Hello there. 

As the title suggests, I have some questions regarding diving into the world of retro computers and midi composition.  Through my own research, I have found that the Atari STE series are great computers for doing retro midi sequencing via cubase or notator.

I suppose what I would like to ask is if anyone can give me advice on where to even begin.  I want to have a MOSTLY analog setup and compose using an older machine like one of these Atari computers.  I need to know what things I will need to find/buy including software and hardware.

I already purchased an SC-88 Pro.  I have a great recording studio setup already,  but I wanted to go the old computer route so I could find a machine/programs that can actually talk with the SC-88 as most newer computers don't offer the flexibility I need or are very convoluted in their execution.  I looked into midi quest, but I have heard some bad things about it....

Ultimately, I want to be able to create midi tracks that utilize the SC-88 exclusively.  I want to be able to write a song that can instantly load my saved presets on the SC-88.  In logic pro x, I would have to essentially record every track one at a time.  to be honest I am almost completely new to general midi.  I have only used soft synths in the past and its very difficult to find the information I need!  any help would be greatly appreciated.  Hell, I would pay you 50 bucks if you gave me a list and a bit of your time!  big_smile


hello John,

I used Pro-24 back in the days, it was quite cool: http://www.atarimania.com/utility-atari … 29596.html
But later I used Cubase (or Cubase lite, I don't remember well). Both are from Steinberg, I think Cubase is more advanced. Probably you need a dongle to use Cubase because I'm not sure there is a reliable crack for it (that's why I think it was Cubase Lite I had because I had no dongle).

I used Midi program changes in Cubase, so my expander (Roland D-110) could automatically switch to the correct instruments when the song started to play (it's just a midi event to insert in the track).

I can understand people use old chips to make music with them, but for MIDI, it will just sound the same, so why not using a more modern tool? Well, I must admit I had already thought to use my Atari ST for this purpose as well. But I already have one. For a decent Atari ST(e), it will cost you around 50-70 €. Try to get an STE because if you want to compose Chiptune with Maxymiser in the future, you get DMA channels and it also has CINCH / RCA outputs.

Anyway, in Logic Pro you should be able to program midi program changes as well: http://www.plugorama.com/kb.php?id=33

Thanks for the reply!  I think that going with the Atari at this point would be more of an aesthetic choice than anything else, but also because I have heard that they allow you to use hardware synths with very low latency....though most of my hardware synthing will be done from a purely compositional standpoint, so I guess it doesn't really matter.

This info on midi events is extremely useful.  I am sure I can do something similar within logic pro x.  I guess the real question is how to figure out which values I need to input for the SC-88.  I believe that I can actually save patches too, but it's a bit convoluted to understand without the unit sitting in front of me.  I just ordered one recently, so I haven't had a chance to play around with it yet.  Any idea where I could find the associated values i need?  I guess they would show up in Logic right?

For the correct values, it should be quite easy. First select the bank, then the program within the bank. For example I see the SC-88 has a manual there: http://cdn.roland.com/assets/media/pdf/SC-88PRO_OM.pdf
It seems it's organised not with bank numbers, but with banks of instrument categories (piano, organ, bass etc). You'll find all the needed values in this manual.

On some DAW you can select your synth / expander. Probably Logic Pro supports the SC-88. In a DAW I use, Ardour, you can select it this way:

Then select the bank and the instrument by its name:

Some DAW permit to select the instrument only for the whole song, on some others (like Ardour) you just define a midi event at the place you want so you can change instrument during the song replay (but it's a bad idea IMO to do this on the same track when you're not limited anymore but the numbers of tracks). You can also use MIDI to send sysex message from your DAW to the expander so you can change filters and such.

I don't know how good is the Atari about midi latency, but now you can also achieve pretty good low latency on modern computers as well.

There is a heated discussion on this matter there: http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2010/03/10/atari-ste/

And because we're on chipmusic.org: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTwwVew3AwE !!!!

Actually, the Atari ST series is still a viable option for non-chiptune MIDI because of its incredibly accurate timing. It still beats out most modern solutions in that area.

yes, it's what the synthtopia.com article is about. Some people claims the latency is "1 ms" with Atari ST. But there are some critics to this: is it with only 1 track or is it the same with let's say 20 tracks together? Is the test protocol accurate? Some other people said the midi on Atari ST is directed connected to the CPU. It's an interesting information (is it true and relevant?)

Here it is said one could achieve the same with Logic and Mac OSX:

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/11 … p;tstart=0

On my system (Linux with Audiobox USB soundcard), I can configure the jack system to run as tight as 3 ms (without xruns). I haven't tested it in real because I don't use external midi synth (maybe one day). But for MIDI input, for recording from a master synth, under 15-20 ms I'd say you can't really notice any latency. Above that when you play on the keyboard, there is an annoying delay before hearing the note.

The MC6850P ACIA chip that deals with MIDI in the ST is IRQ driven and makes for extremely stable and accurate timing. All modern software MIDI goes through far more software and hardware levels than the Atari ST.

That said, a modern professional setup, configured well, can probably compete pretty well with an Atari ST in terms of accuracy. However, you generally won't see this sort of accuracy in an affordable, home studio setup. Most affordable MIDI interfaces (and any MIDI interface using USB) will have far more jitter and latency and will often be unable to keep up with a lot of very fast parameter changes.

Like you mentioned, it's not too hard to deal with latency. However, latency isn't the biggest concern. The biggest concern is jitter, which is where modern solutions generally suck. Most will even start to drop bytes when you send MIDI data too quickly. For most people, this will never be an issue because they're not sending MIDI data fast enough to notice or care about the minor jitter issues. However, if you're working in a chiptune aesthetic you're more likely to be pushing parameter and pitch changes extremely quickly and this is where you'll actually start to run into problems.

Sound Canvas is not analog... Nothing we do here really is... The digital won't let us go and all that.

I agree that you should use Pro-24, it is quite good and useful tool for you in this situation.
rolling sky