MIDIsport 2x2 USB MIDI Interface

A lot of people have said that they have had problems with these M-Audio USB MIDI interfaces, but mine has worked flawlessly with Windows 2000, XP, and more recently, Windows 7 (although the drivers were only released in beta form very recently). I originally only used the IN/OUT-A because the Roland A-880 handled the rest of the devices. When I got the Roland VK-8 I'd run out of ports on the A-880 and so I plugged it into the In/Out-B ports. This works out really well because the VK-8 will actually respond on several MIDI channels as a multi-timbral device.

Roland A-880 MIDI Patchbay


Serial# ZA98548

I live in fear of this device breaking down. Where the heck can you find MIDI patch bays these days? Apparently no-one makes them any more, but I don't see why that should be. They are still a vital component of any comprehensive MIDI studio.

This one has been very reliable. But still I worry...


M-Audio Delta 66 PCI audio interface

I had no problems at all with this interface in Windows XP. Sonar just profiled the device and away we go. I initially thought I would never use the SPDIF inputs but then I got the Roland Fantom, which has digital audio out. Apart from being lower in volume, I figure it has got to be better, right? So I feed the Fantom digital out into the SPDIF on the Delta-66 card.

Since moving to a Windows 7 64-bit workstation, I have had some issues. Occasionally I'll hit the playback or record in SONAR, and instead of getting sound I'll get silence. I've learned to hit the stop button pretty quickly when this happens, because if I don't I'll get a pulsing pile of digital rhythmic feedback noise on my electrodes

I suspect the Win64 drivers from M-Audio are to blame. It happens whether I select ASIO or WDM/Kernel streaming mode, and is not affected by buffer sizing.

If M-Audio don't produce updated drivers that solve the proble, then at some point, I am going to have to switch to a different vendor. Probably Echo Layla 3G.

Korg M1


Serial# 043388

The Korg M1 was our first real "workstation" keyboard. Actually, some might say that it was the first true "workstation" keyboard available on the market. Man, when I heard what this could do in the store I knew I had to have it, because it would take our music to the next level. I think it did. Suddenly we could use sequencing and drum samples, and our overdubbed sketches turned into pretty nice well-rounded demos.


Roland SPD-20 Pad Controller

Serial# CR39670

Drums have always been a fairly weak point in my compositions. At some point I decided that hitting things with sticks would help, and picked up this venerable unit. My first attempts to use it to lay down grooves failed to best my existing "keyboard drumming", and shortly afterwards I gave up.

Two or three years later, I give it another go, this time augmenting the unit with a bass drum trigger and foot pedal, and a high-hat control pedal. I ran into difficulties, both in co-ordination (it would help if I had any real practice playing actual drums) and also in configuring the MIDI mapping between the physical pads and the layout of XLN Addictive Drums across the note grid. High-hat control in particular had a kind of impedance mismatch between controller data and MIDI note numbers.

So I gave up again.

Recently I've broken out the pads again, at first just to fix up some tom and snare rolls. For some reason, this time I've found a process that works better than the keyboard, for all drum parts. I'm not using the foot pedals, and I have to record the complete drum part in several passes using pad mappings to different subsets of the kit, but the net result is quite satisfying. 

There are still mistakes and bad groove choices, but I always had those problems with the keyboard anyway. 

Roland Fantom FA76


Serial# ZPO1825

I like the fact that this has 76-keys, but is still "synth action". It has a really good keyboard feel, reminiscent of the D-50. The sounds aren't bad either. A bit too techno for me but there are some nice patches.


Wendler Electrocoustic Bass


Serial# 107

I saw a press release from Wendler on the Harmony Central web site and curiously followed the manufacturer's link, and got very intrigued by the bass guitars.

I emailed Dave Wendler with some questions about price and finish options, and he replied promptly. He explained that he used a variety of woods and could shape the neck profile to fit my specifications, which pleased me. I measured up the neck on my trusty Ibanez Roadster which has great playability.

We settled on a tung-oiled mahogany neck, with pao ferro fingerboard. Dave kept me informed of construction progress, with photographs of the instrument in various stages.

You can read more about Wendler's passive Magnetic/Piezo pickup system on their web site. In tone, it tends to be very dark and deep. I find that plucking the strings with my right hand up the fingerboard - just like a real upright - gives the best results.

Technically this was my 40th birthday present, but experts disagree as to whether it was this or the VK-8.


Carvin BK5


Carvin BK5 Bass

This instrument was built from a kitset from Carvin, hence the lack of a brand name decal. But it is effectively a Carvin B5.

I don't use the active electronics much, for some reason I get better results with passive plus outboard amp modellers.

Here's an mp3 of me playing a riff from Porcupine Tree and demonstrating the different sounds you get from blending the pickups and changing the coil tap on the HB2.


Roland VK-8


Serial# ZT32559

This is my latest acquisition, and it freaking rocks. When it arrived I did what I swore I would never do and went back and re-recorded Listen using the VK-8 as the "hammond organ". It sounds awesome now.

I believe this has version 2.0 OS in it. I'm not risking uploading a new version into it - it sounds just fine the way it is.