Connecting a hardware synth to a DAW

Quick question - is it better to use the line out of a synth and connect to a DAI and then go into the DAW (using “audio” as input source), or is it better to use a MIDI interface and the MIDI out on the synth and then “external MIDI” as the source in the DAW?

I guess the latter gives a MIDI-editable track, where timing, quantization and adding different sounds can be done easily, whereas the former wouldn’t allow that? Any drawbacks to this approach??


I would say external midi is the way to go unless you really dig the sound of your synth. Synth plugins are crazy good these days! It’s a little bit comparable when you record a clean bass track into your DAW or a colored one which has pedals/amp included in the chain. The clean track can easily be altered with plugins.

What synth you got?


Thanks, Paul!

It’s a synth module (Yamaha VL70-m) and I want to control it with a breath controller (Yamaha WX-7).

I see two scenarios: 1) where I want to use the sounds from the VL70-m) and 2) where I want to use the sounds from a plugin (made for wind controllers) and control it by the WX-7.

For 1) can I get the module’s sound into the DAW? I guess not… this is where I might have to use the line out option???

For 2) here I can bypass the synth module altogether and use MIDI out from the WX-7, I guess?

It’s all not fully clear to me yet… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Maybe the best solution is to do/try both. You can record the line out “audio” and the midi in separate channels.

The line out is indeed the sound you get from your synth. It’s basically the same as plugging in a bass. Think I have spent hundreds of euros on different type of cables or adapters. In this case you get a line out to XLR or TRS cable and plug that into your DAI.

Connecting midi can be a bit more hassle. The connection part is easy since you can often use USB (not sure about your model). Midi mapping / configuration is a different story. You prob need to read some guides depending on your synth and DAW. Can be really easy but it can also be a PITA. Especially if you start mixing different synths :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


We got some synth gurus on the forum too @howard @wellbi and prob a few more :sweat_smile:


It depends.

I would always record the MIDI only myself and use the synth for playback as much as possible. This is obvious for software synths but it’s also something I do for hardware synths. In fact my first DAW (in 1989) was not actually a full DAW but instead an extended MIDI sequencer, and we used that for everything, including live. It’s by far the most flexible means of using synths, especially around editing and fixing mistakes. You can often avoid the need for a retake by just editing the MIDI in the MIDI Editor in your DAW.

However sometimes it is useful to create an intermediate audio track of the synth output; one good example would be using the same hardware synth on multiple tracks, or getting polyphony out of a monophonic synth.

It all depends on what you are doing.

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What I am trying to do is actually two things:

  1. play my wind controller (WX-7) through one of the synth modules I own for it (VL70-m, TX81Z, Kurzweil HX-1000) and record myself

  2. play my wind controller and control sounds (made for wind controller) that reside as plug-ins in Logic and record myself.

I don’t think I want to go the other way, i.e., control the synth modules from Logic. In other words, once recorded, playback shouldn’t require the synth module to be in the chain.

So, my guess is, 1) with the statement above in mind, will only work using the line out from the synth (like recording a bass).
While 2) will only work with MIDI (as I use the WX-7 like an external keyboard, in essence).

Do I get that right?

And, also just to clarify: any MIDI information recorded will NOT carry any sound information; in other words, they will need to be played back via a plug-in or (via sending a MIDI signal back out to a real synth) - correct!?!?

Thanks, @howard !

If the synth modules for #1 reside in the synth, then yes eventually you will need to record its line out. This is true of all hardware synths; even if you are controlling them with recorded MIDI, you will eventually need to capture the output into a track you run in to your DAW like you would your bass; likely a stereo line level signal for most synths.

For #2 you will definitely want to record MIDI. For #1, you could still record MIDI, and then edit it in the DAW, and when happy with the playback of the MIDI through the synth, record the resulting line out while playing back the recorded MIDI. This is definitely (absolutely no question) what I would do and might be something for you to consider. For myself, I cannot think of a circumstance where I would want to record the audio of me playing instead of the MIDI. I would always record the MIDI, edit it until I was happy with it, and then record the resulting audio from its playback. YMMV.

Correct. MIDI carries event (note on, note off, etc), timecode, and control (“pitch bend wheel at 195”, etc) info. It carries no audio signal.

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Ah, had forgotten about that part… I have used MIDI live a lot, but never recorded it before.

So, just “bouncing” a project (with audio and MIDI tracks) will not properly capture the MIDI tracks, as they first need to be “recorded” to audio (and mixed etc.)!?

I think I am beginning to see what is necessary.

I see, but that means you do NOT work with any hardware synths… only plug-ins. Right!?

It will for software synths but it will not for hardware synths as there is nothing carrying the audio signal back to the DAW unless you record the output.

No, the same method works fine with both software and hardware synths. Software synths are simply plugins that take MIDI as their input. Likewise, hardware synths can use MIDI as their input just as easily. Even live, I used to control two hardware synths and a drum machine all from MIDI output from my sequencer on my Mac.

The only time I have ever recorded the actual audio of me playing (instead of MIDI) would be when we were taped during a live show; I usually sequenced almost everything but left myself something simple to do that I could still play even after a couple beers while on stage :rofl:

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OK, thanks! Looks like a bit of experimentation is coming up for me…

First, I need to find the right button battery to replace in the VL70-m (hasn’t been changed in over 25 years :joy:). And then, to test the MIDI interface of the Rubix DAI…

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Have fun! DAW MIDI editors now are way, way nicer than anything I was used to back in the day.

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Lol this is gold. I always suspected this from keyboard players!


Some play more live than others but I suspect even Jordan Rudess is sequencing some stuff during their live shows. The nice thing about being the synth player is you can still have huge sounds and yet pick and choose what parts you want to play live. This makes a lot of sense as usually there’s both repetetive stuff (like synthbass) and long multimeasure whole note things like big sweeping pads that don’t require any real expression and make sense to sequence, but also lead and solo stuff that can benefit a lot from use of expression controls like aftertouch or the mod and pitch bend wheels. Those are fun to play live.