Tiptop Audio protocol for digital-over-analog poly cables in hardware

Interesting SB2023 announcement for anyone with a hybrid system. I think there are some details still to be released, but it looks as though an ART format translator for VCV Rack (kind of like the Expert Sleepers modules, but with a different protocol) could open up some very interesting possibilities for I/O using a format that’s lower-quality than pure DC-coupled audio but much higher than MIDI. I’m interested to see how it specs out compared to the Expert Sleepers mux formats.

EDIT: read a little more. Technically, there are two things going on over here–an eight-core connector using USB-C interconnects called Polytip (that’s the true Rack “poly cable” equivalent), and a multi-stream digital format called ART which can go over Polytip or over regular patch cables. The former is a (big) convenience but it’s the latter that’s really caught my attention, especially if they make a hardware breakout box for it.

I’ll definitely be contacting Tiptop to see if they’ve thought of Rack support.


Looks interesting…


TipTop are doing great things at the moment and I think this is the most interesting new idea in Eurorack since the XAOC Leibniz subsystem (which I have yet to get into).


This looks very interesting. Does anyone know if the ART technology is an open standard or proprietary? Can other Eurorack hardware manufacturers take advantage of ART? Could an ART port and cable scheme be added to Rack?

Couldn’t find that on the ART page but the answer might be here: TipTop ART - MOD WIGGLER

We already have the “cable scheme” in Rack, because we have polyphonic cables. I read ART as a way of getting those to Eurorack.

My initial understanding is that ART is a particular wiring of a USB cable in Eurorack, together with a signal muxing scheme in Eurorack modules. It wouldn’t make much sense for it to be closed, but who knows.

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I’ve looked at some additional reports and here’s my impression of this (somewhat confusing!) product launch:

  • I think that Polytip is the thing that carries eight signals in one cable using USB-C connectors. (I don’t think it’s actually a USB cable in terms of its internal wiring, but I’m not sure about that). Polytip is exactly like a VCV poly cable except half the size, in that it can carry any signal type (of course there may be questions about crosstalk, etc. as there are with existing Ethernet-based poly cables but we’ll have to see how it works in practice). The main signal type that Tiptop wants to use Polytip for, though, is…
  • …ART, which is a digital serial protocol that functions as a high-speed alternative to MIDI. The idea here is to carry (digital) pitch information and (at least) gate/velocity/mod and send it over a single cable (so Polytip would carry up to eight ART signals). Digital modules would read it directly; analog modules would have a microprocessor that converts the appropriate parts of the ART signal to the appropriate control voltages. Since it’s serial it’s going to have MIDI-like imperfections (e.g. flam) but with higher speed and tighter timing those should be less apparent in critical applications. Because it’s digital there’s no reason I can think of why a Rack plugin shouldn’t be able to convert MIDI or CV to it and send it out over a DC-coupled output (and possibly an AC-coupled output depending on how the signal is designed).

@k-chaffin, I think they’re intending to make ART a fully open protocol (of course I don’t know exactly what their plans are).

OT: @Nik, I’m also fascinated by Leibnitz–if you ever give it a try please report back! I’d love to see Rack ports of those someday.


That is an interesting discussion thread. In it, someone mentioned TRS and TRRS where T=tip, R=ring and S=sleeve. The TipTop guru “Gus?” mentioned this in one of the videos but I could not understand what he was saying. I have a few 1/4" audio cables that are labeled “RING” and “TIP”. I’m always forgetting how I should use then and how I should not.

It may not make sense for VCV to adopt this protocol, whether open or proprietary (licensed), but it would be fun to have some poly-signal cable and ports in the VCV Rack system that allowed high level communications between modules, similar to how expansion modules work. Maybe we already have something like that in some modules. I believe I have seen it on other’s wish-lists.


My feeling is, based on nothing other than the fact they didn’t talk about ART as a ‘standard’ in Superbooth videos, is that they’ll make it their licensed tech rather than open source. Hope I’m wrong as having it as an open standard could really open things up especially if hardware synths came out with ART ports.


Yeah, they haven’t been as clear/consistent as I’d expect (/like) about this. IMO if it’s not an open standard, it’s doomed. That said, I can imagine a world in which they make it open but also sell preprogrammed microcontrollers for makers to drop into otherwise analog modules. As I’ve seen pointed out on Mod Wiggler (and, I’m sure, elsewhere) there’s going to be an awkward period where ART isn’t adopted enough for modules to go ART-only, in which case one of its selling points (avoiding separate inputs, especially relatively expensive and fiddly exponential V/Oct converters) actually becomes a liability–that generation of modules will have to support both ART inputs and traditional inputs.

Some of this would be mitigated if Tiptop makes an ART->CV converter and a CV->ART converter (their initial line only includes MIDI->ART in the form of the OCTOPUS, which is a bit odd because the ART outputs can’t outperform MIDI if they’re sourcing their data from MIDI.

And all of this is caveated, for me, because I haven’t seen any real demonstrations or descriptions of ART’s capabilities. A lot of my interests at the moment are around maximally expressive playing (cough Osmose cough) and I have no idea how well ART handles, say, per-note pitch bend or other expression–whereas I know exactly how well both ordinary audio and the Expert Sleepers mux output from the ESX-8CV performs (and exactly how badly MIDI performs).


8:27 - Gur hopes other manufacturers will “jump in”. Unclear whether that means licensed or open source.

I don’t know if XAOC even licenses Leibniz to others?

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I have an old friend who’s been in Euro for two decades and every time we speak he raves about Leibniz.

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