The Strymon BigSky has just been released, and it is amazing. There are a lot of folks out there looking to get some more control over the BigSky, perhaps wanting to integrate it with another MIDI device, so we thought we would put together a little guide to help make an informed decision about a MIDI controller.
First up – the Strymon devices all have “MIDI Thru” capability. This means that they can pass MIDI messages from their MIDI inputs to their MIDI outputs. Connecting several to the same MIDI controller is easy, just add another MIDI cable. We set each device to a different MIDI “channel,” so that they will only listen to the correct messages coming from the controller. The MIDI order can be the same or different than the audio order. Sometimes it’s easier to route the MIDI cables in a different order based on your pedalboard layout, so don’t worry about it!
Next, our controllers are largely plug-and-play, but you will need to set up the Globals on your devices. Press-hold the PARAMS encoder to enter the Globals menu.
We recommend the use of the buffered bypass on the Timeline and BigSky. This allows you to have delay and reverb trails, and also allows the use of the Timeline’s looper with the delay bypassed OR engaged.
Third, you’ll need to set up the MIDICH global setting for each device. We generally use Channel 1 for the Timeline, and Channel 2 and 3 for additional devices. If you’re connecting to a DPC-5, bump all of those up by 1 (2, 3, 4.)
So now that you have all of the setup stuff done, what kind of control can we get? Let’s start with JUST a BigSky. You can control this with a DMC-2 for preset or bank scrolling, or upgrade to a DMC-3 for all of that plus a second mode that offers expression and a tap + freeze / infinite button.
If you have a Timeline, then you can control both units with a single MIDI controller like our DMC-3XL.
So one DMC-3XL and two MIDI cables will get the job done. We can control everything on both units – Timeline looper, bank / preset scrolling on both units, bypass, the works. The expression roller on the side can send expression to both pedals, or looper level to the Timeline.
If you’d like to add in a third MIDI device like a Mobius or an H9, then you can still use a DMC-3XL to control them all. Since we now have three modes on the controller dedicated to bank / preset scrolling, we lose the looper controls. If you’re not using the looper then this is not a huge deal, and it gets you a lot of control in a really small package.
Same setup as before – we have full bypass and banking / preset scrolling on all three devices, plus a shared expression control. Neat!
If you have a DMC-4, you can use it in a similar fashion. We have an extra button on the 4, so it serves as a combined tap + infinite hold.
What if you want more control? Maybe you use the looper a lot, or you want to be able to pull up a combined preset with sounds from all of these devices? Then you’re going to need a bigger controller!
The DMC-6D was designed from the ground up to talk to three MIDI devices. It has a bright blue LED display that lets you know exactly what presets you’re on, TWO expression jacks (one can also connect to a side roller,) plus a remote footswitch jack for a tap tempo and a “favorite” switch. You can still scroll presets on all three devices, including all 300 presets on the BigSky. Once you have the sound you want, you can save the status of all three devices to a combined preset. You can pull up sounds on all three devices, or you can bypass the units you’re not using, all with one tap. The DMC-6D also has a full looper mode for the Timeline, and it can be disabled if you’re not using it.
Finally, we offer the DPC-5, which is a combined MIDI controller and true-bypass loop switcher. It’s got five effects loops that you can use to control your non-MIDI pedals, plus full control of up to FOUR MIDI devices. You can set up the same kind of presets as the DMC-6D, but you have up to 60 of them instead of 20. It’s got a looper mode for the Timeline, two expression inputs (one jack on the back, and an optional side roller,) plus you can use the expression jack for a tap tempo or our R2R footswitch.
So there you have it – there are a lot of options for controlling your BigSky, especially if you’d like to add in your Timeline or your Mobius, H9, M9, etc. We’ve got all of these solutions available in our shop:
We’re always happy to answer any questions about controlling your rig, email us here.
If you are already a DMC pedal owner, we will be releasing updated firmware this week. Updating your pedal is easy and requires only your Mac or Windows PC and a standard USB cable. We’ll have Timeline + BigSky combo and TL + MO + BigSky versions available for the DMC-3, DMC-3XL, and DMC-4, and the new DMC-6 + DMC-7 firmware is compatible with the BigSky as well. These will all be available on our Files page.