MFC-101 phantom power over 7-pin issues

Discussion in 'Digital & Modeling Gear' started by joegold, Feb 17, 2015.

  1. joegold

    joegold Member

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    I have a weird Support Ticket going on right now with Fractal Support that's been going on since mid-January.
    I'd be posting this on the Fractal Forum but they already shut down my original thread about all of this, supposedly because it's an open Support Ticket.
    So I'm posting this here for now.

    To make a long story short, I've been unable to consistently get a good hookup between my 2012 Axe-FXII (MKI) and my brand new MFC-101 (MKIII) via their 7-pin MIDI cable system.

    The problems are only when the MFC AC adapter is plugged into the back of my Axe-FX and I try to phantom power the MFC via a 7-pin MIDI cable (in this case a cable made by Best-Tronics, the people that Fractal recommends for cables).
    When it fails, which is most of the time but not all of the time, the symptoms are that the MFC gets power (which is evident because all of the red leds above every footswitch light up solid) but the MFC never boots up so it can't be used for anything.
    When the adapter is plugged directly into the MFC it boots up fine and the same 7-pin cable works perfectly well for 2-way MIDI communication.

    The Axe-FX, MFC and 7-pin cable have been checked out by a tech here in Toronto that was recommended by someone high-up at Fractal Support, and he couldn't find anything wrong with the Axe-FX or the MFC.

    Fractal currently has the MFC, which I sent in for warranty service, but they can't find anything wrong with it.
    Now they want me to send my Axe (warranty long expired) in on my dime so they can test the entire system all at once.
    I may do that, but I'm REALLY not going to be happy about it (did I mention that I'm in Canada?), and I might have some other options too that I'm currently looking into.

    But I'm starting to think that maybe they just designed a crappy system for phantom power over 7-pin MIDI cables.
    I'm posting here to see if there's anybody in this forum who actually has a good reliable connection over 7-pin MIDI between their Axe-FX and their MFC?

    If you do have a good connection please let me know here in this thread and let me know what series Axe-FX (Standard, Ultra, II-MKI or MKII, II-XL) and what series MFC-101 (MKI II III) you're using?

    And if you're also having issues anything like mine, I'd like to hear about that too.

    FWIW The Ethernet connection system seems to be fine although it is *really* picky about what Ethernet cables I use.
    So I could just use Ethernet and forget about the 7-pin thing altogether.
    But I'd rather be using 7-pin for reasons that I won't get into right now.

    Thanks
     
  2. dbun

    dbun Member

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    I'm using phantom power via 7pin midi with my Axe Fx II and MFC and it's perfectly fine.

    I'm having issues with Ethernet though (Timeout error), so have to use MIDI.
     
  3. joegold

    joegold Member

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    Thanks. That's good to know.
    But which Axe-FXII version are you using (MKI, MKII or XL) and which MFC are you using (MKI II or III)?

    I find the MFC to be very picky with Ethernet cables.
    Are you using a Best-Tronics Ethernet cable and is it the one giving you issues?
    I ask because although I have a good working Ethernet cable now I'm thinking of ordering one from them as to be "safe".
     
  4. dbun

    dbun Member

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    I'm using the Axe Fx MKII and the MFC MKII.

    I haven't found an ethernet cable that worked yet, so I believe I have a hardware issue.
    I've bought both the Line 6 VDI and had a custom cable made with Mil-Spec ethernet, so good cables. The cables test and work fine with other gear.

    I was a bit disappointed with the ethernet issues I'm having. We use Aviom systems that get used and abused, and they only have standard ethernet ports, no Ethercon; yet they are soldering on with no issues at all.

    So far MIDI has been the most stable and robust connection for me which is why I moved to 7-pin to get the phantom power to the MFC.

    I'd like to get the Ethernet fixed, but don't want to send my unit in for repair.
    I'm in Australia and the service center is in another state.
     
  5. joegold

    joegold Member

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    Thanks dbun.
    I hope your own issues get sorted out.

    Anybody else?
     
  6. TFC

    TFC Supporting Member

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    I'm using a Rocktron 7-pin MIDI cable with an Axe-FX II and an MFC-101, both Mk I. It works fine. I have another Rocktron cable that only works intermittently. I see you've done some troubleshooting but didn't see any mention of trying another cable with the Axe and MFC. Did you try that? I realize you can't do that right now. In any case, the MFC does work with phantom power with a 7-pin cable in my setup.
     
  7. joegold

    joegold Member

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    Thanks TFC

    I've done more troubleshooting than I have time to detail here.
    When I first received my MFC I had been using 2 7-pin cables custom made for me by Mario of the now defunct Axess Electronics.
    I had used these same cables with my Triaxis (1993-2008) , my Axe-FX Ultra (2008 through 2012) and my Axe-FX-II (2012 til now) with no problems whatsoever.
    After all all this trouble with the MFC started I was advised by Fractal to buy a cable from Best-Tronics, which I did.
    And I've since had all 3 cables tested for continuity across all 7 pins as well as for any leakage across circuits.
    As it turns out, the Axess cables did not have all 7 pins connected, presumably because back in the day that these were made for me most gear didn't have 2-way MIDI communication and didn't use all 7 pins.
    But phantom power, then as now, has always been delivered on pins 6 and 7, as far as I know, and there is no reason why these cables shouldn't work for phantom power between my Axe and my MFC, and they don't.
    As I think I said in my OP the phantom power issues with the Best-Tronics cable are intermittent but most of the time it doesn't work.
    But the BT cable has been fine as far as MIDI is concerned.
    The Axess cables wouldn't even do MIDI.

    Glad to know that your issues are tolerable.
    But I was advised away from the Rocktron cables by a Fractal rep.

    So far I haven't heard from anyone with an Axe-FX MKI like mine.
    I'm just trying to see if I can find any sort of a pattern to any of this.
    I'm not implying that all Axe-FXs have this issue.
    But the pairing of an Axe MKI with an MFC MKIII might.

    So keep those cards and letters coming in.
     
  8. TFC

    TFC Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the info. I would advise to avoid the Rocktron cables too. They're really thin, and the one that doesn't always work was never used before I tried it. I just happened to have them both lying around when I decided to try to use phantom power. Fortunately, one of them works, but I do plan to upgrade at some point.

    Good luck working this out.
     
  9. joegold

    joegold Member

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    Are there really no other people out there having issues with phantom-powering their MFC-101 MKIIIs (I'm thinking it's probably a MKIII-only issue) over 7-pin MIDI cables?

    I just had a local tech who looked at my system tell me that he thinks there's a design flaw in the MFC having to do with a chip that's involved with the MFC's phantom power over 7-pin system.

    But that theory doesn't make sense unless a lot of other people with MFC-101 MKIIIs are having similar issues with phantom power over 7-pin cables.
    [At the moment I know of only 1 other MFC user who is having similar issues.]

    The guy sounds like he knows what he's talking about though.

    This is really perplexing.

    Now I've got to go back to Fractal Support and try to convince them that they've got a design flaw in the MFC and that's bound to be lots of fun.

    This whole thing is a total pisser.
     
  10. Fractal Audio

    Fractal Audio Member

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    There is no "chip associated with the MFC's phantom power". All phantom power does is send the voltage over pins 6&7 of the MIDI cable. It's exactly the same as plugging into the back of the MFC except it comes in over a different connector.

    If you are having problems with phantom power over the MIDI cable then it's either the MIDI cable or the something inside the Axe-Fx, perhaps the jack.

    There are thousands of these things in the field. It's not a design flaw.
     
  11. joegold

    joegold Member

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    Hi Cliff

    Thanks for chiming in on this.
    Before you jump to the conclusion that I must be daft please talk to Matt about my issue.
    This has been going on *unresolved* since I first received my first MFC back in mid-January.

    In mid February Matt sent me to someone he knows here in Toronto and after close to 2 hours of working on it, while in direct contact with Matt, he couldn't figure it out.
    This chap is not exactly an electronics technician, he mostly wires things together for people's racks, but he was being guided by Matt and Matt had full faith in his abilities to fix the problem.

    After that I sent that MFC back to Fractal.
    You guys checked it out and found nothing wrong with it but were nice enough to send me a new unit anyway.
    Obviously that new unit, exhibits the same issue.

    But I had a line, via a Fractal Forum member, on a highly respected tech about an hour away from me.
    I told him about my issues and he felt sure, just as you do now, that the issue was a problem inside my Axe-FX (a MKI btw) and he felt sure that it would be an easy fix.
    He's a bit of a prima donna and kept me waiting for several weeks before he would look at it.
    But he finally looked at it today and he told me he can find nothing wrong with my Axe-FX, my Best-Tronics 7-pin cable or the MFC's AC adapter, just like Matt's contact couldn't.
    He concluded that bit about the "design flaw" (his words not mine) in the MFC and he thinks it has something to do with some sort of a chip inside the MFC that controls how the MFC boots up or doesn't boot up when it receives power over the 7-pin cable.
    I'm not explaining it very well, obviously.
    Talk to Matt because he has this guy's phone number and then you can talk to him.
    Matt also has all the details of this whole sorry mess (many of which will not be found in this thread) or he should if he's been taking proper notes.
    I feel like a broken record going over this **** over and over again.

    All I know is that I bought an MFC in mid January and the f...ing phantom power over 7-pin system doesn't work properly and I'm *NOT* a happy camper.

    If my Axe-FX really is the source of the problem, then for the time being I'm SOL because I'm starting a theatre show a week from Tuesday and I'm planning on using my Axe-FX.
    So it will be busy until November when this show ends.
    [BTW My Axe was bought in 2012 and is well over its warrant period.]

    Matt was trying to convince me to send my Axe-FX back to Fractal while the 1st MFC was there being serviced.
    But, forgive me, I just didn't feel like shelling out another $200 in shipping plus whatever the service was going to cost me and I felt confident that this new tech I was planning on taking my gear to could figure it out.
    It should be a simple problem.
    The only problem is that it ISN'T a simple problem.

    I had no reason to suspect the 7-pin system on my Axe while it was still under its warranty because it was working flawlessly with several other 7-pin foot-controllers I've been using with it since then.

    From my point of view, if it's not a design flaw with the MFC it's a design flaw with the Axe-FX MKI.
    But obviously I don't know what the f... it really is.
    All I know is that I'm getting shat on, or at least it sure feels that way.

    I'm assuming that this is the first time you've noticed anything about this issue and I'm hoping that maybe now that you're involved it might finally get taken care of.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2015
  12. joegold

    joegold Member

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    PS

    My Best-Tronics 7-pin MIDI cable was sent to Fractal with my 1st MFC when it was returned to Fractal for service.
    Your own shop found nothing wrong with the cable.
    It was also checked out by the guy that Matt recommended here in Toronto as well as the guy I took my stuff to most recently.
    The cable is fine.

    In case you haven't talked to Matt...
    The issue is not that phantom power does not get delivered to the MFC via 7-pin cable.
    The problem is that the MFC won't boot up when phantom power is delivered to it via 7-pin.

    What happens is that all the leds on the MFC come on at once and stay on, solid red, but the MFC never boots up.

    If I then plug the MFC's adapter directly into the MFC, it does boot up, and when powered this way the 7-pin cable achieves 2-way MIDI communication w/o issue.
    After the MFC has been powered-on this way, if I then plug the adapter into the Axe's phantom power jack and try to power the MFC via the 7- pin syatem, everything works fine and the MFC will boot up and MIDI communication also works fine.
    But after powering the MFC down for several minutes the problem comes back again.

    My local tech thinks there is some sort of capacitor inside the MFC that retains a charge after the adapter has been plugged directly into the MFC and that this is why I can then power it up properly via 7-pin immediately after that.
    There seems to be some sort of a power threshold that the MFC needs that must be exceeded in order for it to not just power up but to then boot up.
    The local tech thought that there must be some sort of a chip in the MFC involved in all of this.

    But don't let me try to explain it to you because I don't know what I'm talking about (obviously).
    Talk to to the tech directly.
    Matt has his number.

    Everybody, right on down the line, has assumed that this is some sort of simple problem inside the Axe-FX between the phantom power jack and it's connection to pins 6 and 7 of the 7-pin cable.
    But everybody has been wrong.

    [FWIW The Ethernet connection, although very finicky about the cables used, is fine.]
     
  13. AAEN

    AAEN Member

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    Hey Joe

    Sorry to hear about your issue......

    I am not experiencing this issue. But I have a few questions/hints anyway.

    Put the PSU in the AXE . Can you meassure any power on the MIDI-out jack?

    If no: the fault is between the PSU and the MIDI jack on the AXE
    If yes: Connect the MIDI cable to the AXE and meassure the power in the MIDI cable.

    If No: the fault is either in the connection between the MIDIjack on the AXE and the cable OR the cable itself.

    If Yes: Connect the MIDI cable to the MFC and meassure on the inside of the MIDI-in jack on the MFC

    If there is power there it is the MFC that is wrong. Especially if the MFC is working with the PSU attached directly.

    Is there anyone in your area with an MFC that you can test with?

    Hope the best for you....

    AAEN
     
  14. joegold

    joegold Member

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    The 7-pin cable I have is from Best-Tronics who is the supplier recommended by Fractal and has been thoroughly tested by:
    • a tech here in Toronto
    • Fractal Support in New Hampshire
    • a tech in Hamilton, just outside of Toronto
    There is continuity across all 7 pins and there is no leakage between leads.
    The cable is fine.
    The 2 local techs also checked for power along the MIDI cable when the PSU is plugged into the Axe, as you detail above in your "If No" scenario above, and it was fine.
    The Toronto tech never opened up the MFC so he never tried out your "If Yes" scenario.
    I don't know if the Hamilton tech tried the "If Yes" test or not because I wasn't there when he was working on my gear.
    But I assume, based on his assessment of the issue, that he did do that.

    What I'm not sure of is if either of these guys tried hooking up a 12v AC source directly to pins 6 and 7 of the cable, bypassing the Axe's phantom power jack, of the cable and then plugged then other end of the cable into the MFC to see if that would work.
    IIRC, the Toronto guy might have done that while I was there.
    I was with him the entire time he was trying to figure this out.
    But he tried so many things that it's hard to remember the details of everything he tried over the nearly 2 hours he was working on it.
    He was in contact with Matt, who I believe is the head of Fractal Support, for most of that time too.

    And again....
    The problem isn't that the MFC doesn't receive power over the 7-pin cable.
    It does.
    The problem is that the MFC won't *boot up* when it gets power this way.
    Every led above every switch comes on solid red and stays red.

    What the Toronto tech also did was to hook up his own 12v AC 2000ma adapter to the Axe, and that adapter booted the MFC over 7-pin every time.
    The PSU that comes with the MFC is 12v AC but only 1000ma.
    But we were advised by Matt that 2000ma wasn't safe for the MFC on a continual basis.

    And again...
    Everybody who has looked at this issue has assumed that it must be a simple problem like the "If No" scenario you talk about above.
    It isn't.
    Something else is going on.
    And the theory of the Hamilton tech, that there is a design flaw in the MFC, is as good as any other theory I've heard yet, I'm sorry to say.

    I love my Axe-FX.
    And the MFC is a great unit with all the features I need and like for controlling the Axe (although I do have a couple of small little niggles with it).
    There isn't another foot-controller on the market that I'd be happy with.
    If I have to I can just use the Ethernet connection which works fine.
    I have a Best-Tronics Ethernet to Ethercon cable now that is quite sturdy and seems trustworthy on the Ethercon side.
    My Axe-FX MKI only has a standard Ethernet jack.
    And that little standard Ethernet connector is going to f... up over time and I don't trust it.
    7-pin MIDI is the way I wanted to go with this system and it still is.

    This whole thing has been going on for far too long and it's too frustrating.
    If I had any sense I would have asked for a refund long ago.
    But that time has passed.

    If Cliff is right and the MFC is not at fault then my only recourse now is to send my Axe in to Fractal for service at considerable cost to me as well as significant downtime.
    But even though they designed the Axe, I really don't get what they would find that these other two techs did not already find on the Axe end.
    On the Axe end it really is just a simple through-wire from the phantom power jack to pins 6 and 7 of the MIDI jack.

    And I know that everybody at Fractal is pissed at me right now for airing my problems in public like this.
    But I really don't know what else I can do to get them to deal with this already.
    I've been passed around from Support guy to Support guy and everybody seems to be just patronizing me as if I'm doing something wrong.
    I'm fed up with this already.
     
  15. felken

    felken Member

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    I have an original mfc and axe2 and use the fractal supplied power supply for the mfc into the axe with a 7 pin cable and it works fine.

    If there was a design problem I think there would be a lot of chatter on the internet about it given how fast people complain. I have not seen this type chatter myself and suspect there is no chatter.

    I don't expect companies to do warranty work after the warranty expires. (It would be nice if they did but really, they have to draw the line somewhere to make a buck)

    Sounds to me there is problems in connections somewhere in the path if the cable tests fine. Or the power supply is flakey.
     
  16. joegold

    joegold Member

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    Thanks.
    In a sane world your assumptions would absolutely spot on.
    But the MFC does get power.
    It just doesn't boot up.
    It is receiving power at its MIDI Out jack.
    All the leds are coming on bright red and staying on.
    It just isn't booting up.
    Maybe it's not a "design flaw".
    Maybe it's a parts tolerance issue.
    But I've had the same issue with 2 different MFCs now.
     
  17. Fractal Audio

    Fractal Audio Member

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    Sounds like high resistance in the MIDI cable or the MIDI In connector on the Axe-Fx. The inrush current in combination with the high resistance is causing the voltage to rise too slowly in the MFC which violates the rise time specification for the reboot. When you plug directly into the MFC you're bypassing this high resistance.

    Try a different MIDI cable to start.
     
  18. joegold

    joegold Member

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    You guys have already tested this MIDI cable yourselves.
     
  19. Fractal Audio

    Fractal Audio Member

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    This is a pretty simple logic exercise:
    1. The power jack and pins 6&7 on the MFC are simply in parallel.
    2. Unit boots when using power jack, doesn't boot over 6&7.

    The only difference in those two scenarios is the power is going through the phantom power in jack, out the MIDI In jack, down the cable and into the MFC. Something in that path has high resistance. Or the power supply is slightly out of spec and the extra resistance of the MIDI cable is enough to cause it not to boot.

    You have two options:
    1. Send the Axe-Fx in for evaluation/repair.
    2. Buy a FASLINK adapter.
     
  20. jazzgtrl4

    jazzgtrl4 Supporting Member

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    IM having this issue but with a Liquid Foot JR+. Im using the FACM adapter and wal wart in the back of the axe..I sometimes lose power to the LF. If i turn or wiggle the connector on the back of the axe it comes back on..? do i have a faulty phantom power jack on the back of my axe?
     

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