Using the Roland MX-1 in the studio: recording BFX and MFX into Ableton Live



I own two pieces of Roland Aira gear (system 1 and TB3) and a Roland Boutique JX-03, all three of which I use live in CSMA together with my laptop running Ableton live. I bought the MX-1 to ease my live workflow and to act as a hub for the 3 USB based aira/roland devices, the Novation Ultranova over the digital SPDIF link, volcas in the stereo mini jack socket and two analogue synths in ports 1,2 with blofeld in 3 and 4

As a live tool this has worked out really well as I have the master from Ableton on the PC fader and with a fader spare, USB4, I can assign a separate channel from Ableton and have fader control over it, independently from the Master out.  Then, of course, I have all the effects to play with on top of all these inputs. The MX-1 is very near to being an instrument, its designed as a performance mixer, and partly this playability is another factor in me choosing it for live use. Theres plenty already on the internet about this already.

But what about use in the studio?

My studio soundcard for the past 8 years goes end-of-life this year, and although it still works, at some point an OS upgrade is likely to kill it as there will be no new drivers, so I wondered about the MX-1 in the studio workflow- the sound quality is good and it will work over a range of sampling rates (default being 96Khz) and with the effects/ playability it was something worth trying.

Modes of confusion

With the current firmware edition of 1.04 there are three modes of configuration, all of which are switched between by turning on the MX-1 whist holding down <GAIN> and turning the <VALUE> knob

MXR- is the default set up: plug in the gear and laptop and go

EXT- External mode: This allows all 18 channels to be freely assigned in Ableton live then the desktop can be mixed live/ performed with all the effects, subject to * below

SUR- Turns into a control surface for Ableton live when in <EXT> mode.

Problem is…

The problem (*) is that when recording an instrument on a channel what comes into Ableton is pre-fader of the MX-1- which means that any of the effects assigned in that channel, namely the BFX are not recorded! This has come up on a number of forums from the official Roland one to stuff on reddit, and its something everyone has asked for in a new firmware release. You can record the stereo output of the mix back into Ableton by assigning channels 17/18 to a channel and sending that to sends only (if you send it to master you will obviously get howling feedback) but if you want your tracks with individual effects on them (the mixer allows completely different settings on each channel in the same way as an insert channel) you would have to build it up track by track using 17/18 each time which is a laborious thing to do and a pain in the arse to undo.

However solution workaround…

Contrary to intuition the way round it is first to set it in its default mode of MXR, open up Ableton. Assuming you’ve configured ableton for use with the MX-1, if you select your incoming channel from the dropdown list on any audio channel, arm for record apply BFX to individual track and effects are recorded to that Ableton channel together with the instrument thats plugged into that channel on the mixer.

You can then further add the master effects by assigning outputs 17/18 from the MX-1 to another Ableton channel.

And for further mixing once you’re happy with what you’ve got in the stems you can then restart the ableton project with the MX-1 in EXT mode and do a live mix and add something different in the channel strips and again, record its master output.





About stuartrussellcomposer

Composer/ sound artist. Electronic musician. Modern classical composer
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4 Responses to Using the Roland MX-1 in the studio: recording BFX and MFX into Ableton Live

  1. David says:

    Does the MX1 have the ability to send individual tracks back into Ableton? In my experience so far, it looks like audio only comes back into Ableton via channel 17/18, and it’s the full mix of everything that’s going into the MX-1.

    For example, in Ableton I set “Drums” to external out 5/6, and “Keys” to external out 7/8. Then I set up a companion track, “DrumsMX” with the hope of setting it to receive audio from 5/6, but the “audio from” drop-down only shows signal coming into 17/18. Same with “KeysMX” for 7/8.

    Thanks for your post!

    • Hi David, I presume you’re using the Mx-! in external mode? Have you set your inputs up in ‘Preferences’ in ableton to enable channels to be both input and output?

      • David says:

        I am indeed using it in external mode. All I/O has been set up in preferences as well. From your post and from reading some other forum entries, it seems that the consensus is that the MX-1 doesn’t output individual channels over USB or otherwise; the only output that comes out of it is the summed channels, whether USB or out of the main 1/4 output jacks.

        If this is correct, why do you think Roland limited the USB’s output? If this is not correct, PLEASE oh please tell me how I might be able to get individual channel output back into Ableton!

  2. pedro agno says:

    PS – i’m beat if i know how that’s different from Live mode, but there you go – early days

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