The REAPER Live Pedalboard Project!

Some of you are aware that a few users here and at the REAPER forum and various Facebook groups have been hard at work creating the framework needed to give ridiculous amounts of control over switching, timing, reliability, convenience and utility itself between MIDI inputs and BiasFX for live use.

If you aren’t into extremely tweaky micro-management and aren’t a control freak with a Napoleon complex, stop reading this and go buy Gig Performer at https://www.gigperformer.com/ Gig Performer can do most of this really easily, with way less hassle on your end. For all I know it could actually do ALL of this, but I wasn’t able to get it there.

None of this would be remotely possible without the hard work of Michael Schell, mpl and Daniel Perry

So here we go. I will link the projects as we create them and hopefully edit and update any major changes so things will always work (hopefully)

First of all, you’ll need REAPER
https://www.reaper.fm/download.php

Then you’ll need to either grab tons of scripts and new plugs we made, or just import the preferences (the much easier thing to do). Simply grab this file, then in REAPER options/preferences/General/Import Configuration
https://www.dropbox.com/s/28d5gm5a3vvj7b4/reaper conifg.ReaperConfigZip?dl=0

Most of this also depends on SWS Live configs to handle various actions
http://www.sws-extension.org/

Depending on your MIDI pedalboard setup, you may have some hoops to jump through.

Piz MIDI plugins can remap whatever you want to do https://www.thepiz.org/plugins/

Included in the sample project files below are SWS PC to CC JSFX plugins, so that you can turn your PC commands into the CC commands SWS Live wants.

Here is a pic of how I have my pedalboard programmed so that I can avoid all of that

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have a Behringer FCB1010 and FCB1010 Manager (https://mountainutilities.eu/fcb1010), you could just download my FCB 1010 files

https://www.dropbox.com/s/i7zzx0ba5b9nz2a/3-2-2018%20adding%20MIDI%20CC%20table.syx?dl=0

 

Sample Project #1

First Sample project is a simple 5 patch file with no crossfading and no spillover tracks. It has a wah that auto engages, switching to a new patch will automatically bypass the wah

In addition to the five patches, there is a tap tempo function and a tuner function which will pop the tuner up and mute the output
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ao5523qwekuu01k/BASIC Live Configs bias test 5 patches.rpp?dl=0

IMPORTANT! Do not save this project with a Bias FX GUI open and showing. Close the FX tabs first. There’s a potential bug that can happen if it loads an open Bias FX GUI on project startup

Some things to note on this project file:

  • This is the most basic type of project showing a proof of concept
  • Mute fade time can be set in preferences to shorten the switching time, and also the “tiny fade” in Live configs can be set shorter or longer. I tried to get a good medium between switching time and any clicks or pops
  • Again this is EXTREMELY basic, using Live Configs own routing and switching system. A much more complex crossfading plugin and script system has been made if you really hate the dropouts here
  • You can easily make a spillover track having delays and reverbs that will smooth the switching and let the tails play out even though the input is cut off

If people find this helpful or interesting, I’ll upload some much more complex files

Sample project #2.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/28d5gm5a3vvj7b4/reaper conifg.ReaperConfigZip?dl=0

This one uses the MIDI Fade FX plugin created by Michael Schnell.

The actions in SWS Live Configs have been replaced by custom macros to mute track groups, reset the wah and activate MIDI Fade X

MIDI Fade X allows crossfading between the patches. You can go into each channel’s FX window and modify them to taste.

This is a MUCH more complicated setup to set up, but if you want glitch free, dropout free, near instant switching, this is a way to achieve it

Project #3. Spillover

https://www.dropbox.com/s/u0q95wqiy0b2uyo/MFX Live Configs bias test 5 patches with spillover.rpp?dl=0

Now here’s where things can get really interesting. By running parallel paths, you can send to tracks which never mute, allowing “spillover effects” when patches are changed.

In this case, there is a delay and reverb which, while it can have its receive cut off, will still send to the master. Say you have a Chord on the the Clean +FX tracks playing. The delay will keep going, playing clean, even though you switch over to your distorted track.

Lots and lots of different ways to do this

In this case, I have turned the send to master off on the tracks I want to send to spillover. In other cases, you may want to have both sending to master.

Again, lots of ways to skin this cat

8 mic pre + ADAT interfaces March 2018

Caveat: None of this is gospel! I may have made some mistakes, so please double check my findings before you drain your piggy bank!

I was aghast at how little I knew of the multichannel interface market of the last few years. I guess its time to catch up. I’ll be looking at 8 channel plus ADAT I/O interfaces running USB

Not so long ago, this was a no brainer. With some rare exceptions, the interface was MOTU or RME, usually firewire, but the odd USB2 interface claimed speeds fast enough (though I didn’t do much testing of those) and a few PCI units still holding on. 8 channel mic pre’s with ADAT outs were plentiful, and at least that still seems like the case

For this post, I’ll be looking at USB solutions. I know from recent experience, that some of these are pretty finnicky with some USB 3 drivers, and require BIOS to be switched back to USB 2, and I’ll try and note that if I can. I still don’t have any real round trip latency numbers on the behringer devices that have taken even the pro world by storm over the last few years and I don’t even know if they have actual ASIO drivers (spare me the ASIO 4 All stuff please). I’m not interested in the mostly vaporware thunderbolt interfaces for this, nor would want to hang my hat on firewire still being a thing in most newer desktops never mind laptops. Ethernet audio looks very, very interesting to me, and I’d love a lot more education about it coming my way. From a talk with a few manufacturers, it doesn’t seem to me like its as viable an option as I’d like, but I doubt I need to worry about that for long, but for now, USB

There are TONS more of these (MOTU alone has a bewildering array) but I want to limit these to units that have at least eight actual mic preamps on them. I hate to cut these off because there are quite a lot that you could make work, but I want this list to at least pretend to be manageable. Kind of freaking out that I’m not seeing an RME entry on here. I am looking into the RME OctaMic XTC, which seems to fall in this category, but is listed under their mic preamps instead of their USB interfaces. Waiting on some info from RME.

The Contenders

Antelope Audio

This company makes a lot of what I consider in Don’t Get Jacked, as highly dubious claims about clocking, and will sell you incredibly expensive clocks if you’d like. That said, these interfaces have a lot of interesting features which may or may not be useful to you. In general, if you are in the 8 mic pre+ADAT market, you will probably find another interface that not only is far far cheaper, but will likely suit your needs better than any of these (if you need MIDI for example). Additionally, I have no idea what these drivers are like. With the hype surrounding these products coupled with the lack of substantive information about them, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t have another Apogee interface situation on our hands. In short, if you are a believer in word clock magic, you’ll probably want to save the frustration and buy one of these, as you will eventually do it anyway, but if you are a member of the reality based community, you might want to look elsewhere.

Behringer

Its always a toss up with Behringer stuff. Some of it is an unreal value, at any cost, easily besting rivals at ten times the price, and often boasting features even its more expensive competitors can’t match. Seemingly just as often, they offer crap that isn’t tempered even by the amount you “save”. I don’t know how well the current drivers for the models listed work, but I am trying to find out.

Focusrite

For a breath of fresh air, here is a company, that although they certainly have a hugely pedigreed name, not only are they not afraid to be completely upfront with information, but they also have many products in the “value” category, well tailored to this particular market. Aside from a dicey <ahem> start with DICE-II drivers in their firewire interfaces, Focusrite’s USB drivers, while not the fastest on the market are quite mature and stable at this point. They have done a good job of communicating with the community, and enter the dreaded forums when need be. While nobody is beyond reproach, Focusrite certainly earn my trust as a trustworthy company.

MOTU

When it comes to absolute speed and stability, MOTU and RME are the two horses in a two horse race, with the rest of the field trailing behind in various positions. As we move on away from firewire, it is a scary ride to watch these guys try and get the same I/O count over USB. I installed an 896mk3 Hybrid in a broadcast station, where it ran 24/7 on air for more than 3 years, and when it finally croaked, MOTU was only too happy to honor the warranty. The new 8pre USB is the successor to the firewire 8pre I had installed in dozens of studios and reccomended to many hundreds more. Unfortunately, you may not necessarily find what you want, features wise, among these particular models, but if they do fit your needs, these are a great way to go!

Presonus

Presonus and Focusrite seem to be locked in a deathmatch, with the winner being us, the consumers. These two continue to offer features aimed right at the 16 input market and in a nonstop game of one-upmanship, drop product after product screaming our names. If you need the Full Monte (DI’s, MIDI, wordclock and ADAT), chances are these guys have what you are looking for, and you’ll just watch the current offers, sales and specials to pick between. Like Focusrite, Presonus had a disastrous run with DICE-II early on (as did so many other companies), but also like Focusrite, their USB drivers are now stable and mature.

Steinberg 

The company that brought you Cubase and Wavelab! And much more importantly for everyone, ASIO and VST. When Steinberg brought Nuendo to market, it was the first time many of us had heard of RME. The early Steinberg branded RME gear really brought about a shift in what we could expect in terms of quality, reliability and support. I’ve had legendary forum flame wars with RME, but only because I knew what they were capable of and always respected them, no matter how heated it got. Steinberg seems to have teamed up with other hardware manufacturers since then, and I have no idea who’s making the UR824, but I hear a lot of praise for it in the forums. I’ll be investigating this one as time goes on.

TASCAM

I’ve been hands on with this one, though it was sketchy. Could have just been the guy’s laptop setup. This one is pretty full featured, with Word clock in and out, midi and DI’s. Not too sure how well the drivers work.

Zoom UAC-8

This company seems to be hit or miss when it comes to guitar processors and recording systems, but they are always willing to jump in with both feet when a market presents itself. I don’t know firsthand how their UAC-8 performs, but it certainly has the right feature set for many of the potential users. I’ll see what I can dig up.

 

 

 

 

Floyd Rose Saddles

1000 series seven string

These are Korean Floyds with steel parts, they are afaik available only on OEMs

The saddle numbering system is confusing

3 dots 10.06mm. Has “3” printed on underside of intonation area, and “2” printed on underside of lock block

Another has 3 dots 10.06mm. But this one has “1” printed on a different part of the underside of intonation area, and “3” printed on underside of lock block

Another has 3 dots 10.06mm. But this one has “1” printed on underside of intonation area, and also “1” printed on underside of lock block

2 dots 9.6mm. Has “1” printed on underside of intonation area, and “3” printed on underside of lock block

Another 2 dots 9.6mm. Has “1” printed on underside of intonation area, but another “1” printed on underside of lock block

1 dot 9mm. Has “1” printed on underside of intonation area, and “4” printed on underside of lock block

Another 1 dot 9mm. Has “2” printed on underside of intonation area, and “3” printed on underside of lock block

 

As far as I can tell, this means that one dot would be for the low b and high e. Two dots for low e and high b. Three dots for a, d and g

How to make a: Wireless, Battery Powered Behringer FCB 1010

TLDR Go Straight to the How To

 


Notice anything missing? Those pesky wires!

In an effort to greatly expand the power of my 1 wire FRFR setup (and so that I could control REAPER on windows), I wanted a bigger pedalboard, but I wanted to keep it wire free. That meant some sort of wireless and some sort of battery power, and in the case of the batteries, I wanted to make sure it was both rechargeable AND had more than enough capacity to make it through a show.

The iRig Blueboard that I was using with the iPad wasn’t listed as Windows compatible (though, as you’ll see below,that’s not 100% of the story. It certainly didn’t have as many switches as I wanted, but it certainly fit the wireless and battery powered part.

There were a few choices that looked cool to me, the battery powered MIDI Mongoose from Tech21, though it didn’t have many switches either. Roland FC200 had lots of switches and built in expression pedals,and was battery powered, but long out of production and hard for me to find, the newer FC300 had lost a lot of switches and was quite expensive.

The choice looked better and better to be the ubiquitous Behringer FCB 1010. It was neither wireless, nor battery powered, but it was cheap, available everywhere and had lots of switches and two expression pedals

So first I had to battery power this thing. There were a few articles out there showing that for the most part, it only required 5vdc, but it had problems when running from a powerbank. I saw lots of articles on how to add a regular adapter, and Eureka’s mod page showed that ac or dc would power it from 5-12 volts. A lot of the mod pages showed applying power right at the regulator, either input or output side, but that felt sketchy to me, especially if the power was over 5volts.

Most of the literature I could find showed 10v coming out of the transformer and 5v coming out of the regulator, so I figured my best bet was 9v. Which also hinted at why the Rolands used 6 double A’s. A regular 9v battery doesn’t have much capacity, but 6 AA’s sounded like a pain in the ass to keep recharged. I asked around, and got a lot of advice on the REAPER forum. I eventually stumbled upon the Joyo JMP-01 and picked it up from cheaperpedals on Reverb for 70 bucks.

This little guy claims 6600mAh, and at the dimension I was most worried about, was around 3 inches. I figured I’d velcro it to the pedal board and install a DC jack to plug it in.

There were lots of other good looking and way cheaper battery banks out there, but shipping them to Hawaii is EXTREMELY difficult.

Update: I received a Kuncan 5v to 9v USB adapter cable thing and it worked fine with a regular USB powerbank, so there is another, cheap way to go, you could probably find a way to mount everything inside and do some nice pretty, hidden charging. Just need to find a way to view the charge indicator if it has one. Here’s the one I used. https://www.amazon.com/KUNCAN-Converter-Step-Voltage-2-1mm/dp/B01ID90E3C

Here’s a test of it

 

Success!!! Powering from a get it anywhere usb power bank!

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The wireless on the other hand…youch.

Panda seems to have probably the best bet for me with their MIDI Beam. This says to be windows compatible, and would be trivial to power with the Joyo alongside the pedalboard. Unfortunately, its also over 200 bucks.

I went with the Yamaha MD BT-01

I’m not really sure I need the bidirectionality, but it doesn’t need its own batteries and its cheap

On the downside, it is listed as not Windows compatible. But I figured, if all else fails, I can bug Justin Frankel till he figures something out. Windows now supports Bluetooth LE, so its gotta at least talk to this thing, let’s try it!

Since my computer didn’t have bluetooth, I ordered a Pluggable Bluetooth adapter

Update: today I got a CME WIDI Bud. It shows up as a MIDI port in REAPER, and the lack of latency is INCREDIBLE! This is probably the best way to go so far.

Testing the Widi Bud:

@positivegrid widi bud making it happen faster and better!

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As soon as all the junk arrived, I started drilling holes in the pedalboard. First was to drill two holes under the expression pedals to that I could put in toe switches for activating wahs and things, since unlike Tonestack and AXE FX-II, the wahs I was looking at in VST could not auto engage. I wired these switches into switches 9 and 10 on the pedalboard, bummed that I was losing two pedals, but I figured it was a necessary evil.

However, thru parameter modulation in REAPER, I was able to kludge togther a sort of auto engage, so I ended up removing this mod….but PLEASE

PLEASE see this thread,

If you can make this particular JSFX, we would be most appreciative!!!

Basically, this would send a switching value when given an input from the same CC controlling the wah, in order to turn the wah on and off upon being moved off of rest

my psuedocode, sort of:

Sliders:
inCC // the cc# you want as a control
outCC // the cc# you want to send the output date to
threshold //checks the level of inCC. If inCC <=10 then outCC sends 0 to the cc# specified in outCC.
//IF inCC > 10 then outCC sends 127 to the cc# specified in outCC.

Sorry for the digression, but I think this would be a GREAT enhancement to MIDI control in REAPER

Update, this JSFX has been made! And then some. There was a ton of programming to do to get the very very most out of this system inside REAPER, which will probably be another article, but more on that later: Thanks to Michael Schnell and mpl!

https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=202857

 

Next I drilled a hole for the power jack and ran a wire from it to the input side of the regulator. I plugged the Joyo in, saw it flash a few times then turn off. Looking closer I realized that the Joyo was + on the outisde, – on the inside. Whoops, I had it backwards! Hopefully I didn’t fry anything!!! I reversed the jack wiring and tried it again. The Joyo flashed a few times then turned off. Bummer.

I plugged a 9vDC adapter in, just in case, and the pedalboard turned on for a bit! When I hit a pedal, it turned back off. It seemed quite intermittent, but sometimes it would fire up and sometimes not. Not looking good.

I plugged the regular A/C cable in to see if at least that worked, and joy of joys, it turned on and worked fine!

So I turned it off and plugged the 9v back in, but no lights :(, So of course you know what I did next, flip the main unit switch.

Whoops, now nothing would turn it on. Turns out there was a fuse at the mains input, and sure enough it was blown. Also sure enough, this being Hawaii, all the shops are closed early, and the chances of anyone having the required 3/4″ 100mA fuse were nill.

So in for a penny, in for a pound, if this thing was fried, I was going to fry it further. I tried a 12vDC adapter, and lo and behold, it worked perfectly! And then when I tried the 9v adadpter, that worked too…here I am thinking maybe it has to charge up some capacitors.

By morning time, I went to all the shops, unable to find a suitable fuse. I started yanking apart gear around the school and found a 500mA 3/4″ fuse in a dead computer, stuck it in, and was overjoyed to see that the FCB 1010 still worked on the mains!

In order to foolproof the pedalboard from my fool self, I decided to put in a DPDT on/off/on switch so you could chose between mains power and adapter/battery. When I went to test the switch, set it to A/C mains, worked fine. Stuck the 9v adapter in, no go…wait what? Tried the 12volt again and it worked…I questioned whether the switch was eating power, or if something was shorted, so I took the pedalboard apart, for probably the 20th time.

And then it hit me. What if the insulated DC jacks I ordered weren’t actually insulated? I pulled out my multimeter and checked continuitiy between the jack and the pedalboard’s case…

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!

Aha!!! I took some old little rubber feet, drilled them out, put liquid tape all over the jack, and hot gluegunned the jack inside the LRF and then gluegunned the LRF to the pedalboard.

12volt worked

9volt worked

Joyo worked!!!

I got on the computer and ordered some new fuses and some (hopefully for real this time) insulated power jacks from….not sure if I’ll get blacklisted for using the words, so, from here

Hopefully they work, I will update once I find out.

Update, I got the new insulated Jacks in and they are BEAUTIFUL!

I figure I will just velcro the Joyo to the pedalboard someplace, or maybe hot glue it, but when I get the new jack in, I may try and mount it inside the pedalboard. Some of you smarty pants out there may find a better battery pack that you can stick inside, wire the charging port to a jack on the outside of the pedalboard, and maybe drill a hole for its power switch and battery charge indicator lights. That would be way better, but I’m happy with this as it is.

I haven’t been able to determine how long the charge lasts. I had it on with the wireless for about 3 hours while I was programming the pedalboard and REAPER and SWS Live Configs (and oh boy will that be another, long and painful article) and the light was still green. I had it on and off for a total of about two hours today and its still green, I guess I’ll just leave it on overnight and see what happens. If I could find a switch to turn off the pretty much useless LED’s on the pedalboard, I bet it would last way longer.

Now onto the wireless.

I installed the Pluggable bluetooth drivers, no problems there.

I stuck the wireless MIDI jacks into the pedalboard, flipped the pedalboard on and got a flashing “8.8” on the FCB’s LED display. Looking it up I found a but about that on the Uno page, which said to hit any pedal and then ignore it. But of course, I tried powering up the board without the MIDI out connected and lo and behold, no flash, plugged the MIDI out in and all was still good.

Not sure if that will end up blowing up the MD-BT01, so, do that at your own risk. Yamaha says to plug them in before powering up the pedalboard FWIW

In windows settings, I went to “Add new Device”, chose Bluetooth, and saw the wireless show up so I paired them. All good there.

Opened REAPER, went to MIDI devices and….

nothing.

After some googling I saw mention of something called MIDIBerry in the windows app store for free

MIDIBerry

I installed it and it saw the wireless, I hit monitor, moved some pedals and YAY!!!! Numbers came flashing by!

Opened REAPER, went to MIDI devices and….

nothing.

BARF!!!

More Googling and I found a virtual midi driver(I think) called loopMIDI

I installed it, opened up MIDIBerry and was able to select the loopMIDI port thing

Opened REAPER, went to MIDI devices and….

SUCCESS!!!

REAPER sees it, lets me control it and, hell yeah, wireless, battery powered MIDI!!!! Ten switches and two expression pedals! YAY!

MIDI latency seems to vary, sometimes it seems to be nonexistent, sometimes its horrible. Sometimes, if MIDIBerry isnt focused, you lose MIDI. If MIDIBerry is minimized, you lose MIDI. If you turn monitoring off in MIDIBerry, sometimes you lose MIDI

I think we would be WAY better off if we had native Bluetooth LE support inside REAPER. and I’m betting it would be even better than others since Justin or Schwa would likely be doing it. AFAIK, Sonar, even on its last legs, has added this, so I think its doable.

Please, I implore you, do one or both of the following

1: Add your voice to the Bluetooth over MIDI Support in REAPER thread at the REAPER forum

2: Ask Justin for Bluetooth MIDI support in REAPER at AskJF

I may also later give the Panda MIDI Beam a try, we shall see.

Update, picked up the CME WIDI Bud and it is easy as pie now! REAPER sees it as a MIDI port, and the latency is nonexistent to me, same as plugging in a midi cable.

 

And now, after that excessive windbaggery and verbiage,

The How To

Again, ALL of the below is AT YOUR OWN RISK

Step 1: Take out the screws inside the red circles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: Once you get the cover off, you might want to take out the screw in the green circle. Be sure to wtach that you don’t drop the nut or the washers someplace you can’t find them, or where they might short things out

Step 3: Cut the two yellow wires inside the red circle. Cut somewhere way in the middle so you have room to work, you will likely need to add some length to these wires

 

 

 

 

Step 4: Drill a hole someplace smart and get ready to stick a DPDT switch in the hole.

Step 5: Wire the two yellow wires coming from the transformer side to two of the outside pins of the DPDT switch

Step 6: Wire the two yellow wires going to the PC board to the two center pins of the DPDT switch

Step 7: Drill a hole for the power jack someplace smart in the FCB’s case.

Step 8: Be DAMNED SURE to find a way to make sure the power jack is NOT shorting to the case or internally. Check with your multimeter

Step 9: Be DAMNED SURE to find a way to make sure the power jack is NOT shorting to the case or internally. Check with your multimeter

Step 10: Wire the two terminals of the power jack to the two outside pins of the DPDT switch, opposite from the pins you wired the transformer output to

 

 

 

 

Step 11: Use a magnet or compressed air to get rid of any shrapnel from the drilling process, being very careful to get rid of any metal that could short out any of the internals

Step 12: Screw in and secure the DPDT switch. Make sure it is well insulated from having any of the terminals touching anything. I suggest aligning the switch so that when you select AC Mains power, the switch lever points at the mains cable, and when you choose battery power, the lever points to the power jack

Step 13: Screw in and secure the power jack

Step 14: Be DAMNED SURE to find a way to make sure the power jack is NOT shorting to the case or internally. Check with your multimeter

Step 15: Switch to mains power, flip it on and see if it works

Step 16: Switch your DPDT switch to the center position, I suggest for now, unplugging the AC Mains cable as well

Step 17: Plug your battery in and switch the DPDT to battery power. Check if it works

Step 18: Figure a way to secure your battery to the unit, and definitely let me know if you come up with something clever!

Congratulation! No more A/C cable when you don’t feel like plugging one in!

Now onto the wireless

Step 19: Plug in your Wireless jacks, making sure to mind the arrows printed on the jacks to go to the correct jacks on the pedalboard. I am going to use some different colored nail polish or paint to make this more obvious for mine

Step 20: Download and install loopMIDI from here

Step 21: Open loopMIDI, go to the setup tab and click the plus button at the bottom so that you see a MIDI port

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 21: Download and install MIDIBerry from here

Step 22: Go to windows settings and pair your MIDI wireless in Bluetooth

Step 23: Open MIDIBerry, for input click on the wireless, for output, click on the loopMIDI port, which will be named “MIDI” whatever random number it assigned in the loopMIDI window

Step 24: Click your wireless in the input window again, turn monitoring on and move your pedal to confirm you are receiving MIDI

Step 20-24 updated: Get a Widi Bud from CME, install the Widi Plus program from CME, run it and pair your Wireless adapter, close Widi Plus

Step 25: Open REAPER, go to Preferences then MIDI Devices, right click on “loopMIDI Port” in the input device window and enable it (enabled or control only or enabled + control depending on what you are doing with it), hit apply and then OK

Step 26: Assign MIDI to stuff in REAPER and try it out! Congratulations, you got wireless MIDI in REAPER!

Step 27: Add your voice to the Bluetooth over MIDI Support in REAPER thread at the REAPER forum

Step 28: Ask Justin for Bluetooth MIDI support in REAPER at AskJF

Step 29: See if you or someone else can make a JSFX for auto engage, see this thread for details

iOS FRFR One Cable Setup!

The ONE Cable Setup
Here is my setup for convenience in that the only cable I actually have to plug in at a show is a single power cable! Everything that can be is wireless and battery powered.
 
The very basic building blocks here are an iPad, an FRFR wedge (in this case, an Alto TS210), and the IK Multimedia iRig Blueboard pedalboard and an expression pedal plugged into the Blueboard
 
The iPad is held in place with a scissor tablet holder, really adjustable and nice, but I’m open to other ideas.
 
The audio interface (in this case a Sonoma Wireworks StudioJack Mini) and wireless receiver (Line6 G30) are velcro’d to the speaker. This will most definitely void your warranty, and there are other ways to do it, but in my case, I drilled a hole in the speaker cabinet and soldered a powerstrip to the A/C input of the speaker. Note that the A/C input is unswitched, which is why I opted for a switched power strip here. I hot glued the power strip to the cabinet.
 
 
Wrap up and zip tie the power adapter cables between the power strip and the devices
 
Add a Direct Box and hot glue it to the back (I also tried to take apart this speaker’s electronics and just put the direct box’s guts into the spare jack to clean it up further, but there were a lot of surface mount parts, so I thought better of it)
 
You definitely DO NOT want a soundman stupid enough to try and mic up an FRFR to try and mic up YOUR FRFR, the Direct Box helps avoid that silliness
 
In my case, the stereo TRS out of the Audio Interface goes to the Speaker input and the DI input.
 
Add some right angle plugs if need be to really clean things up!
 
All that’s left is to plug in the IEC cord

Choosing an iOS Guitar Interface

Want to plug your guitar into an iPad so you can carry around a giant pedalboard in your pocket virtually? You’ll need an interface of some sort. When I started this journey, I thought I had done my due diligence, as I thought that this stuff was at least on par with the hobby level electronics for the desktop.

Most of it isn’t.

The community doesn’t expect it to be and the manufacturers don’t for the most part seem to care about real world performance. I am going to try to make the guide I wish I had when I started this, and hopefully it will help you avoid mistakes and pitfalls I fell prey to. I thought I had read all the necessary “reviews” when I started this, as there were even web pages devoted to this subject. Some of them were obvious nonsense, but some seemed well intentioned. I made too many assumptions that these sites would have screamed from the hills if the very basics were broken, but I was wrong. Really wrong. I intend for this to be actually useful to using the devices for their intended purposes.

I will add devices as I receive units to test. For manufacturers, most of you already know from our time together on desktop devices that I will most happily accept products for review, and in that case, I will submit my findings to you before posting so you have a chance to comment or set me straight on any issues I have, but as always, I WILL report the truth as I see it. I welcome your participation, but I want to reiterate the risk you are taking that I may give your product a bad review.

TL;DR – here we go.

I tried to get a really good look at these things to see basically what sorts of ins and outs they have…Even pictures are a bit difficult to track down sometimes, and most of the questions you would think to ask when looking for this sort of thing aren’t really available. Contacting the manufacturers was sometimes helpful in clarifying things.

Apogee

Apogee’s Jam line of products seem like they would have been cool back before the lightning audio days. As far as I can tell, they don’t have any actual outputs, instead relying on the mobile device to provide the audio output. I think this is a non starter for our purposes, and won’t be saying any more about these as far as I know.

Verdict: No thanks

 

 

 

ONE/ Duet/ Quartet

Apogee is an enigma, they were really early to jump into the digital game, when there were still significant (and actually audible) problems with digital recording. We got their early filters for our Mitsubishi ProDigi format machines and it was a difference we could not only measure, but made a big difference in typical day to day stuff like setting compressor thresholds. That bit of splat, that I think George Massenburg assured us was group delay, made compressors for instance react to a different level than the one we apparently heard. Technobabble aside, it was a huge improvement. Later we would go on to get their analog to digital converters to replace the front end of the early tape based digital machines like our Sony PCM3348’s and later as front ends to the Modular Digital Multitracks (ADATs and DA-88’s for instance). They took a lot of first steps and really worked out how ADCs and DACs would work in a multitrack environment.

Low Output on iOS guitar interfaces

Update: As far as I can tell upon much much much testing, while the most I can coax out of this thing is 0.684volts or around -4dBu (as compared to Sonoma Wire Works StudioJack Mini’s 1.3volts or a solid +4dBu at 0dBFS with the 0dBFS being according to the iPad Levels app running in Audiobus 3 ), it is in excess of the -10 standard. I just flat out don’t know why the amplifier FX returns or PA inputs I have tried it in don’t seem to like how quiet it is.

For the real surprise, I was shocked by just how crazy loud even my passive guitars were. Yes, its still true as below that the iRig output was at best 12 dB below my guitar, but holy good golly miss molly, my EMG guitar ended up measuring a whopping 1.8volts or a WHOPPING +7dBu….OK

Just to test my sanity I compared I/O levels with that guitar going into different devices, and aside from desktop audio interfaces, they all came out lower than what the guitar was putting out, including an ART Tube MP. A digitech RP 360 XP for a reference came out at 0.32volts, just about right on the money for a -10dBV

I don’t know if I was totally wrong in this whole situation, but I certainly wasn’t getting or putting out the whole picture, so I’m doing my best to correct it

now onto the original post, saved to show my humiliation 

I have been testing a few of the iOS interfaces available. The specs for the iRig HD 2 show the maximum output at being 1.6vpp, which is roughly equivalent to a guitar output (my EMG 707’s put out about 1.5vpp if I hit an open A chord). If anything, these devices should be capable of MUCH more output, a regular audio interface will be on the order of +10 – +20dBu (1.6vpp is around -2.7dBu for reference). But I digress

I can’t get the actual output going through this device and through any software (even with everything bypassed) to get anywhere near this level. Here are the results of some testing I did, first setting guitar to DI to -15dBFS for reference levels

guitar into DI = -15dBFS

guitar into iRig HD 2 (not connected to lightning) into DI = -28dBFS Gain controls have no effect but Thru/FX switch mutes when set to FX

guitar into iRig HD 2 (connected to lightning) into DI = -15dBFS Thru/FX switch set to Thru. Gain controls have no effect

guitar into iRig HD 2 (connected to lightning) into DI Loudest with no distortion = -28dBFS Thru/FX switch set to FX. All Amplitube FX bypassed.

guitar into iRig HD 2 (connected to lightning) into DI Using Amplitube’s in/out controls to set for highest output, allowing distortion = -27dBFS
Thru/FX switch set to FX. All Amplitube FX bypassed.

I have exchanged some emails with IK’s tech support over this, and tested roughly the same on an iRig 2. Anyone know if the Sonicport has higher output levels?

Multiple Microphones on Guitar Cabinets

For those who still insist on sticking mics in front of guitar cabinets, here’s an old one I wrote for recordingproject.com

Introduction

A lot of this came from following around the God of Metal Engineering: Bill Metoyer. (Check the back of your records; if you don’t see his name on anything, you need a trip to the record store). I am sharing this because I see many posts on many online forums concerning recording guitars with multiple microphones. It is my hope that this tutorial will serve you well. Follow all that is suggested, and be on your way to glorious guitar tones whenever, and whatever you record with. Multiple mic’s on guitars doesn’t have to produce horrible phase artifacts if approached right. Here we go!

Intonation

Make sure your guitar is in tune, and intonated properly. Different intonations, even slightly different, can make completely separate flavors of distortion so get it as close as you can. If you know the difference in distortion sound between a 24 3/4″ scale guitar neck and a 25 1/2″ one then you know what I’m saying. In addition, guitars and basses that are not intonated together will surely fight each other in the mix, causing one or the other to dominate, and never blend perfectly. If you are not skilled in intonating your guitar, it is best to take it into a luthier that is reputable!

Preamp Gain

Most of the best guitar tones, especially in “metal” genres, come from less, a whole lot less (that’s right LESS), distortion/preamp gain than you would use live. For riffs and chord changes, the real heaviness comes from dynamics – the fact that it gets louder when your pick hits the string than when the string is just resonating.

This seems obvious, but it’s not really. You need to maximize the dynamic range at this stage because from here on out, the signal is going to be compressed and degraded in all sorts of ways. In most cases the gain should be about where a chord actually comes out clean when you strum softly. Transistor amps/pedals may not do this (some will), which is another reason tubes are usually preferred for this type of thing. Not all preamps are created equal! Having a preamp that works with your genre is essential! Pick wisely, and pick from a lot of experimentation. Keep in mind too that pickup/preamp combinations work differently from each other. A Seymour Duncan Invader pickup will drive just about any preamp to distortion a lot quicker than a stock Fender Strat single coil pickup will. So much more could be said about selecting the right pickup and preamp for your “sound”, but that would regress this tutorial. Therefore, we move on!

Tone

Scooped mids, cranked bass and treble right? WRONG!!! For recording you will need a lot more mids than you normally would live. You need to be heard. The way our ears work, we take most of our cues from the midrange. Get as much body in the tone as you can…. not bottom, body. You can always scoop it out later if you must. As the carpenter says, “Always cut long.” Again, we could talk a long time about the tonal characteristics of different amps, but that would regress this tutorial.

Power Amp and Speaker

Ok, on to the power amp or the power section of your head if you use one. Here is where you start the dynamic reduction process. You want to get a sound with enough sustain to work, but, being careful whether or not you want to actually hear power tube saturation or speaker distortion. Nothing right or wrong here, you are only limited to what sound is right for your production. Get a good sound that you enjoy – that is what counts.

My iOS Guitar Journey

TL:DR – this will be a journal, and perhaps the basis for some how-to’s later on using iOS guitar apps in a real world setting

Apologies in advance that this will often go into tangents as my writing always does, hopefully there really will be a TL:DR later on for those who may be wanting to try this yourself and get some simple, easy steps to avoid all of my mistakes, but for now, the random stream of semi-consciousness will follow.

For aspiring iOS guitarists reading this: consider exactly what you are planning to do with this setup

For developers reading this: please please consider what your target market will be doing with this stuff (I realize that many or most will probably just be playing at home thru headphones, but that won’t be everyone) and even if they aren’t your target, please consider what performing guitar players at actual venues will need. Some of you guys made some awesome software that will definitely be very appealing outside the home headphone market, and it behooves you to consider their actual end goal and use case needs! I am more than happy to speak with you about this, and I hope my track record in the VST and DAW world hopefully speaks for itself.

For the first time in a very very long time, I’m actually joining a band. Technology has moved forward by leaps and bounds in most industries since the last time I seriously entertained the idea of entertaining. I considered if I would do the old giant rack/pedalboard and 412 combo with all of its associated wiring and real estate or if I would use the VSTs I use every day in recording, somehow combine it with a MIDI pedalboard and of course my experience and gear with REAPER Live, and decided to at least give the tablet/phone avenue a try.

Why? The idea of being mostly wireless, and the fact that I already knew that what had once taken racks and racks of gear could easily be run on a computer, I figured the phones and portable devices wouldn’t be all that different. Add in the wireless MIDI pedalboards that had come into the market and it seemed at least a fun avenue to explore. I figured I’d have to consider a few things for this:

  1. The amp I would be using to monitor myself (I live in a place where soundmen point 57’s at the floor by lazily looping them thru a handle of a guitar cab, sending more of the sound of your feet through the PA than your amplifier, so no way was I going to hope that they’d be giving me my signal to monitor)
  2. The mobile device itself, whether phone or tablet, which OS, which model etc…
  3. The interface to get from the guitar to the mobile device and then the signal back to the amplifier (and boy oh boy is this last bit of the signal path the source of some serious siliness! More on that later)
  4. The MIDI controller for all the myriad of magical tones
  5. And of course, the software itself that I will be using to get my tones from

#4 seemed to me to be a no brainer. During the development and launch of REAPER, I had an excellent and very rewarding relationship with IK Multimedia. They made sure that all of our users’ questions were answered in a timely manner and spent a lot of time on our forums helping out. If you know me, you’ve probably seen me many times praising IK for having the balls to make a real harmonizer in VST, something that so many coders I approached would hem and haw about Eventide having a patent for and couldn’t be done in realtime anyway. IK ground that claim into the dirt and just did it.