Posting here for the first time... I was compelled to after I spent several days trying to get my new Boss RC-50 to sync reliably. I thought that maybe some of you could benefit from my experience as well as see a glimpse into the lack of customer service @ Roland. Oh, I soooooo wish I was at NAMM right now so I could speak to them about this face to face.
I'm sure many of you know of the lack of true master/slave sync in regards to this device and external midi clock. I, like many others, was compelled to get an RC-50 after learning there was a midi capable looper! It's advertised as such and I got swept up into the marketing of such a device as I've been looking for a quality looper for some time that I could sync to midi while running audio channels externally so they could go in/out of my guitar amp. I found the holy grail, or so I thought... up and bought it right there as I found a good deal on ebay.
I spent a couple weeks with the looper getting this to work right. I did indeed read the manual quite a bit. Studied it. I'm familiar with gear and syncing. I was trying to sync the RC-50 to Ableton Live. Went through many settings on both the RC-50 and Live. ALMOST got it to sync as a true master / slave but what I found is that the clock would just not sync accurately. It would remain off by .1 or .2 midi beats which of course, is not SYNCHRONIZATION as the loops would drift after not too much time. As I am certain you fellow loopers would conclude, this is unacceptable! The looper needs to really sync reliably to work without drift.
My goal was to be able to get multiple loops at lengths to which I desired to loop in sync with Live. I set Tempo Sync to OFF, Loop sync to OFF, Midi sync to AUTO and REMOTE.... same things...still the drift of .1 to .2, not always but well enough to not be reliable for live performance. Computer was sending midi clock to the looper.
I tried tricking the device - setting up a empty loop on track 1 so that other tracks could quantize and sync to it... still no dice. It would consistently read the midi clock and pretty regularly be off by .1 - .2. Live definitely set up correctly. Other midi interfaces tried. Other computer tried. Didn't matter... not syncing. I read and read and read the manual.
I tried running the RC-50 as the master and Live as the slave. Doing so this way caused Live's tempo to be all over the map.
I finally emailed their customer support. I'll get to that in a second. Just after emailing their customer support, I perused Looper's Delight again and I got some ideas to try another approach.... which surprisingly worked! It's a major workaround, the device should not behave like this but this was the ONLY way I got the RC-50 to sync reliably.
Here is how:
On RC-50 - setup a patch that has a specific tempo of your sequence, say 125BPM. Store that tempo with the patch. Tempo Sync -- OFF OFF OFF. Loop Sync On/Off - experiment with this. Midi sync set to REMOTE. Pre-record a blank loop at the BPM that the RC-50 believes is correct. When set to REMOTE (even though this is counter-intuitive) the RC-50 still gets it's tempo from INTERNAL settings. WTF?!?! Ok. This gave me the idea though to set this up using the pre-recorded dummy empty loop at the specific tempo. Here is the part I was missing as again it seems counter-intuitive and does not explain well in the manual. In order for the RC-50 to sync correctly without drift, YOU HAVE TO USE THE GUIDE!!!! THIS IS THE ONLY WAY THAT THE RC-50 GETS RELIABLE TEMPO!!! Then you have this ugly problem of hearing their canned, crappy drums. How do you eliminate that? Set the guide to play out of the SUB OUTS (as long as you are not using them already) and then don't plug them in to speakers!!!! What happens is once you have this blank loop set, and REMOTE working properly (don't forget your midi settings in Live!), the RC-50 is tricked into playing at the correct tempo. You can then record other loops on the other tracks which will be quantized to your original silent loop and then will remain in sync. Get it? Yuck. I have never had such a difficult time getting midi gear to sync.
Hope I explained it okay.. but it works, solidly... finally. When you start your sequence, you must have the empty loop track selected on the RC-50 so that when you start the sequencer, it triggers playback of the blank loop and then you can record to the other loops. It stays in sync as long as you still have a loop running. If you stop playback on the RC-50, forget it the loops will get out of sync. If you want silence in there, you still have to play the empty loop and keep the clock running.
So, here is the part about their customer service. I emailed them trying to ask about this.. first of all they only give you about 300 characters in which to describe your problem (I do feel sorry for their support staff as a result of this) and you also get some less than stellar support once you do get any response from them. Here is what they said about the RC-50 and synchronization:
"There would not be any way around this issue as sync requires very intensive realtime calculations, and the RC's brain has to crunch thousands of numbers per second on-the-fly when locking to external clock or when the the tempo is changed. The recording mode also has an effect, as stereo audio is twice as difficult to sync and/or time-shift than mono audio."
- Are you kidding me? It's too complicated to work? Tell that to all the other midi manufacturers that get devices from varying manufacturers to work in sync all the time. And if this is the case, why do you advertise that this is a feature!?!? You think musicians won't notice? I have read on this forum and in other places that Roland is not likely to update their version 1.1 operating system any time soon (likely never).
So... it seems that even Roland doesn't have a workaround like I came up with. I hope I explained this okay and that it helps some of you. I had a hard time finding info on this and had to piece it together from various sources.
Best to all you loopers, sorry for the long post, but hoping this might help someone out there in loopland...
Tainted By Trolls