Kenton MIDI Merge 8
By Phil O'Keefe |
Kenton MIDI Merge 8
Got the urge to merge? This versatile box can do it in two ways
By Phil O'Keefe
Kenton is a familiar name to those who need MIDI problem solvers. Some of you may remember my review of the Kenton Thru 25 1 x 25 MIDI thru box. A MIDI thru box takes one MIDI input and splits it to multiple outputs. This time we're looking at another essential MIDI problem solver from Kenton - the MIDI Merge 8. It essentially does the opposite of what a MIDI thru box does. In what ways? Read on to find out!
- The Kenton MIDI Merge 8 is manufactured in the United Kingdom. It can be thought of as an expanded version of their popular MIDI Merge 4. It has eight MIDI inputs (on standard 5-pin DIN jacks) and two MIDI outputs instead of the 4x1 configuration of the Merge 4. The MIDI inputs are opto-coupled for isolation.
- MIDI inputs 1-6 are located on the rear panel of the MIDI Merge 8, while MIDI inputs 7-8, as well as MIDI Out 1 and 2, are located on the front.
- The Kenton Merge 8's enclosure is brushed aluminum with black screen printing for the graphics and labels.
- Four small rubber feet come pre-installed on the bottom of the enclosure. The Merge 8 measures 155 mm W x 80 mm D x 35 mm H and weighs 220g, excluding the power supply.
- The included 9V DC 100mA power supply is of the wall-wart type that is appropriate for your region - power supplies that are suitable for the UK, EU, USA and Australia are available and when you order directly from Kenton the correct adapter for your country is shipped to you automatically. The adapter's 2.1mm plug is wired center-positive.
- The Kenton MIDI Merge 8 can be configured in two ways: as an 8 in, 1 out MIDI merger, or as two 4x1 mergers.
- You'll find a dual-color LED indicator and a recessed pushbutton switch next to the power receptacle. The switch allows you to select between the Merge 8's two modes of operation. The Kenton MIDI Merge 8 can be used as a 8x2 MIDI merge box, or as two separate 4x1 mergers, depending on the position of the switch. The LED glows amber when the dual 4x1 option is selected, and green when the 8x2 merge mode is active.
- MIDI Inputs 1-4 are merged to MIDI Out 1, and MIDI Inputs 5-8 are merged to MIDI Out 2 when using the MIDI Merge 8 in split mode.
- The MIDI Merge 8 remembers the switch position when you power down and defaults to the last used mode when you power it back up.
- There are some rules that you have to be aware of when merging MIDI data streams. Controller data can be easily merged, but the MIDI protocol prohibits some types of data merging. For example, you can only have one master MIDI clock. The MIDI Merge 8 defaults to "no inputs as master" when it is first powered up. As soon as the MIDI Merge 8 receives a MIDI start command on any of its inputs, that input becomes the MIDI master, and the master is assigned to the most recent port to receive a MIDI start or continue command.
- System Exclusive messages can also not be merged. The Kenton MIDI Merge 8 will pass along System Exclusive messages, but will lock out Sysex messages from the other ports until the first one has completed.
- Since the 8x2 / 4x1 (x2) switch is recessed, you'll need a small tool (like the tip of a pen) in order to change its position. Of course, this also means you won't accidentally hit it in the middle of a gig, which is probably why they decided to recess the switch to begin with.
Since MIDI signals can not be combined or split with audio mixers or by using Y cables, a MIDI merger can be an essential accessory to have around. Unlike a thru box that takes one MIDI input and splits it to multiple outputs, a MIDI merger takes multiple MIDI inputs and combines them into a single MIDI output.
Suppose you have two keyboards - a weighted-action master keyboard that lacks MIDI modulation and pitch bend wheels, and a synth-action keyboard sitting above it that does have those controls. You could use the synth for everything - playing the keys and adding expression with the wheel controllers, but if you prefer playing on the weighted-action keyboard, you would be giving up the use of the modulation and pitch wheels - but not if you have a MIDI merger. It would allow you to combine the MIDI Out from both keyboard controllers and send the merged data stream to your computer or MIDI module(s) so that you could play using the weighted action keys while using the synth keyboard's pitch and modulation wheels too.
Here's another example. Suppose you have a drum machine that is providing a MIDI clock signal to your DAW to keep everything in sync, but you also want to be able to record MIDI performance data from your keyboard into your DAW too. The only problem is, you only have a single MIDI input jack on your computer. You could buy a new MIDI interface with more inputs, but if you have a MIDI merger, you could also send the clock signal from the drum machine, along with the performance data from the keyboard to your DAW simultaneously by merging the two data streams into one.
If you need to combine the MIDI data from multiple devices, you should definitely check out this box. The Kenton MIDI Merge 8 was designed to do exactly that, and it does it without muss or fuss. Kudos to Kenton for the dual-mode operation - whether you need to merge a lot of MIDI data streams (up to 8 at once) and send the combined data stream out two ports, or whether you need two individual 4x1 mergers in a single box, the MIDI Merge 8 has got you covered. It is solidly-built and reliably does what it says it does. -HC-
Want to discuss the Kenton MIDI Merge 8 or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Keys, Synths & Samplers forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Kenton MIDI Merge 8 (£128.92 ex VAT; about $166.23 at the current exchange rate at the time this was written.)
Kenton's product web page
Kenton MIDI Merge 8 manual (PDF file)
You can purchase the Kenton MIDI Merge 8 directly from Kenton.
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.