What cables are needed for HW synths?

Anything about hardware musical instruments.
RELATED
PRODUCTS
Passante
KVRist
Topic Starter
53 posts since 7 Feb, 2016

Post Thu Dec 08, 2022 1:29 pm

So I was looking into a used Jp8080. The synth comes only with the main power cord. How do I make it communicate with my pc? Midi cables? Which ones? Is it always synth specific or are there some standards that all of them follow?
Also, is there cable quality difference, a difference big enough to care about?
I confess I'm really lost here.
Can you reccomend an article or some guide that could shed some light for a newb like me?

Watchful
KVRian
1036 posts since 9 Jan, 2018

Post Thu Dec 08, 2022 5:19 pm

Hi Passante,

I'll have two answers for you: your JP-8080 exactly, and--assuming you don't get it--go for something more modern.

I'll actually tackle the more modern version first.

1. USB - most hardware keyboards made since 2010 feature USB. Using a good quality USB cable, connect this directly into your PC. Depending on the driver, that may be all you need: MIDI and audio and control can come over the same USB cable.

2. Audio cables - some keyboard drivers don't support audio over USB, assuming your keyboard outputs audio. Controllers, for example, don't produce audio on their own, but drive equipment that does. Assuming you have a hardware synth, you need to get the audio out of it. For this, use two 1/4-inch audio cables. Plug one into the back of the keyboard in the LEFT/MONO jack, and the other into the RIGHT jack. Plug the other two ends into your audio interface, making sure that you keep track of which one is right and which one is left!

3. An audio interface - I'm assuming you have one of these? If so, this is already connected to your computer via USB or Firewire. If you don't have an audio interface--well, you're going to need one sooner or later. Which one is a really, really major discussion, and you'll want to invest time in researching this before you invest any money. Some small ones are expensive and good, some expensive and bad, some inexpensive ones are good. Most are not. Take your time before purchasing!

And really, that's it for most modern synth keyboards. You have MIDI going to/from the PC, audio going to the audio interface and into the PC from the audio interface. Everything you need hardware-wise.

Now about the older hardware... this is your JP-8080, for example.

It's not going to have USB, so MIDI and audio are definitely going to be treated very differently here.

1. A way to get MIDI cables to connect to your PC. Sometimes your audio interface has this; most don't.

A. If you do have MIDI jacks on your audio interface, purchase two MIDI cables long enough to reach your audio interface from your synth...but don't get overly long ones, as the longer a MIDI cable is, the slower its signal. Plug one end to the interface's MIDI OUT and the other to the synth's MIDI IN. You can probably guess the next step: plug the interface's MIDI IN to the synth's MIDI OUT.

B. If your audio interface doesn't have MIDI jacks, you need a way to convert two MIDI cables to USB. There are connectors that have a USB connection on one end and two MIDI connectors on the other end. I'm going to be very blunt about this: quality matters a lot. There are some you can purchase for $20 from big retailers; they're probably not going to work, or will be wholly unreliable. You can also spend hundreds and get something great...but doesn't do much more than convert the signals. Look around the $50 range or so. Plug the USB end into your PC, and the other two into your MIDI IN and MIDI out jacks. Sometimes the cables will be labeled IN or OUT; many times it won't matter, as USB can keep these straight for you.

2. An audio interface. See above: you'll need one of these for sure if you don't already have one.

3. Audio cables. As above, you'll need two of these. Balanced or unbalanced? Unbalanced is cheaper and work totally fine if your audio interface is really close to the synth. If the audio interface is more than a few feet away, or you're getting radio stations quietly babbling in your audio interface, you'll want to spend a bit more cash and get some balanced cables. Like before, keep track of which cable is LEFT/MONO and which is RIGHT on your audio interface, otherwise stereo effects might not work like you expect!

That's it.

Optionally, you might want a quality headphone set. On the JP-8080, the headphone jack is on the front; on other synths, it can be on the back.

The JP doesn't support foot pedals, but many synths do. There are two kinds:

1. Single function pedals, which are great for sustains or program changes. The synth will have jacks clearly labeled for these. I use sustain pedals a lot.

2. Volume or swell functions. This type of pedal--usually a little more expensive than the first kind--feeds gradual voltage changes to the jack so you can raise or lower volume, increase or decrease filter sweeps, etc. Again, the jacks will be labeled on a synth for what they do, but be advise that there two different pedals and you can't use one for the other. Check the synth's manual/documentation for which pedal connects to which jack if you can't work it out.

REMEMBER THESE THINGS:

1. When making the audio connections, make sure the synth is powered OFF and the volume is turned to ZERO! Make the connections to your audio interface, power up, and slowly turn up the volume. Listen through your headphones or through your computer speakers until the volume is at a comfortable working level. It's okay to leave the volume where it is once you like it. When you power off the synth or power it back up, you should be fine from then on. But if you every hear popping or loud clicks when you do, get into the habit of lowering the volume before turning it on or off! You will damage your equipment if you don't...eventually, if not right away.

2. Making physical connections to an audio interface is great. Hearing it and working with it is another thing: make sure you have software and drivers that support MIDI and audio. A DAW is a great solution here: I'm guessing you already have a DAW and know how to use them.

How DAWs handle hardware synths vary, but you will need to keep in mind that sending data to a synth requires a MIDI track, and getting audio back from it requires an audio track. So for one piece of hardware, you'll need two tracks (some hardware, with multiple audio outputs, require more cables and more inputs!) going at once.

Hope this is what you were looking for!
Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and even Deezer, whatever the hell Deezer is.

More fun at Twitter @watchfulactual

bibz1st
KVRAF
1792 posts since 29 Mar, 2013

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 2:15 am

Possibly the most comprensive answer ever :clap:
Beauty is only skin deep,
Ugliness, however, goes right the way through

chk071
KVRAF
33355 posts since 11 Apr, 2010 from Germany

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 2:33 am

tl;dr ;) You need 2 x 6.35 mm mono audio cables, and 2 x standard 5 pole MIDI cables.

Check the user manual for the connections on the back of the device (page 14): https://static.roland.com/assets/media/ ... 080_OM.pdf

If you want to feed in an external signal to the synth, you need another 2 x 6.35 mm audio cables.

As Watchful has written, I'd make sure to use balanced cables. Nothing worse than hum in the audio, and you have to figure out where it comes from. I had that issue with my audio interface. Never again...

lfm
KVRAF
5931 posts since 22 Jan, 2005 from Sweden

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 2:58 am

Balanced cables would require both ends as synth and interface goes AFAIK.
But then it is stereo TRS cables, not mono.

Slim chance this synth is balanced ins/outs, even rare I would say, unless workstations.
But keeping gear in same power outlet and same fuse it works rather well since ground need not transport all the way to fusebox and back.

User avatar
T-CM11
KVRAF
2738 posts since 31 Jan, 2003 from Ghent, Belgium

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 3:26 am

chk071 wrote: Fri Dec 09, 2022 2:33 am tl;dr ;) You need 2 x 6.35 mm mono audio cables, and 2 x standard 5 pole MIDI cables.

Check the user manual for the connections on the back of the device (page 14): https://static.roland.com/assets/media/ ... 080_OM.pdf

If you want to feed in an external signal to the synth, you need another 2 x 6.35 mm audio cables.

As Watchful has written, I'd make sure to use balanced cables. Nothing worse than hum in the audio, and you have to figure out where it comes from. I had that issue with my audio interface. Never again...
Addendum:
- 1 x 6.35 mm is enough if the OP only wants/needs mono sound.
- Same thing for external input, if you only want to feed it mono signals. (for use with a computer, an audio interface with more than 1 stereo output/bus is needed)
- 1 MIDI cable *can* also be enough (depending...).
Correction:
No need for balanced (TRS) cables - most hardware synths don't have balanced outputs, and I'm pretty sure the 8080 doesn't have them (I've checked the manual).

I would advise having/buying an audio interface, but you can do without. You'd need a cable like this:
https://www.studiospares.com/media/cata ... d10lg3.jpg
This is a (1x1) USB midi interface: (You need one!)
https://www.amazon.com/Roland-UM-ONE-Mi ... B004KCLXBE
In this example, the midi cables and interface are integrated in one 'device'.
(don't buy the cheapest you can find)
Last edited by T-CM11 on Fri Dec 09, 2022 3:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
T-CM11
KVRAF
2738 posts since 31 Jan, 2003 from Ghent, Belgium

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 3:29 am

Most basic audio interfaces often have all connections (incl. midi) you'd need + a manual that explains how to use it with hardware synths.
Example:
https://www.steinberg.net/audio-interfaces/ur22c/
But there are enough other alternatives, from e.g. Focusrite, Presonus, Roland, Arturia, NI, (RME: expensive but highly recommended), etc. etc.
Last edited by T-CM11 on Fri Dec 09, 2022 3:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

chk071
KVRAF
33355 posts since 11 Apr, 2010 from Germany

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 3:31 am

T-CM11 wrote: Fri Dec 09, 2022 3:26 am No need for balanced (TRS) cables - most hardware synths don't have balanced outputs, and I'm pretty sure the 8080 doesn't have them (I've checked the manual).
Ok, I guess that rules that out then.

Passante
KVRist
Topic Starter
53 posts since 7 Feb, 2016

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 12:40 pm

Watchful wrote: Thu Dec 08, 2022 5:19 pm Hi Passante,

I'll have two answers for you: your JP-8080 exactly, and--assuming you don't get it--go for something more modern.

I'll actually tackle the more modern version first.

1. USB - most hardware keyboards made since 2010 feature USB. Using a good quality USB cable, connect this directly into your PC. Depending on the driver, that may be all you need: MIDI and audio and control can come over the same USB cable.

2. Audio cables - some keyboard drivers don't support audio over USB, assuming your keyboard outputs audio. Controllers, for example, don't produce audio on their own, but drive equipment that does. Assuming you have a hardware synth, you need to get the audio out of it. For this, use two 1/4-inch audio cables. Plug one into the back of the keyboard in the LEFT/MONO jack, and the other into the RIGHT jack. Plug the other two ends into your audio interface, making sure that you keep track of which one is right and which one is left!

3. An audio interface - I'm assuming you have one of these? If so, this is already connected to your computer via USB or Firewire. If you don't have an audio interface--well, you're going to need one sooner or later. Which one is a really, really major discussion, and you'll want to invest time in researching this before you invest any money. Some small ones are expensive and good, some expensive and bad, some inexpensive ones are good. Most are not. Take your time before purchasing!

And really, that's it for most modern synth keyboards. You have MIDI going to/from the PC, audio going to the audio interface and into the PC from the audio interface. Everything you need hardware-wise.

Now about the older hardware... this is your JP-8080, for example.

It's not going to have USB, so MIDI and audio are definitely going to be treated very differently here.

1. A way to get MIDI cables to connect to your PC. Sometimes your audio interface has this; most don't.

A. If you do have MIDI jacks on your audio interface, purchase two MIDI cables long enough to reach your audio interface from your synth...but don't get overly long ones, as the longer a MIDI cable is, the slower its signal. Plug one end to the interface's MIDI OUT and the other to the synth's MIDI IN. You can probably guess the next step: plug the interface's MIDI IN to the synth's MIDI OUT.

B. If your audio interface doesn't have MIDI jacks, you need a way to convert two MIDI cables to USB. There are connectors that have a USB connection on one end and two MIDI connectors on the other end. I'm going to be very blunt about this: quality matters a lot. There are some you can purchase for $20 from big retailers; they're probably not going to work, or will be wholly unreliable. You can also spend hundreds and get something great...but doesn't do much more than convert the signals. Look around the $50 range or so. Plug the USB end into your PC, and the other two into your MIDI IN and MIDI out jacks. Sometimes the cables will be labeled IN or OUT; many times it won't matter, as USB can keep these straight for you.

2. An audio interface. See above: you'll need one of these for sure if you don't already have one.

3. Audio cables. As above, you'll need two of these. Balanced or unbalanced? Unbalanced is cheaper and work totally fine if your audio interface is really close to the synth. If the audio interface is more than a few feet away, or you're getting radio stations quietly babbling in your audio interface, you'll want to spend a bit more cash and get some balanced cables. Like before, keep track of which cable is LEFT/MONO and which is RIGHT on your audio interface, otherwise stereo effects might not work like you expect!

That's it.

Optionally, you might want a quality headphone set. On the JP-8080, the headphone jack is on the front; on other synths, it can be on the back.

The JP doesn't support foot pedals, but many synths do. There are two kinds:

1. Single function pedals, which are great for sustains or program changes. The synth will have jacks clearly labeled for these. I use sustain pedals a lot.

2. Volume or swell functions. This type of pedal--usually a little more expensive than the first kind--feeds gradual voltage changes to the jack so you can raise or lower volume, increase or decrease filter sweeps, etc. Again, the jacks will be labeled on a synth for what they do, but be advise that there two different pedals and you can't use one for the other. Check the synth's manual/documentation for which pedal connects to which jack if you can't work it out.

REMEMBER THESE THINGS:

1. When making the audio connections, make sure the synth is powered OFF and the volume is turned to ZERO! Make the connections to your audio interface, power up, and slowly turn up the volume. Listen through your headphones or through your computer speakers until the volume is at a comfortable working level. It's okay to leave the volume where it is once you like it. When you power off the synth or power it back up, you should be fine from then on. But if you every hear popping or loud clicks when you do, get into the habit of lowering the volume before turning it on or off! You will damage your equipment if you don't...eventually, if not right away.

2. Making physical connections to an audio interface is great. Hearing it and working with it is another thing: make sure you have software and drivers that support MIDI and audio. A DAW is a great solution here: I'm guessing you already have a DAW and know how to use them.

How DAWs handle hardware synths vary, but you will need to keep in mind that sending data to a synth requires a MIDI track, and getting audio back from it requires an audio track. So for one piece of hardware, you'll need two tracks (some hardware, with multiple audio outputs, require more cables and more inputs!) going at once.

Hope this is what you were looking for!
Wow, what a clear and exhaustive responsive, thank you so much! This really cleared the fog for me.
So If I understood it correctly, newer synths can transport both midi and audio through USB, and this would allow me to connect my synth directly to my pc. With older synths this doesn't occur so I need a pair of 1/4 jacks for the audio and a pair of midi mono cables for the transmission of midi. All of these are connected to my audio interface which is a middle man between the pc and my synth.

I would prolly still opt for an older synth though, because I'm interested in learning the process.

Passante
KVRist
Topic Starter
53 posts since 7 Feb, 2016

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 12:45 pm

No, got confused, the audio cables are the ones that need to be mono for this specific synth, the midi cables don't send/receive audio. :dog:

vurt
addled muppet weed
98518 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 12:50 pm

yup, two mono audio cables (instrument cables, t/s) for stereo (you can use one for a mono bass line for example, or for anything you wish really)
then two midi, one in, one out.

although, these are only necessary, if you wish to record midi form the synth to the host, and then to play it back through the synth.
if you are playing it live and recording the audio, no midi is needed.
if you don't want me to destroy you
take a leaf out of my book, turn it round and have a look...

vurt
addled muppet weed
98518 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 12:54 pm

also, :clap: for watchful, thats answering the question, with no room for doubts!! 8)
if you don't want me to destroy you
take a leaf out of my book, turn it round and have a look...

User avatar
T-CM11
KVRAF
2738 posts since 31 Jan, 2003 from Ghent, Belgium

Post Fri Dec 09, 2022 12:55 pm

Passante wrote: Fri Dec 09, 2022 12:40 pm So If I understood it correctly, newer synths can transport both midi and audio through USB, and this would allow me to connect my synth directly to my pc. With older synths this doesn't occur so I need a pair of 1/4 jacks for the audio and a pair of midi mono cables for the transmission of midi. All of these are connected to my audio interface which is a middle man between the pc and my synth.

I would prolly still opt for an older synth though, because I'm interested in learning the process.
USB audio isn't as simple as that. In most cases, audio-over-USB just means a built-in audio interface. So... not ideal if you already have an audio interface that you also want to keep using
(especially in Windows).

PS. Since Midi is just instructions, there's no such thing as mono (or stereo) midi cables.

Return to “Hardware (Instruments and Effects)”