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3.5mm TRS MIDI Hub

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

In honor of this month's guest author and Clan Analogue label manager, Nick Wilson, I thought I would discuss a fun little setup that I have been playing with lately.

Recently, I was experimenting with the Korg SQ-1, the Korg NTS-1, and the Meeblip Triode. I wanted to see if I could control both of them with the single MIDI output on the SQ-1. Originally, I thought that both synths would play the same notes since I was using one MIDI dongle and one audio cable, but to my surprise, both MIDI channels were transmitted through my simple audio splitter! Being able to use a star splitter or other audio splitter cable as a simple MIDI hub could be quite useful, especially in a portable rig where space is tight. Many of the new devices on the market, like the NTS-1, utilize a 3.5mm TRS audio jack for MIDI connections instead of the traditional 5-pin DIN jack. Even if you are like me and have a traditional MIDI hub, the use of an audio splitter may be more convenient. In fact, I have been thinking of making my own MIDI dongles that have a 5-pin plug on one end and a female 3.5mm audio jack on the other. That way, I could convert all of my MIDI cables to simple 3.5mm audio cables, instead of the larger 5-pin cables.

If you are interested in trying this connection with your gear, I have included a diagram of how I connected mine. It is very straightforward. I connected a 3.5mm audio cable from the MIDI output of the SQ-1 to one input of the star splitter. Next, I connected another 3.5mm audio cable from the star splitter to the MIDI input of the NTS-1. I also connected my MIDI dongle to the star splitter and attached a regular MIDI cable to it and the MIDI input of the Triode. That is pretty much it. There are a couple of things that you may need to address to get this to work with your particular gear, however.

One thing to consider is the type of MIDI dongle you need for the particular piece of gear you have. There is a Type A and Type B configuration. Some companies, like Korg uses the Type A version, and others, like Arturia, use Type B. Unfortunately, these cannot be interchanged. It just so happens that the Meeblip Triode uses Type A and therefore I was able to use the MIDI dongle that came with my SQ-1.

Another thing to consider is the MIDI channel settings on the gear you are trying to control. In this example, I had to set the MIDI channels for each synth to receive the two individual sequencer parts from the SQ-1. Be sure to consult your user manuals to determine channel assignments for your particular devices.

For the SQ-1 and the NTS-1, I also connected the sync inputs and outputs so that the effects would be tempo synced and it allowed me to tempo sync the Pocket Operator Rhythm. I also used the Monotron Delay on the Triode to add a little grit and rhythm to the bass line. This setup also allowed me to trigger notes on the NTS-1 simply by pressing the buttons on the SQ-1. This is very handy since the ribbon keyboard on the NTS-1 is hard to play accurately.

I hope you liked this description of a simple live setup that is quite fun and easy to use. The combination of these devices with the SQ-1 sequencer can be extremely creative. I hope it has sparked your interest, and you will experiment with a similar setup on your own.

Until next time, happy tweaking!

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