Abnormally low volume from MIDI input?


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Hi Everyone,

I'm new to the forum (see my intro in the intro section), and have a question about a pesky issue that I have not been able resolve with internet searches:

I picked up a used Nektar Impact GX61 (basic full-size 61 key MIDI controller) and hooked it up to my computer. After some trial and error I was able to get various free programs to work to play sounds live on my (Windows 10) PC. The problem that has me a bit stumped is that the volume of the sound being produced by the programs when I play the keyboard is abnormally low and there seems to be very little if anything I can do to rectify this.

Here are the details:

The symptoms: regardless of how hard or fast I hit the keys on the keyboard, the sound only reaches about 25-30% of max possible volume, according to the meters on the Windows sound mixer. I can actually watch the meters on the Windows mixer where any regular youtube video will peak at close to 100%, but the keyboard stays waaay low.

Software tried so far: minihost and savihost (both with "General" free piano VST), and "simple piano" (non-VST, non-ASIO-aware, AFAIK).

Drivers tried so far: both the native Windows drivers as well as ASIO4ALL drivers.

Settings tried so far: various velocity settings both on the keyboard and on savihost. I don't think it has anything to do with velocity settings because it doesn't matter how fast I hit the keys, it never goes above a certain level. I've also tried the "master volume" knob on the keyboard but this seems to have no effect (I don't think the simple software I've tried so far is set to read this control). Also, I had done a factory reset on the keyboard as soon as I turned it on for the first time.

I searched and searched last night and saw many people asking about similar issues, but no one ever seemed to give a conclusive answer. Generally the answers seemed to amount to cranking the mix of the low MIDI parts way up to match the rest, but this doesn't seem to address whatever is causing the super-low levels in the first place.

Any ideas of what may be the issue, or suggestions of what to try next would be appreciated.

Thanks!

Optic
 
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Download and install the shareware utility program MIDIOX from these folks:

http://www.midiox.com/

Among other things, it will show you the actual NOTE ON velocity values your PC is receiving from your controller board. If MIDIOX sees low values, then you have a velocity problem with your board, but if MIDIOX sees normal values, then you have a problem somewhere on the PC - hardware or software, but at least you will know which end of the USB cable the problem is located at.
 
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Cool, thanks for the suggestion, Ted! I will check that out as soon as I get a chance and will let you know what I find out.
 
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Thanks again for the suggestion, Ted! So here's what I found out...

With midiox, I saw that the velocity numbers coming out of the keyboard looked normal. I experimented with different curves and even no curve maxed out at 127. This showed the full 127 in midiox. But I was still only getting about 20-25% on the level meters on the windows mixer.

That was still using the simple piano program, which seems to use the internal Windows MIDI table. I decided to try savihost again and it seemed much more reasonable. It would get close to 50% on a single note and close to 100% on chords.

I switched back to the standard velocity curve and the levels are a bit low again compared to other sound coming through the computer. I just wish that there were an easy way to turn up the midi volume in Windows. I understand that back in the XP days the Windows mixer included a separate slider for MIDI, but that's no longer the case.

I'm seriously considering going back to craigslist and trading my MIDI controller for an arranger keyboard after all. It's only a small difference in space and price. It seems like it will be a lot simpler solution for what I'm trying to do right now which is mainly to learn to play. Being able to hear what I'm playing as well as tutorial instructions at the same time would be helpful.

I expected that having to make the controller work through the computer would be a bit more complicated than a standalone keyboard, but I have a strong IT background so I wasn't too worried about it. However, I didn't expect it to take hours to still have seemingly insurmountable issues that may end up requiring more hardware (sound controller and extra speakers?). That tilts the enjoyment/hassle balance a little too far in the wrong direction, at least for a complete beginner like me. I'll look into MIDI controllers again if I get deep into writing/recording music.
 

happyrat1

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This is one of the main reasons I don't do soft synths.

You spend hours configuring and fussing over settings only to have it lost when you reboot or else a blue screen simply wipes out all of your work.

Not to mention the latency and sound and compatibility issues.

One final bonus to owning a hardware synth. When you want to play it takes 10 seconds to boot up instead of 3 minutes to bootup and load all your software.

Much more conducive to inspirational moments and much MUCH less frustrating.

What's your budget for an arranger?

Gary ;)
 
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I understand your decision and everything you're saying quite a bit better now, Gary.

I expected some bumps on the road and was ready for them, but I couldn't have predicted their extent, variety, and severity. The info I posted above is only part of it. Now, it's possible that there's some fantastic software out there that resolves most of the issues I experienced (like some shiny DAW running on a shiny Mac), but I was trying to keep this setup both simple and cheap, which would eliminate a lot of the possible options (i.e. no DAW because it's not simple, no Mac because it's not cheap).

Haha, my budget is too embarrassingly low to publish, but I've seen some promising used options on Craigslist (where I had also picked up the MIDI controller). Keeping in mind the possibility of hardware synths in the future, I may try to get something with traditional MIDI ports like people have recommended on the forums here (like perhaps you?).

Thanks!
 
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happyrat1

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My advice is to pick up a mid range Casio like the WK-3200 or maybe a used WK-3000

They're quite reasonably priced on the used craigslist market whenever daddy's pride and joy bails on the boring piano lessons.

I'd also recommend avoiding the older Yamaha units at a similar price point since in the bad old days Yamaha used proprietary drivers to interface to a computer and haven't exactly kept them all up to date.

Do your homework and I'd advise not buying anything older then 3 or 4 years old.

Anything above the base models in the CTK or WK lines from Casio that fits those criteria should do nicely for a beginner.

I'd recommend avoiding the really base models cause the sounds are not that great and you'd get bored with them quickly.

Real MIDI ports are nice to have but not necessary when you're just starting out.

As for DAW software? There's plenty of free and inexpensive options out there if you fire up the googly machine and seek them out. :)

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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BTW, a more important feature than a "real" MIDI port is 1/4" individual left and right line outs.

If you only have a headphone jack to play with then you're stuck with the sh*tty built in speakers for sound :p

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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Actually another option is to hang onto your controller and use a hardware MIDI module to generate your sounds.

I use this setup in my bedroom for practicing when in bed.

http://www.alesis.com/products/legacy/qx49

https://www.amazon.com/S-Engine-USB-MIDI-Sound-Module/dp/B01E5GGKE4/

https://www.amazon.com/M-Audio-10-Watt-Compact-Monitor-Speakers/dp/B00X741TKG/

But one caveat. Your controller either needs a real MIDI OUT port or else you have to patch them all thru a computer to route the MIDI signal to the module.

Still worth considering if you're on a budget and want to keep the controller.

Either way though, the WK-6600 during holiday sales is probably the best, cheapest and most useful option for the money.

Gary ;)
 
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Wow, thanks for all the useful and specific tips, Gary! Very helpful, and I will definitely use them to help me decide my next move. The controller I have, the nektar gx61, doesn't have standard MIDI ports (only USB) and I'm not attached to it. The info about the MIDI drivers is particularly good to know. I see now that it appears that the Yamahas continue to need additional drivers while the Casios appear not to need those. I'm checking out the CTK-6200 which appears to be the 61-key version of the WK-6600 to perhaps keep an eye out for black friday sales. Thanks!!!
 
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