Machinedrum and Ableton - Stable Sync via Ableton Link and iOS

If you ever tried to sync the MD with Ableton via midi cables, you probably know the struggle of syncing both devices. Either the midi clock is producing a lot of jitter (when Ableton is the master) or the workflow is just uncomfortable (when the MD is the master). I usually unplugged Ableton as I was too frustrated with getting the timing right.

Luckily, I found a solution which makes syncing very easy and struggle-free. What you need is the following:

  • Ableton Live
  • Elektron gear of your choice (I use the Machinedrum and the Monomachine)
  • An iPhone or iPad
  • The Link to Midi App for iOS (free)
  • The Apple Camera Connection Kit (CCK)
  • Any USB-to-Midi Interface

The setup is pretty straightforward:
1.) You connect the CCK to your iPad and your Midi Interface via USB to the CCK.
2.) Then you connect the Midi Out of your Interface to the Midi In of your MD. Make sure, the MD is ready to receive external clock and controls information.
3.) Then you start the Link to Midi App and select your Midi Interface as the Midi Out device.
4.) Then you active the Ableton Link in Ableton Live. Make sure that the PC/Mac with Ableton and your iPad are connected to the same WiFi network.
5.) Press play and see how everything is perfectly in sync (the BPM values vary in the XXX,02 range, which I find acceptable).

As this solution costs you around 50 bucks (given, that you own an Apple device), I think this is the closest you can get to a perfect Software/Hardware timing without buying a costly external clock device (e.g. E-RM Multiclock). Of course, such dedicated devices give an even better sync, but at a much higher price tag.

If you have any questions on this solution, I am happy to help.




I usually just put both BPMs to the exact same value and beatmatch by hand, then start recording into an audio clip in live. Syncs pretty steady this way IME.

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That means, you don’t sync them via midi at all?

That definitely solves the sync issue (as there is no midi sync involved). But I found this approach quite exhausting when recording multiple loops and having to drag and cut every loop separately to match the beat.

As long as the BPMs are aligned and 1.1.1 is in sync, the sync doesn’t drift that much. So after I have the tempos beatmatched like that, I record into clips (1 bar global quantization on) and they’re all in sync, as long as I do not stop either transport. Then its just a matter of muting/unmuting, switching pattns and recording the next clip, next and so on.

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MCL uses MD as master clock, so you’ll be syncing ableton to the MD by proxy.

I read the thread on MiniCommand, but I didn‘t fully understand, how it resolves the Midi sync issues.

Hi @Michael_S

My mistake, sorry.

hi michael, thank you for tutorial. im planning to use LINK to achieve tight clock connection between Ableton and Elektron gear (used USAMO so far, but was not totally satisfied with it). Im still confused with lot of information and various application of LINK, but seems like your tutorial is the clearest one out there, at least as my setup is concerned. One thing bothers me: audio from my Elektrons need to be returned to Ableton via the audio interface. So far I have done it with External instrument, but im not sure if that will be possible with LINK since no midi out interface anymore? How to tighten up the audio input and syncronise it with everything? thanks

There is not too much to do regarding Midi. When you are just looking for sync, you simply need to active Link in Ableton.

When you also want to send Midi events to your Elektron gear (e.g. notes oder cc), you need an app on your iOS device that supports Link and is able to handle Midi events.

The audio out from your Elektron gear then comes back into Ableton via an Audio In channel.