Questions about the new synth modules - Midi, USB I/O and CV

Hi!

2 questions:

  1. My Midi devices use USB, not a standard midi cable. is the USB slot on the device both for input AND output?

  2. Is there a way that I can get the littlebits to process audio from my daw and then send it BACK to my daw for recording?

@eroxx I got to peek at the new synth bits last week during a Make and Munch event. I hope to get to test them myself soon! :smile:

To answer your questions,

  1. Yes, the w5 MIDI bit’s usb connection is both for input and output.
  2. Yes - this depends on the DAW.

For more information, check out the blog, Introducing MIDI CV and USB I/O.

Plus, there are three sample project pages:

  1. Record Your Own Synth Track
  2. Midi Input Tunes
  3. DIY Music Remixer

Finally, each bit has it’s own product page that discusses their unique functions:

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Thanks so much! I appreciate it.

Regardless of the specifics of the modules, can someone give me a “real English” explanation of the difference between Midi In/Out and CV In/Out? I understand Midi (I think … lol!)

Thanks so much.

I’ll share more when I understand it better. In the meantime, check out this:

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Thanks so much, yet again! Will watch tonight.

I watched. Some really cool stuff going on.

Still not quite understanding what CV does that is different/unique to Midi.

I also don’t understand why the new synth kit comes with TWO CV modules … What’s the point of that?

Ah, so many questions!!! :slight_smile:

This demo pretty much shows the crazy stuff you could do with multiple CV bits. They’re handy for connecting your littleBits synth to multiple synth devices, and you’re going to need at least two if you want to send sound and control voltages to 3rd party synths.

Actually I’m also curious about this. Could someone explain the difference? :blush:

My apologies if this is too remedial, but I’ll start at the basics just in case. :smile:

MIDI uses digital information to communicate between instruments, CV (control voltage) uses analog changes in voltage to send information. CV’s use has increased recently due to the resurgence of analog synths, including Korg’s MS-20 mini and the Eurorack modular synth explosion, though CV has been in use for a long time (1970’s? '60s? I’m unsure). MIDI was created in the 1980’s to send more information, and to standardize things so you could have synths from a number of manufacturers playing nice together. I think CV has become more standardized due to the popularity of Eurorack modulars, but I see the CV bit has the other major CV standard on it, too. Very cool!

For a specific use case, I’ll be using the CV module(s) to have my LBs interact with my Moog Werkstatt to see how far they can push each other, and make some epic dronescapes. I’ll be using the MIDI bit to control the LBs with more sophisticated sequencers, like the one in my Elektron Machinedrum. I’m really excited about them both, as well as the USB interface.

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Just dropping in because I flaked on mentioning the USB in/out on the MIDI bit, which seems to allow you to control LBs with a DAW or other software–and vice versa?!

I’m not sure how the MIDI bit and CV bit function quite yet. However I have a Korg sq-1 running my littlebits with CV. It has certainly helped me understand CV a lot better. For example I didn’t realize CV has a range of voltage 1Hz to 8Hz which changes the octaves.

As stated in a post above CV has had a recent resurgence in popularity along with analog synths. However I’ve learned MIDI allows for much better control features as opposed to strictly using CV. One feature lacking from CV would be a pitch bend. Maybe, this pitch bend limitation can be over come by using a littlebits circuit? Hey, that could be cool to try out today!

Currently you can use MIDI with an arduino bit. Acting as a type of MIDI bridge.

Using a proto bit, a regular arduino, and a tinkerkit sensor sheild I have been able to control my Moog Werkstatt using the little bits synth. Good times.

@sc4r4b If this is a work in progress, can you share a video with us here? Maybe even add a project to the project page? :slight_smile: :video_camera: I’m sure people will appreciate seeing what you’re doing!

I’ll see what I can do about setting up a project.

I just received my CV kit in the mail and I’m wondering if I need to worry about the ground. In the past I used a mini mono cable I soldered to a breadboard jumper with the ground tied off. I’ve read that the werkstatt must share a common ground by being plugged into the same mixer. Before I do any extra work or mess up my werkstatt does the CV modual cable need to be grounded?

Thanks!

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Hey @sc4r4b!

I’ve got these wise words from our R&D expert:

“Mono cables should be used with the CV module and the tip is the signal and the sleeve is grounded.”

Let us know if you have any other questions!

Best,
Patrick

Thanks for the reply! The werkstatt cable does require it to be grounded on the chassis.

Hi,

The video ‘getting started with littleBits & Korg MIDI, pt 1’ (YouTube link) shows a keyboard midi controller directly connected to the MIDI bit via DIN5. That doesn’t work for me.

When I connect my keyboard controller directly to the MIDI bit via DIN5, the behavior is as if the ‘note off’ signal isn’t recognized and as if not all input is received. When I send signals over USB through my Mac (using MIDI Thru software) to the USB input, I get the behavior I expect.

I’ve uploaded a short, low-fi video that shows what’s happening (here on YouTube).

I do not have a USB-B to micro USB to test a direct connection from my keyboard to the MIDI bit. But I really want to use the MIDI in because I have my eye on a little key tar that only has DIN5 out.

So, is the behavior in the video as expected or not? Do I need some interface between the keyboard controller and the MIDI bit or should a direct connection work?

Thanks for your help!

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Hi jdanke,

Sorry to hear that you’re having some issues. That behavior is not expected. Can you share what model MIDI controller you are using? I’m wondering if the issue might have to do with how the controller handles sending MIDI messages. There is a MIDI spec that most controllers follow but there are also quirky ways to do some of the communication.

Regarding your mention of a USB-B to micro USB cable, this will not work. The spec for USB MIDI requires a USB host like a computer or tablet. A USB MIDI controller cannot be plugged directly into the MIDI module’s USB input. This is true of most MIDI hardware.

Hi, Paul,

Thanks for getting back to me.

Just to be clear – I should be able to directly connect the MIDI controller to the 3.5mm input, right?

The controller is an M-audio Keystation 49e. It’s probably seven or eight years old and is now discontinued. It works fine with Garageband and whatever my son uses on his PC. I also ordered the Rock Band 3 keytar ($30) because I read that it’s a decent controller and it would be a good base for an “on-the-go” synth platform. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to test another MIDI controller inexpensively,

I’ve ordered a new MIDI cable to test whether that is the problem. I might have to solder my own DIN to stereo. I found only one DIN 5 to 3.5mm stereo cable, but it’s wired incorrectly, using pins 2,3,5 instead of 2,4,5. (see below).

Joel

Incorrect wiring from kenable:

Hi Paul,

It turns out that your suggestion about the controller is right. There’s something about the older M-audio Keystation 49e that just isn’t working.

I received the Mad Catz / Rock Band 3 Keytar today, plugged it directly into the MIDI module via the 3.5mm input jack and it works exactly as expected. Pretty good deal.

Thanks for your help,

Joel

Hi Joel,

I went ahead and ordered a midiman Oxygen8 controller from eBay which is the same era as the Keystation you have. I can confirm erroneous behavior when connecting the controller to the MIDI module. I have not seen this with other controllers we’ve tested.

I have a theory as to the issue and will write again once I have more information. It may be an incompatibility with some of the MIDI messaging protocols that were used at that period of time but have since gone out of implementation.

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