Midi Cables versus DIN Sync Cables for Synchronization

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?

Roland TR626 Drum Machine
Roland TR626 Drum Machine

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.

Belkin 5-Way Splitter
Belkin 5-Way Splitter

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.

Roland TR-606 Drumatix
Roland TR-606 Drumatix

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.

Korg KMS-30 Midi Synchronizer
Korg KMS-30 Midi Synchronizer

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.

Deopfer M.A.U.S.I
Deopfer M.A.U.S.I

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!

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6 thoughts on “Midi Cables versus DIN Sync Cables for Synchronization

  1. A standard MIDI cable will definitely not work as Sync cable. That’s because Sync needs 5 wires to send the information (including Start/Stop) and MIDI cables have only 3.
    Of course a 5-Pin DIN cable will work with MIDI. But then it’s not an official MIDI cable. Problems could arise with standard DIN however, because MIDI cables must have their ground wire unconnected at one side.
    NOTE! There are 5-Pin DIN cables out there that will not work at all, neither for MIDI or Sync. For example cables that are used for copying between tape machines. Those have their wires cross-connected.

  2. DIN Sync cables and a MIDI cables both use three pins on the DIN plug. The difference is DIN Sync uses pins 1,2 & 3 whilst MIDI uses pins 2,4 & 5. Some cables have all 5 pins wired up, which means they will work with either system.

    When I got my Korg DDM-110 I did some research on the DIN Sync and apparently Korg’s DIN Sync differs from Roland’s: Korgs system works twice as fast. I haven’t had time to test it out on my Korg DD-110 and Roland MC-202 yet though.

    1. Not correct. You can run the DIN sync with those three pins only, but then you won’t receive the signals for FILL and RESET. When only pin 1, 2 and 3 are connected, you are only sending/receiving CLOCK and START/STOP.

      To be precise about the speed, Korg sync is not really “twice as fast”. It just uses a twice as fast clock rate, 48ppq resolution instead of Roland’s 24ppq. That means the Roland machine will be twice as fast when clocked by a Korg master. Or the Korg slave half the speed the other way around.

  3. Wow! Great info. Thanks guys.

    Here are the exact cables I purchased. They simply do not work with my DIN Sync Roland TR-606 and Korg KSM-30 despite the description. Instead my regular ( or is it?) midi cable works just fine.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Din-sync-cable-5-ft-TB-303-TR-808-TR-606-SBX-80-/161105484221?pt=US_Other_Pro_Audio&hash=item2582a299bd

    All I know in my setup is that I was told I had to have a DIN Sync cable instead of a Midi cable. I jumped on Ebay and ordered two DIN Sync Cables which were described as cables necessary for Din Sync and not Midi. They were about 9 bucks each. When they arrived I plugged them in and was unable to get anything to work.

    In the late 90’s I bought several midi cables that were colored orange from a Japanese music store called Ishibashi music. I remember this because the cables were orange and short. It’s hard to forget those points…laugh. It is one of the orange cables that I plugged in and everything started working perfectly. I removed it and replaced it with the Din Sync cable and it stopped working.

    Note the orange midi cables have been used to connect my midi gear for years without any problems. I can now use it with my DIN Sync gear as well. Wonderful! However, I’m not sure exactly why, but your comments above help. Thank you!

    Jim

  4. By the way… That Korg KMS-30 is a magnificent sync and converter box. The dual midi and sync outputs are fantastic. It’s definitely a top gear purchase this year. I’m pleasantly surprised.

  5. henk w stegeman

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for your article, reinspiring (is that a word?) me to get my old Korg DDM 110 running and triggering. The Korg pulse differs from the Roland as far as I know. I used the trigger out formerly to get my Boss delay stompbox / silver box 800 ms) and/or my S-950 sampler running. I need to get in the KORG via midi2korgsync set-up. Must have scheme with electronics lying around somewhere. It’s indeed great way varying your trigger points via drum patterns.

    In the midi world my R-8 records & plays directly from/to the Juno2 in chord function which forwards to the CS1x arpeggiator. Works wonder. O yes, they sync to the NOTATOR sequencer (Logic’s predecessor) in my old Atari. It has a hardly understood transform page [10x] which enables me to build a sort of autochord function thus harmonizing lines from synth or guitar synth or anything midi’ing.

    By the way, you’r keen on interesting deals as we read regularly. Bet you can’t touch this… I’m writing on a brand new [summer/fall 2013] MacbookAir 1,8ghz i7 265gb. For half the price from a stock/warehouse sale: new electronics giant was getting rid of ‘old’ stock. While earlier this week I managed to grab a fir rewire audio 10/10 by Edirol. As you state so often: in pristine condition, for 150 euros. Your posts are awe inspiring in keeping me on the right track. [have a look here if you like] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDgbFuSDXBU&feature=c4-overview&list=UUsFwrUg_78d0znYJ0Tn3ytQ (which is indeed actually very very very to be updated soon 😉

    keep up the good work

    Henk/ParkinZEN

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