Trying to transfer sequencer files from workstation to computer
March 12, 2013 12:17 PM   Subscribe

The (floppy) drive on my Korg X2 workstation has finally broken and I'm trying to transfer the sequencer files onto my computer as midi files using midi-to-usb. I can do a midi dump for the sequencer but I have no idea what to do with the .syx file I now have on my computer. Is there another way to do it, or is the solution close at hand?

I used Midi-ox to capture the dump and it saves the file as .syx. Now I've reached a dead end. It seems like there are ways to convert syx files to midi, but the converters I've tried say the file is corrupt.
posted by imposster to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Sysex is a subset of MIDI. Sysex data is an opaque block of data that is manufacturer specific (SYStem EXclusive). So programs like MIDI-OX will capture Sysex data and save the block of data to a file. You can then store these files, and occasionally send them back to your Korg. But you can't modify them outside of your Korg without significant low-level hacking*.

My guess is that the X2's sequencer dumps include both the MIDI sequence data as well as the associated patch and FX settings.

If you want to get a long string of MIDI notes from your Korg, you should record the MIDI output to your favorite DAW while playing you sequences. This will allow you to sequence from your computer, with or without the Korg. But it won't capture the sounds that you associated with your sequences in the Korg.

There is at least one Korg X2 compatible floppy drive on EBay now, so it might be easier to just replace the drive and continue to work as you always have. My Yamaha EX5 saves everything onto DOS-formatted floppies that can be read by my mac with a USB floppy drive. This may be possible with your Korg as well, but it is also possible that Korg used a proprietary file system.

* If you are comfortable with binary string manipulation in perl or python, you can almost certainly find a Sysex reference for your X2 in the back of its manual. It took me an afternoon to build a small python script that broke Yamaha DX7 "bank" data into individual patches, and that was a much smaller project. Decoding your sysex dumps wouldn't be all that hard, just extremely tedious.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:04 PM on March 12, 2013

You should definitely try to play your Sysex data back to your Korg to see if it can be recovered. Make sure you play it back to an unused sequence, so you don't end up overwriting a song with garbage.

I have a bunch of MIDI interfaces, ranging from a handful of cheap MIDI-USB cables up to my MOTU828 mk2 and EMagic AMT8. The cheap interfaces are usually good enough for MIDI note data, but often mangle Sysex data. The MOTU and EMagic are both extremely reliable. Since the MOTU is also my audio interface, that's usually what I use for any sysex related projects.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:06 PM on March 12, 2013

If the floppy drive isn't proprietary, you could get a floppy drive pretty cheap and swap it out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:57 PM on March 12, 2013

Nope, they take weird 720kb 24 pin floppy drives. As b1tr01 said though, they're out there... for about $70, which is steep.

I've had a *lot* of problems with midi-usb converters and older hardware. Seriously, days of headaches and trying different interfaces. I've run out of my house to buy another interface off of craigslist at 10pm out of frustration.

You need either a high quality firewire audio interface that also has midi, or an older PC/mac with a real PCI audio card with a midi breakout cable, or just serious midi interface card.

I'm betting that the syx file actually is mangled. It wouldn't be the first, or even tenth time I've seen that. Many forums i found on a quick google said this is the easy/nice way to get this data on and off of there, so i'm betting it's just getting garbled somewhere in the process.
posted by emptythought at 3:06 PM on March 12, 2013

So my best bet is maybe to record it to WAV and convert that to Midi, even if it takes some work afterwards to fix it up.

@ emptythought: I got most of my info off of forums found via Google searches. One thing I read about was that Midi-ox leaves off a couple of characters at the end of the file so that it can be used in more applications, but that it causes problems for midi conversions. It is too over my head to completely understand, but if the files aren't really mangled there could be an issue there.
posted by imposster at 4:11 PM on March 12, 2013

So my best bet is maybe to record it to WAV and convert that to Midi, even if it takes some work afterwards to fix it up.
That sounds like the hardest way to solve your problem, even if you have Melodyne or Live 9*.

Much easier would be to record the MIDI output of your Korg while playing each of your sequences. You might also want to record the audio output at the same time, if you have the hardware to do that (an external audio interface with built-in MIDI would help to keep things synced up).

As far as Sysex software goes, the gold standard appears to be Elektron's free C6 app. It can be found at the bottom of the Elektron download page, under Applications. C6 combined with my MOTU 828 mk2 (audio interface with a single MIDI port, total overkill for this project) was how I was finally able to do an OS update to my Shruthi-1 synth.
but that it causes problems for midi conversions.
You should give up right now on trying to "convert" your Sysex data to "MIDI" data. Sysex data already is MIDI data, but it is vendor-specific MIDI data. As a result, it is totally opaque to you unless you are a programmer or happen to have software that advertises itself as being able to do this conversion.

Instead, go back to the source, your Korg. And do one (or more) of the following:
  • Get a replacement floppy, and continue to do things the old way.
  • Get a replacement floppy, and try to get that data onto your computer. You are now tied to an old, expensive and slow data transmission method. Not recommended.
  • Record MIDI note and controller data from your Korg into a computer-based sequencer, and proceed to sequence from there moving forward. Possibly also record the audio along with it, depending on what you plan to do.
  • Record Sysex dumps of each of your sequences and patches. Use your computer as a Sysex Library, but continue to edit and perform with your Korg.
* If you do happen to use Ableton Live, or are considering using it, you should be aware that (ironically enough) Live does not support Sysex data in any way. Cubase or Reaper would be a better choice if you want to start using your Korg with a DAW.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:52 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

b1trot, that is some very good information. I did try recording midi on my computer while playing back the sequencer on the workstation (using Aria Maestoso). There was so much lag (I think from the midi-to-usb cable) that it was being recorded as total garbage.

It's clear I just need a new set up, but I'll at save the sysex data that I have as a back up to what I have on the keyboard.
posted by imposster at 6:11 PM on March 12, 2013

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