getting the best from your buggy workstation
[NEW] <version 1.1.1>
This update includes some extra information and useful files for download.
Welcome to my page! It's fully dedicated to the ground-breaking Ensoniq™ MR-61 and MR-76 '64 Voice Expandable Songwriter's Keyboards'. These machines are to love or to hate (or a mixed feeling): they have fantastic features (sounds, FX), and some of the most absurd (and stupid) bugs ever seen on a workstation. Some people quickly get tired of the last, and sell the machine without real knowledge of its possibilities. Others stay loyal to the synths, working on the problems, and they get good results. This page is dedicated to those ready for unleashing the power of this fantastic synth and win the battle against one of the most incomplete software Operating Systems ever built in a workstation. Please excuse my buggy English, my natural language is Spanish...
This page is under construction by kaleb69, from Chile, South America.
This page is not affiliated nor influenced by Ensoniq Corp. of America or any related corporation.
Send your komments, tips or bug reports to firstname.lastname@example.org
The sections: MR QuickTips™, MR SequencerTricks™, MR MIDIWorks™ , Sound Editing
Read this carefully...
- Check your Operating System (O.S.) version! As the version # increases, more features (and less bugs) are present (theoretically). As a minimum, you should be working with the 2.0 version. If that's not the case, try to get an updated ROM chipset. To check the O.S. version on the screen, press and hold the Soundfinder's [Save] button, then press the [System] button.
- To make the keyboard softer to play (the MR features a very hard key velocity response) press the Soundfinder's [Edit] button, then use the Parameter knob and scroll until the display shows Amp&Filt Env Vel setting. Adjust it to a negative value. As the values are closer to -63 the velocity response will be softer. Don't forget to save your sound if you want to make the changes permanent. Note that this parameter is also available on the sequencer tracks. This setting is not available for drumkits.
- Allocate as much RAM as possible for the sequencer! The MR's sequencer ('16 Track Recorder') gets very unstable if the available RAM decreases to low limits (<20K). Also, when using the Song Playlist feature, the playback of the chained sequences can be buggy if the allocated RAM is not enough. If you feed the sequencer with generous amounts of RAM, it's rock-solid! (at least using OS v2.0)
To change the system's RAM setup: press [Librarian] and then scroll to the Setup RAM memory? option. Press [Yes] and use the value controls to set the 215K 16K --- --- combination. Press [Yes] twice to make the setting permanent (you'll lose any contents at the RAM memory).
To check the system's available RAM: press [Librarian] and then scroll to the Show free memory? option. Press [Yes] and then use the value controls to check.
It's worth to note that the MR's maximum sequencer memory amount is somewhat poor (about 35,000 notes) compared to early Ensoniq synths, such as the TS series (which can handle up to 768 Kb of RAM, enough for 100,000 notes). Also, it isn't battery-backed!
- Use a computer for sound editing. If you want to unlock the MR's sound engine (not as powerful as the found in the TS series, but with more and better samples) you NEED a computer editor. You'll be able to access all the components of the MR's sounds, including the wavesamples, LFOs, number of layers, etc. It's also the only way to unbuild Presets saved as Sounds. But even the computer editing is tricky on this bizarre synth, so be sure to check the complete procedure here.
MR SequencerTricks™ (and bugs)
Put this bizarre sequencer on its knees!
- Getting the MR to work with a computer sequencer. MR's sequencer tracks can't have a dual MIDI status (send & receive data simultaneously). When a track has a sound assigned, it only receives data. To transmit MIDI, a track must be assigned to the MIDI-OUT sound type (the last category available when assigning patches a track). In the last case, the track won't sound on the MR itself. Here's a procedure to get the MR and a computer sequencer working together:
- Create a new Song and pick any track. This track will be use to transmit MIDI data to the computer.
- Assign the MIDI-OUT sound type to this track. The track will transmit data on the specified MIDI channel (this should be set to match the track's number). This will be our base channel. The MR's remaining 15 tracks are available for the sounds you like.
- Program your soft sequencer's echo back function (on a track-by-track basis) to re-transmit the incoming MIDI data (on your base channel) back to the MR. Make sure that your soft track's channel number matches the corresponding MR's track number. Also, make sure that your soft sequencer doesn't transmit any patch or bank change messages.
- Pick your 'transmit track' on the MR. Record in your soft sequencer while you play the keyboard. The playback will take place on the MR.
- When the MR's display bugs you with the Update track parameters with MIDI values? question, simply press [Yes].
- If you want to transfer your computer sequence to the MR's sequencer, and you don't want bother with SMF files, sync your MR and the computer (using the [System] MIDI options). Then press [Record] on the MR and start the playback on the computer sequencer. The MR will record all incoming MIDI data on the matching tracks. Then you can save it to disk using [Disk] mode.
[NEW] You need to protect some of your tracks' settings to be accidentally changed by incoming MIDI messages, in particular Program Change & Bank Select messages. I suggest you to turn them off. To do so, press a track button and scroll using the Parameter knob to get the Rcv settings on the display.
[NEW] I've posted a SNG file here (hich contains only track parameters) that meets the suggestions listed above. (A Cakewalk 8.0 template suited for this purpose is also bundled in the zip file).
- Can't create rhythms on the MR itself. No one at Ensoniq appears to take care of this unfinished O.S., so your only choice for creating Drum Machine's rhythms is a computer tool, which can be grabbed here.
- You've loaded an SMF into the MR and the playback tempo is altered. This happens in some cases when the SMF has a different PPQ (pulses per quarter note) setting than the MR's (which is very high for a hardware sequencer, 384). To fix this, open the SMF on a computer-based sequencer and fix the PPQ setting, then try again.
- To make a repetitive pattern on a single track. Unfortunately, the MR's doesn't allow to copy a track's region to another location on the same track (which is vital for pattern-like sequencing). A partial solution, which doesn't involve playlist techniques, is to record your n-bar pattern starting at 1:0:000 until n-1:0:383 (use the Region buttons to set the range before recording). Then use the 16 Track Recorder [Copy] button and select the Append option. Press [Yes] and the display will show the destination location, which should be n:0:0 (if it's not, check the next trick). Press [Yes] again to copy. Now you have 2n bars of your pattern written on the track. Then repeat the process and you'll double again the track's length. Repeat until you've enough bars of your pattern on the track.
- The Rhythm track's length can't be shrink. This happens when a Rhythm has been copied to the sequencer (using the Drum Machine's [Send] button) without recording a track first. The 16 Track Recorder's [Erase] command along with regions and the Remove Gap option doesn't work on the Rhythm track. There's no known direct solution. Try copying individual tracks to another blank sequence and then re-send the rhythm to the new sequence. You can avoid this tragicomedy by sending the pattern at last, when you've recorded other tracks. The pattern track will have the same length of the total sequence.
- Your sequence has 1 extra bar and it can't be deleted. A variation of the former case, this bug is evident when your sequence stops beyond its original length and is critical when using the [Loop] option or sequence chaining. To fix this, save your sequences to disk and power off the MR. Turn it on and reload the sequences, the problem should be fixed.
- The playlist's first sequence doesn't start playing correctly. This is frequent when using embedded Rhythms into chained sequences. To make sure that the playlist will run right, always select the first sequence (by pressing the Song Editor's [A]-[H] buttons), then press the [Song Playlist] button and finally the [Play] button, after the Building Playlist... message has gone.
- There's time lags between chained sequences. Check the memory allocation and availability.
-The sequence's Chorus and Reverb settings are overwritten when selecting sounds on the SoundFinder. This happens as long as you don't create a Song that holds your sequence. The simplest way to create a song is to build a Playlist of just one sequence (the one that you're using). Hold the [Song Playlist] button and press the Song Editor's [A]-[H] button of your sequence. The song has been created (you can name it using the Song Editor's [Misc.] button) and now you should return to your sequence editing by pressing again the [Song Playlist] button.
- The Solo function disables itself. There's no known workaround for this problem.
Make this beast work with other MIDI gear...
If you are planning to use the MR as a controller or use it head-to-head with another workstation, please note:
When playing single sounds. The MR will transmit and receive MIDI on the [System] specified base channel (and using the current SoundFinder's Sound or Preset).
When using the sequencer. This info can be useful:
- The 16 tracks are hard-wired to MIDI channels 1-16, but by default for reception only! In fact, if a track uses an internal MR sound, no MIDI transmission will be made on that channel from the MR. That's the most absurd concept I've ever seen on a workstation! You can instruct a track for transmit program, bank and note data, but no sound will be heard from that track! Summarizing, there's NO DUAL MIDI TRACK STATUS on the MR's sequencer. If you want to use the MR with a computer, check here.
- You can't disable MIDI reception for any of the tracks, so make sure that no undesired data will be at MR's MIDI IN terminals. As an alternative, you can use the 'Silence' sound (found on the *UTILITY* category) to force a track to be 'MIDI-null'.
- If you set the clock sync as 'external', the MR will play/stop when the master keyboard sends the corresponding MIDI codes. But you need to press the MR's [Play] first. The keyboard will wait for MIDI start/stop sync. If you try to auto-start the MR using a remote Play command (without pressing the MR's [Play] first), the MR's sequence will start unsynchronized. Apparently, there's a time lag between the Play command and the start of the sequence itself.
- if you set the clock sync as 'internal', the MR will transmit MIDI clocks and start/stop messages. Keyboards like Korg or Roland have better external sync, so they don't insert initial delays between the start/stop message and the sequencer's real start. So I advice you to use the MR as master clock generator.
- Using the last setting, it's not adviceable to send big bulks of MIDI data to the MR when the sequencer is playing. In some cases, the keyboard loses sync!
- The MR doesn't transmit or receive Song Position Pointers! It means that before recording or playing, you'll need to manually adjust the initial measure on every workstation connected as slave from the MR. That plainly sucks. It doesn't recognize Song Select messages either (unsurpringsly).
[NEW] Sound editing
The Flash memory built in the MR must be the slowest available on any synth. It takes an eternity to save a Soundfinder sound, a preset or a rhythm. Fortunately, the MR's bizarre memory architecture allows the user to create a volatile RAM soundbank, which is lost after power-up. This bank is specially suited for computer sound editing, but is not available to the Soundfinder until a sound has been saved to it.
To create a RAM soundbank, press [Librarian] and then scroll to the Setup RAM memory? option. Press [Yes] and use the value controls to set any combination that features 65K under the Snd label. Press [Yes] twice to make the setting permanent (you'll lose any contents at the RAM memory).
Using your computer sequencer, copy the sound you want to edit, from the ROMxxx or FLS001 banks, and paste it to any locaction to the RAM002 bank (the RAM area we've just created). Then, any time you want to test the editings, send your edited sound to the MR using your particular software's command (some edit packages have auto-send features). The changes will be audible almost isntantly.
If you don't create a RAM bank, any time you send the updated sound to the MR, it will start saving the whole Flash bank from the start, which is a fuc**ng nightmare!
Once you've finished, copy your edited sound to a FLS location to make it permanent, using the Soundfinder or the software. It's worth nothing that the RAM sound being edited isn't lost when the software quits. So if you have a time-limited demo of a certain editing software, simply restart it and continue editing your RAM sound.
Bizarre! When creating a sound from scratch on the computer, there's no way to specify InsertFX (IFX) settings for that sound (at first). The only known workaround appears to be:
- Stop editing on the computer;
- Using the Soundfinder to select the RAM sound you're editing (in case it's not still selected);
- Use the MR's editing features to select an IFX and set its parameters. Then route your sound to the IFX using the [Routing] button found on the FX/Mixdown section.
- Reload your sound on the computer editor. Now the software should display the IFX's type and parameters. Now you can edit freely.