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Old 27 June 2014, 15:44   #1
trydowave
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Atari ST VS Amiga MIDI

Quick question, not a Amiga VS ST argument (im sure everyone here knows which one will come out on top ).

The Amiga normally beats the ST in every department apart from 2 things...

The STs slightly faster CPU and its MIDI port.

Would an Amiga with an External Midi interface be as good as an Amiga for music production?

Basically. Would it trump the one and only appealing thing about the ST?
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Old 27 June 2014, 16:14   #2
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There is nothing technologically outstanding in a midi port, after all it is just modified serial port targeted at a specific standard. It is, and was, dead easy and inexpensive to either buy an Amiga midi adapter or just build one yourself.

And about the cpu (I guess we are talking of non accelerated computers), the Amiga had a slower cpu but it performed much better, because it could offload many of its tasks to its custom chips and dma engine which the ST couldnt.

The Atari had the midi port built-in from factory, so at first sight "it seems" more usable, but basicly an Amiga is better than an ST.

The Atari Falcon is of course, another story that needs to be properly disected
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Old 27 June 2014, 20:26   #3
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Midi is the one area that the ST does beat the Amiga in. It isn't just the hardware, it is the amount of software available for it. I have a Mega 4 ST with a Unitor N dongle running Notator. Nothing even came close for the Amiga for Midi sequencing. For timing, it is better than anything for the PC, Mac and Amiga. There was Cubase for the ST as well and a number of other sequencers as well as a plethora of synth editors, patch librarians and other Midi utilities. These were all developed over a period of years for an active community of users just like the Video Toaster and Flyer were for the Amiga.

The Amiga Midi interfaces use the RS-232 serial port which is pretty limited. It works fine for just one Midi port but it is not fast enough for multi port applications. My Unitor N has 2 additional fast ports and there was another dongle that attached to the St's serial port that gave it even more Midi ports but the Notator manual warns against using them for devices for which the timing is important.
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Old 28 June 2014, 01:40   #4
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I agree that the ST had a better software portfolio of commercial grade midi applications. There is no doubt about that.

Where I do not agree is the midi hardware aspect. If you argue about serial port speed on an Amiga, there are and were plenty of fast serial interfaces add-ons (that outperform the Atari St line) which are pretty cheap (less than $20), and even available as new today. BTW, most Amiga midi adapters have multiple ports.

BTW, you can easily emulate an Atari ST on an unexpanded Amiga and use its software, you canīt do the opposite on an ST.
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Old 28 June 2014, 03:05   #5
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RS232 is pretty limited and not much different from the Amiga to ST or PC. I don't know of any Zorro card or parallel port MIDI port interfaces for the Amiga. True you can add more serial ports by getting serial port Zorro cards. I belive the GVP IO extender board was even set up with Midi in mind. Both Notator and Cubase had port expanders that used the St's cartridge port. Even if you get the hardware to perform equal to the ST, the software for the Amiga is lacking.

The St's weakness in the OS department was actually an advantage for midi programing because the programers weren't restricted by trying to conform to strict OS guidlines and used a lot of assembly hacks. Notator totally rearranges the ST's memory and is incompatible with a lot of other St software. You basically have to dedicate your ST to it if you want to use it.

Way back when--like 23 years ago, I had access to a music studio that used an Amiga 500 for sequencing. I found it it pretty lame but the graphics were great which led me to buy my A2500.
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Old 28 June 2014, 11:03   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ami_GFX View Post
The St's weakness in the OS department was actually an advantage for midi programing because the programers weren't restricted by trying to conform to strict OS guidlines and used a lot of assembly hacks. Notator totally rearranges the ST's memory and is incompatible with a lot of other St software. You basically have to dedicate your ST to it if you want to use it.
I ran Notator 3.0 and Degas Elite on my Amiga 600 with the help of EmuTOS, and it seems to work without issues. So my point still stands: an Amiga is indeed a much better machine than an ST.

BTW, there are many other Atari ST and Falcon emulators which could probably let you do the same thing on an Amiga, each with its own strong and weak points.

Try doing the opposite with an ST
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Old 28 June 2014, 14:41   #7
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I agree that the Amiga is a much better machine than the Atari ST, just not for MIDI which is the one area where the ST beats the Amiga hands down. I'm intimately familiar with both of them and have used both for many years.

Last edited by Ami_GFX; 29 June 2014 at 04:20.
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Old 29 June 2014, 13:17   #8
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Some good responses here Seems like the ST comes out on top this time; if only for the software side of the discussion.
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Old 29 June 2014, 19:21   #9
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IMHO advantage Atari ST over Amiga was fact that Atari ST with SM124 was unbeatable with price/quality for MIDI work - MIDI is just ordinary serial port and there is nothing fancy in MIDI. B/W 640x400 non flicker was sufficient enough to provide large number of information so paradox is that graphics mode was more important than MIDI itself.
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Old 30 June 2014, 03:50   #10
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Midi is a hardware and software specification. It is not very fast by modern standards and even back in the day it wasn't considered that fast. It works fine with with one device on one cable controlling another but when multiple devices on different channels are controlled by one port, the timing gets muddy to the point that timing errors are easily perceived by the human ear. That is why there were multiport adapters for all the big sequencing platforms for the ST, Mac, Amiga and PC. Each synth in a complicated setup could have its own Midi port.


On the hardware level, Midi is a serial port with an opto isolator and a fixed data rate to be exact. The serial to Midi adapters added the opto isolator to the Amiga serial port. The Midi specification has input and output and thru ports and most devices have at least input and output ports.

The ST had Midi interupt service routines in ROM for the MIDI ports which were pretty fast and a programer could substitute these for custom routines by simply switching an interupt vector. There were MIDI functions in the ST's bios as well. This was the foundation upon which all ST midi software was built.

The Mono Monitor was indeed a plus and made doing complicated sequencing easier on the ST but I think it was a combination of factors that gave the ST the lead in Midi. It was simply having the right hardware and software at the right price at the right time. For the Amiga, the same thing happened with the Video Toaster and even before that with earlier video and animation software and hardware that led to the Toaster.
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Old 30 June 2014, 14:24   #11
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Serial MIDI is equally as good. No hardware advantages.
As said before, the key here is the software, and the ST has some fantastic software available and the Amiga lacks quite some.
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Old 30 June 2014, 15:50   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ami_GFX View Post
Midi is a hardware and software specification. It is not very fast by modern standards and even back in the day it wasn't considered that fast. It works fine with with one device on one cable controlling another but when multiple devices on different channels are controlled by one port, the timing gets muddy to the point that timing errors are easily perceived by the human ear. That is why there were multiport adapters for all the big sequencing platforms for the ST, Mac, Amiga and PC. Each synth in a complicated setup could have its own Midi port.
There is no multiport MIDI per se as in ST or Amiga you have only one serial port - to do multiport you need some smart buffer and sufficiently faster main serial port co combine data from multi port solution - AFAIK there is no such HW for ST thus there is no real multiport MIDI on ST.
Of course smart buffering can be done on some uC with proper (embedded software) then you can have multi I/O MIDI but still this will be kind of hack - pure math nothing else.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ami_GFX View Post
On the hardware level, Midi is a serial port with an opto isolator and a fixed data rate to be exact. The serial to Midi adapters added the opto isolator to the Amiga serial port. The Midi specification has input and output and thru ports and most devices have at least input and output ports.

The ST had Midi interupt service routines in ROM for the MIDI ports which were pretty fast and a programer could substitute these for custom routines by simply switching an interupt vector. There were MIDI functions in the ST's bios as well. This was the foundation upon which all ST midi software was built.
Yep - ST use MC6850 for this but beside slightly offloaded data processing (as Amiga use more RAW stream than data) there is no significant differences in Amiga (and as Copper can write to UART perhaps latency can be reduced slightly on Amiga).
btw 6850 seem to be informal standard for MIDI even on PC world - i saw MIDI cards on ISA where 6850 was used for this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ami_GFX View Post
The Mono Monitor was indeed a plus and made doing complicated sequencing easier on the ST but I think it was a combination of factors that gave the ST the lead in Midi. It was simply having the right hardware and software at the right price at the right time. For the Amiga, the same thing happened with the Video Toaster and even before that with earlier video and animation software and hardware that led to the Toaster.
IMHO SM124 with Atari ST was best price/value for MIDI - Amiga can beat this only when flickerfixer will be standard (or from ECS/AGA by using no flicker mode mode), also SM124 was relatively small and light weighted thus additional bonus for musicians...

Atari ST was simply a good sequencer where Amiga was under some limitations also sampler thus why Atari was better (sometimes less is better).

btw - one of first MIDI equipped computers was Yamaha CX5M - where CPU was Z80A (MSX standard) - this shows that MIDI doesn't have particular high demand on processing power - even 8 bit CPU was capable to act and control MIDI.
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Old 30 June 2014, 16:10   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pandy71 View Post
There is no multiport MIDI per se as in ST or Amiga you have only one serial port - to do multiport you need some smart buffer and sufficiently faster main serial port co combine data from multi port solution - AFAIK there is no such HW for ST thus there is no real multiport MIDI on ST.
Of course smart buffering can be done on some uC with proper (embedded software) then you can have multi I/O MIDI but still this will be kind of hack - pure math nothing else.

I own one of the ST multiport adapters, the Unitor N. It plugs into ST's cartridge port which is much faster than an RS232 serial port. It brings the total number of MIDI ports to 6 on the ST. It also adds SMPTE so the sequencer can be synced to a tape recorder. Steinberg produced a similar device. There were many such devices for the Mac and I have an old one for the PC as well that uses the parallel port and adds two MIDI ports that can be used alongside the joystick midi port on the PC.
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Old 30 June 2014, 18:11   #14
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Originally Posted by Ami_GFX View Post
I own one of the ST multiport adapters, the Unitor N. It plugs into ST's cartridge port which is much faster than an RS232 serial port. It brings the total number of MIDI ports to 6 on the ST. It also adds SMPTE so the sequencer can be synced to a tape recorder. Steinberg produced a similar device. There were many such devices for the Mac and I have an old one for the PC as well that uses the parallel port and adds two MIDI ports that can be used alongside the joystick midi port on the PC.
As i wrote - additional module, additional extension, additional circuitry but not multiport solution based on Atari ST embedded MIDI (i.e. single UART - MC6850 ACIA) - i never wrote that this is not possible - same rule can apply for any computer also Amiga - with additional hardware many independent MIDI ports can be created.
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Old 30 June 2014, 20:23   #15
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Here is the list of MIDI interfaces for the Amiga:

http://www.bigbookofamigahardware.co...ist.aspx?id=23

Every one of them uses the serial port which limits multiport bandwidth considerably. Almost all the the Multiport expanders for the ST, Mac and PCs of that era use a faster port. The ST expansion units use the cartridge port except for the Export which C-Lab warned against using for timing critical applications that used a lot of bandwidth like doing a lot of mod wheel changes or multibyte sysex messages in a sequence. Note ons and offs which are 3 byte mesages would be fine. The same would hold for the Amiga MIDI interfaces. If you did something that was complicated and used a lot of data, the timing would break down. That is why you would want additional ports. The ideal midi setup for an Amiga would have a Zorro card with additional serial ports and multiple midi interfaces. That would deal with any hardware timing issues.
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Old 01 July 2014, 02:29   #16
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This is the list of fast serial interfaces for the Amiga:

http://amiga.resource.cx/exp/search....&base=dec&pid=

BTW, there are interfaces for all Amigas. And, as I said before you can still buy them NIB from many Amiga dealers (particularly VarIO and Hypercom) and almost all of them outperform the ones offered for the Atari ST line.
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Old 01 July 2014, 22:18   #17
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Originally Posted by Ami_GFX View Post
Every one of them uses the serial port which limits multiport bandwidth considerably. Almost all the the Multiport expanders for the ST, Mac and PCs of that era use a faster port. The ST expansion units use the cartridge port except for the Export which C-Lab warned against using for timing critical applications that used a lot of bandwidth like doing a lot of mod wheel changes or multibyte sysex messages in a sequence. Note ons and offs which are 3 byte mesages would be fine. The same would hold for the Amiga MIDI interfaces. If you did something that was complicated and used a lot of data, the timing would break down. That is why you would want additional ports. The ideal midi setup for an Amiga would have a Zorro card with additional serial ports and multiple midi interfaces. That would deal with any hardware timing issues.
Ok, but we must compare apples to apples - for plain ST and Amiga with MIDI converter (i.e. simple electronics that turns RS232 levels to MIDI standard) there is similar limitations - difference between CPU clock is marginal so everything else is more important.
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Old 02 July 2014, 20:43   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trydowave View Post
Quick question, not a Amiga VS ST argument (im sure everyone here knows which one will come out on top ).

The Amiga normally beats the ST in every department apart from 2 things...

The STs slightly faster CPU and its MIDI port.

Would an Amiga with an External Midi interface be as good as an Amiga for music production?

Basically. Would it trump the one and only appealing thing about the ST?
yes, if you could also connect high resolution, high quality, non-interlaced, 70KHz display to Amiga, than they would be equally suitable for midi

Quote:
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The St's weakness in the OS department was actually an advantage for midi programing because the programers weren't restricted by trying to conform to strict OS guidlines and used a lot of assembly hacks.
e.g. CuBase had MROS (MIDI Real-time Operating System)
http://www.bioreference.net/encyclop...cu/cubase.html

"Steinberg created MROS or ‘music realtime operating system’. This was a true real time OS that could run multiple MROS compatible programs simultaneously, while giving the highest priority to midi timing. Hence the GUI could slow down, but your midi timing never suffered.

MROS was revolutionary at the time, and allowed other useful features such as sharing device drivers between software and could be updated independently from the software it ran.

The reason you don’t hear about it much is that the cracked versions of the Steinberg Atari products generally broke MROS enough to prevent mutiple programs, the MROS Switcher, and other useful features from working. Those of us with a handful of dongles and a MIDEX however had a rather powerful system."


http://www.synthtopia.com/content/20...comment-365742

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So my point still stands: an Amiga is indeed a much better machine than an ST.
just to note (and to avoid possible ban): Amiga is indeed a much better machine than an ST.
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Old 02 July 2014, 20:47   #19
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Originally Posted by Ami_GFX View Post
Here is the list of MIDI interfaces for the Amiga:

http://www.bigbookofamigahardware.co...ist.aspx?id=23

Every one of them uses the serial port which limits multiport bandwidth considerably. Almost all the the Multiport expanders for the ST, Mac and PCs of that era use a faster port. The ST expansion units use the cartridge port except for the Export which C-Lab warned against using for timing critical applications that used a lot of bandwidth like doing a lot of mod wheel changes or multibyte sysex messages in a sequence. Note ons and offs which are 3 byte mesages would be fine. The same would hold for the Amiga MIDI interfaces. If you did something that was complicated and used a lot of data, the timing would break down. That is why you would want additional ports. The ideal midi setup for an Amiga would have a Zorro card with additional serial ports and multiple midi interfaces. That would deal with any hardware timing issues.
MIDI expander for ST connect to ROM port coz ROM port is directly connected to MC68000.

It would be quite easy to test MIDI timings on Amiga and ST today if somebody have both. Make complex midi setup and try both with same midi song.
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Old 02 July 2014, 21:12   #20
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Most important thing is latency and overhead related to process interrupt from serial port.
Amiga is way complex (way complex hardware and interrupt structure) than ST, i assume that Amiga can be worse on this area than way simpler Atari ST but perhaps im wrong.
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