Hardware Synthesizer In Renoise


I was curious if anyone of you here uses hardware synthesizers inside of Renoise. I am thinking of getting one, but im really not sure which would work the best in/with Renoise.

First i was thinking of Roland SH-201, but after asking people who understand hardware better, and reading user reviews of that synth, i’ve came to a conclusion that that synth is not a good choise. And other ones that i was looking at are kinda hard to hook up to a pc and use inside of the DAW such as Renoise. And when it comes to musical hardware… heh, if it has USB port then its not a problem , but when it needs convertors, different types of wiring, and things like that - im clueless.

So i made this thread, to ask you guys if you use Hardware Synths inside of Renoise and if any of you could recommend any synth in particulary.

Mainly i want a synth with a good quality sound, and a good sound generation engine, and offcrouse its ability to work in Renoise, or other apps.

thank you


I use a Korg MS2000 and a Korg ES-1 and it works kind of well. Though I wouldn’t recommend the Ms2000 because it has a wobbly arpeggiator but otherwise it can sound pretty good and is quite cheap.

It’s not that hard to hook up a synthesizer to a Pc as most synths manufactured after 1990 (and also some synths before that) has Midi in and out which can be used to control the synth remotely.

i can see how it can be quite a jump into the unknown for someone who’s used to working 100% native

you’ve got a few options and a few potential problems to deal with, but at the end of the day, there’s h/w synths i couldn’t make music without

i don’t know how well it integrates with renoise, but these new h/w synths like the Virus TI would be (i assume) the easiest to integrate with a native setup… sure there’s been threads about it here

a decent soundcard with a few inputs and outputs would be the next way - then you can send your h/w audio back into the computer and mix it like a native track (renoise is excellent for this)

or the (imo) best option would be to buy a soundcard and analog desk, and mix everything on it, with renoise as a sub-mix, because you get hands on mixing and you can usually get fuller, more natural sounding mixes off a desk, and being able to drive desk preamp’s gives you another dimension to your mixing… but obviously, a bigger investment of time and space to go down that road - i’d say it depends how serious you are or how much you enjoy working with h/w… (money’s not such an issue, you can pick up everything you need on ebay these days)

but i don’t know if anyone else has been getting the problems i get using external midi gear with a PC, but these days, using hardware with my software setup on the PC isn’t even an option for me… the midi timing’s just unacceptable now - and this has been the case with 3 different computers and 3 different soundcards/midi-convertors

so i’ve had to convert to a separate hardware and software setup… i would move over to a Mac, but it’s really the Acustic Audio and Voxengo plug-ins (which aren’t, afaik, available for Mac) which keep me stuck to the PC

glad i’m not getting into this now tbh! was much easier when you just bought an atari and an akai sampler

Clavia Nord Modular is what I use.
The older version (which you can pick up on eBay at a fraction of the cost of the new models) : )
You can design sounds using an editor on the computer. It links up to the synth using two midi cables (its pretty old school, but it is very reliable).
If you’re a Mac user, the editor only runs on OS9 though there is a beta version for OSX that is a bit buggy and annoying to use.
Anyway, it has a great sound and enormous creative possibilities, with an ultra flexible modular design.
If thats a bit daunting at first, it comes with loads of quality sounds installed as presets.
Its easy to set up custom controllers and automate via midi in Renoise.
modular webpage

You are totally right about this. In my opinion you should buy an analoge synth, beceause there lots of virtuals for free on the internet, and those analoge ones just sound better…With vsti’s it all sounds great, but you got less caracter to specific sounds, but when you got a grab mixingdesk than your hardware synths sounds grab too.When you buy a good mixing desk, youre gonna need some better monitors too… this is a neverending story…

Just buy something second hand and sell it again for the same price (or more) if you don’t like it and keep it if it fits in your style of music. Just look what you might like and find out what you need to get this piece to work. Then search e-bay and your local sell sites till you get one bottomprice so you can sell it again if you don’t like it. If the next step is a mixingdesk than that it will be…

Yes, you are right. It is a bit tought to uderstand the “hardware part”.

My main problem at this point is understanding how the whole thing is connected, and i still do not really understand how do hardware synths work in DAWs.

I was browsing web , and i’ve found a cute synth , that im considering on buying - Alesis Micron:

Now when it comes to conncetivity im preatty much lost. I know that i need to have a sound card that has midi input and im set, such as this :

and a wire such as this:

But when i look at Alesis Micron’s Outputs i get really confused, because there are so many outputs such as:
MIDI Thru,
Audio OUT - L and R,
Audio IN - L and R,
Expr and Sustain
( but thats for pedals, so it doesnt count - i dont think ill use them)

I do not understand, how this works, because the midi cable has only 2 outputs, and there so many connections to be made!

Also when it comes to using h/w synth inside of renoise - as i understood, newer hardware synthesizers have software, which when installing scans and finds your synth and then your synth can be loaded up as a regular VSTi synth into renoise and be edited / manipulated in the track with rns effects, also automated with the ‘automation device’. But would it be controlled with the synths own keyboard or with regular pc keyboard?

Also thanks for the - i’ve swallowed a good chunk of info from them, they were really helpfull :>

i would really recommend against buying those midi-to-gameport adapters, and getting a Midisport Uno instead, to go through USB. Or a MIDISport 2x2, or a 4x4, or however many midi connections you need. I have a 2x2 :3

You don’t have to use ALL those connections. If you’re just getting one synth, Midi Thru is useless to you, since you don’t have any other midi devices that need to be daisychained to bypass the Micron :3

To get the sounds from the synth you will need audio cables for the outs. The cheapest method is to get a 1/4" to 1/8" audio cable adapter thing, and run the sound from the “headphone” output directly to the line in on the sound card. If you get more instruments or microphones, I would look into a mixer.

when you connect the midi out of the cable you have on the picture, to the midi in of the synth. you basicaly can let renoise trigger notes of your hardware synth.

You don’t hear anything beceause the sounds don’t come out of your computer but out of your synth. You have to connect the audio out of the synth to a mixer or something like that.

by connecting the midi in of the cable to the synth out, you can let the synt trigger notes played by renoise, midi is only for communication, not for audio.

I created a simple picture of how a typical setup could look like with an audio interface and a Micron

Beginners Guide and explanation:

In this example I used a “standard need” usb audio interface. I think that this kind of audio interface should do in this case as mixing desks feels a bit overkill if it’s just one synth. What I forgot to draw was the loudspeakers/monitors but they are connected as usual from the audio interface.

The audio interface is connected to the Computer via USB cable (Magenta) and handles both incomming and outgoing signals (audio and midi) to and from the computer. Think of the USB cable as an extension of the computers motherboard (It helped me get around the confusion I had in the beginning).

This type of audio interface has midi connections on the back which is not visible on the illustration but nonetheless they are there.

The midi cables (Red) are connected:
(audio interface) midi out -> (synth) midi in. This makes it possible to control the synth via Renoise, quite like a vsti.
(audio interface) midi in -> (synth) midi out. This makes it possible to send notes and other midi data from the synth into Renoise.

This far the synth can be controlled and control but to hear it’s sound in Renoise a regular audio cable (Blue) has to be connected from an audio output on the synth to an audio input on the audio interface.

Now the audio can get into the computer and then recorded. To make it audible “live” in Renoise the Line-in meta device is used and then the sonic party can begin.

A total of 3 cables has to be connected so it’s not actually rocket science :) You don’t need to bother about midi thru at this point and neither the fact that the Micron has multiple outputs. 1 or 2 audio outputs will do just fine.

Hope this helps.

a v. useful diagram!

and of course this is one reason it can be advantageous to have a few analogue inputs and outputs on a soundcard… renoise makes the routing so easy, you can have a selection of synths and also send hardware effects to and from renoise, like one big digital mixer

the MIDI timing issues i get might put a huge dent in this plan though… i just don’t know how common they are… i get it skipping (or a sloppy note) every 12 or so steps, and have done since windows 98

can you render a finished tune including the audio from the line-in device?

No but first things first and there are workarounds for this.

just got me thinking… it could actually be quite useful to have a real-time rendering option where it could send MIDI and mix audio from line-in devices with the mix…?

Definitely! I really want this feature and has requested it in the past but there seems to be something with the term “render”.

A vsti is calculated and the sound can be drawn from the calculations whereas the sound from a hardware synth can not.

So many good replys!

Butka, thanks a lot for the usefull picture, it cleared things up for me!

But i wanted to ask about a few technicalities concerning that picture.

-Audio interface is a sound card as i understand?

-What if synths audio OUT has 2 ports: Left and Right? Does that mean that in order for whole audio-in/out thing to work , you have to have 2 ports (L/R) in your sound card(audio interface) as well? Or there are just special wires to cover that?

Yes in short it’s a soundcard. But an interface is more convinient in many ways. The best thing with an interface is that it has got all the inputs you wish for easy to reach and also that the input levels can be adjusted physically by hand at any time without having to enter some software mixer now and then. Also most interfaces comes with multiple inputs to cover the needs whereas cheap soundcards often has only 1 microphone input and maybe 1 line input.

As crytek points out a split cable can be used, or…

Most hardware synths has 2 outputs (Left and Right) the Left output can also work as a Mono like the way I drawn the picture. This means that if just one cable is connected to the Left output the synth automatically sums the signal to a mono signal which means nothing goes lost.

The interface on the picture has 2 audio inputs on the front so to get full stereo sound just connect another audio cable like on the new picture I drawn :)

Many thanks for the informative feedback!

Im really grateful for the help!