When working with MIDI hardware, a stable clock signal is the key to accurate timing. Greg Scarth checks out a neat new solution for live and studio use.
ERM’s Midiclock is an incredibly simple device: a tiny box which generates a rock solid MIDI clock signal. Whether working in the studio or a live setting, accurate MIDI clock is the key to precise timing. Older drum machines in particular are notoriously imprecise, but even the clocks on newer hardware and software can suffer from jitter – tiny deviations from perfectly even timing. The Midiclock allows all your equipment to be slaved to a rock solid clock signal, which is output over a pair of DIN sockets. ERM claims that the Midiclock is 50,000 times more accurate than the average DAW (a technical report, The Impact of Clock Jitter on MIDI Syncable DAWs, is available on the company’s website).
Too many products in the boutique hardware market feel distinctly home-made. The Midiclock clearly bucks the trend. It’s made by hand in Berlin, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a DIY project. The powder-coated steel case is solid and well finished, with neat rubber pads on the base. The LCD screen is high quality and clear. The rotary control for tempo is reassuringly solid.
ERM claims that the Midiclock is 50,000 times more accurate than the average DAW.
The unit is powered via a USB connection. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a computer connection; the Midiclock isn’t a USB device, but a standard USB type B connector is used so the unit can be powered by any computer or USB charger. It’s a smart move which we’re surprised more manufacturers haven’t adopted.
The tempo of the clock signal is set using a rotary control which dials in your chosen clock speed in 0.1 bpm increments. The tempo range extends from 60 to 200 bpm. In Normal mode turning the knob doesn’t immediately adjust the tempo but allows you to dial in a new setting which is activated immediately by pushing the tempo knob once. Double-clicking the tempo knob switches the unit to Live mode, in which the tempo of the master clock varies in real time as you adjust the knob.
The only other controls on the unit are play/pause and resync/reset buttons. The former works like any other play/pause button, resuming playback from the same point it was paused. The resync/reset button is an interesting feature which makes a lot of sense in a live context. Hitting it during playback works to resynchronise all devices by resetting the song position pointer at the start of the next bar. Effectively this means that any devices which have slipped out of sync are immediately and seamlessly restarted without interrupting playback. A flashing LED gives visual feedback; for an additional €30, ERM will also offer a modified version with a headphone jack providing a metronome click.
The Midiclock is a product that makes life very easy for reviewers: you can sum up its purpose in a sentence and it works exactly as promised. The ability to start, stop and adjust the tempo of a MIDI clock signal isn’t going to win any award for innovation, but that’s not really the point. You might not be impressed by perfect timing, per se, but if you’ve experienced the frustration of imprecise timing you’ll know how important it is. The key feature of the Midiclock is that the timing of the clock signal is rock solid. With a claimed average jitter of 0.1 µs and a maximum deviation of 0.46 µs, this is a seriously stable foundation for anyone trying to sync MIDI gear. There may be a case for the addition of other features – a tap tempo option, perhaps, or a true stop button in addition to the pause and reset approach – but fundamentally the Midisync is a very simple but highly effective solution to a common problem.
Purchase: ERM Midiclock
The Final Word
A simple but effective solution for anyone suffering from MIDI clock jitter problems.
Looks neat, would love to try one out but a bit expensive imo (also, the screen looks like a 7 segment LED as opposed to LCD); perhaps I’ve been lucky w/ my midi sync’ing so far as not need something this precise . . .
€195 – LOLZ
Review that new macbeth synth.
Won’t ever be able to afford it but…
dis is absurd son. components here gotta be like 10$
Jep, $10 components.
The guys at ERM and their suppliers, distributors & dealers eat air, love and harmony.
here is a real midi sync tool. http://www.innerclocksystems.com/New%20ICS%20Sync-Gen%20V2.html
hardware that goes with it http://www.innerclocksystems.com/New%20ICS%20Sync-Gen%20II%20Pro.html
ok your right $10 is a lowball
But i just want to know what is going on inside this box to justify that €195..! solid gold resistors and potentiometer?
I was looking at this one hoping it would resolve my MicroKORG arpegiator + Ableton live sync issue. What do you guys think?
My setup is: Ableton live on MacBook Pro -> MOTU Midi Express 128 -> MicroKORG
When a new Ableton live scene changes the BPM MicroKORG goes nuts (completely out of sync).
It’s a shame that I’ll have to sacrifice automatic BPM setting by Ableton scenes but, hey, if that’s the only way to get these to collaborate, then I’ll go for it.
Also, I heard syncing Ableton Live to an external MIDI clock greatly improves stability and … sound quality of Ableton’s playback. A myth or a real deal? Why?
Hi guys, this is my problem…I want the most stable midi clock you can get with more than 1 decimal place after the tempo…I love logics 4 decimal places on tempo but know the timing to be inaccurate. I’ve tried the innerclock systems sync gen pro II with ableton and I think now I’ve replaced midi jitter with audio jitter (inherent in usb audio interfaces. ) still end up with not that good a timing.
AS I use a lot of external effects, so I need a tempo which relates to whole ms in delay times, I then choose a frequency for the wave speed to match whole ms on my external effects (se70’s roland rev 330, 330 delay and 330 chorus expander) , . I’m sick of going near the computer to fail when I can sit on my dr880 with its own clock at say 120 bpm, 500ms quarter bar delay and shift the trigger frequency on the synth (bass station) to 512Hz…that lines up, it sounds banging, it doesn’t on logic, fruity loops or ableton. For recording purposes when I print the audio tracks, I’d time stretch back to closest frequency on standard 12 et scale, logic 5 algorithm lets you do it in cents tuning ( to knock the frequency back to standard tuning) , keeping my delays to wave speed perfect and realigning tempo to match in logic. Clearly a midi clock with more decimal places would allow me to hone in on more tempos which match whole delay times. I’d also like a clock that goes faster than 240 bpm. Just to clarify the inner clock systems sync gen is the best I’ve heard so far, I think it will work a hell of a lot better without usb sound card and if your really anal like me and my scope, an extremely low jitter super timed word lock generator coupled with pci card audio card (atomtic clocks need to get cheaper lol). I reckon theirs a market for a midi clock of such accuracy that allows peeps like me who have lost faith in DAW timing and want to take my kit out live without a computer. Please don’t ague that you can’t hear the difference, were trying to stitch frequencies together in 3d space properly like aphex or orbital. Hope loads of peeps feel the same way. Hope I’m making sense I’ve been up for two days. Recap…more decimal places, no computer, faster tempo’s.
I think this item will work as it says. It is selling at schneidersladen and made in Berlin, and that is a guarantee for me.
Maybe the price is high because of the encoder, it has 2 modes of adjusting the bpm and you can click it to confirm.
It obviously seems expensive for its size and contens (according to the photos at their website), but maybe there is one or more expensive components in there.
It seems like a neater solution than Sync Gen – i do not know if their results can compare though.
Price is high because it’s boutique gear; not because of components. I hate midi jitter, and I’d pay boutique prices to get rid of it if it was user friendly and integrated into my PC. I’ve never had an issue with hardware only jitter – just computer clocks syncing midi gear… Still if I was pushing a solid hardware only live setup, then maybe I’d be wanting the tightest clock I can get, and that price seems pretty darn affordable for the best stats in the business!
Just my thoughts on the product and comments.
Oh… and ableton dude above: your more likely to be dealing with audio latency than audio jitter issues… audio jitter sounds like garbled cr@p. If you’re monitoring outboard via software, try direct monitoring (or for a live set, better control may be to avoid running hardware back into the computer…. send it and other outs into a mixer / mixer returns)…