As I posted over the week-end, we have two new MIDI utility apps appearing pretty much at the same time in the last couple of days and both doing a similar task. I did a quick ‘first look’ review of Music IO from Secret Base Design over the week-end but, as I mentioned in that post, we also have Midimux from AppBC.
Providing you are working with an iOS and OSX combination, both apps do a rather neat trick; they allow you to transmit MIDI data between your iOS device and your Mac computer via the standard USB connection. With no WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity to organise, and not additional MIDI hardware required, you can, therefore, obtain a pretty seamless link with very low latency between MIDI software running on the different devices. In addition, both apps are promising to add audio connectivity to the process shortly… the prospect of fully integrating your iOS music technology with your desktop (OSX) system with a minimum of fuss and, price of the apps aside, no additional expense is, therefore, becoming a real possibility.
Having been impressed with my initial experience with Music IO, I thought it only fair to also give Midimux a similar test run… so, here goes…
Midimux is a c.5MB download. The app is universal and currently priced at UK£7.99. There is a small OSX server app that you also require and that can be downloaded from the Midimux website. As with Music IO, you then simply connect your iOS device to your Mac (via a Lightning or 30-pin connected as appropriate for your hardware), run both apps, and they will find, and connect, to each other. On the Mac, there is no real indication that this has happened (the Midimux OSX server just sits very quietly in your Menu Bar). On your iOS device, Midimux shows you a list of the various MIDI devices (ports) that it can see on both iOS and OSX.
It’s here that the key difference can be seen between the two apps. While Music IO currently offers you a single virtual MIDI port that you can use to route MIDI data between MIDI devices/software sitting on your iPad and Mac, Midimux creates a virtual MIDI port for each existing MIDI device. This is, in effect, giving you multiple virtual MIDI ports and, as they all appear suitably labelled at both ends of the connection, it is actually pretty straightforward to get your various in/out ports configured.
For example – and as shown in the screenshots here – within Cubase, my iOS MIDI ports appears with very clear labelling for each app I had running on my iPad. It was, therefore, very easy to assign a Cubase MIDI track to send MIDI data to Thor or Z3TA+ (for example) and, equally, to get a MIDI performance app such as ChordPolyPad to send MIDI data from my iPad and on to a MIDI track within Cubase. Bi-direction MIDI data also worked very smoothly.
And while I have only given this the briefest of tests, Midimux also offers the option for multiple iOS devices to be used at once. I got this working with my iPad and iPhone but if you have an older iPad lying around after your last hardware upgrade and want to get some additional use out of it, this offers a very convenient means by which to do so.
As with Music IO, I have to say that this was a pretty painless process and, compared to a wireless or Bluetooth connection, it seemed very reliable in use. For use with synths or MIDI performance apps, the USB option is going to be an obvious choice for anyone wanting to link OSX and iOS devices together…. although when using a DAW remote control app to control Cubase from my iPad’s touch screen, there will still be times when a wireless connection would be useful so I can work at greater distances from the desktop computer.
The multiple ports created by Midimux are also a positive and the automatic labelling provided by the app makes connections a breeze. That said, my understanding is that Music IO is going to offer a similar approach shortly… so which app you might plump for might simply be a matter of personal choice and, perhaps the small differences in price.
Midimux and audio
As with Music IO, Midimux developer Christian Blomert is promising to deliver audio connectivity via USB fairly soon. This will be in the form of a separate app (although there will be bundle pricing). Again, this will be interesting to see and a comparison between the approaches adopted by the two developers will something that those using both OSX and iOS will be watching keenly.
If either or both can really deliver a smooth audio+MIDI connectivity between OSX and iOS, all via a simple USB cable, this really will be a big (and very welcome) step forward. The devil will, of course, be in the details, but even if it is just the ability to use a few iOS synths as a seamless part of your desktop system, this would be more than worth the likely entrance fee.
Anyway, fingers crossed we see the audio technology added to both apps shortly…. but if you own both OSX and iOS devices and use them for music making, one of these two apps ought to be on your shopping list.