This article is a journey through my reasons for purchasing the XOXO Modular "MIDI XO". I will talk about why I needed it in my setup, as well as the functionality it delivers. You can find the vendor product page here.
I began researching the MIDI XO as a way to obtain MIDI control of my Expert Sleepers Disting EX. The EX is packed with algorithms which are controllable via CV or MIDI inputs; the only catch is that to enable MIDI input you need an expansion module to connect to the EX. The MIDI XO provides such a solution for the Disting EX and other compatible modules.
I had already fallen in love with the Disting EX Multisample algorithm which allows sample playback (including polyphonic voices and kit style single hits) in a very neat 8HP module. I had been using the CV outputs of my Five12 Vector Sequencer to connect to the Disting EX, and though this worked well it was a bit cumbersome to patch for multiple voices. The Vector also hosts TRS MIDI outputs, so solving the MIDI connectivity gap to the Disting EX became a priority.
Additionally, I am also using a Squarp Rample in my small rack setup and using a convoluted cable solution to solve a TRS MIDI A/B switching problem. My Five12 Vector Sequencer has TRS MIDI TYPE A outputs, and the Squarp Rample has TYPE B inputs. Prior to purchasing the MIDI XO I needed to use 2 adapters joined to either end of a standard MIDI cable (see the picture below). It worked really well, but is far from elegant.
MIDI TRS TYPE A/B
MIDI over TRS sends and receives MIDI via 3.5mm TRS cables. Being able to use cheap, easy to source and smaller cables sounds wonderful until you connect two MIDI TRS devices and it doesn't work. Assuming you have everything else set up correctly there's a good chance the problem will be because your MIDI TRS devices are mismatched.
MIDI TYPE mismatches occur because there was originally no standard for TRS wiring for MIDI, so vendors used either TYPE A or TYPE B wiring which swaps two of the wires around. This means that if you connect a cable between two devices they will only work if they are of the same MIDI TRS TYPE.
More recently, the MIDI Gods have decreed TYPE B to be the standard, but there are still plenty of devices with MIDI TRS TYPE A in production. The MIDI XO was created to solve the A/B mismatch as well as provide some neat additional features. You can read more about the TRS MIDI conundrum here.
TRS TYPE SWITCHER
The MIDI XO is a 2HP passive module which presents two 3.5mm TRS jacks being a MIDI input and MIDI output. The MIDI XO can:
- Accept TYPE A or TYPE B and pass it through as is.
- Accept TYPE A and switch to TYPE B at the output.
- Accept TYPE B and switch to TYPE A at the output.
The TRS TYPE flip function is facilitated via the switches on the front face and solves the TYPE A versus TYPE B mismatch very easily.
The MIDI XO has a 4 pin breakout on the underside which allows MIDI connectivity to compatible devices which including many of the Expert Sleepers range of modules. Connection is enabled via a 4 inch rainbow coloured cable which connects the MIDI XO to your partner device. I connected the MIDI XO to my Disting EX by Expert Sleepers.
My single criticism of the MIDI XO is that I wish it came with a longer connector cable. If you are buying a MIDI XO you want to factor in that you will need to locate it very close to the partner module.
MODES OF OPERATION
There are four ways you can use the MIDI XO, being:
- MODE 1 - Standalone TRS MIDI A/b Converter - allows you to flip the midi pins between two unmatched devices.
- MODE 2 - TRS MIDI Breakout for Expert Sleepers (compatible) modules - connect the rainbow coloured four pin cable to the back of the MIDI XO and your partner device.
- MODE 1+2 - Disting Mk4 with Thru MIDI - this is the mode I am using for my MIDI XO and Disting EX.
- MODE 3 - Dual TRS MIDI A/B to MIDI - Specific to the Expert Sleepers MIDI Breakout which I do not have.
See the product manual for more information including how to set the jumpers on the module.
In simple terms what the MIDI XO allows me to do in my setup is as follows. You can see that this small rack of 6U 70HP has massive power and flexibility.
The Five12 Vector Sequencer sends:
CHORD PART (up to 4 voice) to the Disting EX Multi Sample algorithm on MIDI Channel 1 (or any other algorithm depending on what I am doing)
DRUM PART (4 voices) to the Squarp Rample on MIDI Channel 2
MONOPHONIC PART (1 voice) to the Make Noise 0-Coast on MIDI Channel 3
Additionally, I have the second TRS MIDI OUT on the Vector to connect my Moog, Korg XD or whatever else I want to use.
HOW IT IS CONNECTED
See the photograph below regarding cabling and the notes below. Each cable is noted by colour in the description.
Five12 Vector Sequencer - TRS TYPE A MIDI output (white cable with green ends)
Connects to the MIDI XO TRS input
MIDI XO rear of module jacks set up for MODE 1+2
Rainbow 4 PIN cable connected from the MIDI XO to the rear of the Disting EX
Disting EX configured to respond to MIDI channel 1 and with MIDI THRU enabled
MIDI XO configured to swap TRS MIDI TYPE from A to B
Midi XO TRS MIDI output connected to the Squarp Rample Input (black cable with black ends)
Squarp Rample configured to respond to MIDI channel 2
Squarp Rample MIDI THRU connected to the 0-Coast input (black cable with green ends)
- 0-Coast configured to respond to MIDI Channel 3
From the Vector Sequencer I am controlling the Disting EX, Rample and 0-Coast via a single MIDI TRS OUT. The MIDI XO is routing to the Disting EX, converting MIDI TYPE A to B and forwarding down the chain to the Rample and 0-Coast. It is a very elegant solution to a few different connectivity problems and is extremely efficient
- A great utility module that elegantly solves the MIDI TYPE A/B issue.
- Easy MIDI control of your Disting (or other compatible Expert Sleepers module).
- Well priced and very easy to install.
- Manual is easy to follow.
- The included 4 inch cable could be a bit longer
- That's it. This module does what it does perfectly.