Using SP404 Mkii with an old MIDI Synth

This is a guide on how to get the SP404 Mkii playing nicely with your DAW and older MIDI devices with DIN type plugs.

I don’t post much content here but if I have a problem that requires a lot of searching and trial and error to get working I like to share the info in the hopes of saving others time, frustration and possible expense buying the wrong cables etc.

So you got an old synth…

I recently acquired an old Yamaha YS200 for dirt cheap with the intention of using it mainly as a MIDI keyboard, so this guide is for anyone with an old synth with MIDI DIN plugs and would work equally well for rack units, electric pianos with MIDI etc.

There are loads of old Yamaha, Roland and Korg synths for sale at much less than you would pay for a high quality 61 key MIDI controller and, well you also get a synth.

I use a Mac so if you use Windows or Linux this probably is not for you, although the main principles would still be valid.

Yamaha EOS YS200

USB to MIDI Cable?

When I first got the synth my initial thought was the easiest and cheapest option, a USB to MIDI cable, various variations of which are available online on Amazon or whatever your local equivalent is.

These vary in price, and I want to be plain that I am VERY sure a high quality one such as the Yamaha UX16 would undoubtedly do the job very well, these run about $100 so a fairly significant investment actually more than I paid for the synth.

I cheaped out and ordered this:


It cost me the local equivalent of about $2 USD plus shipping and I see this being sold and drop shipped/white labeled all over the net along with the requisite fake 5 star reviews.

I may have been unlucky with a defective product but I doubt it, the TLDR is do not buy this cable, it simply does not work for the stated purpose. After trying various combinations and messing around in MIDI studio in MAC OS I got it receiving MIDI from Logic, albeit with terminal latency. 

Using a MIDI inspector app and doing some troubleshooting I could see that as soon as any secondary USB MIDI device is plugged in (the SP404 or a USB MIDI keyboard) then this device stops MIDI in/out and locks up with errors, so basically it’s useless. On top of that it presents 3 ports rather than the expected 2 to the Mac and the third is inaccessible in MIDI Studio.

So, $2 and about 6 hours wasted, no problem.


I next started looking at decent quality USB MIDI hubs like the Nektar Midiflex. This looks like a great product but I realized I already have a USB MIDI hub, the SP404… assuming you are only connecting a single extra legacy MIDI device the chances are the SP404 MIDI USB implementation will be solid and you won’t need any extras as it has MIDI thru. This setup also has the bonus of not adding additional USB devices and traffic.

Using SP404 MKii as MIDI hub

SP404 MKii MIDI cables - which ones work?

I was not sure this would work but began searching for what type of MIDI cables work with the SP. After some research it seems that there are quite a few that DO work i.e any TYPE A DIN to 3.5mm, however some people on forums still seemed to have issues with third party cables and as they were available for pretty quick delivery I went for the Roland recommended BOSS cables.

These work like a dream as soon as they are plugged in, zero latency MIDI straight to and from the synth from both the SP (if desired) and a DAW.

These run about $30 each.

BOSS MIDI connector cables for SP404 MKii

SP404 Mkii MIDI settings with external device

Here are the SP404 MIDI settings that you will likely need if you are using a similar setup where you want:

  1. Your DAW to talk to synth both IN and OUT
  2. The SP to be usable in the DAW as MIDI pads for drums etc 
  3. You want to use the SP FX on the synth input sound which can be sequenced via MIDI and recorded directly to DAW via USB out.

Hardware and cables:

  • Synth MIDI out > SP MIDI IN
  • Synth audio out (L/Mono) > SP front IN set to guitar, set gain to taste) – if you want to use stereo and the rear Line Ins you will need either a STEREO small amp, a STEREO DI box, possibly 2 guitar pedals or something similar, or a MONO version of one of those with a stereo to mono adaptor plug, which kind of defeats the whole point.

The rear line ins are not suitable for un-amped instrument level input.

Software Audio Settings:

You will need both the SP’s In’s and Outs available to your DAW so this will not really work if you’re using the SP as your only audio interface (master out) – see the post on how to get the SP404 Mkii working as an aggregate device for info on how to set this up.

SP404 Mkii MIDI Settings:

  • MIDI Sync: USB or Internal
  • MIDI Sync Out: ON
  • SEQ Note Out: Off
  • Sync Delay: I did not need to change this from 0ms
  • BEND: N/A
  • Pad Note Out: ON
  • Soft Through: OFF (unless you have more than 1 external MIDI device in which case this setup is not for you)
  • USB-MIDI Thru: ON
  • Pc Rx: OFF

MIDI Mode: A (I could not get this working with mode B)

External Synth MIDI Settings:

  • Send: Pick a channel, anything above 4 seems to ‘avoid’ triggering SP pad notes – if you do want to trigger the SP pads eg. for chromatic mode you can adjust this back to 1/2 as you are working.
  • Receive: Again, 4 and above seems to avoid triggering the synth when playing the SP pads. You CAN use all channel (OMNI) mode but you will be triggering your synth every time you press a pad on the SP which is probably not the desired outcome.

DAW Settings:

Probably not a lot you need to do here, in Logic the default is to send/receive MIDI on all channels which will usually work fine. Add an external MIDI track and an audio track linked to it with input from SP 3/4, you are ready to record both MIDI and audio from your old synth with SP FX.

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