A MIDI Patchbay could be just what you need to make your system work efficiently. Darrin Williamson checks out one such unit from Kawai
You don't need to own a lot of MIDI devices to start getting in a tangle with the swapping of MIDI cables - but that could now be a thing of the past thanks to a cost effective MIDI patch bay from Kawai
It's all very easy when starting up with MIDI to think that all you'll need is a synth, a drum machine and some software for your micro. But as we've discovered at the MM offices it soon snowballs to the point where your living room looks like mission control.
However, you don't need to get to even that stage before MIDI leads start getting swapped around. You may think that your set-up is too small to warrant a MIDI patch-bay but you'd be surprised.
Let us suppose you have a typical, basic configuration of synth, drum machine, synth expander and effect unit. Now you want to hook up this lot to your computer for sequencing, which involves your synth hooking up to your micro and your micro hooking up to the expander, the effect unit, the drum machine (for clock info) and of course your original synth. Simple enough - surely no need for a patchbay. But wait, what if you want to sync your sequencer to your drum machine, or you wish to use an editor/librarian package which only works with bidirectional communication.
Those simple tasks can take up a lot of valuable time in re-wiring not to mention the expense of more MIDI cables - the ones you have won't last long at the rate at which they're being pulled in and out. These problems might be okay if you're just dabbling but if you're intending to do anything productive it just isn't good enough.
But this doesn't mean you'll have to sell the kids or worse still the supply of RAM chips you've discovered. Several companies manufacture such devices at a modest cost, including some of the big boys such as Kawai with the new addition to their MIDI family, the MAV-8.
The MAV-8 is a black 1U high 19" rack-mount device (just for a change!). At first glance the unit looks rather like a graphic equaliser. On the front are eight vertical sliders each having four locking positions. These numbers correspond to the number of options you have. You have four independant MIDI INs and eight MIDI OUTs. The sliders form the matrix which routes the right MIDI data stream to the right device(s).
In addition to the sliders, the front panel also sports an on/off pushbutton and two MIDI sockets; one each of the INs and OUTs. A nice touch as once in a rack you don't really want to fumble round the back in the dark to plug something in. It's just a pity that those two sockets weren't duplicated on the rear for those people who intend to plug in and forget all their units, still sacrifices must be made somewhere to keep costs down.
Operating the unit couldn't be simpler (as the single sheet instruction manual would suggest), just select which input needs to go to which output and move the sliders accordingly.
In short a useful if basic gadget which should make life a lot easier for us. It would have been nice to see a merge facility on a couple of the inputs (for the purposes of sending note on/off data from a keyboard with MIDI clock information from a Drum Machine), but I suppose I'm just being greedy. At the price it's sure to shift boxes by the hundreds.
Supplier: Kawai UK Ltd (Contact Details)
Review by Darrin Williamson
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