MPC5000 reviews, bug reports and fellow user support on the most recent standalone, hardware MPC from Akai
By Romanp Fri Mar 01, 2019 11:34 pm
Greetings from New Zealand,
Hello synchronised groove masters,
I am having problems getting any of my MIDI synchronise-able sequencers and HD24XR audio recorder syncing perfectly.

I bought hardware sequencers with the aim of minimising my interactions with my computer screen, touch pad etc. I like the user interface of the Akai MPC and I like the simplicity of hardware with dedicated buttons etc.

So I bought: An Akai MPC5000, Motif XF7, Alesis HD24XR. I also have MOTU Digital Performer on my macbook. MOTU MIDI Timepiece AV is my MIDI interface.

Syncing capabilities of the gear:
Alesis HD24XR: Can transmit MIDI time code, and can be master or slave to ADAT sync.
Aka MPC5000: can be master or slave with MTC or MIDI beat clock. It can send and receive MMC as well.
Motif XF: Can slave to MTC or MIDI beat clock and can be master transmitting MIDI beat clock. Can also slave to MTC and send MIDI clock.

Here are my experiences/results of various syncing scenario/tests:

Sync scenario #1. Recording 10 minutes audio of an 8th note quantised hi-hat and sidestick pattern from the Motif XF into the HD24XR with the Motif slaved to MTC from the HD24XR. Then playing the audio and listening to the sync alignment along with the live slaved Motif hi-hat pattern.

They started very close and gradually drifted further apart in timing. in the final 8th minute they are flamming or worse, slap echoing.
Therefore unusable for tracking audio to MIDI sequencing on the Motif. Or tracking there Motif in multiple passes.

Test scenario #2:
Same test but with the MPC this time:

Different amounts of flamming each time I start from the beginning. So an inconsistent difference between the audio and live MIDI sound each time.
In response, I restart many times waiting for the closest timing result. Gradual drift as well.

Unusable because it doesn’t start together or stay together in sync.

Test scenario #3:
Syncing the MPC (MIDI beat clock slave) to the Motif (MIDI beat clock master)

Method: I sequenced a quantised 8th note hi-hat pattern in the MPC and the Motif to reference the sequencers timing grids.

Each time I play from the start of the song on the Motif, the MPC is playing in varying degrees of flamming or even bigger time differences.
Also when I change the location on the Motif song and press play the location of the MPC doesn’t change. I have the MPC sequence copied out to 200 bars so it a linear sequence not just a 2 bar loop.
If I am lucky sometimes the hi-hat patterns line up. But only if I start from the beginning.
Whether I have ‘receive MMC’ on the MPC on or off makes no difference.

The tempos seem to be consistent but the hits are not in sync and always vary. No ability to change locations within a song.

Test scenario #4
This time the MPC is MIDI beat clock master to the Motif.
Essentially the exact same results. Varying sync delays. Although I do notice the master is always the first to sound and the slave is late by varying amounts. No location possible.

Test scenario #5:
Digital Performer as MIDI beat clock master to both the MPC and the Motif.
Again listening to the hi-hats alignment accuracy.

Sometimes there is a delay and consistent slamming but mostly the hiatus line up perfectly and sound almost like one hi-hat. I can change locations and both sequencers follow exactly.
If I do get flamming then I press the spacebar twice, stopping and starting and everything is in sync again. Sometimes the sync flams once and then and 8th note later is in sync.

This seems useable. Apart from sometimes not syncing it allows me to play and locate in perfect sync.

Last sync test:
Because Digital Performer as MIDI beat clock synced well. I did the last test which is recording on the MPC or the Motif while syncing. If I am going to make music I don’t want to work on the drums (MPC is intended as the drum machine) in isolation from the instruments/composition (Motif is intended to sequence linearly like a tape machine all non drum chromatic instruments).
When I press record on the MPC and then press play on DP (to start the sync master) the MPC doesn’t start.
When I do the same on the Motif I am able to record on the Motif in sync.

My plea for sympathy:
I need to understand what is possible with the hardware sequencers and HD24XR in terms of sync. I am not concluding that my results are the definite limitations of syncing my gear. Maybe I am doing something wrong and don’t understand the features fully. Maybe there are techniques or settings I need to learn. I have read about the Innerclock Sync Gen, ERM Multiclock and the SND ACME 4 which people claim solved their particular sync issues. But I need to understand first what my sync issues are and if relevant, how a MIDI clock generator could help.

But if I am going to make music instead of go insane, I need to learn the truth about the sync capabilities and sync performance of the gear I have. Once I know the limitations I can then choose to work within them or spend money on other **** equipment that claims to have features that you only learn don’t work once you have spent the money.

I have always wanted to be able to switch drum patterns independently of the rest of the linearly sequenced non drum instruments (song). Hence why I have the MPC as a big drum machine and I intended to linearly sequence all non drum instruments on the Motif or DP.

My MIDI compositional strategy was to simply use the MPC as a drum machine, creating patterns and fills, triggering them live with the MPC’s ‘next seq’ feature. I have discovered that the MPC can’t record the ‘next seq’ arranging. It’s only for live jamming. You have to use the pre scripted ‘song mode’.
Ironically the Motif (which in my mind isn’t as drum specific as the MPC is) allows you to queue up the next pattern and conveniently it starts the next pattern on the next bar not after the current pattern is finished. I need this feature (which the MPC has as ‘next bar’) because then I can drop a one bar fill pattern in to replace the last bar of a 4 or 8 bar pattern. But also the Motif allows you to record this live intuitive drum pattern switching unlike the MPC.
Gosh, I may have to use the Motif as my drum pattern switching sequencer.

I need the 960PPQN of the MPC5000 because that allows finer timing resolution. I can shift bass drum tracks by smaller amounts than my old MPC60 with it’s 96PPQN. Plus capture drum playing more accurately.
But also the MPC5000 having ‘quantise strength’ is huge for me. Without ‘quantise strength’ your options of timing are unquantised, how you played it or perfect robot timing.

I will send this plea for help to the specific gear forums/user groups to see if others are successfully syncing the HD24XR or MPC5000 or Motif XF to other gear like the scenarios I listed. I will also consult the (I assume) experts on MIDI beat clock syncing, Innerclock Systems, SND, ER-M etc as they must have done extensive testing and research of MIDI syncing.

From these scenarios I assume that MIDI time code may be unsuitable or unable to sync MIDI sequences that are tracked in multiple passes. If I tracked a bass guitar as audio to the HD24XR while the MPC was slaved via MTC. Then if the timing of the MPC isn’t exactly how it was when I played the bass guitar (as evident in my test) then musically things have shifted relatively, which is unusable. I assume the drift between different passes of the Motif and MPC slaved to the HD24XR transmitting MTC was caused by the tempo of the hardware sequencers being slightly different on each pass. I have to assume the HD24XR is a super accurate time clock and that the MTC sync does keep the time counter of the MPC and Motif synced. So perhaps the sequencers tempo isn’t being bound exactly to the time in hours:minutes:seconds:frames?
MIDI beat clock seems a more logic way to keep sequencer grids in sync. I haven’t tested multiple passes of slaved sequencers with DP as master yet. Hopefully that stays in sync.

In theory, and according to the Motif manual, the Motif can function as a transport control for DP when set up in the software as a Mackie Control.
So that could allow me to use the Motif transport to control DP acting as the MIDI clock master. But the MPC seemingly not being able to record while slaved to sync, means I can’t make drum patterns on the MPC along to the MIDI instruments and audio. In other words the rest of the song.

If the MPC had a separate pattern sequencer to linear tracks then I wouldn’t even need to sequence MIDI on the Motif or DP.

Maybe I have to give up the idea of switching drum pattern live along to the rest of the song as a jamming arrangement feature.

Maybe other gear does it. Maybe I can get my current gear to sync better. Time will tell. Maybe I need to buy other equipment. I need assistance from experienced synchronisers.

Is it possible to make music using MIDI sync? Is it possible to record on the MPC5000 while slaved? Would a MIDI clock generator help and how?
I have to be making music before another decade passes.
Should I give up on evil sequencers and become an alcoholic drummer in a mindless band.