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  1. Lex
  2. Sherlock Holmes The Voice
  3. Legacy Yamaha Synths
  4. Wednesday, 29 January 2020
From what I've read about mLAN, it seems like one of the best failed tech endeavors since Betamax.

I'm curious: if I was to have two Motif XFs for example and connect them together via IEE1394 while ensuring that they operate in mLAN mode rather than "FW mode", what sort of unique mischief might I be capable of exploring for the fun of it? Could the two Motifs exchange audio digitally without involving a computer in between?

Maybe would an earlier model Motif be better for exploring the unique character of mLAN mode? I know that mLAN was essentially entirely phased out by the time the XF came around, with the XS witnessing the death knell as-it-happened, but I don't know if its mLAN capabilities were any different from the ES (or XS).

How about connecting one Motif to two PCs simultaneously?

Does anyone around here have any first-hand experience with using mLAN as originally envisioned: going beyond a single computer connected to a single mLAN device?
Responses (1)
Bad Mister
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Thanks for the question...


mLAN was introduced as a concept, by Yamaha in 1996. By 2001, a proof-of-concept expansion board was developed for the Motif (Classic).
By 2003, the Motif ES w/mLAN16e expansion board, was the first major synth with the full on music Networking capability... along with the Yamaha 01X digital mixer, and i88x input expander, formed the basis of the Music Local Area Network (mLAN)... Kurzweil, Korg, and PreSonus had also mLAN devices available.

The system, which was initially designed to be robust enough so that any of the ‘networked’ devices (called “Nodes” ) could be the Master device. (Certain computer companies disagreed with the concept that something other than the computer could anchor the network, and particularly, seemed shocked that once a network was configured, you could actually remove the computer completely).

One of the original concepts was to be able to take your mLAN equipped gear: synth, effect processors, and digital mixer to the gig, the physical connection was accomplished with a simple ‘daisy chain’ using FW cable, with or without the computer... the network in a live situation (non-recording) would/could work without the computer even being there. Once a network was configured using the computer, the last configuration persisted until reconfigured. All routing between ‘nodes’ was done with a “virtual” graphic patchbay. You could “Hotwire” devices (connect new devices to the network without shutting it down — it was musical electronics built by musicians, for musicians.

2003-2007 was the golden era of mLAN (with full networking capability; MIDI, audio, and Word Clock sync).
During this time both computer platforms changed how AUDIO works. The Mac was transitioning to Intel chips (apparently causing a major change in how Macs did audio...
Yes, some computer OS Audio chaos ensued during this time.
The Motif XS bridged this gap from the old to the new audio configurations.

The Motif XS (used the mLANe2) which allowed it to transition from the full networking mLAN to the simpler FW audio setup that supported just 3 devices in a system in addition to the computer (which now had to be included for the system to work). Gone was the free configuration of the network. The new (less expensive) way required each device to be connected, peer-to-peer, with the computer, as if the computer wants to be aware of, (and in constant contact with) all devices— thus ensuring its place at the gig!

The Motif XS (2007) was compatible with the newer computer systems (peer-to-peer) — you actually had to configure your instrument for one or the other configuration and then reboot (mLAN or FW)

The Motif XF (2010, used the FW16E) FireWire expansion board and only ran on the newer computer audio systems. It still could use the mLAN MIDI configuration. (Seems computers had a handle on moving MIDI in a network, but all those possible channels of audio presented a challenge.

During all this time FW was preferred over USB, not because of speed (USB was always fast enough), it lacked the bandwidth to handle the spec.
With the introduction of the MOX in 2011, dual stereo USB was possible, and with MONTAGE you see the 32-bus audio outputs via USB.

The concept of the MONTAGE single driver for MIDI and Audio, with multiple MIDI ports and multiple audio ports, still exists. Gone is the full networking capability... but mLAN, as a concept, lives on in the new systems...

Conclusion: mLAN was not for the newbie to audio and MIDI... as I have noted in the past, the concept was to simplify connectivity. You connected your devices in any order, as long as each device was on the daisy-chain, you created all signal routing in the virtual world of the graphic patchbay. Plans for all types of devices included speakers, amplifiers, ... imagine, simply connect each device you want in any order. Just connect one to the next, to the next so everything is linked in a daisy chain. The left speaker will identify itself and take on the role of Left Speaker, each device identifies itself and can be configured into your Network.

Audio systems in the future will allow you to connect your synth directly to your left speaker, as a stereo device... the system will take the stereo input and route the right channel’s information to the right speaker. This type of ‘intelligence’ within the products themselves will make connectivity easier and easier. (Oh, of course, there is always head scratching in the beginning but... )

First time I saw a Dante audio system (2003-4) it was in an expansion board that was added to the Yamaha digital mixers of that time (made by Audinate)... you could really see where the future of audio was heading. Intelligent Networking systems is the future.

mLAN will always stand as a solid concept... I always wonder if someone was successful in building a MUSICIAN’s computer (not just a computer you whip into shape to do music, but one designed specifically to serve musicians) where we’d be by now.

I never needed to connect a second computer, but that was in the works and certainly within the scope of things being planned. FW being as robust as it was at the time, a single system could theoretically handle dozens of MIDI and Audio channels simultaneously... and although a second computer was not something I ever needed (I still don’t know what I would do with it... but I never figured what I would do with a second drummer or second bass player, so I’m the wrong one to ask about what the extra computer would do...

Today, our digital mixing systems allow more than one computer/tablet control devices to be in the system... for example when mixing with a Yamaha digital mixer, you can connect an iPad to run the console (allows the engineer to walk the venue dialing in the sound)... yet a second iPad can be designated to do the mix on stage. Front-of-House and Stage Monitor systems—both can be active and work with each other as ‘masters’. Additionally, each musician (up to 8) can do their own monitor mixes, using an app on their phone. This is the kind of musician-centric systems that the technology currently, supports.

Successful or not in the market, something like music local area networking, is a concept that was designed to serve musicians in the tasks of both recording and performing live. Watching the germ idea evolve has been interesting...and enlightening.

Thanks for the question. I would only recommend going back to a 2003 system, if you have a computer running an operating system from that era. There is no one looking to fix any problems you run into and definitely computers do not look back beyond a certain point (and offer no support for out-dated operating systems).

I do hear from folks that took the mLAN leap and got a lot out of it.
Of course, it was new and confusing, especially to those that never previously operated a physical patchbay, for them operating a virtual digital graphic patchbay was like a completely foreign language. They can blame the technology (for not being easier) hard to argue with that, because for many it was the deep end of the pool from the outset. We would get the: “the system seems to assume some previous audio knowledge and experience...” complaint. If you were unaware of the issues it was trying to fix, you could never have appreciate what it accomplished.

But those who got it, found it extremely useful.

MONTAGE: I’ve got 32 audio bus outputs and 6 audio returns on my favorite synth. The digital mixer is no longer a separate device I need to route to for advanced effect processing — the digital mixer and advanced effect processing is built-into the synthesizer. If I had to go through all of this again, to get here, would I? You bet!!!
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