VOGONS


First post, by foil_fresh

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I ordered a Roland UM-One mk2 because I want to get some retro PC MT32 emulation going and was wondering if the cheap-ish gameport->midi cables on ebay are worth getting?

I'm really not sure if I want joystick passthrough because I don't realistically see myself using a joystick much (not too into flight sims etc.) but if the price for one WITH passthrough is similar, why not.

If it's recommended to buy a brand name cable from another website then I'm all ears. Any warnings about what not to buy is appreciated too.

I'll be running the midi out from the AWE64 Value (Ct4520) in either a Pentium MMX 166 or 486 100mhz (leaning towards the 486).

Thanks

Reply 1 of 15, by Pierre32

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I've heard reports of the classic passthrough type cables on ebay being poorly built and not always functioning correctly. I guess I've been lucky in that regard because I've had no issues with the one I bought there a couple of years ago. It came from UK seller "cable_star" who doesn't appear to be around any more.

Unfortunately I can't help with how to spot a good or bad one on ebay, but ideally you'd want a description that confirms it has an opto-coupler (and I don't see any with that).

For options without gameport passthrough:

- I bought one from Ukraine seller "midikabel" (item 124497264684) and it's a very nice hand made cable, with construction info in the description.

- The ones from Serdashop https://www.serdashop.com/DB15MIDI (I will be getting one of these next)

Reply 2 of 15, by foil_fresh

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Pierre32 wrote on 2021-01-28, 00:29:
I've heard reports of the classic passthrough type cables on ebay being poorly built and not always functioning correctly. I gue […]
Show full quote

I've heard reports of the classic passthrough type cables on ebay being poorly built and not always functioning correctly. I guess I've been lucky in that regard because I've had no issues with the one I bought there a couple of years ago. It came from UK seller "cable_star" who doesn't appear to be around any more.

Unfortunately I can't help with how to spot a good or bad one on ebay, but ideally you'd want a description that confirms it has an opto-coupler (and I don't see any with that).

For options without gameport passthrough:

- I bought one from Ukraine seller "midikabel" (item 124497264684) and it's a very nice hand made cable, with construction info in the description.

- The ones from Serdashop https://www.serdashop.com/DB15MIDI (I will be getting one of these next)

Hey thanks - Looks like the ukranian one is what I'll go with. Serdashop still isnt able to send to Aus but I'll be sure to get one when they're back in business. Been waiting ages because I want their serial-to-ps2 adapter badddd.

When it comes to using a midi gender joiner (coupler?), will any be fine?

Reply 3 of 15, by darry

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foil_fresh wrote on 2021-01-28, 02:26:
Pierre32 wrote on 2021-01-28, 00:29:
I've heard reports of the classic passthrough type cables on ebay being poorly built and not always functioning correctly. I gue […]
Show full quote

I've heard reports of the classic passthrough type cables on ebay being poorly built and not always functioning correctly. I guess I've been lucky in that regard because I've had no issues with the one I bought there a couple of years ago. It came from UK seller "cable_star" who doesn't appear to be around any more.

Unfortunately I can't help with how to spot a good or bad one on ebay, but ideally you'd want a description that confirms it has an opto-coupler (and I don't see any with that).

For options without gameport passthrough:

- I bought one from Ukraine seller "midikabel" (item 124497264684) and it's a very nice hand made cable, with construction info in the description.

- The ones from Serdashop https://www.serdashop.com/DB15MIDI (I will be getting one of these next)

Hey thanks - Looks like the ukranian one is what I'll go with. Serdashop still isnt able to send to Aus but I'll be sure to get one when they're back in business. Been waiting ages because I want their serial-to-ps2 adapter badddd.

When it comes to using a midi gender joiner (coupler?), will any be fine?

I'm using the Serdashop one . I love the dual outputs .

I think you should be fine with practically any coupler . My choice for cables and accessories is typically Hosa branded stuff. It is usually both inexpensive and well made, IMHO .

Reply 4 of 15, by foil_fresh

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darry wrote on 2021-01-28, 02:58:
foil_fresh wrote on 2021-01-28, 02:26:
Pierre32 wrote on 2021-01-28, 00:29:
I've heard reports of the classic passthrough type cables on ebay being poorly built and not always functioning correctly. I gue […]
Show full quote

I've heard reports of the classic passthrough type cables on ebay being poorly built and not always functioning correctly. I guess I've been lucky in that regard because I've had no issues with the one I bought there a couple of years ago. It came from UK seller "cable_star" who doesn't appear to be around any more.

Unfortunately I can't help with how to spot a good or bad one on ebay, but ideally you'd want a description that confirms it has an opto-coupler (and I don't see any with that).

For options without gameport passthrough:

- I bought one from Ukraine seller "midikabel" (item 124497264684) and it's a very nice hand made cable, with construction info in the description.

- The ones from Serdashop https://www.serdashop.com/DB15MIDI (I will be getting one of these next)

Hey thanks - Looks like the ukranian one is what I'll go with. Serdashop still isnt able to send to Aus but I'll be sure to get one when they're back in business. Been waiting ages because I want their serial-to-ps2 adapter badddd.

When it comes to using a midi gender joiner (coupler?), will any be fine?

I'm using the Serdashop one . I love the dual outputs .

I think you should be fine with practically any coupler . My choice for cables and accessories is typically Hosa branded stuff. It is usually both inexpensive and well made, IMHO .

K sweet. I got a Hosa on the way. Now to wait 6 to 8 weeks for the cable from Ukraine... Yikes

Reply 6 of 15, by Joseph_Joestar

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From personal experience, I can recommend looking for these in music equipment stores. If they sell MIDI keyboards, there's a chance they might have one of these cables as well.

That's how I got mine and it had no issues whatsoever.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 VirgeDX / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 7 of 15, by foil_fresh

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The cable from Ukraine came late last week - it is a decent construction and works great so far with the roland um-one mk2. I didn't even need the coupler I bought, the connections were fine from the gameport midi cable to the roland um-one.

I'm using Munt with virtualmidisynth / coolsoft midi mapper and it was easier than I thought to set up (probably due to having the midi mapper set up already for openxcom).

Monkey Island never sounded so good!

Reply 9 of 15, by canthearu

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I have been using a couple of the chinese sourced cables off ebay. They work fine.

After all, these joystick to MIDI cables are really simple and not at all demanding, requiring 30khz at 5V, which the whole thing could be done by a couple of loose wires in a pinch.

The important part is in the actual receiver itself, that is where the circuits require use of an optocoupler to convert from the electrical domain of your source device, into signals in the electrical domain of the processor in the destination device. This is one of the major problems that the cheap USB to MIDI converters off ebay have, in so far that they cheap out and omit the optocoupler before the USB converter. Thus, if your device and the computer you have the USB plugged into do NOT share a common ground, they will fail to communicate properly.

So for cables, you will find that virtually any correctly made cable will work fine. For receivers and converters, make sure you get quality gear that has the proper input circuitry. Thus the recommendation for the proper Roland ONE-UM USB converter.

Reply 10 of 15, by foil_fresh

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To add to this topic, just the other day I received my Orpheus sound card (PCMIDI option) which comes with a 3.5mm jack that handles the midi output. They ship the card with a 3.5mm plug -> 6pin din midi plug which connected just fine to the Roland UM-One. Works great too.

I am not certain but I think if your Orpheus is without the PCMIDI chip then the 3.5mm jack might not be populated and thus doesn't apply (but you still have the gameport for midi output).

Reply 11 of 15, by darry

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foil_fresh wrote on 2021-04-12, 02:19:

To add to this topic, just the other day I received my Orpheus sound card (PCMIDI option) which comes with a 3.5mm jack that handles the midi output. They ship the card with a 3.5mm plug -> 6pin din midi plug which connected just fine to the Roland UM-One. Works great too.

I am not certain but I think if your Orpheus is without the PCMIDI chip then the 3.5mm jack might not be populated and thus doesn't apply (but you still have the gameport for midi output).

My non-PCMIDI Orpheus came with the 3.5mm to DIN cable and works fine for MIDI out with it (using the CS4237's MPU-401 UART mode) .

Reply 12 of 15, by foil_fresh

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darry wrote on 2021-04-12, 02:31:
foil_fresh wrote on 2021-04-12, 02:19:

To add to this topic, just the other day I received my Orpheus sound card (PCMIDI option) which comes with a 3.5mm jack that handles the midi output. They ship the card with a 3.5mm plug -> 6pin din midi plug which connected just fine to the Roland UM-One. Works great too.

I am not certain but I think if your Orpheus is without the PCMIDI chip then the 3.5mm jack might not be populated and thus doesn't apply (but you still have the gameport for midi output).

My non-PCMIDI Orpheus came with the 3.5mm to DIN cable and works fine for MIDI out with it (using the CS4237's MPU-401 UART mode) .

thats cool that it works the same way and it comes with the cable. nice 😀

Reply 13 of 15, by Hezus

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I've tried several cables and there is a clear distinction between what I call 'dumb' cables and 'smart' cables.

Dumb cables are just the wires running from pin out to pin in and will work on most soundcards. These are most of the cheap Chinese ones from ebay or aliexpress. I've tested these with Aztech and Creative cards and they worked fine. However, my ESS cards refused to work with it.

If you want full compatibility you'll need a smart cable with additional hardware such as resistors. Here is a schematic of how to properly build one:
http://midi.teragonaudio.com/hardware/pc_intfc.htm

Those smart cables can mostly be recognized by the larger connector housing which holds a small pcb with the resistors. Although, I've seen examples with the larger housings but still were only dumb cables. So it's hard to tell just from the outside.

Your best bet to find a good cable is to find a vintage one from the 90s or get one of the breakout boxes that Gravis made around around that time. It's a great product with 2 joystick and 3 MIDI ports! (IN, OUT & THRU)

Visit my YT Channel!

Reply 14 of 15, by canthearu

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Hezus wrote on 2021-04-12, 10:01:

If you want full compatibility you'll need a smart cable with additional hardware such as resistors. Here is a schematic of how to properly build one:
http://midi.teragonaudio.com/hardware/pc_intfc.htm

Totally unsurprisingly, this is just replicating the hardware that already should be in each of the devices you are connecting MIDI to, being optocoupled input and inverter driven output. This would solve problems with cheap devices that do not properly isolate the MIDI inputs, or for MIDI outputs that are too weak to correctly drive an optocoupler.

It shouldn't be needed, but I will concede that given many sound cards are cheap and NASTY, you may need to use one on the odd cheaply made device.

It wasn't needed for me on either my ESS1869 or ALS100 cards though.

Reply 15 of 15, by Hezus

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canthearu wrote on 2021-04-12, 10:17:

Totally unsurprisingly, this is just replicating the hardware that already should be in each of the devices you are connecting MIDI to, being optocoupled input and inverter driven output. This would solve problems with cheap devices that do not properly isolate the MIDI inputs, or for MIDI outputs that are too weak to correctly drive an optocoupler.

It shouldn't be needed, but I will concede that given many sound cards are cheap and NASTY, you may need to use one on the odd cheaply made device.

That's very true, sadly. You'd hope manufacturers picked better components to keep the sound clear and the noise levels low.. then again, there weren't any good speakers for PCs in the 80s and 90s, so high quality sound wasn't a thing for the average user. And most programs and games used low quality recordings, so I don't really blame them.

Anyhow, as I mentioned, the simple cables will work for most soundcards, so you're not necessarily buying garbage. Just know that there is a chance that they won't work with your specific soundcard. This was also a suprise to me when it happend. At first I thought the cable was broken somehow and I already took it apart to check the pinouts and the soldering joints.. but it was really the soundcard that was at fault, in the end.

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