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MIDIbox Tutorial

MIDIbox is built, the power supply is switched on, the MIDI cable is connected - and now? This lesson shows you, how to operate with the Box.

For a first test you should get a MIDI monitor with MIDI Thru function for the PC to look for the incoming MIDI signals. Most MIDI monitors provide the possibility to forward MIDI data to another MIDI device like your soundcard or software synthesizer. I recommend the MIDI-OX tool from Jamie O'Connell and Jerry Jorgenrud which is really great!

Lets go, take a look to the sketch:


MIDI Message Indicator: flashes when MIDI messages are sent through the MIDI out port.


Init Value Indicator: flashes when the actual value of the current knob is the initial value (Volume: $7f, Panorama: $40, Modulation: $00)


MIDI-Channel: four switches to select the MIDI channel (binary coding). On MIDIBox Plus to select the superlayer.


Knobs/Fader: Knobs, Faders, Pots... take your favourite name for these things. ;-)


Layer-Keys: selection of Layer 1-6 (ref. to tables below).


Memo-Key: save current values of the knobs.


Reset-Key: reset current values of the knobs.


LC-Display: (nur MIDIbox Plus) Anzeige der Layer und der aktuellen Poti-Werte.

After switching on the box the MIDI monitor should show the controller messages like this: bC 1P XX (C=channel, P=pot 0-7, XX=value). The green LED should flush. If not: check the circuit, the cable, your Wintendo installation. If this doesnt help, curse Wintendo and your soundcard!

The Layer concept

Sixteen Knobs are available, but this is not enough for modifing complex sounds. For instance the AWE soundcard provides over 32 soundparameters. Normaly you dont need to change it at the same time. So I distribute it on some layers. You can switch the parameters by changing the layer. MIDIbox provides six layers, two for software synthesizers, four for the AWE/SBLive. With MIDIbox plus there are also sixteen Superlayers available, which can be selected on-the-fly. On this way, there are 96 Layers or 786 parameters available. Hey, and if your assembler skills are high enough, you can also extend the layers for your needs! :)

MIDIbox as a mixer

With superlayer 13-16 the MIDIbox can operate as mixer. Each pot has an own midi channel. The controllers for volume, panning, modulation, reverb, chorus and variation can be selected with the layer buttons.

Direct Mode and MIDI Learn

The Direct Mode opens the possibility to customize the pots and buttons. The configuration takes place with a MIDI learn function. Depending of the version you build (8 or 16 pots), the configuration can be done with:

Enter Mode

8 Pot Version, during startup

16 Pot Version


...press the reset button

change to Super Layer 9


...press the memo button

change to Super Layer 10

How does MIDI Learn work: plug a MIDI cable from the MIDI IN port of the MIDIbox to the MIDI OUT port of a keyboard or PC and send a note or controller event. MIDIbox will regognize the event and display it. If you want to set the controller to a pot, just turn it to "total right" and to "total left". If a button should learn the event, just press the button. After the configuration, enter the direct mode and try it out.

Snapper and Relative Mode

(Ideas to this modes were originated by Frank and Kieran. The Descriptions are partly quoted from the Access Virus Synthesizer Manual. Copyright 2001 by Access Music GmbH. See the MIDIbox Forum for further details)

Snapper Mode: When you adjust a knob in Snapper Mode, the original setting determines the value until the point where the movement of the knob passes beyond this position. In other words, the parameter does not jump to the value as in Normal Mode. However, keep in mind that your adjustments have no effect on the parameter until the knob "snaps" on at the position equivalent to the original parameter. In SNAPPER mode, an > symbol appears instead of the parameter bar. It indicates in which direction the knob must be turned to exceed the current parameter value. < implies the value is lower. The parameter bar appears when the value is "snapped".

Relative Mode: When you adjust a knob in Relative Mode, the parameter is affected immediately but not absolutely. In other words, the parameter change from the original value to the new value now reflects precisely the amount you adjusted the given knob. ie if the knob value is +30, and when you switch over, the value is now +50, the knob continues on as if it were at the parameter-set +50 position, so when you turn the knob (even though the knob physically is at +30) the next parameter value will be +51 (even though the knob is at +31). Obvoiusly, the downside is that in an unfavorable configuration - the worst case scenario being a maximum parameter value and a knob position at the minimum value - you do not have the full control range of the knob at your disposal. To counteract this situation, you have to turn the knob in the opposite direction to adjust the physical knob position so that it is equivalent to the actual parameter value (ie. turn the knob up to maximum, which will sync it with the maximum parameter value).

Operating with the MIDIbox

Here are some tips'n'tricks for operating with the Box:

Layer Change

During Layer change the last saved parameters of the layers are sent to the MIDI interface. The great advantage of this method is that this provide a "undo" function. Dont forget to push the memo button before layer change if you want to save the actual settings.

Superlayer Change (only MIDIbox Plus)

After selecting the superlayer just press a layer button to accept your choice. If you have a LCD, the layer numbers will flash during selection

Select MIDI channel

With the four switches (3) you can select the MIDI channel: binary coding.

Save the knob settings with a MIDI sequencer

...its very easy: start the record function of your sequencer and push the layer buttons one to another. The sequencer receives all the controller messages and so you saved your settings.

Control Cubase VST faders with the MIDIbox Plus

This tip comes from Dave Wraight: to control the Cubase VST faders with MIDIbox Plus you have to switch on the VST Remote mode and to select the Roland external controller. Also you have to select MIDI Channel 16 on the Box. Now you can move the faders with controller $40-$47 and $30-$37 (Superlayer 4-1 and 5-1).

An anonymous poster mailed me some more informations about how to control Cubase VST:

Select Roland option in VST remote. Set midibox plus to channel 16.


Cubase Mixer Parameter


Solo (channels 1 - 8)


Transport Controls ($13-rewind; $14-forward; $15-stop; $16-play; $17-record)


Solo (channels 9 - 16)


Mute (channels 1 - 8)


Volume (channels 9 - 16)


Pan (channels 9 - 16)


Volume (channels 1 - 8)


Pan (channels 1 - 8)


Mute (channels 9 - 16)

When altering the solo or mute or transport controls, turning the knob on the Midibox plus switches these on - off - on - off as you turn the knob in a circle.

There is a problem using VST remote if you only have one midi input on your computer and, z.b., you are merging your keyboard with your midibox plus. The problem is that VST remote takes up a whole midi in port. When VST remote is switched on, the note on/note off information from your keyboard does not function in Cubase. Your keyboard must be plugged into another midi in port.

I only have one midi in port, but I managed to solve this problem by using Hubi's loopback software with multiple instances of Hubi's midi cable, to create a new virtual midi in port. Then I used the midi filter facility in the Hubi software to send the VST remote information to one midi in port and the other information (note on/off etc.) to the other. Finally I created a batch file to start Cubase and the Hubi cables with the saved filter information with one mouse click. So it can be done!

"Keyboards" Soundforum Synthesizer mit der MIDIbox/Plus/16Pot ansteuern

The german music magazine Keyboards introduced a free virtual synthesizer in their 12-2000 release, which is very nice for building sounds, at least because of the integrated oscilloscope. The sound can be controlled via MIDI, the adaption to MIDIbox is very simple because of a MIDI learn function: select a "General Purpose Layer" on MIDIbox (1, Plus, 16Pot). On the virtual synthesizer, right-click the desired knob and choose "MIDI-Learn". Now turn one of the 8 (or 16) Pots of your MIDIbox and viola - the synth has learned a new assignment :-)

Last update: 2000-12-12

Copyright 1998-2001, Thorsten Klose. All rights reserved.