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How do I sync a Roland VS-880 or VS-1680 recorder to Steinberg Cubase VST or VST32 on Windows?

Subject: Using Cubase VST to synchronize with external recording devices, in particular the Roland VS-880 Digital Recorder. (These instructions should also work for the Roland VS-1680, but please note that some menus may be slightly different). These instructions should be correct for Cubase VST version 3.5 and above on either Mac or PC.

To use VST with the Roland VS-880, here are some setup instructions:

This guide assumes that Cubase is installed on your system, and that you have a MIDI Interface with at least one set of IN/OUT ports. We also assume that the VS-880 is running software Version 2.x or later.

First: Connact the Midi IN on the VS-880 to a midi OUT on your midi interface, and connect the Midi OUT on the VS-880 to a Midi IN on your Midi Interface. (You do not need to switch off Midi Thru in Cubase, as MTC, MMC and System Realtime messages are never sent thru to the output ports)

On the VS-880, setup the machine as follows:

SYSTEM MENU

* Master Clock = Internal

MIDI MENU

* SysEx ReCieVe = ON
* SysEx TRAnsmit= ON
* MMC = Slave
* Sync Gen = MTC
* Sync Source = INTernal
* MTC Type = (Set the Frame Rate you wish to use)

In Cubase:

AUDIO MENU > SYSTEM

* Midi Sync Ref = Midi Timecode

OPTIONS MENU > SYNCHRONIZATION DIALOGUE

* TimeCode Base= MMC
* From Input = Set this to match the port on your Midi Interface where sync source is connected. (Sometimes called “SYNC IN”)
* Output = Set the output so that MMC commands are sent to your Tape Recorder/Digital Recorded/Whatever.
* Frame Rate = Set the Frame Rate to match the incoming MTC. (Europe usually uses 25 Frames Per Second)
* Tempo Base = Internal (Cubase calculates its Tempo internally, but uses MTC as the clock source for its internal timing engine)
* From Input = —— (not relevant with MTC/MMC)

Please note:
If you are using a Mark Of The Unicorn Midi Timepiece AV, this interface is designed to operate as an MMC controllable device. In the default settings mode, when it receives an MMC Start command, the INTERFACE ITSELF will start sending Midi Timecode and Digital Clock – this means that the MMC commands will not reach the tape recorder, and the Timecode which Cubase receives is not coming from the tape recorder.
You must set up the MTP AV (Using the Console software) so that it ignores all MMC commands (and passes them through to the midi device) and so that it also passes timecode (received at one of its MIDI INs) to Cubase.

Also, some Midi Interfaces route all incoming Midi Clock and Midi Timecode to a special ‘virtual port’ called something like ‘Sync IN’. If Cubase doesn’t seem to be receiving timecode, check your settings in the Synchronization Dialogue Box.

When you have made the settings as above, enable MMC/MTC Sync by either pressing ‘X’ on the computer keyboard, or clicking the SYNC button on the Transport Bar. Now when you press PLAY in Cubase, a message is sent to the VS-880 which will set it to play from a few seconds _before_ the current Song Position, and go into Play, sending out Midi Timecode as it does. (this gives Cubase time to lock to the incoming timecode).

If you want to control recording on the VS-880 from within Cubase, use the Tape Tracks as follows:
Create 8 new Tracks in Cubase, and using the Track Class Column (the one with a ‘C’ at the top) set the tracks to “Tape Track”. Set the output channels from 1 to 8 (with Tape tracks, the output channels is used to set which Track will be controlled on the external recorder).

Now when you click on a Tape Track in Cubase, the equivalent Track on the external recorder (VS-880 in this case) will be “Armed” for recording.

If you want to record on several tracks at once, go to the Options menu and enable “Multi Record”. A new column will appear in the Inspector (with the letter ‘R’ at the top). Use this column to enable recording for each Tape Track. Remember that in the case of the VS-880 you can only record on a maximum of 4 tracks at once! As you click in the ‘R’ column, the equivalent track light should indicate ‘Record-Ready’ on the VS-880.

Once you have selected on which tracks to record, the best method for controlling recording on your external device is to set the Left and Right Locators in Cubase, and use the Punch-In and Punch-Out buttons on the Transport Bar (or use ‘I’ and ‘O’ on the computer keyboard).

Set the Song Position Pointer a few bars before the Left Locator, and press PLAY in Cubase. The VS-880 should go into Play, and send out Midi Timecode. Cubase will then detect incoming Timecode and start to play. As the Song Position Pointer crosses the Left Locator, the VS-880 should go into record for the tracks you have chosen.

When the Song Position Pointer crosses the Right Locator, the recording will stop on the VS-880, but Cubase will continue to play until you press STOP (either on the VS-880 or Cubase).

To record at a different point in time, just move the Locators in Cubase, enable Punch-In and Out, and repeat the last few steps above.

Please note:
This method is for synchronizing Midi only! If you need to synchronize Cubase VST’s audio playback to an external device, you will need to use S/PDIF or WordClock, but the method applied above will still work for the midi data, and for controlling the external device.

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