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Tip #1

Read this before you buy - or fix it like we did! (Only for music lovers)

Sound card or MIDI Interface 

This problem seems to disapear, since most soundcards now provide MIDI capability, but you have to buy additional wiring in most cases. However, no soundcard has a multiport interface yet, that is a MIDI interface with "more" than 16 channels. Hold it -you might say, if you learned already something about MIDI, there are only 16 MIDI channels;  how can a Multi MIDI interface have more. Simply by having several (some up to 8) single MIDI Interfaces parallel. This is allowing the use of more MIDI Modules ( synthesizer, keyboards, drum machines, mixers, etc) without "plugging" the single MIDI line. If you ever use MIDI extensively you will quickly find , that there are limitations to the data transfer at the same split second.  This may not be of use for you unless you are a musician with many separate MIDI instruments, you may say. Not if you like music, you will eventually end up there anyhow, however, if your computer is your only MIDI instrument, you should at least get a very good soundcard. Don't try to save money on the soundcard, you will regret it soon.  What if your computer already has a MIDI capable soundcard. That is where the following paragraphs intend to give you some hints. It may also be an alternative if you need to "split" the budget for your sound adventures.

We assume that you already know about the advantages of MIDI.
( If not , read  midi-LOOPs MID versus WAV&RA  here ).  

We want to repeat:  with MIDI you give 'electronic sheet music' to your synthesizer/soundcard and it will play those notes to the best of its ability.  The sound quality is only as good as the synthesizer you use to play it.  If you came to this page through the SFP entrance Page you may have encountered midi-LOOPs Hello Birdie Demo . Click to play it again. If it does not sound like a spring concert out of your garden, than your soundcard or synthesizer has a deficit, no matter what glorious names or praises you have read or heard.

What to do now. We give as an example the solution we implemented, when we found our Wavetable extended  Sound Blaster 16 still wanting. it also works for SB pro with MIDI, as it should for any MIDI capable soundcard with a line input in stereo.

Step 1

Make sure you have the necessary cables, which allow you to connect an external MIDI module to your computer. Obtain from a friend a ROLAND Sound Canvas module, or rent one at your favorite music store. Make sure you have a stereo cabel, that plugs into the line input on your sound card and with the other side into the stereo output of the Sound Canvas module. You can buy a prefab cable (Radio Shack) with the mini stereo (headphone) phono plug on one side (sound card) and two RCA phono plugs (red & white) on the other side. You need two adapters to plug into the normal musical standard size "holes". You will get them most likely where you get the cable, maybe even in your computer store!

Step 2

Now connect the cable and make sure left is left and right is right or your stereo effect can be cancelled. Connect the MIDI Out plug of the sound cards MIDI cable to MIDI In at the Sound Canvas module. If you have SB use the MIXER utility to set the volume for the LINE input to a 3/4 level . Now try the same Midi file ( Hello Birdie ) again. If there is no difference, then your soundcard was a ROLAND SCC1. which is a Sound Canvas on card for the PC, but then you would have found, that you do not need to do all this anyway.. For all other people we have this serious reminder:  Don't forget - you have to give back the Sound Canvas MIDI module. So better buy one and then try it - you will be glad you did.


For all those with a supercharged Pentium PC and a 16-bit capable sound card there is another solution. The "virtual" Sound Canvas is a software version and also cheaper than the hardware, visit ROLAND's Website for more info on this.

We still think to have the hardware is more rewarding.

First: You get the benefit of doubling the voices, if you use Sondblaster with wave extension and the external MIDI device. You can mix the dry but mostly excellent sound of the EMU Wave table of this sound card with the leading sound in professional music from Roland in the Sound canvas module. It gives you additionally programmable sound effects like reverb and chorus in one single handy package. One must hear it to believe the difference !!

Second:  Since the older PCs all make very good MIDI sequencer machines, you can use them as the sequencer engine for this studio orchestra in a box. So don't throw out that old PC yet ,  we will eventually tell/show/link you, how to turn it into your ultimate MIDI machine.

(for the impatient check our link page for the MIDI connections)

©1996 Wolfgang W. Scherer

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