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Setup for virtual instruments #2904864 10/26/19 06:45 PM
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KevinM Offline OP
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I am starting to be tempted to having virtual instruments. But I am not sure of all the hardware and software required. Please bare with me as I am 100% new to this.

Currently I have a MP11SE connected to active studio monitors using microphone cables. The connection is balanced input.

I have a spare 2012 model MacBook Pro Quad core i7 with 16GB Ram and a 500GB SSD drive that I could dedicate.

If I was going to use my MP11SE as a midi player I have the USB cable to connect it to MBP. Printer style USB cable.

But I can’t work out how to connect my laptop to the monitors. I don’t think using the headphone out on the MBP is likely to get good results, but I don’t know if that is true or not? I have seen mention of external sound cards but I have not seen anything that I could connect the monitors?

In terms of software is each package stand alone or is each piano a plug-in to some other software.

For example the sort of pianos I might be interested in are Garritan CFX, Synthogy American Concert D, Vintage D.

What do I need on top of buying each piano VI.

Are there any pianos I could buy for GarageBand for instance. So far I have only used GarageBand for converting my recorded .wav files. I do see it has a Steinway piano.

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Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2904887 10/26/19 07:47 PM
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I think you have everything you need to get started except an audio interface to connect up to the laptop, and then to some speakers.

Forget about soundcards, that's old technology -- for using VIs you need an audio interface, the drivers for those let VIs run properly lower latency, and an audio interface with good outputs will get you the sound you want for your monitors.


Roland FP-90 - Touchkeys - TEC BC - MIDI Expression
Kontakt - Arturia Piano V - Sonivox Eighty-Eight - Spitfire Symphony Orchestra

whitepianos.blogspot.com
Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2904888 10/26/19 07:49 PM
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Two things:

First: I will not bare with you. But I'm sure we'll all willingly bear with you. smile

Second: Your laptop audio system **might** be good enough as is. Years ago I'd be dubious. But these days it's likely okay.
The serious problem is with latency, but Macs are known for low-latency. So I'd give it a try.
If the latency proves unsatisfactory ... there are, as you said, a number of audio interfaces available. Most plug into the laptop's USB port and provide balanced or unbalanced line-level outputs.

But I'd want to know ... do you want to hear both ...
(a) native sounds from the MP11
and
(b) virtual instrument sounds from the laptop?

I do both (but I use Windows, not Mac). Here's what I use:

I feed the piano MIDI to the computer via old-style MIDI cables into the audio interface, which feeds MIDI to the computer. But the more modern approach would be piano USB to computer USB.

I have two audio systems ... a new one with the powered monitors, and an old one with a conventional amplifier and speakers.

As to the question above ... do you want both native sound and virtual instrument sound. This configuration offers both. The mixer takes both signals and allows you to level-set them as you see fit.

I'm showing the Presonus Audiobox ... but you can get a newer version from Presonus, or use any of a wide range of others from Roland, M-Audio, Steinberg, Focusrite, Native Instruments, and others.
You'll have to check for compatibility with your Mac.

[Linked Image]

Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2904890 10/26/19 07:51 PM
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newer player Online Content
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That MacBook Pro has a pretty good headphone output, 1/4" TRS jack. Dont use any additional hardware and see how that goes. An audio interface might provide better latency and better hookup options for your monitors but maybe an expense not worth considering.

I don't know what input options your monitors have. This table gives some ideas of how to connect things

http://www.rane.com/note110.html

You can test the system using the free PianoTeq trial.

** Some VIs are bundled with a player, so require no additional software.

** Some VIs require Full Kontakt, which is expensive (full Kontakt comes with some popular piano VIs also).

** Some VIs work with Free Kontakt, which is free of charge lol.

** Some VIs require a dongle which can be a bit expensive. For example, VSL requires a special dongle. iLok is another dongle scheme, confusingly they have an online license scheme that works for some but not all iLok VIs.

PianoTeq does not require an additional player software or a dongle

Garritan CFX comes with the Sfrozando player so does not require additional software or a dongle

Galaxy Vintage D requires the Free "Kontakt Player."

Some VIs require "Full Kontakt", which is rather expensive; this is different from the Kontakt player.

Some more VI details and internet links are here

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...no-master-sticky-thread.html#Post2752919

Last edited by newer player; 10/26/19 07:54 PM.
Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2904893 10/26/19 07:55 PM
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There're a number of different audio interfaces out there, ranging from lower priced to higher priced. I don't have a MAC so people more experienced can fill in a little better about your question, but my first thoughts are the RMEs and the MOTU audio interfaces have the best reputation -- RME overall, MOTU has a good reputation with their MAC drivers. Less expensive options are available of course.

I'm not sure how MACs compare to PCs with latency issues/audio interfaces, since they are supposed to have a better audio on time service overall, actually. Be interested to hear about that as a PC guy. All I know lately people are really concerned about the latest MAC OS update and how it affects audio software and 32 bit stuff no longer working. Folks with audio software work are being told to hold off the update till the programmers can troubleshoot enough and update their audio software.


Roland FP-90 - Touchkeys - TEC BC - MIDI Expression
Kontakt - Arturia Piano V - Sonivox Eighty-Eight - Spitfire Symphony Orchestra

whitepianos.blogspot.com
Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2904895 10/26/19 07:57 PM
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Didn't see the previous posts till I posted. I started wondering about the quality of the headphone jacks of the MAC laptops and whether they might actually be fine for starting out, and the latency even without an interface.


Roland FP-90 - Touchkeys - TEC BC - MIDI Expression
Kontakt - Arturia Piano V - Sonivox Eighty-Eight - Spitfire Symphony Orchestra

whitepianos.blogspot.com
Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2904966 10/27/19 03:24 AM
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Just as a hint: You can do what @Mac does and use a mixer or, you can just recable if you want to switch between internal and VSTi sounds.

Depends on whether not having to plug/unplug is worth the expense to you. laugh


The backbone of modern industrial society is, and for the foreseeable future will be, the use of electrical Power.
VPC 1 -> Pianoteq 6 Std | Garritan CFX / Pearl Alto Flute 201
Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2904993 10/27/19 06:17 AM
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KevinM Offline OP
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Thanks all. I've re-read the replies twice now. Still a bit confused but comprehension is gradually coming. This is kind of why I start research early well before purchasing decisions.

I get the impression that the headphone output from the MBP should be good enough to start with and I should see how that goes. Does that mean I only need a mixer for now and not an audio interface?

3M makes a good point even though he refused to bare with me. (I'm dyslexic and this is a classic example of my dyslexia in action). That I need to think about what I might like to listen to, both direct from the MP11SE and via VIs. I don't think I want to exclude listening directly to the MP11SE.

At present I have microphone cables XLR? going from the fixed outputs of the MP11SE straight to the balanced inputs of the monitors. I have JBL 305p and with both XLR and jack inputs, both balanced.

I think a mixer is required. Do I need a mixer and an audio interface? or can you get one device that will do both or do I just need a mixer?

Thanks newer_player about the information relating to the different software required.

Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2904999 10/27/19 06:27 AM
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KevinM Offline OP
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Just trying to do a first run of a basic hardware setup so I can have either output from the VI or the MP11SE going to the powered monitors easily.

I have a printer usb cable which I can use from MP11SE to the MacBook Pro (MBP).

I buy a mixer, I have outputs from MP11SE go into the mixer, along with the headphone output from the MBP. So I need cables for this. I can use either the fixed output jacks (XLR) or 1/4 Jack output from the MP11SE but I might need a converter to use as inputs for the mixer. I'll need a headphone cable from the MPB to the mixer.

Then the output from the mixer will need to be converted to the two different XLR cables that go to the powered monitors.

Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2905006 10/27/19 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by KevinM
...or can you get one device that will do both...


[Linked Image]


Kawai ES8, Roland RD2000, Yamaha AG06 mixer, Presonus Eris E5 monitors, Sennheiser HD598SR phones.
Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2905009 10/27/19 07:07 AM
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Just an idea: before buying one of the VSTs you prefer, you might download the free trial version of Pianoteq to check which results you get with your hardware. https://www.pianoteq.com/try

Re: Setup for virtual instruments [Re: KevinM] #2905101 10/27/19 12:23 PM
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Ralphiano Offline
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I have a couple of personal anecdotes that you may or may not find helpful.

1. I once tried to improve my sound by injecting a Scarlett 2i2 interface between my computer output and the monitors input. I used whatever drivers the Scarlett required. The result was increased latency over what I had been experiencing from my computer's soundcard. So, I returned the Scarlett and resumed using the computer soundcard. My computer is a post lease business computer, so, I don't think it had any especially high quality sound components in it. So, if you consider using such an interface, buy it from a retailer with a good return policy. I bought mine from Guitar Center and had no trouble returning it.

2. I have had two positive experiences utilizing an external DAC in place of the computer's internal DAC. At a time when I was trying to get a sound I liked from Pianoteq, I bought an Optomo udac3 for $100. It did not make any noticeable improvement over the sound of the computer's onboard DAC. I then bought the udac3's bigger brother, the udac5 for $200. It made a substantial improvement in the sound over the computer's DAC. However, I returned it as well, as I decided to jettison Pianoteq altogether. I recently bought Garritan CFX Lite and liked the sound. Since I knew from the udac5 experience that I could get still more improvement, I bought a similarly spec'd DAC called the SMSL M8A for $200. As expected, it has made a substantial improvement to the sound over the computer's DAC.

An external DAC avoids the use of your computer's analog line out/headphone out jacks, in case you find your computer's analog audio to be unsatisfactory. It bypasses the computer's DAC and pre-amp. The DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) receives digital audio data from your computer/VST through a USB cable. The DAC then converts that data to analog audio, and supplies this alternate analog audio to your monitors through RCA output jacks.

I hope this helps.

Last edited by Ralphiano; 10/27/19 12:27 PM.

Ralph

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