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Hardware of Software?



So you want to control your Ion, Micron or Miniak (IMM) remotely?

Bah humbug if you are an Ion owner ... you already can :-).

Whatever we say here will be applicable anyhow.

The first question you have to ask is do I want to control this via software or hardware. Both have their merits. I use both (and sometimes simultaneously).

SOFTWAREEdit

For more details on software packages see FAQ. Most of these packages wont mind if a remote control is midi-chained into them. However, you may have to scratch your head a bit to get the right "feedback" without getting midi feedback!!

Software is the most complete way to control the IMM. But of course the interface may not be as tactile as a knob box, and naturally you need some sort of processor .... maybe you still do not feel comfortable performing knowing a BSOD might ruin the one performance where the A&R man showed up!

I wrote Miniaktools to give me a testbed to explore what features I to remote control my IMM. It is available FOC, and I will try to fix issues you find. I allowed me to understand some fundamental problems that any remote control HAS to address.

The killer (and the issue is well documented in the forums) are "-ve NRPNs" and LSB for low-domain valued NRPN values. Even before that is the issue "I cannot find the NRPN list in the manual", and (sic) "What's a NRPN?". Dont worry - we have all faced these questions in the past ... there is no shame in this dojo :-).

NOTE: Remote control of an IMM via pure CC based midi controller is possible, but limited. You should choose a flexible NRPN based controller. AND, and I cannot stress this enough, be aware that Alesis/AKAI's NRPN usage is non-standard. We will explore this key information later in the text.


HARDWAREEdit

So you have chosen hardware. Recently, the Novation Remote Zero II has been flagged as being useful by Kurt (see thread 23284 ). Hopefully Kurt will edit this wiki and update his experiences.

Is this all you need? Nope. You have to either find a template someone has donated, and that fits your needs. Or tailor one. OR create your own. This latter step is not as trivial as it first seems. First you need the list (see the FAQ I pointed you at earlier). Then you need to be sure your hardware can handle these values. There are about 250 NPRNs per patch. You probably wont have 250 tactile control at your disposal. So you are going to have to consider layering etc. How does your hardware handle this? Never has the phrase RTFM been more necessary. Download the manuals BEFORE you buy. OR at the very least go to your fave music store and have them demonstrate. If you do this ... consider buying the kit from them. Sure it might have cost $30 more than the internet ... but they saved you from making a poor decision --- I hope they did!.

Negative NRPNsEdit

There is no such thing! All NRPNs should be A14 (absolute, 14 bit). Alas, in choosing [-100, 100] for their range, this maps to [16284, 16383][0,100]. IF your hardware allows wrap-around (ie 16382, 16383, 0, 1) and (1, 0, 16383, 16382) then you are in business. You only need one knob/fader but be careful about over exercising it .. earlier version of the Ion crashed if out of range values were sent.

Low Domain NRPNs

Some controllers only send 7 bit NRPNs for buttons. In this case, you could use them for F1 type selection since it is [0, 20] ... cool. Nope, you cant. The midi standard is to send MSB first (makes sense .. it is the MOST significant). Alas, Alesis/AKAI use the LSB. The BCR can be programmed to send a fake 0 then the "MSB" on the LSB -- but using non-company software. The software is great mind (see below). Now, can your button box also allow you to send LSB for buttons? Trust me ... most of the list below cannot. PLEASE PLEASE read their manuals. Ask their tech support -- though honestly I doubt they will know (sorry to be so critical but looking at forum posts this is accurate).

The List!

Here's a (non exhaustive) list of controllers I have heard people try with an IMM, and my take on what was good/bad. PLEASE ... I am biased towards the BCR2000 so take the time to update your personal experiences. I am also not a Mac fanboy, so I might be a bit harsh on the iOS. NOTE the below are typical examples. Hopefully you will find more keywords to search the forum with. Ideally you would search here first, and ask forum for NEW information then (crucially) share the new wisdom here please.

  • Ion
    • I read someone doing this. The only odd thing is wont it get confusing since you will be changing both params at once? I guess you could use different patches, but it still seems a bit odd.
  • Miniak Interface
    • It is actually quite quick.
    • There are templates for Micron too :-)
    • Use PROGRAMS button, hold down, click on the marked keys
      • will return to last NRPN in the subgroup you were editing
    • Handle your knobs!
      • Choose a param. KEEPING the encoder pressed, wiggle an X, Y or Z knob.
      • Now it will be that param (EFX doesnt work!!)
  • BCR2000/BCF2000
    • Pros
      • BCR/F has built in USB midi interface and physical midi-in/2 midi-out (or one out, one thru)
      • class compliant ... "just works" on linux too! No it works on Mac too ... English can be ambiguous
      • Hacked via Mark van den Berg's app (kudos to Royce and a plethora of others too).
      • Need to use Mark van den Berg's software. Mark's software is excellent, top notch.
      • Awesome yahoo site.
      • nice little light show off the thing (mine sits atop my midi-controller keyboard above).
      • cheap
      • can be used for other synths at some time
    • Cons
      • Need to use Mark van den Berg's software. Dont get me wrong!! Mark's software is excellent, top notch (and you should send him some pay pal). I just mean some folks complain "why cant Behringer provide me the app?". I guess they are simply not as smart as Mark (read his PhD thesis on composition to understand how smart he is!). "I dont use windows .. boo hoo". Use WINE under linux/mac!. You also need to read up about hidden interfaces that Mark and others have reversed.
      • Need two knobs/buttons per -ve valued NRPN
      • Doesnt display "units" of the param, just 0...16383
  • Novation Remote Zero II
    • Hopefully, Kurt will add more info here. It sounds exciting.
    • Greetings. Kurt, here. I do not have anything exciting to report at this time. I still have not found a single-knob solution for settings like the oscillator wave shape. The -100 to 100 still translates as 16284 to 16383 and then jumps to 0 to 100. The easiest coding in the Remote SL is to program an endless rotary knob in one template to NRPN with 0-16383 and limit it to 16284 to 16383 with NRPN lsb (least significant byte for those of you who didn't pay attention in CompSci 101) set to, in the case of Oscillator 1, 12 (see my chart for particulars). Then, you open the next template, edit the same knob, only set the limits for 0 to 100. Then, you use the Data Select knob down center to switch from one template to the other when you need to go from the positive values to the negative or vice versa. It's much more convenient using adjecent templates. I named the knobs, in this instance, WvShp1Dn and WvShp1Up. Create whatever labels work best for you visually. Only eight characters are allowed.
    • Unless you need some of the small improvements of the Mk. II, I recommend getting a Remote SL Mk. I for the digital displays on both sides of the board. Why they cheaped out and got rid of the right hand display in the Mk. II is beyond me. I might also point out that the X-Station is just as programmable, although the knobs are spaced more for its own internal synthesizer, but, yes, it includes its own KS synthesizer and it sounds darned good with the best aftertouch in the business (unless you have a Roland A-50 or VAX77, but hey, come on!) It only shows one value in its small display, so paper overlays are pretty much essential, but printable templates are available from Novation's downloads. The problem there is swapping paper labels for multi-multi functions, unless you can read your own tiny handwriting in the dark with a bass beat shaking the table. Day-Glo paper under a black light might be a good idea.
    • The bad news is that the Remote SL has only eight endless rotaries that can handle the 14-bit values. The Micron has exactly 32 settings that use values at the upper end of the spectrum (not counting the Modulation and Tracking Generator values which add 57 more) so, if you want all the values available in one session, you will need to commit eight templates to the Micron. (The BCR-2000 has 32 rotaries that can handle 14 bits, so it would only need two templates for the extended values. It would still need more templates for all the other values, so there is no real difference between the BCR-2000 and the Remote SL in this respect. The Remote provides more variety of controller.) Each pair of templates will provide the upper and lower control range for eight given controls, essentially 64 ranges for 32 controllers. Fortunately this is the max you will need (unless you want the Mod and Track available, in which case you could use two knobs to program Mod number and value, and five more for Track number, source, destination, level, and offset. The number, source, and destination can be on limited dials since they are below 127, while the the value, level, and offset will need endless rotaries. They could all fit on one template, so, nine templates if you want everything.) There will then be plenty of the limited dials, sliders, buttons, and pads for programming all the other functions. I think. I did not check that in detail, so don't hold me to it. But, if you have eight free templates in your Remote SL, you can mostly completely control the Micron in real time with visual cues. Kind of like Earth: mostly harmless. Or nine templates for everything.
    • There is, apparently, no firmware for the Remote SL (reachable by us peons,) but Novation's download area does have a firmware upgrade SYSEX file for the original Remote, which may or may not be similar. I will also try to trigger a firmaware SYSEX dump from the Remote SL, if possible. I am going to try to hack the firmware to see if I can make this device behave. I have no idea if I will succeed. If I do, I have no idea if Novation will condone distribution of such a hack. I have corresponded with Novation tech guys previously and they are pretty cool, but Novation Legal is probably a whole 'nother ball o' wax. Anyway, I have a lot of time on my hands at the moment so this is a good project. I will, of course, report any news. If the firmware can be hacked, then it can be loaded on the fly for when you need to use the Micron for its peculiar requirements, or to put the Remote back to default for tamer boards. It's either that or hack the Micron firmware. Hmm... hmmm... {Kurt out.}
  • UC33
  • iOS Midi Touch
  • iOS TB MIDI Stuff - RPN/NRPN (7bits and 14bits) (unsigned & signed) App [1]
  • iOS MIDI Designer - A Real-time MIDI Controller for Akai Miniak and Alesis Micron Template [2]
  • AXIOM
  • AKAI LPD8
  • MPK49
    • See thread post .
  • Mackie MCU
    • The Mackie MCU (Master Control Universal) is older and more powerful than the Behringer which resembles it. The MCU is actually a fully featured digital editor control interface more akin to one of Roland's VS type digital editors, but for the editor in your computer. The main MCU has eight motorized and touch sensitive faders, eight endless rotary buttons, and a bank of editing controls. Mackies can be programmed through a point-and-click interface or by XML programs for ultimate detailed control.
    • The Mackie XT (extender) provides eight more faders. As many can be chained together as you can reasonably use and afford.
    • The Mackie C4 presents 32 endless rotary buttons. Each of four rows has its own horizontal display which Mackie calls the Scribble Strip. Chaining applicable.
    • Older Mackies (brown skin) can sometimes be found on eBay for sometimes decent prices. Newer silver Pro units are available from Mackie and most retailers for professional prices. Behringer:Chevrolet::Mackie:Cadillac.
  • Alesis Photon 25 and Photon X25
    • Both available intermittantly on eBay. Nice keyboard, no aftertouch. The X25 has the very, very neat photoreceptor dome of the Alesis Air Synth which can help produce some incredibly strange and beautiful modulations. Although it only has two rows of five endless encoders each, each row can be switched to one of three values at a time and it can hold multiple templates. There are spaces beneath the rows for your own paper labels.
  • PC
    • PC is hardware! The touch screens, with a decent piece of software, would be pretty neat. A bit like the iOS Touch. I provide full source code for Miniaktools if you want to try adding your own features. I use GIT so anyone could collaborate
    • Ultimately my plan is to wait for Android to drop in price/better capabilities, and make a linux version of Miniaktools (so I can have tactile touch, all those fun linux audio/midi tools, a BCR plugged in and the awesome ZynAddSubFx plus soundfont players!).
  • The "unknown" interface
    • please add info here (ideally with a post :-)).

CONCLUSIONSEdit

Hardware control is not essential if you learn the kinky keyboard shortcuts. But since you are going to need a MIDI/USB interface to control IMM remotely, you could do worse than a BCR2000. The Novation is also looking like it could be the winner here (Kurt please modify this part :-)).

I get the most out of a combination of hardware and software.

Regards

Steve H

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