|What's the difference between MIDI and Waveform audio?
MIDI (".mid") files do not contain sound. MIDI data merely consist of information that instruct a MIDI synthesizer as to what notes to play, how hard, when, and for how long. The actual sound that is produced when you play a ".mid" file is produced either by your computer's sound card or by your synthesizer that's connected to the PC via a MIDI interface. Therefore, MIDI will sound differently depending on what hardware and software is used to play it.
Waveform audio (".wav, .mp3, .wma") files DO contain actual sound, and will sound the same no matter where you play them (the exception of course being quality of amplification). A compact disc (CD) is basically a collection of waveform audio files.
Does MIDI Maestro support Waveform Audio?
Yes, in two ways. First, MIDI Maestro allows you to create songs with both MIDI tracks and waveform audio tracks. You may import sound files or record sound onto waveform audio tracks. Secondly, MIDI Maestro supports VST "software synthesizers" which produce waveform audio on your PC.
What is a Software Synthesizer ("soft synth" or "virtual synth")?
A software synthesizer is a computer program that takes MIDI notes and other commands converts them to waveform audio to be played on your computer's speakers. A software synthesizer can either be part of your sound card's software drivers, or it may be something that you "add-on" later. MIDI Maestro supports "VST" software synthesizers--you may add and configure them using the Setup/MIDI Ports menu command.
What are the pros and cons of Software Synthesizers?
One clear advantage is that you don't have to lug around a keyboard or sound module--just connect speakers to your PC. However, there's also one clear disadvantage. Because software synthesizers are programs and not microchips (hardware), there's always a delay between the "request" to play a note, and the actual sound from your speaker. With properly applied software methods, this delay can be reduced to 10's of milliseconds (hundredths of a second). For studio work, this may not be an issue. However, when playing live, any delay between your downbeat and the music is undesirable.
Do I have to enable something before using Waveform Audio?
Yes. Real-time waveform processing consumes a measurable amount of system resources (CPU time), so it is not enabled by default. If you will be using waveform audio files or VST software synthesizers, you must use the Setup/Audio menu command to enable real-time waveform processing.
If you have a sound device other than your PC's default sound card that you want to use to record or playback waveform audio, you may specify that on this window as well.
What is a good buffer size and samples per second setting?
The buffer size determines the delay mentioned previously. The smaller the buffer size, the smaller the delay will be between "request" for sound, and the actual production of sound. The faster that your PC's CPU is, and the more efficient that your sound card and its drivers are, the lower you will be able to set this number. The default is 50msec (0.050 seconds). You may be able to reduce this by half with a high-horsepower system. When you have gone too far (too low), you will hear cracking, popping, and broken audio. Increase the buffer size until this is gone, and then add 10% for good measure.
The samples per second setting should remain at 44100 unless your sound card runs more efficiently at another sample rate.
When is the recording format setting used?
The "recording format" setting that is found here is used when you record directly onto an existing waveform audio track in a song by using the Transport/Record command. Note that the Wave Maker, which may also be used to record waveform audio, maintains its own recording format setting.
44.1 kHz, stereo, 16-bit is CD-quality sound. Depending on your requirements, however, you may be able to use a lower sampling rate to conserve disk space. Also, if you're using a laptop that has a combination microphone/line-in jack, chances are that this is mono (not stereo), and you may cut the size of your audio files in half by selecting mono here over stereo.