How can a hardware synthesizer act as a VSTi? Find out all about this advanced integration feature!
A Getting Started Guide: Motif XF EDITOR VST
There are two different ways of running the Motif XF Editor. It can run as a standalone program, or it can run as a VST3 plug-in for audio integration, called the "Motif XF VST". The VST version requires a DAW software capable of running VST3 plug-ins. The advantage of running the XF Editor as a VST is that it allows not only advanced audio routing, but when you SAVE your DAW Project file, all the Voices, Mixing setup and settings of your Motif XF are remembered along with the Project. When you next open this Project it will restore every setting of your Motif XF!
VSTi Audio Routing:
The advanced audio routing means you can use software based plug-ins to process your individual audio streams coming from the Motif XF. Without this advanced routing you would typically be recording just standard MIDI tracks into your DAW (Cubase), and as we all know MIDI is not audio and therefore processing MIDI tracks with Plug-in Effects is not possible. But VSTi routing means that the MIDI data for the hardware XF engine will be routed in such a way that the MIDI data travels from Cubase to the XF (hardware) tone engine which returns audio to Cubase via the special VST AUDIO LANE provided for VSTi synths. This audio lane allows you to hear exactly what will be rendered when you execute the "Audio mixdown". VST Instruments all play through the VST INSTRUMENT FOLDER which contains an AUDIO LANE and an AUTOMATION LANE - the AUDIO LANE is "virtual" audio, it is not yet printed as an audio waveform - you are simply monitoring the audio before it is rendered as a Waveform by the process known as EXPORT AUDIO MIXDOWN. This is exactly how all soft synths are treated - via the 'virtual audio' lane prior to rendering the waveform. It is only during the EXPORT AUDIO MIXDOWN that the "virtual audio" becomes "real audio". External VSTi are rendered in real time - this makes sense because the MIDI data needs to be played back to the XF for the XF to generate the AUDIO which is then converted to a high resolution audio waveform on the computer.
Saving your VSTi Setup:
When you Save the Cubase Project, you do not have to save the Motif XF VST data separately. It is automatically saved with the Cubase Project. So exactly like any software synthesizer you may have used, the Motif XF and all its Voices, Edits, etc., are saved as apart of the Project itself. You can opt to save just the CURRENT MIXING setup or you can Save the entire Voice Library contained in your Motif XF at the time of the project. This includes any MIX VOICES, or custom USER VOICES you may have created. If you are using the XF Editor as 'standalone' naturally, you will need to save an Editor File (.X3E) for your Motif XF setup and you will need to restore it manually.
We cannot strongly enough recommend that the one thing you should do while learning to use the Motif XF VST is to read through the 55 page online (PDF) HELP manual that comes with it.
The Standalone version of the Motif XF Editor cannot be run simultaneously with the VST version because you only have one Motif XF (in all likelihood).
Let's see how the Motif XF Editor VST is accessed within Cubase as a VSTi (depending on the version of Cubase you are using - screenshots might be slightly different)...
· Start a NEW PROJECT
· Use the EMPTY Template
· Once the empty Track View window is showing:
· Go to DEVICES > VST INSTRUMENTS (or use the quick key: F11)
In the first space in the VST Instrument Rack click and select "External" > "D – Motif XF VST"
This is how you access the new "Motif XF Editor VST". In a similar scenario as you would in setting up any VSTi, you will be asked if you want to create a MIDI track assigned to the "Motif XF VST".
Create the MIDI track.
The MIDI track for Motif XF data and a VST Folder for the audio lane will appear. Later you can create as many MIDI tracks, assigned to this VSTi, as you require. Each new PART you want to use in your multi-timbral Motif XF requires you create a new MIDI track assigned to the Motif XF VST's MIDI IN. Do not miss this point. The "Motif XF VST MIDI In" (circled in red in the screenshot below) is different from the "Motif XF MIDI In" - and is selected as different. The VST MIDI IN allows the MIDI stream to traverse the graphic user interface that you consider the "editor". Not only do the keys on the graphic keyboard indicate what you are playing, the knobs and parameters in the Editor will animate in response to the data you are generating - it is literally the Motif XF's 1:1 representative in the computer. Each MIDI track will address this one instance of the Motif XF VST. The number of audio lanes will depend on the number of audio Outputs you activate for the Motif XF.
Activating outputs is done on the VST INSTRUMENT rack by clicking on the OUTPUT icon [=> (indicated in the yellow box below) or by activating them in the Motif XF VST Editor (upper right corner of the Editor VST). You can select to activate all outputs or simply click on the output you require. There are 8 Stereo Outputs listed. The first stereo pair (the Main L/R) is always active.
There is a small arrow in the upper right corner of the Motif XF Editor VST which will open an Options dropdown which lets you keep the Editor: Always on Top, you can Copy settings, Load Preset..., Save Preset..., create a Default Preset, make A/B comparisons while editing, Activate the 8 Stereo outputs of the FW16E, etc.
Important note: Remember multiple MIDI PARTS can share an audio output. You may wish to group your musical PARTS to outputs, as makes sense for your music project. PARTS of your Motif XF MIXING setup are routed to the different OUTPUT buses with the OUTPUT SELECT parameter on the main Editor window (on the far right of the screen).
The Editor will launch. If it does not automatically find the ports and communicate with your Motif XF take the following steps:
· Make sure the Motif XF is set to communicate via either USB or FW (depending on what you are using for MIDI communication). You do so by pressing [UTILITY] > [F5] CONTROL > [SF2] MIDI. Under the heading "INTERFACE" set the MIDI In/Out parameter for how you are communicating, FW or USB. (The Editor cannot be run with just a 5-pin MIDI interface).
· The screenshot shows FW selected as the MIDI IN/OUT, select "USB" if that is your MIDI communication route.
· On the menu bar of the Motif XF Editor VST click FILE > SETUP
Make appropriate Device and Port settings on the Setup screen and click OK. Shown at below is the FW/1394 configuration. FW is a perfect situation for this Motif XF Editor VST because it will allow you to use as many as 8 pair of audio outputs simultaneously from the Motif XF.
Special note for those using USB-MIDI and/or another external audio interface: If you are using the USB-MIDI port for MIDI, you will need to additionally connect your external audio interface in order to successfully use this Editor's audio routing functions. Select USB and turn the DETAIL ON.
Select for PORT 1: "Yamaha Motif XF7-1" under MIDI OUT.
Select for PORT 4: "Yamaha Motif XF7-4" for both MIDI IN and MIDI OUT
(The screenshot examples were done on an XF7, of course, if you own an XF6 or and XF8, this will be reflected in your screen.
MIDI and AUDIO
The VST version of the Editor works by establishing both the MIDI path between your computer software applications (Cubase) and an audio path for the returning audio signal. Often you will see reappearing question where the answer outlines the difference between MIDI and audio. We will repeat that discussion, here, as it is pertinent. MIDI data cannot be heard. It only represents the music as notes on staff paper represent the music; as holes punched in the paper of a piano-roll represent the music... these coded messages must be reinterpreted and translated back to the instrument of origin, (or another suitable tone generator) in order to be turned back into music (audible to the human ear).
By establishing a signal path that routes the MIDI data from Cubase to the Motif XF tone engine and then returns the audio from the XF to Cubase, we can establish the same kind of relationship that a computer-based VSTi has. When you launch a computer-based VST Instrument, you establish a MIDI track for the data that is routed to the VSTi engine, because its audio path is known (within the computer) you can process the signal using VST Effects and use the EXPORT AUDIO MIXDOWN to render your MIDI data to audio tracks. Basically you are sending MIDI to the tone engine and then returning audio from the tone generator... the only difference is the Motif XF is external hardware. External to the computer - we reach it by ROUTING the MIDI signal back to the hardware, and the AUDIO signal then arrives in the Cubase VST INSTRUMENT audio lane!
The VST EDITOR allows you to establish this type of communication by enabling the returning audio path. Each of the assignable (FireWire) outputs and the stereo L&R outputs are made available. Shown below is the VSTi INSTRUMENT SETUP within the Motif XF Editor VST.
Go to FILE > VSTi Setup
The center panel shows the FW outputs of the Motif XF (which is acting as your computers audio interface). "Motif XF Main L" and "Motif XF Main R" are the main Left/Right output of the Motif XF. All PARTS routed to OUTPUT SELECT = "L&R" will travel to the DAW via the indicated bus: "MOTIF XF 1"
Special note for USB users: In the center panel you would select the Audio Return Ports of your particular Audio Interface. If your audio interface supports just stereo, you would set the first RETURN for the LEFT and RIGHT channels of that audio interface (you will not be able to use all 16 buses simultaneously). In order to use the 16 simultaneous outputs requires the FW16E FireWire expansion option. If your audio interface has more input channels you can additionally connect the 1/4" Assignable L/R jacks on the XF's back panel.
Auto Sync parameter:
To really start enjoying your Motif XF Editor VST it will be important to get a handle on the Auto Sync function. This deals with the direction of the flow of information. You have two choices: Data can flow from the Motif XF to the computer, or vice versa, from the computer to the Motif XF. Thinking this through, if you start work in the hardware Motif XF, and want to capture what you have done as far as setup data, you want the arrow pointing from the XF to the computer. However, when you have archived a session and wish to recall your work, this is when you want the arrow pointing from the computer towards the XF.
Stating this sounds so very obvious, but you will not appreciate it until you wipe out some work that you have done by replacing it with all piano Voices in all 16 PARTS. Even if this happens to you, do not panic. Remember the hardware XF can be returned to the last stored state by simply recalling the current program. So even if you have a setup you've made in the XF and you have the Editor's AUTO SYNC setup to go in the wrong direction, all may not be lost. You can simply recall the current Program in the hardware XF and then set the Auto Sync in the correct direction.
Also learning to use the ONLINE/OFFLINE function will be important. Anytime you want to make a change in the hardware without the software documenting it, you can simply click the ONLINE option. This will take the Editor OFFLINE. You can try out your change. If you like it and want to keep it you can bring the Editor back ONLINE.
· ONLINE (active) data will automatically be synchronized in hardware and software
· OFFLINE (active) data will not automatically be synchronized
· OFFLINE (non-active) you have a problem to troubleshoot as you have no communication.
The "BULK > DATA SYNC" function is also an important tool. This tool allows you to initiate Bulk dumps from the Editor to the Motif XF (TRANSMIT) or to receive bulk dumps from the XF into the Editor (RECEIVE). This can be accomplished with the Editor in the active OFFLINE status.
Data Sync can be used to import the Normal USER and Drum USER Voices into the Editor - this, as mentioned, is useful when you want to store an entire Library (all or a bank of Voices that you used for this Project) - Rather than limit you to just the 16 Voices of the multi-timbral MIXING setup, you can have the Project store/recall every Voice currently in your Motif XF. This is useful when your Project includes several Program Changes and/or you are not completed and wish to keep your current Library of Voices available. To restore all the VOICES in the Library, you would opt to configure the AUTO SYNC SETTING for VOICE (if you recall, we did not have that set to synchronize, because it does take some time to restore all 512 Normal User Voices and 32 Drum User Kit Voices from memory and this would only need to be done once, and for this specific use case).