Updates: October 2017
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MIDI Speed Tests Info:
MIDI Speed Tests
Data Summary
Notes
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Midi Speed Tests

Below are the results of speed tests comparing various vintage and new synthesizers. I played open strings, fretted at the fifth fret, and the twelfth fret. I recorded the direct output from the 1/4” jack on the guitar and the output from the synthesizers. I recorded the audio tracks into Digital Performer at 44.1kHz. I edge edited to the start of the sounds, and I then wrote down the actual sample number of the start of the sound. The difference in sample numbers was converted back into the more understandable millisecond unit.

Data Summary

Model Time (ms) Guitar Pickup
G50 11.08 Roland G-303 BX-13-VX
G50 11.54 Parker PM-10 GK-2A Internal
G50 11.58 Fernandes Dragonfly Elite GK-3 Internal
G50 11.66 Schecter Stiletto Classic GK-3 Internal
GI-20 15.96 Parker Nitefly GK-2A Internal
GI-10 18.58 Parker Nitefly GK-2A Internal
GR-55 19.01 Roland G-303 BX-13-VX
Z3 20.11 Ibanez IMG2010 BX-13-V2
GR-55 20.31 Roland G-303 BX-13-VX
GR-700 Turbo 28.54 PRS SE Custom GK-3 External
GR-700 29.87 Roland G-707 Internal
MC1 33.62 Ibanez IMG2010 Internal
GM-70 40.39 Roland G-707 Internal

Model Time (ms) Bass Guitar Pickup
GR-77B 32.13 Roland G-77 Internal
GI-20 39.54 Roland G-77 BX-13-VX
GM-70 45.64 Roland G-77 Internal

Model Time (ms) Controller Pickup
GR-500 1.14 GS-500 Internal
GR-300 3.32 Ibanez IMG2010 Internal
GR-500 3.65 GS-500 Internal
VB-99 3.76 G-77 BX-13-VX
GR-500 3.89 GS-500 Internal
VG-88 7.34 Ibanez IMG2010 SBC+
GR-33B 13.00 G-77 Internal
VB-99 14.40 G-77 BX-13-VX

Notes

Here is a breakdown of how I did the tests in more detail. For example, with the GM-70, the guitar sound was recorded at sample number 4470612, and the synth output was recorded at 4473326. So 4473326 minus 4470612 equals a delay of 2714 samples. 2714 samples divided by 44100 samples equals 0.06154. Multiply by 1000 to convert to milliseconds: 61.54. Or a 61.54 millisecond delay for a GM-70 to play a low "E." Ouch! Compare that to 5.8 milliseconds for the GR-300!

For the MIDI only modules, like the GM-70 or GI-10, I used the output of a Yamaha CS6R. It was the factory piano patch, with the attack time set to zero. The CS6R is a few years old, and is a fairly "middle-of-the-road" module. So, when you see that the average response time of the GI-10 is 21.99 milliseconds, this is the total time from when the guitar is picked to when a note is actually heard from the module. I felt this was more of a real world test. Also, depending on the MIDI module you use, you may have a slower or faster response time.

And 20 ms is not a bad response time at all. In 1995, there was a lot of discussion about "MIDI delay." This was a term for the delay between when a MIDI note on is sent to a synthesizer, and the time it takes the synth to respond. I did a test on a Kurzweil K2000R, which was considered to be a pretty good synth in 1995. It took the K2000R around 20 milliseconds to produce a sound from the time that a MIDI note on command was received. To consider that guitar synthesizers like the GR-55 are working in the same time frame is pretty impressive. Perhaps the problem with guitar synthesizers is that the player can hear the note produced by the guitar and perceive the delay in the MIDI sound, even in the small time delay of 20 ms.

I have also included the Roland VG-88 and GR-300. At an average response time of 3.3 milliseconds, you can see that the GR-300 deserves its reputation as the "world’s fastest guitar synthesizer."

For the VG-88, I used polyphonic pitch shifting, with each string being individually pitch-shifted. The result was similar to putting a capo on the third fret of the guitar. In addition to the pitch-shifting, there is the additional guitar and amp modeling.

Unfortunately, I do not have any of the Axon pitch-to-MIDI converters. As of 2012, the company is out of business, which is really unfortunate. The Axon gear was always pretty hard to find in the United States. However, I was able to pick up a Yamaha G50 pitch-to-MIDI converter, which licensed the Axon technology. From what I have learned from searching the web, the Yamaha G50 has the same design as the Axon NG-77. The Yamaha G50 smoked all the competition in the Pitch-to-MIDI speed tests, scoring an average amazing 11.47 millisecond response across all the strings.

Just to make sure I was not imagining things, I did the Yamaha G50 test with four guitars, two with a whammy bar, two with a fixed bridge. I used both Roland GK-2A and GK-3 pickups. And the results were consistent, 11 milliseconds average. If you want fast Pitch-to-MIDI, find yourself a Yamaha G50 or an Axon converter.

I would note that the web pages I referenced indicated the Yamaha G50 would not be a good choice for use with piezo MIDI pickup guitars, since the Yamaha G50 does not have a software update issued by Axon to deal with the different attack waveform of the piezo systems. I would note slight speed differences between the guitars using the G50 is insignificant. I cannot say that my pick attack is precisely the same, or that I struck each note with the same intensity. Either way you look at it, the G50 is significantly faster.

And, many of you may be wondering about the GR-100! It basically has no delay. The GR-100 is six fuzz circuits with a low pass filter and chorus. So, in light of the tedium required to measure the MIDI timing/tracking of all these synths, I skipped the GR-100.