As everything, also every Digital Audio Workstation since their first occurrence has their strengths and weaknesses. And because we don’t want to be slaves to our audio equipment and use mostly just the strengths of each of them, sometimes we get into the situation, where it seems useful to use different DAWs at the same time. In that way, they can hopefully serve the purposes of our creativity more and not the other way around.

Why Would One Like to Rewire?

For some of those purposes, there is the Rewire protocol, which makes it possible to connect different DAWs to run simultaneously. Even if the ReWire protocol can be very useful, one can quickly encounter certain limitations. In ReWire mode, there is always one of the DAWs treated as master and the other as slave. In such a case we have limitations of using “3rd party plug-ins” in the slave sequencer, which can be a big limitation. That said, it is actually not a problem of the protocol, since some DAWs (e.g. Reaper) can do it, but still, we don’t want to be dependent on the good will of our equipment or better said their programmers.

That’s why I will present the synchronisation of two sequencers on one computer through MIDI Clock here. Connecting software this way avoids the limitations that normally arise in ReWire mode.

As an example I will take Cubase 7 and Ableton Live 9 as two of the most widespread and well supported DAWs on the market. Of course, the principles are applicable to every DAW out there.

My Test Equipment:

  • Cubase 7.0.0 (32-bit)
  • Ableton Live 9.0.2 (32-bit)
  • Mac OS X 10.7.5

How Is It Done?

First of all, if we want to connect two or more sequencers on the same computer, we need a software, that will act like a communicator between the two DAWs.

  1. One can be found at, where the ipMIDI software can be downloaded. It seems there is no real explanation, why the Mac version is totally free of charge, while Windows users can only download a demo version, which will work for 60 minutes and after rebooting the whole system every time for 60 minutes.
  2. After the simple installation, Audio MIDI Setup must be opened, which is located in Applications > Utilities. In the MIDI window, the ipMIDI icon must be found. It's crucial to enable the Loop Back option, as it tells the software that we will be sending MIDI data between applications on the same computer. It's also important during this process to have all audio applications closed.
  3. Audio MIDI Setup

    Audio MIDI Setup

  4. Next the two applications need to be started. As we don’t want to end up in ReWire mode, we have to start Ableton Live 9 first and then Cubase 7, otherwise Cubase automatically identifies Ableton as his slave software.
  5. Since at the end of the day Cubase is still the bigger, more widely used DAW than Ableton, we will use it as the main DAW, from which MIDI clock is sent to the another application.
  6. One has to open the Project Synchronization window from the Transport toolbar. At the bottom of the pop-up window at MIDI Clock Destinations, ipMIDI Port 1 and MIDI Clock Follows Project Position option should be enabled. All three terms seem to be self-explanatory.
  7. Project Synchronization window

    Project Synchronization window

  8. All there is left to do, is to set up Ableton to receive Midi Clock information from Cubase. Settings must be done in the Preferences window, in the MIDI Sync tab. In the row MIDI Ports Input – ipMIDI (Port 1), Track, Sync and Remote have to be turned on, as shown in the picture below.
  9. Ableton Live 9 Preferences - MIDI Sync tab

    Ableton Live 9 Preferences - MIDI Sync tab

  10. Finally it is crucial to set Ableton to External Sync. In this way it will be looking for an external MIDI clock, which will be found in Cubase.
Ableton Live 9 External Sync

Ableton Live 9 External Sync

Now both DAWs should run in sync with one another. As always, there are many different ways of doing the same thing, but this one seems like one of the better ones.

There are plenty more Ableton Live tutorials where this one came from.