your sound creations to the computer and create a library of sounds that you can share with others. And whenever you’re ready, you can reload the patch into the TB-3 and it will be exactly as you left it. Since you can save them to your computer, it means you don’t have to use the 16 user presets to store your creations, you can just load them into machine whenever you’re ready. It also means that you can load patches into the TB-3 without touching the front panel or sending program change.

In this version, supported midi CC’s are also included in the MISC tab, like scatter type/depth, the mod sources, volume, and more. This version also fixes a few minor bugs and improves the layout logically and visually. I also was able to successfully pull up the panel as a VST in Ableton, so you can also integrate it into your DAW. Here are some screenshots from the pages that have been changed:

main sound editing tab

The sound tab has been reorganized into more logical sections.

misc tab

The MISC tab contains the control change parameters, patch save & load methods, and various other settings.

also works on Mac

CTRLR is cross-platform, so it will work on your Mac too.

Also functions as a plugin in Ableton or other DAWs.

This is the culmination of many years of study, work, and testing on both the software and hardware sides, and I’m really happy that it now allows users to save an unlimited archive of sounds to their computer, which can then in turn be shared with other users. I had already been using my own version of patch save and load, but this is actually even easier for me to use because I can save incremental patches as I’m programming with just the click of a button, whereas before, I had a process to save it to my sequencer which was much more time consuming. I’m also excited because this should open up this synth to the world so that everyone else can see what it is about this machine that I think is so great. Hope you enjoy it!

DOWNLOAD BUNDLE MAC/WIN (.zip)

DOWNLOAD PANEL ONLY (.bpanelz)

A few quick notes about how the machine and the software works. First, when you are scrolling through presets or user patches and push receive, the cutoff, resonance, and accent will default to the values set on the front panel. When you save or load a patch though, they will be saved and updated correctly. So always make sure you set these three values when you’re ready to save a patch. Second, as is noted on the page, always press the receive button before initiating a save or load procedure to ensure your panel reflects all the latest values. At this time, check your cutoff, resonance, and accent values as above to make sure they are like you want. That’s why I’ve outlined them in red, so you know that they act a bit differently than the rest of the parameters. I also discovered that the RING parameter in the OSC TUNE section controls the tuning of the sine wave as well as the ring modulator and that the level needs to be high to get the ring modulator really “cooking”, so if you want to use the SIN wave as a sub bass oscillator, don’t crank up the ring modulator tuning as their settings are dependent on each other, for whatever reason.

And for those who are really detail-oriented, here are the new features, improvements, and bug fixes in this version (2.19):

      • patch save / load via sysex files
      • added CC parameters 1, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 68, 69, 71, 74, 102, 103, & 104
      • the “CV offset” section was renamed “OSC TUNE”
      • moved patch volume to VCO section, moved LFO CV offset to LFO section, and moved “Tuning” CC parameter to OSC TUNE section
      • small design color tweaks for cutoff, resonance, accent, & patch volume
      • saw and sqr CV offset and patch volume were being misassigned during parameter assignment (fixed VST IDs)
      • changed colors for “polarity” button in ring mod FX1 & FX2
      • added info to Ring Mod in OSC TUNE section to indicate it also controls the tuning of the SINE oscillator
      • lots of layout improvements

DOWNLOAD BUNDLE MAC/WIN (.zip)

DOWNLOAD PANEL ONLY (.bpanelz)

 

 

Cirklon in the corner

After three and a half years of being on a waiting list, I got my Cirklon Feb 2 last year. This sequencer has a reputation as perhaps the best sequencer available, but is almost pure unobtanium due to recurrent production halts at Sequentix. And the last I checked, the waiting list remains more than two years long and the price still sky-high ($2265 with wooden end cheeks and no CVIO for me),  and yet, I can’t use it. For me, there are many reasons why I can’t yet integrate it into my current workflow.

Legacy MPC at the Center

I use an MPC for sequencing, first with a 2000XL and since 2016 or so a 2500 with JJOS. I have an all-hardware setup and I produce for the studio in the same way I play live, with hardware synths and samplers and an RME audio interface with Totalmix to manage mixes. The synths are more or less hard-wired, that way, any track can be performed in the same way and on the same hardware as they were written, whether today or three years ago, and I hope to make the Cirklon serve in the same role. But it’s just been too much for me, and now I just pull it out every once in a while to try something out or if I have a particular project that seems suited to it, but isn’t part of my normal workflow. Why? For me and my particular situation, here are a few reasons why.

Different Style

The Cirklon is a different approach to sequencing than the MPC.  This machine is incredibly complex in its ability to generate random and semi-random events, which I am keen to try out. But it is like what Ableton is to Logic — it’s a paradigm shift. I quickly compose on the MPC now, and I don’t want to take time to learn the details of making the Cirklon operate like my old setup does so it can adapt to my old material. This is obviously just a personal preference, nothing to do with the machine itself.

Legacy Material

Speaking of older material, it’s complicated to pull off on the MPC, but I know how to turn individual songs into long sets. I can make hours-long live sets and keep the composition and mixing of individual songs separate from each other, but the Cirklon doesn’t work like that, at least not that I’m aware of.

Different Song Modes

On the Cirklon, I can immediately see the benefit of say, reusing kick drum midi sequences that are the same for many tracks, but use different sounds. But rearranging all my current MIDI tracks to do this is a formidable task because they are almost never on the same track number. I suppose I could just play the parts into the Cirklon and record, but the “song” mode on the Cirklon would be where I would set up the arrangement of a track on the MPC, and there is no higher level than that. Not quite sure how it would work on the Cirklon. At any rate, that would mean I would still compose on the MPC, then play the parts into the Cirklon when it’s time for a live set and I don’t really want another layer of work to do before shows.

Software Development

The OS development is crazy for the Cirklon — if you find a bug and bring it to Colin’s attention, he will immediately address the bug. Great! However, many times when he fixes a bug, it seems to introduce other bugs, like with the SMF import bug he sort-of fixed for me. He actually made two fixes to this for me, but neither time fixed it completely, so I gave up and didn’t want to take up any more of his time. I fear his testing procedure is a bit haphazard, or the code is spaghetti, or some combination of both, because this happens fairly regularly, not just with me. Because the SMF import bug was never quite fixed, I still haven’t been able to easily import my old MPC sequences into the Cirklon without modification.

Crashes

Another thing about the software is that when I first got the machine, I was surprisingly able to induce crashes a few times, which I can only recall happening with the MPC maybe twice ever, and both times, the sequences continued playing even though the screen was sporting garbled characters. I will say that since then I haven’t seen the crashes, but then again, I haven’t used it as much either. The stability of a sequencer is absolutely at the top of my list as I perform live exclusively, and things just have to work every time. You can’t risk playing a show and having someone there who could potentially help your career but it is ruined when the sequencer barfs. I suppose in a live situation I would act differently and not try things I don’t know, but still, it put a scare into me.

No Sysex/NRPN, Probably Ever

Finally, I use sysex in my live and studio setups to load the patch into my TB-3, and the MPC handles it, but in almost ten years of requests and development on the OS, NRPN and system exclusive have still not appeared on the Cirklon’s feature list. And I had read at one point that the space for the OS was nearing 90% full, and a feature as complex as this is doubtful to ever make it in. So if you need either of these features, this probably isn’t the right machine for you unless you can find workarounds.

Workarounds

Most of the things I mentioned in this blog are things that are just a difference in workflow, and in reality, most things can be worked around some way or other. The TB-3 does have 16 user slots and I could load the set’s patch sounds manually, but anything that isn’t automated in a live set can be forgotten when the excitement of the actual gig is happening. Or the “long” song mode I use where long separate tracks are strung together into sets, but the composing part wouldn’t be intuitive for quite a while using Cirklon, if it’s even possible. But that’s the thing about workarounds, they take time, and sometimes lots of it, and right now, I need to compose, not experiment for days while my projects don’t get done.

Soon, I Hope

I really want to integrate this machine into my setup and retire the MPC for a number of reasons. First, it’s smaller to move around than the MPC. Second, it’s got 5 midi inputs and outputs, which is perfect for my live setup. Third, its timing is supposedly even better than the famous MPC’s. And many other reasons. But that will have to wait until another day. Today, the Cirklon sits in the corner where my cat and I occasionally sniff it.

 

 

 

Factory Reset & TB-3 Startup Modes

My machine locked up numerous times in my testing process, so that whenever I scrolled past the bad user preset, it hung and the TB-3 had to be restarted. This was fixable though by writing a known good patch over the bad one. However at some point the machine wouldn’t even power on and none of the startup modes worked. Uh-oh. What did work was holding [STEP REC + REALTIME REC] while starting and this boots you to a developer/debug mode, where choosing option 6 initiates a factory reset. But there’s a much easier way if your machine still boots and if you don’t mind returning all user patches, settings, and patterns to factory default:

          • hold [REALTIME REC] + restart
          • display reads “rSt” and PLAY/STOP button is flashing
          • press the PLAY/STOP button to confirm or restart to cancel

Pretty easy and straightforward. If your machine won’t access this mode, you can also activate this function with the developer mode catalogued below. There’s a lot more hidden in the startup modes, and here’s all the information I could find about them. (The Global mode information can also be found in the front panel guide.)

ALL KNOWN TB-3 STARTUP MODES

(all modes accessed by [holding] a button or buttons and restarting)

    1. GLOBAL SETTINGS: [SCATTER]
      • set these global parameters:
        1. MIDI channel
        2. MIDI clock source
        3. MIDI OUT is also MIDI THRU
        4. PAD Z sensitivity
        5. Master Tune
        6. LED demo
    2. BACKUP/RESTORE PATTERNS: [PLAY/STOP]
      • here you can backup and restore all the patterns from your device. copy the files only, not the folder. refer to the firmware update document
    3. FIRMWARE DISPLAY: [TEMPO]
      • the firmware version is displayed until you press START/STOP
    4. FACTORY RESET: [REALTIME REC]
      • press flashing PLAY/STOP to confirm or restart to cancel
    5. FIRMWARE UPDATE: [KEYBOARD + PTN SELECT]
    6. DEVELOPER / DEBUG: [STEP REC + REALTIME REC]
      • once the machine starts, the display reads N-1, and there are 6 options to choose from using the value knob:
        1. N-1: Display the current firmware version.
        2. N-2: USB test mode. Display reads “USB”
        3. N-3: LED test mode. All lights on at their brightest.
        4. N-4: Touchpad calibration, followed by a test with a loud sound even if you turn down the volume, followed by a factory reset. Left side green touch pads are lit, three dashes in display
        5. N-5: Display reads “OUT”
        6. N-6: Factory reset. Same as holding REALTIME REC and restarting.

If you find any more startup modes, let me know.

Version 2 of TB-3 CTRLR panel

DOWNLOAD THE LATEST VERSION

I’ve released a new version of the CTRLR editor that I have been working on for quite a while now. Of course, all the elements from the last version which added the real-time pattern editor are also included, such as gate time, triplet timing, pattern length, and access to all 32 steps of the pattern, but this one is a significant improvement in every way and I highly recommend you upgrade to this version.

The TB-3 pattern editor, introduced in version 1.95

In this version, everything has been thoroughly tested and verified to work, all the bugs I could find have been fixed, and many new parameters have been exposed to the interface. Even the VST integration should work, although I haven’t tested any of that. So let’s start off with the bugs that were fixed in this version.

portamento, bender range, master volume, & midi channels

BUG FIXES

    1. delay 1 wet/dry levels crossed-up when read from synth
    2. reverb spring sensitivity & wet/dy levels crossed-up when read from synth
    3. pitch shift direct level change caused high mid gain EQ to change
    4. fixed/edited parameter table/VST ids
    5. fixed crossed-up CV offset square and sawtooth values
    6. increased ringmod range (fx1 & 2) to 127 for frequency, sensitivity, and level
    7. fixed parameter assign routine and updated parameter ID table to include all possible parameters that can be assigned
    8. CV offset section reflects actual pitch range (-127 to 24) and values are pulled in properly. 0 is 440Hz.
    9. CV offset LFO range changed to 0-127 (was -64 to +64)
    10. fixed LFO retrigger and LFO delay which weren’t updating panel

NEW PARAMETERS

Also in this version, a number of parameters that were previously absent from the panel but appear in the system exclusive documentation have been added. These are parameters that existed (like pattern editing) but were not coded into any previous version of the panel. Distortion color, master volume, and ring mod cross mod are even assignable as modulation destinations. Here are the seven new parameters that have been added:

    1. distortion color (distortion tab)
    2. portamento switch (misc tab)
    3. portamento mode (misc tab)
    4. portamento time (misc tab)
    5. bender range (misc tab)
    6. master volume (misc tab)
    7. ring mod cross level (sound tab)

The layout and user interface has been improved in numerous areas

OTHER IMPROVEMENTS/ADDITIONS

I’ve also made a number of cosmetic and other improvements so that the panel is more intuitive, responsive, and accurate:

    1. added “Roland” font and included it in panel resources
    2. restructured layout to make more sense, especially in sound tab
    3. added/changed double click values for all parameters
    4. made sure all elements are equal size, equal distance, etc.
    5. cleaned up phaser bpm sync zone (fx1 & 2) for the dropdown so the arrow and not just the box can be clicked
    6. cleaned up and documented a lot of code

END OF THE LINE

This should be the last version of this panel unless I find a bug, because as far as the documentation is concerned, there are no more parameters that exist that aren’t included in this version. The only issue I’ve found that I can’t fix is that the front panel knobs cutoff, resonance, and accent seem to override any values returned from the the synth when scrolling through presets. However, patch backup and restore saves and restores them properly as long as you change the values in the interface. If I do find the solution to this, I will issue one last version, but for the foreseeable future, this is the version I use, and now I offer it to everyone. Enjoy your expanded TB-3!

DOWNLOAD THE LATEST VERSION

Roland TB-3 Front Panel Guide

I’ve finished pulling together every bit of information on the TB-3’s mostly undocumented front panel button combinations and placed it into a web page and a PDF document. The information gathered here was formerly scattered all over and whenever I wanted to find out how to do something, I had to reference multiple documents and web pages, so I made this document that would save me time. The other info I’ve found on the web also has things illogically organized, so I’ve also grouped everything into what I think are the most logical sections, which are “Pattern Select” mode (tap the PTN SELECT button), “Keyboard” mode (tap the KEYBOARD button), and the global settings, which have different mechanisms outlined in the document. Some of these were added in the latest firmware update (1.10), so you may have to update your firmware to be able to use everything here. So now, I share it with you and hope it saves you a little time and maybe you’ll see why I like this machine as more than just a TB-303 emulator…it’s a full-fledged sonic powerhouse.

Front Panel Guide (html)

Front Panel Guide (pdf)

TB-3 pattern editor

A new tab for Pattern Editing the TB-3

DOWNLOAD THE LATEST VERSION

I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time and finally made a little time to do it…a software interface for the TB-3 pattern section. Most people who program this machine extensively probably are already aware of the CTRLR panel that exists to edit most of the features of the synth. However, there are some features missing, primarily, a way to program the patterns through software. The information has been out there for a while and I thought someone would have done it by now, but I guess sysex programming is pretty intimidating for most people. So here is a link to my updated panel, with resources embedded. I’m calling this version 1.95. When the entire interface works like I want, i’ll update to version 2.0. Hopefully haha.

 

uploading samples to Blofeld: Part 3

I’ve actually already made two posts about the Blofeld and sample upload, but it has been a few years since I needed to upload new samples, and I once again encountered problems, so I went through the process again. Previously, I had found success uploading samples with the PC version of Spectre, but when I tried to launch the program, it crashed before it opened. I uninstalled and reinstalled it with no luck. So I switched to the Mac to see if that would work. But before I get into the nuts and bolts of what actually worked, I should explain a couple things about sampling on the Blofeld.

Some Background

First, sample upload overwrites any samples that currently exist on the machine. So if you had uploaded some snare samples, and then later made a new program to upload hihat samples, those samples overwrite the snare samples. So if you want to build a library of samples without ruining the ones you already have, you have to append samples to the end of a single program. I add a new program onto the end so that previously uploaded samples aren’t overwritten. You also can’t delete any programs that you’ve put here because that will affect the sample number of any samples after it. (For example if you delete A12 program, the A13 program now becomes the A12 program, A14 becomes A13, and so on.) Here’s a screenshot of what my Spectre program looks like:

a screenshot of my spectre program

Second, the list of programs are only pointers to audio files, so if any of the files have moved from when you originally added them, they won’t appear. I tried to avoid issues by putting all samples into a specific folder, but it’s still hard to maintain. You can open up the xml file and see everything that Spectre has created as part of the program: low/high notes, normalize or not, location of the files, etc. But as you might have figured out, since I couldn’t get the PC version of Spectre to load, that meant that I had to find and move all samples to the Mac, and then update the xml file to point to the new locations. Eventually I updated all the links to their new locations and could begin the process of uploading the samples, but that turned out to be a whole other project.

Loading the Samples: Trial & Error

So once the samples were transferred to the Mac and the xml file was updated, I started trying to send the samples to the synth. (I’m just breezing past this part, but this took me two days of work to do.) I made sure the audio/midi settings were set properly, including setting both midi inputs and outputs. The only midi output on the desktop version I have is USB midi, although the keyboard version has DIN midi in and out. So first I tried with USB midi, but no luck. Then I tried DIN midi for the input and USB midi for the output, and that didn’t work either. So next I tried saving the file (Save Midi File) and sending that using Spectre and the “Upgrade” button, and that didn’t work either. Finally, I used the “save midi file” button and sent the midi file from Sysex Librarian, and even though it took hours to load, this worked. I know other people have gotten Spectre to send the samples, but I’ve never been successful on Mac. But saving the midi file and sending it over DIN midi worked every time. This also let me know that sending it via midi file doesn’t require a handshake procedure. The file I used originally was 29MB, and that took almost four hours to upload. I trimmed the programs of unused samples and brought it down to 20mb, which took about 2 hours to load.

conclusion

So to recap, what worked was:

    1. Save the midi file
    2. Exit Spectre and pull up a program like Sysex Librarian to send the file
    3. Set the output of Sysex Librarian to DIN midi
    4. Then press play and wait.

It seems this is the only reliable way to do it. It’s a long process but it ultimately works. Good luck out there!

 

1010Music Blackbox tips & review

1010Music BlackboxThe 1010music Blackbox is here, and with it the retiring of the sampler on my trusty MPC2500. Not that the MPC wasn’t fairly capable in the sampling department, but at some point I knew I wanted to upgrade the sequencer and also move off the MPC sampling platform as well. Previously when I made samples, I didn’t process them at all on the MPC so that I wouldn’t have to attempt to recreate the sounds later on some other device. But with the Blackbox, I feel no such compunction to limit myself because there are no plans to migrate from this sampler. As I dive into its feature set, I’m gladly taking advantage of everything that’s available, and as it begins to be used for new productions instead of just being migrated to fulfill the sampling duties from old tracks, I’ll discover what is possible. I’ve owned it now for a few weeks, and made some mistakes, but you have to walk before you fly, so here are the discoveries I made that might be helpful to you:

  1. Know what you’re trying to do. I thought that the Blackbox would easily handle taking a sample that was a single note vocal take and then pitch it up or down within the phrase, that is, using a external or internal keyboard to articulate notes in a single note vocal sample, like a vocoder. Essentially, this isn’t possible, or was perhaps a misunderstanding of the concept by me, because if you map a single phrase to multiple pads, they speed up or slow down according to pitch. You can use a multi-sample pad instead where you save individual hits that you’ve sped up/slowed down or pitch-shifted up/down, but at that point you might as well use the computer, because the process of saving root notes to samples and reloading them is rather tedious. Granular mode does allow separate manipulation of pitch and speed, but with some noticeable artifacts, and has only mono polyphony.
  2. Samples & polyphony. The Blackbox only has 16 sample pads to use (I’m used to the 64 on the MPC), so you’ll have to be creative to get a bunch of samples working, even in multi-sample mode. In this mode, you have to save each individual sound with a root note value and then reload all those single shots into one pad. This allows you to trigger multiple samples from the same midi channel by sending different notes, whereas normally a single sample should occupy a single midi channel. You can load 64 samples on a single pad, and 80 total per preset, averaging 5 per pad. As for simultaneous voices playing, according to the latest version of the manual (1.7), “Blackbox has been tested to reliably playback up to 24 simultaneous voices. The absolute maximum number of voices is 32, but you may encounter CPU issues before that depending on other demands on the processor.”
  3. RTFM. I’ve had some operating hiccups, but they basically came from not reading the manual. First, read the preset save procedure. I lost some presets because I didn’t save it the correct way. Also be careful about sending program change because this will clear any edits you haven’t saved on the preset. The second was I couldn’t get program change to work, but that was because in the Tools menu, Program Change must be set to on, and both Midi Keys and Midi Pads parameters must be set to the program change receive channel, which I had not done. This causes some weirdness if there are any tracks that send on the channel you’re using for program change, so you’ll have to watch out for that. If possible, avoid using the program change channel for sample playback. Late one evening I found some weirdness with multi-samples, but haven’t been able to repeat it, so maybe it was just a fluke.
  4. FX operate unusually. The fx operate in a different way than most I’ve seen, using percentages rather than specific delay/reverb times. If you want the effects beat-synced, the percentages lock to beat divisions, but it doesn’t tell you what they are. Even though I’m still getting used to how they operate, they sound good in my opinion, but don’t allow more than 100% wet mixed with 100% dry and have very few parameters other than percentage and feedback. Obviously any other effect that is not reverb/delay will need to be handled externally. There is a built-in compressor, but I haven’t been too fond of it because the settings can’t really be changed. It is a multi-stage compressor with these settings according to the forum: “…currently a two stage compressor with fixed settings. First there is an RMS based compressor with a ratio of 4 if I recall. It is followed by a brick wall limiter to avoid clipping.” Maybe it can be used if the initial sample levels are basically equal, but at any rate, the compressor is global so it will probably not be that useful for me.
  5. There’s no USB device functionality. Yes, it is powered by USB, but no data is sent over the USB connection, only power. You can use midi controllers with the host port, as I have with the Sensel Morph, but you can’t use it to grab files from a USB pen drive, as all samples are loaded with the microSD card. I’ve read that the card that is shipped is relatively good, but that high stresses might show inadequacies with the card provided with the sampler. Best bet is to buy a microSD card rated A1 or better.
  6. Samples playing louder from external sources. After I’d spent lots of time getting the samples I needed perfect on my computer, exporting them and then importing them on to the Blackbox, I was surprised to find that the waveforms were clipping when played externally, but sounded like they should when played from the screen. Even though it’s not documented anywhere, I think the fix is to turn down velocity on the pads screen. I still don’t know exactly why this is. When you bring the levels up of a sample, my DAW input levels go up as well, up to a certain point, and then the Blackbox appears to overdrive the sound rather than bring its levels up to 0. Still need some more investigation into this.

I’ve mostly talked about the issues I’ve had, but this Blackbox closeupmachine has a lot of pros as well. Its compact size, the touch screen, the relative quality of the effects, the different modes including granular, etc. Even though in the European market it is going for around 720$ (598€) new, I’m starting to see lots of people using it online, and I can see why. I haven’t even touched the surface of its built-in sequencer as I strictly operate it as an external sampling device for now, but as time goes on, I’ll be able to add more of its features to my live sets. Anything I add to my live setup has to be used for a long time, so I look forward to seeing what a long future with the Blackbox looks like.

 

Cirklon, TB-3, & System Exclusive

The Cirklon has arrived. And as exciting as it is to receive something you’ve waited four years for, the feeling is a bit tempered, because even though the feature was announced as “coming” in 2012,  sysex in the Cirklon is still not implemented.; it supports only pass-through of sysex and backup/restore functions for the sequencer. This is quite a bummer, as I had been controlling the TB-3 by recording the patch dump strings from TB-3 and then playing them back to reload the parameters no matter which patch it is on. That won’t be possible if and until that feature is implemented, at least directly though the Cirklon. That means I have to explore workarounds, which fall into roughly two camps: 1) hardware & 2) computer-based. At the basic level, the TB-3 will still need to receive exclusive data at the time the song is loaded, either over DIN or USB midi, and that midi will have to pass through the Cirklon.  Let’s go through the hardware options first.

Sending System Exclusive over Hardware

Some other machine will need to be able to send sysex through one of the Cirklon’s ports. I have a Knobby and a BCR2000 that can  send sysex, but they each have problems. I can send 8 of the 11 parts at once, meaning i could load the parts with just 2 or three clicks, but copying and pasting those values into the editor is a time consuming and inefficient way to do that. The BCR2000 can send 125 bytes at a time in a single button press but the TB3 needs 422 bytes to completely encode a patch’s properties. It would be a bit easier but would involve not only coding them in and remembering to call them manually every time but also hauling a not-small piece of gear along just for the purpose of changing patches.

The other option just involves saving the finished patches to slots in the user section of the TB3 and just manually changing them. This would be the easiest live solution (if the MPC was excluded) but since the Cirklon can’t record sysex,  I would still need to record the patch data some other way. In this scenario, the MPC could be used solely as a way to send sysex patches to the TB-3 in a studio setting, with one cable going into it and who merges that info with a one-time sysex call, while for live i would just number the patches according to the set, save the patches to the user bank of the TB-3, and just recall them manually.

Sending System Exclusive over Software

I don’t own any USB midi controllers that send exclusive, and the list of cross-platform DAWs that support sysex is short if non-existent. As far as I can tell, Sonar, FL Studio, Cubase , Logic, and perhaps the latest version of Ableton support sending sysex. But both platforms have a software that can send sysex, like MIDI-OX for windows and Sysex Librarian for mac, but the problem is the automating of those  calls, which would only be possible with a DAW that was playing in time with the project. This presents its own set of problems, and I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole.

Conclusion

Going through this whole thought exercise though, has allowed me to see a way forward with the Cirklon, converting all the old tracks to the Cirklon, except for the TB-3 patch data and the samples that will need to be moved to the Blackbox. and triggered from there, so a transition away from MPC is possible., if long and painful and still includes the MPC for patch recording and playback purposes. Still, it’s always nice to see a pathway forward. The conversion from MPC to Cirklon will not be easy and will take time, but a new future awaits…a Cirklon future.

Future Retro FR-512 MIDI fix

I bought this touch capacitance keyboard, a keyboard similar in style to some on the Buchla systems, in 2017, and I loved it, but immediately ran into problems, which had me frustrated and looking for answers. The main thrust was that some midi devices were not picking up the output from the midi output. It seemed as though if I plugged it directly into a synth, everything was fine, but if I plugged it into my MPC or my midi box, no messages would be picked up. This inconsistency, and the fact that Jared at Future Retro didn’t know what the solution was back in 2017, caused me to have to work around the issue, by routing everything first through my BCR2000, which picked up the signals. This was a pain in my ass for a number of reasons, with the extra cabling and delay causing annoyance and headaches.

So a few weeks ago, I had mentioned this issue to someone and they suggested I contact the manufacturer again, and when I did, there was an answer to the problem. According to Future Retro, ”

 “[T]he MIDI buffer IC in the 512 does not provide enough current drive to control all MIDI devices out there in the world.”

So it was underpowered, but worked well enough so that some things didn’t show the issue during the testing phase. Further, he writes that,

“This IC can be replaced with a different part which should resolve the issue.”

Yes! And,  the solution is that,

“You need to replace part U6 (type MC14584BDG) on the jack PCB with a part type CD74AC04M96E4.”

U6 (FR-512 jack PCB)

The U6 location IC

I ordered the part online for a few cents and then had a local tech do the replacement, as it is very tiny and this is a very expensive instrument. And what do you know, it’s being picked up by the MPC now. It’s a shame that the MPC might soon get retired, but it’s great to know that I shouldn’t have this problem in the future with any other devices. Now that this is seemingly fixed, I’ve made the setup much more compact and eliminated a lot of overhead, and now won’t hesitate at all to use many of the arp, sequence, and chord features of this controller. And it should eliminate other issues. like the delayed values being transmitted after having clock go through two devices to get to it and notes and other midi data having to go though two devices to get back to the sequencer.