Sometimes when I’ve used the MIDI-part in Renoise and have controlled some of my hardware synthesizers from Renoise, I’ve often had this feeling that there’s something not sounding tight enough. I’m pretty sensitive to stuff like that, but at the time I wasn’t sure if it was caused by internal delays in my synthesizers, if it was because of long MIDI-cables, any delays caused by MIDI-thru-connections or a combination of those mentioned.
Today I tried to find out. I connected a one meter MIDI-cable directly from one of the outputs of my Emagic Unitor8 MIDI-interface directly to my Yamaha DX7II (which is pretty tight MIDI-wise in the way I use it in this test) and made some tests and comparisions.
The equipment: My Unitor8 is the first revision which is connected to the computer via the COM-port (the second revision has an USB-port as well). My computer is an Intel Pentium 4 2.4 GHz, 512 MB RAM, ASUS P4PE motherboard, with Windows XP Professional, pretty clean (not a lot of junk running in the background). My soundcard is an M-Audio Delta-44, not sure if this matters at all in this case though.
I made an identical bassline in both Renoise (1.5 demo) and Cubase SX2, both running at 160 BPM. In Renoise the bassline is basically one note per row which is cut off using the “F3”-command (which is half the time-length since the speed is at “06”). In Cubase the bassline consists of 1/16th notes with a length of 1/32th note. So, basically they’re as identical as it gets.
An important note about Cubase SX2 is that there’s quite a difference on the “tightness” of the MIDI-output depending on which MIDI-drivers you use, as there are
duplications of these, accessable from Cubase. First there are the Windows MIDI-drivers which produce very tight MIDI-data. Then there’s the “emulated” ones, as they’re called inside Cubase. These are the DirectMusic ones, and are not as reliable in terms of producing tight MIDI-data.
Anyway, I played the bassline through in Cubase (first via the Windows MIDI-drivers, then via the DirectMusic-drivers) and then the same bassline in Renoise. The bassline was played through twice at each program/driver (while sampling them in Soundforge), and I’ve then taken the sample of the second bassline and synchronized it exactly to the start to the first bassline - so the first bassline-pattern is what you hear in left channel, the second bassline-pattern is in the right. I did this to better get a better perception of what is going on and how much difference there are between two patterns from the same program/driver which in the best case should sound exactly the same.
renoise_midi.rar 3.7 MB
Here are the wavefiles in a compressed RAR-file. The files included are cubase_windows_midi.wav, cubase_directmusic.wav and renoise.wav. As you will hear, there’s quite a difference in the exactness of the basslines. If you try to pitch the sample down you will hear it even more clearly. The “Cubase Windows MIDI” one is very tight, giving it a sort of flangeing effect if you combine the channels together in mono. “Cubase DirectMusic” is more unstable, some of the notes poke more out to the left and the right. “Renoise” is the worst of the three, sounding kinda drunk and unstable (which is probably what I’ve reacted to in the first place).
I tried to measure how much lag or delay there was at most between the left and the right channel, and came up with these “worst cases”:
Cubase Windows MIDI - 4 ms delay
Cubase DirectMusic - 9 ms delay
Renoise - 12 ms delay
These are the worst cases I could find, but keep in mind that it’s possible that the first notes of the bassline wasn’t exact either, so the synchronization of the two basslines might be a little “off” throughout the whole sample. On the other hand, the tighter the overall MIDI-driver is, the lesser the “offset” is.
Anyway, this is just my way of spreading the light of something funky going on with Renoise and MIDI. I wonder if there is anything that could be done about it to make the MIDI in Renoise tighter (preferably as tight as Cubase using Windows MIDI-drivers)? I’m guessing that Renoise makes use of MIDI on the PC-version of Renoise via DirectMusic (since the worstcases are somewhat similar), is there a possibility to be able to use the Windows MIDI-drivers in Renoise instead?
And last: I just want to say that I’ve been reporting a lot of small and different bugs in Renoise lately and I haven’t even come around to registering the program, so who am I to complain, you might ask? But I DO really think Renoise is one hell’uv’a fun and addictive music-tool, I WILL register this jewel as soon as my money arrives (in a month or so) and I really give you this feedback because I’d like to make a really great program even greater.