The gist of this article is to basically say, watch out for those DIN Sync Cables as some will likely not work. Also, contrary to what some people might say, I have found some MIDI cables to work perfectly fine as DIN Sync cables for my old Roland and Korg gear. Perhaps this is not new to everyone, but I practically spent two weeks frustrated trying to get all my gear to work with two DIN Sync cables I purchased from a reputable guy on Ebay. The fact is, the DIN Sync cables didn’t work at all, or at least the two I bought didn’t. It was on a whim that I decided to plug in a basic old MIDI cable and suddenly everything worked perfectly. Amazing I didn’t think of that before, but to my defense, it’s clearly written on some sites that MIDI cables are not to be used for DIN Sync cabling. Why I wonder?
What am I trying to do?
First I am chaining some drum machines to provide multiple trigger outs to create interesting patterns for use with the Roland JX-3P, Juno-60, Juno-6, Roland SH-101, Korg Poly-61, and Korg PolySix synthesizers. If I want to sync multiple synths I often use a Belkin 5-Way splitter cable connected from a Roland TR-626 which is then slaved to a Korg ESX-1 with Oberheim DMX samples for example. This works GREAT!! I cannot recommend enough the Roland-TR626 for MIDI and Pulse Trigger Synchronization. It works perfect and is extremely tight. Using a 5-way splitter also synch 5 synths no problem at all. The only issue is that you are using the same pattern on the TR-626. If you want to mix things up a bit, then you’ll need multiple patterns. To do this I add a second Roland TR-626 and a Roland TR-606 with two pattern trigger outs.
The Roland TR-606 is awesome as a trigger device because of two VERY IMPORTANT reasons. First, it has two trigger outs which allow you to program two DIFFERENT custom patterns for your syth arp or sequencer. The second reason is that it can act as a SLAVE and doesn’t have to be the master. The only problem is that there is no midi.
To rectify this problem I use the Korg KMS-30 which I found in Japan. The KMS-30 is slaved to Roland TR-626 which in turn is slaved to my Korg ESX-1 as Master via midi. The KMS-30 then syncs and converts the MIDI input to DIN Syn OUT and sends it to DIN SYNC IN on the TR-606. When I start the Korg ESX-1, all is in PERFECT timing. Plus I now have three trigger outs ( 1 on the TR-626 and 2 on the TR-606 ) for triggering synths with uniquely programmed patterns. I can then insert another TR-626 that will work for an additional 4th trigger pattern. If you add a 5-way splitter then you can sync an additional 5 synths using one of the TR-626 or TR-606 patterns. ALL SYNC PERFECTLY to MIDI and DIN SYNC. Fantastic!
What do I mean by patterns? On the TR-626 or TR-606 you have to program your triggers which are usually rimshots. When they are triggered, they send a pulse through the trigger out and into the synth that it’s connected to. If you use 16th notes, then it will trigger the arp as it’s played on the Juno-60 for example. If you wish to syncopate or create a unique rhythm or variation, you can simply program different notes on the TR-626 or TR-606. This causes notes to trigger differently causing a cool and unique arp line on the synth. It how a lot of 80’s synth bands programmed their arps to get different results.
Another device that works well too is the Deopfer M.A.U.S.I which I used before getting the Korg KMS-30. I found the Deopfer for pretty cheap here in Japan. I don’t like the menu system and it’s quite complicated for any use outside of syncing my devices, so I much prefer the Korg KMS-30. There are other options to sync old midi gear such as KENTON but they are expensive and don’t have the options I need such as pattern creation. I like triggering via drum machines rather than connecting a sequencer to a trigger out box. While that is useful for CV/Gate functions, it’s a bit cumbersome for me.
Now keep in mind, while connecting all of this, I was told that I needed a SPECIAL DIN Sync cable to connect the KMS-30 to the TR-606. I bought two on Ebay. They arrived after a week or so and when plugging them in, I couldn’t get anything to sync properly. I tried every imaginable combination and read the manuals of all my devices three fold. Nothing worked!! I finally got back onto the web and after some research found many people with a similar problem. The TR-606 would not sync and just freeze when slaved via DIN Sync to any other device. I then found a few people claiming that regular MIDI cables worked just fine. Out of desperation and pure frustration, I decided to connect an old MIDI cable I had lying around. Wouldn’t you know, it all worked beautifully!!!
NOTE: I’ve heard that NOT ALL Midi cables work like this. Some do and some don’t. I have no way of telling why the one random MIDI cable I chose worked. I purchased it in 1998 used, so likely it was made in the 90’s.
So if you are having ANY PROBLEMS with syncing your DIN Sync capable gear and you THINK you are using a proper DIN SYNC cable. Be sure to try your regular trusty old MIDI cables instead. You might just be pleasantly surprised as I was today. Unbelievable!