Midi Sync - a fool's errand?

edited February 2014 in General

For almost two years now I've been dreaming of a setup where I could have 2 iOS devices running loopy and have them synced via the midi clock, and have it be stable enough to actually use as part of my rig (guitar through one, keys through the other). Well, I went out this weekend and bought an iPad2 (to fit into my Alesis i/o dock) and an iPad air (note: iPads 3 and 4 are discontinued). Sadly, with the devices synced via Wifi, there's no real stability there. It was my hope that these devices would be powerful enough to do the job.

As tracks increase, the sync gets off or, if the master is paused and then started again, it's way off.

So the only hope left is: if the devices are physically connected, would that ensure a stable midi sync?


  • Hey @Ironlion,

    Hmm, that kind of thing works in my testing here (I've had setups syncing for nearly an hour without any drift), but what did you mean by "as tracks increase"? Is there a series of steps I can follow to reproduce the kind of problems you're having?

  • Thanks for responding Michael. To reproduce:
    1. Set both iPads to use 12 tracks (although I was experiencing it with one set to 6 and the other 12).
    2. Start recording tracks (at least 3) on one iPad (I was recording at 100bpm with a 2x loop length).
    3. Record some tracks (at least 3) on the other iPad.

    The problems I was experiencing were:
    1. With all tracks active, pause the master and then hit play. When all six tracks start playing, they will not be in sync.
    2. In the process of rocking out (lol), I was recording some tracks, disabling them, re-enabling them, maybe deleting some and recording more. Somewhere in that process, the sync would drift. I went through the process twice last night, basically really putting it to use, and both times it drifted somewhere in the process.

    Thanks for looking at this!

  • edited February 2014

    @Michael, one other thought: intuitively, my sense is that when loopy is processing something (i.e., recording a new loop, starting, stopping, etc..), it's unable to do that and keep the midi sync. It seems to do fine with a couple loops but as the processes build up, seems to inevitably lose the sync...

  • Thanks for that @Ironlion, I'll check this out. I had a conversation about this with a fellow developer yesterday who's looking into the same issue with his app and, disconcertingly, has discovered this seems to be a problem with every MIDI-syncing app he's tried with (and he tested a bunch of them). That's not a good sign, and would tend to confirm your (and mine) suspicions that the device is having trouble keeping up while it's doing other things. Such is the tricky business of MIDI Sync! I'd be interested to hear if the problem persists with a device newer than an iPad 2...

  • Thanks again @Michael for looking into it. My original question still stands: "if the devices are physically connected (via iRig Midi), would that ensure a stable midi sync?" I guess it will have to be tested...

  • Oh, I'm sorry: I doubt that, no. In fact, I'm hearing about some additional issues in relation to MIDI USB devices, so it could well be worse.

  • edited February 2014

    Ok. Oh well. Sounds like it may be a fool's errand then....

    I could return the iPad 2 I just bought and try 2 iPad Airs but then I have to get new connectors. It's really just too complicated (and pricey) with everything changing all the time.

    I wish there was a dedicated, physical device that could do this. I don't think there's anything out there though. Loopy's visual interface is certainly unique.

    Loopy is one of, if not the best, musical tool (actual instruments aside) that I've ever had the pleasure of using. I will continue to enjoy it even without the stratospheric possibilities of multiple instruments and 24 loops :)

    Thanks Michael.

    Edit: I just did a bit of reading and saw that apple's core midi isn't really developed enough to do this. Bummer


  • Hi again @Michael, I was inspired to do a little more testing. With the two ipads mentioned above, I had set up the Air as the master and the 2 as the slave. It occurred to me that maybe the master has less work to do, so I tried setting the 2 as the master and the air as the slave.

    No joy. With three tracks on the master and 1 track on the slave, simply disabling and enabling already recorded tracks is enough to throw off the sync. And even recording the first track on the slave (Air) - it's already off.

    Please let me know if core midi and loopy ever make it to that level. It would be a lot of fun.

  • I've mentioned this on other threads: if you can spend some money, consider the RC-505. My band syncs 3 x VoiceLive Touch 2 to RC-505 as master. Works reliably. I tried for a few months to get Loopy to sync to external MIDI Clock, but no joy. It's a major bummer actually, because Loopy's MIDI binding macros are great and Loopy is fun to use. But it's no fun at gigs if sync breaks.
    The RC-505 is insanely addictive and rock solid at gigs.

  • Thanks @Diggo! Based on what you know about the RC-505, do you think I could reliably midi sync one to another?

  • edited February 2014

    Ironlion, I feel your pain. Loopy is so amazing that you just want to be able to make it do even more :)

    About your original idea of two iPads running loopy... what if you went a different route and had one iPad running two instances of Loopy? Loopy HD and Loopy for iPhone can run together on one iPad I think. Your second iPad could then be set up just as a wi-fi MIDI controller to send commands to Loopy#2 which is running in the background behind Loopy#1.

    That would eliminate syncing two iPads to a single tempo. As far as I know, Loopy can keep tempo quite well with other apps on the same device. And Loopy has very extensive MIDI control options for receiving track mute/record/volume/pan, etc. It might be worth a try before you send back your iPad2.

    take a look at this MIDI controller template I put together.


  • Hi there. I thought I post this here again as some food for testing. I've done quite some tweaking on a setup that midi syncs 3 ios devices running loopy for live performances. Bad experience with both wired and unwired (network session) option. A good external hardware clock to sync loopy to (MPC) is not the remedy either. What seems to be promising from initial testing is to route the midi clock signal through Finger Pro's MoDrum app (http://www.finger-pro.com/modrum.html), it's a 4$ app: clock source into Modrum and out into loopy with MoDrum's jitter reduction feature enabled. I will do some more testing, that is, again, with multiple ios devices running loopy and would be happy if you post your experiences in case you give it a try too. thanks.

  • Yeah, it's clear to me at this point that this is where the loopy/apple train ends. If you want multiple device, midi synced looping for live performance, looks like the RC-505 is the way to go.

  • Dashes off to burn $3 at the App Store App Store....

  • Bumping

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  • [This thread should get infinite bumps.]

    I am cooking a live looping duo with a friend and we had Loopy HD + Dock + FCB1010 as our starting setup, but decent sync is an absolute must. Just bookmarked this thread in hope of good news...

  • @Oak, I've looked at this pretty closely. It's not going to happen because Apple's core midi isn't up to the task. The iOS devices have not officially (and may never) move beyond toys in this respect. Despite how cool Loopy is, the platform on which it runs just can't do real midi syncing.

    This article provides some perspecitve: http://www.musicappblog.com/midibus-review/

    Hence my statement above: "Yeah, it's clear to me at this point that this is where the loopy/apple train ends. If you want multiple device, midi synced looping for live performance, looks like the [Boss] RC-505 is the way to go."

  • Just want to update that for me and my issues getting LoopyHD and DM1 drums to stay in sync, I was hoping to have LoopyHD send MIDI to MoDrum which would smooth out the time, and then have MoDrum send a clock to DM1. Short shorter is that it didn't work any better than just having Loopy send time right to DM1 - no good.
    As for MoDrum itself - I think it has a clunky interface, is all synthesized not such great sounds, and is difficult to program on the fly. I have already deleted it off my ipad.
    Hope it helps.

  • Hey, for anyone who is interested in this thread, I thought I'd post an update. I can't believe it took me this long to figure this out, but Ableton Live is what I've been searching for all this time (3 years?). To take it on stage is going to require the purchase of a laptop and an audio interface, but that's ok since I learned earlier on this exploration that iOS/iPad/core midi is never going to get this job done.

    I did go out and look at the Boss RC-505 and the problem there is that it's not really useful for a guitarist (due to foot pedal limitations). I also looked at the new EHX 45000 which looks pretty sweet. Both of these devices seem to offer the ability to do a working midi sync setup. And I thought about buying one of each.

    But what I finally realized after looking at Ableton, is that if I'm willing to throw down the cash, I can have a looper with whatever midi controller config I can dream up and which can handle multiple instruments in and out which is the other big thing I wanted (i.e. guitar into the looper and out to the guitar amp, piano into looper and out to keyboard amp, etc..). It's a different universe than loopy. That's not to say that loopy isn't awesome. I love it. But for this whole multiple instruments, synced looping, Ableton is going to be the way for me to go.

  • Hey Ironlion,

    I have a fair bit of experience using ableton live with both the clip launcher and the looper plug in. Like EVERY other looper out there I have a love/hate relationship with ableton.

    The clip launcher is awesome for for doing section work (verse/chorus/a/b/etc) kind of work. Using it with an FCB1010 is pretty cool, and I would recomend checking out Cosmo D's work for an idea of how the clip launcher can be utilised.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbG54n412U8 (perfomance)
    (having trouble finding it now but there used to be a great tutorial from Cosmo D at Pyramind where he spent around 2 hours going through his whole rig and giving a performance demo with screen capture cranking. Can't find it now, on mobile internet, will let you know IF I do find it/remember)

    Every tool has it's limitations. In ableton the clip launcher can't do overdubs. I realised this was a critical no no for me since I often play with delays and reverbs that would be cut off as a clip finished recording. The looper as well has limitations, in particular if you change tempo in the session the loop will repitch like a classic tape player or vinyl when the speed increases.

    There are many ways to work with ableton, but just a heads up. It isn't a magic fix it box. Like all tools it comes with it's ups and downs, and it is up to the performer to find the right set for him/her.

    One last word, Ableton is a powerful program with a LOT of options! It depends on how far down the proverbial rabbit hole you want to go. I lost 2.5 years of my life to figuring out how to get it to be the tool I want it to be. Pretty cool 2.5 years, but uhh... yeeeaaahh....

  • @Ironlion. I'm intrigued by the Boss RC 505 also and I would be willing to give it a serious look if I knew the optional foot switch operated basic start/stop, record/overdub function.

  • edited September 2014

    Hey @Syph,

    Thanks for the info. And for sharing your work. I love what you did with that video!

    I hear you about the limitations. Two things come to mind:
    1. I assume you're familiar with the "legato" setting in the clip control window? I haven't really explored it yet, but it seems to be helpful for smoother transitions between clips.
    2. Would applying delay/reverb within ableton to the clip (rather than recording it as part of the audio) avoid the clip-end cutoffs you mentioned? I see the issue about overdubbing - that is problematic (and sort of surprising, I'll probably contact them about that).

    Another reason I'm interested in Ableton is that you can set up a sort of live looping skeleton, requiring no pedal work, as shown in this video:

    (jump to 11:00)


    Personally, I don't think I'm going to commit myself to creating every sound in the song in front of the audience.

    Thanks again!

  • Hi @Ben,

    The RC-505 has a maximum of 10 assignable functions (via midi). Start, stop, record each use up one. Add to that track selection and you're using 4 assignable functions per track which means you can effectively control 2 out of the 5 tracks on the RC-505 with a foot pedal. They told me they have no plans to change that. That might be enough for some people. Other things to look at are the EHX 45000 and the TC Helicon Voice Live 3.

  • That wasn't my video! Though I agree it was an excellent one!

    Don't have the time to watch the video now, I'll double check the legato stuff later today.

    As for the FX, this is a major point in how you want your ableton session to work. You are right that you can apply FX to your tracks instead of your input (or both!), but...

    I run my session with a live input track. Meaning that my bass is always playing through this track. When I loop/record clips I have other tracks take a feed of this live input track. So if I want delay on a loop I need to have delay on my input track. I could record a loop and then add delay on the loop track, but then the live playing would sound dry.

    The other way to work is to route your live audio through the tracks you actually loop in (using the record arm buttons). The advantage is that you can have different FX set up on each track (guitar amp on 1, crazy synth filter on 2 etc) and then record dry audio into each tracks clip slots, not having to worry about about delay/reverb tails being cut off. Disadvantage is though that you have to have a track record armed to get live audio coming through. So if you have 4 tracks and you have a clip playing on each you won't be able to hear you live playing. Not to mention after recording one idea you need to record arm the next track before sound will come out.

    Got to go, will check out legato settings and get back to you later!

  • edited September 2014


    What you wrote got me thinking as I've been wondering how to keep an instrument "live" while being able to loop it in Ableton. You mentioned "taking a feed" of a live track for looping. I just did a test setup (see attached image) where track 3 is being heard continuously (is "live") and has a delay effect on it (via Send B, see bottom of screen). Then, via sends A & B, I'm able to capture a loop off the dry input of track 3, loop it, and simultaneously apply the same instance of the delay effect.

    The result being that I can play my instrument with the delay effect and capture a loop without getting any cutoff anywhere.

  • edited September 2014

    Sent you a PM, didn't want to keep spamming the Loopy forum with ableton :p

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