I can’t prove any of the guesses I’m about to make. Please bear that in mind. I may be entirely wrong. But…
Last night I finished writing a review of the Roland Fantom-G keyboard for Electronic Musician. Having no particular desire to keep it in my studio, I boxed it up. Then I uninstalled the drivers with which the Fantom was able to talk with my Windows XP computer.
My usual audio/MIDI setup revolves around a Yamaha mLAN firewire connection to a Motif XS. This afternoon I discovered that the mLAN drivers were hosed. MIDI from the Motif was reaching my audio apps, but neither audio nor MIDI was emerging from the computer and traveling back down the cable to the Motif.
So I did what every musician knows to do in such cases. I uninstalled and reinstalled the mLAN drivers. The computer hung once during the process, which is unusual, but then the installation seemed to proceed to its conclusion.
Only … there was still no audio or MIDI output through the drivers back to the Motif.
Cubase couldn’t even find the MIDI output port. Both Cubase and FL Studio found the ASIO mLAN audio pipeline, but when I selected it, nothing happened.
As I was looking in the audio device menus for various programs, I spotted a Fantom-G option. Hey, wait a minute! I thought I uninstalled that! I looked in Add/Remove Programs. No Fantom. I looked in Device Manager. No Fantom. And yet Wavelab and FL Studio could still see a phantom Fantom.
As it turned out, this was probably not the source of the problem — but Eric Klein of Roland was happy to help troubleshoot it. He shared some nifty code that caused Windows Device Manager to display non-present devices. There turned out to be quite a number of them. We got rid of the phantom Fantom. And in the course of the conversation, he mentioned that an iPod can cause this kind of problem. In some circumstances, it seems, every time you power up Windows with an iPod attached, another device gets installed. Pretty soon there are so many that Windows chokes on them.
And of course, that’s exactly what I had been doing for the past couple of days. I had powered up the computer six or eight times with an iPod attached to it. So I got rid of some phantom Mass Storage Devices that were probably the iPod.
Still no audio. So this time I did what I should have done the first time: I downloaded the latest mLAN driver from the Yamaha site. The driver setup program I already had had created a driver that worked in my system before … but since then I had upgraded from WinXP SP2 to SP3. Very possibly, SP3 required a different mLAN driver installer.
Sure enough — when I installed the new mLAN driver, my audio was restored.
I was tempted to blame the Roland Fantom for the mess, as I had earlier encountered some conflicts between its Windows driver and the mLAN driver, but now I have to give Roland props for fixing a mess that they probably had nothing to do with!
So maybe the real lesson is not, the hell with product reviews. Maybe the real lesson is, if you have a creative tool that’s working, don’t use it for anything else. Except, that’s not a lesson that any of us can follow. The computer is too useful, and I don’t have enough money to buy a separate computer for each task. All I did with the iPod was copy a file from my laptop to this computer in order to email it to someone. Next time I’ll use the Ethernet cable. Maybe that will be safe. Maybe.