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Max/MSP Motu 828 to CV

December 1, 2006 | 10:04 pm

I just had the crazy idea to use the audio outputs from my 828 as a CV… only to find a post about people who have had the same idea on this forum.

I read that the Motu 828 mkII outputs +/- 5v. So I’m guessing sending a signal of 1.0 to the dac~ should output +5v.

My main question is, should i be concerned about damaging my hardware?

Should I build a circuit to isolate the soundcard from the synth? And is it damaging to a sound card to leave it at a DC voltage for a length of time?

Has anyone that has done this (or something like this) found any pitfals that should be avoided?



I want my granular synth to have real VCFs!

December 2, 2006 | 4:18 pm

I am affraid that 828, or any other piece, can’t generate contiuous voltage. A solution could be to send sinus an then in the real world to convert the sinus in continuous value.
Good luck

December 2, 2006 | 5:52 pm

I thought it seemed too good to be true.

I’ve yet to do an actual electrical engineering course, but I’ll see how far I can get.

So something like:

Full wave rectifier –> Capacitor –> Opamp with adjustable gain –> resistor –> output

I’m assuming that higher frequencies work best… maybe 1/2 nyquist to avoid phasing with the sample rate?

Would a circuit like this be enough isolation from the synth to avoid damage/work properly?


I wonder how you would do this with FM instead of AM? …nevermind.

December 2, 2006 | 5:53 pm

Hi There,

I’ve done this using a sig~ to send DC voltages out through an 828 and synched msp to incoming square wave LFOs. The only issue I encountered was a loss of linearity due to the impedence mismatch, but this was resolved using an opamp working as a voltage follower or buffer. If you’re not trying for accurate pitch, linearity shouldn’t be an issue. (I was interfacing with 1v/oct Moog stuff which requires that the voltage be linear for accurate subdivisions of the octave)

I never had any problems running CV into or out of the 828, though using a buffer would also serve to protect each piece of gear from one-another electrically. My 828 still works like new.


December 2, 2006 | 8:25 pm

Then perhaps the legends are true! Perhaps it really will output a continuous DC voltage.

I guess I should really be pulling out my voltmeter and seeing what actually comes out of the 828 for myself. Did you find it output +/- 5v or did you have to amp it up?

So you were able to get a linear DC voltage using an opamp buffer then? Enough to get accurate pitches on the moog without too much mucking around?

So making an opamp buffer would be enough to safeguard against votages going the wrong way or other electrical disasters? And would there be any problem in connecting the ground of the synth to the ground of the motu?

My electrical engineering projects have been very basic and not all successful so please forgive the asking of too many questions.


December 3, 2006 | 9:46 am

> I guess I should really be pulling out my voltmeter and seeing what
> actually comes out of the 828 for myself. Did you find it output
> +/- 5v or did you have to amp it up?

Please search the archive… I’ve posted a message last year saying
that I’ve tested it for a 828mk1 and mk2. The mk2 produces a better
5v. I have not tested it on analogue synth dough, in my to-do list
since then…

Please keep us posted with your results if you go further.


December 3, 2006 | 3:11 pm

it’s bizzar,i think about that two days ago,
my question is a little different:
i would use my motu 828mk2 to route signals and cv on my modular analogue system synth….
i would send to the motu’s ins: my two oscillators,ring mod,lfo and use max/msp to route them to hpf,lfp,ring mod in…..
there is no risk for gear??? (because i love my synth and i don’t want broken it!!!!)
and no risk with signal feedback???
someone can advice me???
thanks for all

December 3, 2006 | 5:31 pm

I’ve been working late these last few days, so I only managed to test a few things last night.

I put the voltmeter to the audio output of the 828 mkii and found that a [sig~ 1] gave me about +/- 4.5v … I’ll have to keep fooling around with this to see if it will go all the way to 5v.

I tested some of the voltages on my MS20 just too see what they were doing. I hadn’t even realized the mod wheel went from -5v to +5v… you have to learn sometime i guess.

Threw caution to the wind and plugged the motu straight into the LP filter cutoff. It works!!! Filter responded like it would if the mod wheel was plugged in.

I hadn’t realized the trigger was a low = on (S-Trig) type so when I plugged it in with a [sig~ 0.] it triggered the synth and it and made me lose my nerve, so i quit for the day.

I’ll post most stuff as I make progress with this.


December 12, 2006 | 10:54 am

I made a bit more progress on this project. I’ve put a few progress reports up at

I emailed Motu and told them what I was doing asking them if they thought I could cause damage to the soundcard or synth… so far no reply.

Seems to convert what I put out in max/msp into the correct CV fairly well, but I need to find access to an oscilloscope and a better multimeter before I can say conclusively. I know there are some frequency limitations to the opamps, but I’m not sure that will affect this. Still trying to figure out if there should be more to the circuit to safeguard the hardware.

And I still have to test if I can reproduce the correct CV for the V/Hz on the MS20.

Learning as I go.


December 13, 2006 | 8:47 pm

Got an email from motu tech support,

Hi Joel,

We would not recommend sending control voltages through your 828. Outputting DC voltages through your 828 will damage your 828 and void it’s warranty.

December 14, 2006 | 7:23 pm

Joel Rich wrote:
> We would not recommend sending control voltages through your 828.
> Outputting DC voltages through your 828 will damage your 828 and void
> it’s warranty.

Did they explain why? I would guess they only care about their own
security, any unusual use is something they never test, and thus it’s
safer to not allow it officially.
I didn’t do this myself, but as I recall some on the list did it over a
long time send DC without problems.
Even in a "normal" way of usage it could happen that you send out DC by
accident, the warranty would cover that, because the user can’t know. If
in the manual isn’t any warning about opening a soundfile with DC and
playing it with the editor of your choice, I guess it still should be fine.

Disclaimer: This is no professional advice and if you still do send DC
out your 828 you’ll void your warranty… ;-)

Just a humble oppinion…


Stefan Tiedje————x——-
–(_|_ —-|—–|—–()——-
— _|_)—-|—–()————–

December 14, 2006 | 8:38 pm

I tried to follow up and get some more details from motu but got a one line reply again.

Hi Joel,

The 828Mkii is not designed to pass DC voltages. We do not recommend doing this since there is a good chance that it will damage your 828Mkii.

Thanks for writing,

So I’m trying again from a different approach as it seems like they are covering their butts a little. I emailed them as someone who realized they were accidently inputting and outputting a DC voltage and was concerned to avoid damage asking what it would take to wreck the motu. Using someone elses email and name of course ;)

I wonder what the problem with DC voltages is? Does it send out too much current causing something to overheat? I’ll send him another email with more specific questions stating that I’m definitely not trying to do this experiment… just curious.

hehe thanks for the disclaimer Stefan, I’ll remember that


Oh yeah… i tried this with a couple other soundcards and no luck. Seems the motu is unique in its ability to output DC (as far as my collection of sound cards go).

December 14, 2006 | 9:02 pm

Well you could always output AC voltage into some sort of rectifier or enveloper follower circuit.

Note the section about Rectifier Output S. This will give you a fairly consistent control voltage.

This circuit is fairly simple and wouldn’t be too hard to build yourself. However there are also commercial envelope followers available, which might be better. Of course you would need one follower per control channel….

Here is a good example I found with a quick google search. Its been discontinued but I’m sure there are other similar units out there-

December 14, 2006 | 10:18 pm

The same thought crossed my mind. Though I was worried that if the voltage was smoothed too much it would be acting like a lag/portamento generator. Though maybe this isn’t a big concern, I’m not sure.

The other problem with doing this is, like you said, other people have already done it better. Its a little bit like reinventing something.

One slightly crazy thought I had was to figure out how do this like an FM radio. Maybe outputting a carrier signal through an additional channel then have the frequency deviation act like a + or – voltage. And I have no idea how this is done, but it is kind of a neat idea.


December 16, 2006 | 12:56 pm

Joel Rich wrote:
> Oh yeah… i tried this with a couple other soundcards and no luck.
> Seems the motu is unique in its ability to output DC (as far as my
> collection of sound cards go).

I tried my Quatafire, and its not outputting DC. I should open it and
get rid of the output capacitors… (I’d better not ask if that would
void my warranty ;-)

But more interesting for me would be DC input…


Stefan Tiedje————x——-
–(_|_ —-|—–|—–()——-
— _|_)—-|—–()————–

March 6, 2011 | 9:59 pm

Hello all! (:

This may be 4 years ago.
But what happened with this experiment? (:

If it’s possible and you made a patch for it , would you like to share?


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