Music IO update – v.1.4 of the MIDI+audio-over-USB system adds multiple device support for OSX

Download from iTunes App Storemusic io logoOn the back of what seems to be a change of policy at Apple HQ, iOS developers now seem able to make use of the standard ‘sync’ USB cable connection between an iOS device and a desktop computer for more than just iTunes File Sharing. For iOS musicians, as we have seen over the last few months or so, that has resulted in a number of apps that allow MIDI and audio data to be transferred between iPad (for example) and desktop music production system.

Oe of the obvious contenders in this audio+MIDI-over–USB technology is Music IO (UK£7.99) from a development team combining Secret Base Design, Confusion Studios and Audeonic Apps. I reviewed the MIDI-only first release and the first release with audio support appeared soon after while v.1.2 appeared about 3 weeks ago and introduced a plugin based approach at the Mac end for handling audio.

Are we connected? Under OSX, Music IO's server will now handle multiple iOS devices.

Are we connected? Under OSX, Music IO’s server will now handle multiple iOS devices.

Version 1.2 of Music IO provided bi-directional MIDI data over USB and up to four stereo channels of uncompressed audio from iOS to OSX. Audio could not, however, go from OSX to iOS. You were not limited to just running four iOS apps however; Music IO allows you to load up to four apps per stereo audio channel and their audio output is combined within your iOS device prior to sending on to your desktop computer. In addition, you can add an iOS effect app to each of the four audio streams if you wish. When v.1.3 of Music IO has hit the App Store it added the ability to create audio effects loops and, at a beta-level at least, Windows support has also been available for some time.

You can now run up to foure instruments and four effects on each of the four Music IO audio streams... if your iOS hardware is up to the task of course.

You can now run up to four instruments and four effects on each of the four Music IO audio streams… if your iOS hardware is up to the task of course.

Anyway, Music IO took a further significant step forward over the week-end with the arrival of v.1.4 on the App Store. This brings two headline bits of news. Perhaps most significantly, if you are working with an iOS+OSX combination, you can now connect multiple iOS devices (potentially up to four), all of which can be involved in bi-direction MIDI+audio data transfer to/from the host computer. Second, the Windows support is now ‘official’ and out of beta and, while the iOS+Windows combination is currently only supporting one iOS device, it is good to see obvious progress being made for all those working with Windows on their desktop platform.

Within Cubase, I now saw separate MIDI devices for my two different iOS devices.

Within Cubase, I now saw separate MIDI devices for my two different iOS devices.

So, as you can run four audio tracks from an iOS device, up to four iOS instruments per track and up to four iOS effects per track, you could have as many as 32 iOS music apps running on a single iOS device (if, of course, it doesn’t melt) all routing audio to your desktop by one of the four connections…  and then rinse and repeat (under iOS at least) for your second device….

On the desktop, the Music IO plugin now allows you to chose between multiple iOS devices as well as identifying the audio stream from the chosen device to be used in this instance of the plugin.

On the desktop, the Music IO plugin now allows you to chose between multiple iOS devices as well as identifying the audio stream from the chosen device to be used in this instance of the plugin.

I looked at the basic operation of the multi-channel audio support – and the plugin at the desktop end required to make this work – when I reported on the v.1.2 and v.1.3 updates. I’ll not repeat that material here – just head over to those posts to check out the details. Actually getting audio out of your iOS devices (or MIDI into it) is really very straightforward. What’s perhaps a little more complex is actually recording that audio within your desktop DAW. I detailed what was involved in those earlier reviews and the process has not changed here…  but this is a limitation of audio routing at the desktop end rather than any particular criticism of the approach adopted by Music IO.

Running Music IO requires a small ‘server’ app and a plugin to be installed on your host computer and new versions of the OSX and Windows servers required in order to use Music IO v.1.4. As before, they are available from downloads section of the Music IO website.

So how does this ‘multi-device’ support work under OSX? Well, I don’t actually own four suitable iOS devices to push the system to its limits but I did give it a workout this morning using a combination of an iPad Air 1 and an iPhone 5 (both running iOS9.0.2). The OSX server recognised both devices as ‘connected’ and, when I launched my usual desktop DAW/sequencer – Cubase – then I could see separate Music IO-based MIDI devices to which I could route MIDI data.

It was great to see apps such as Z3TA+ working on my iPad.....

It was great to see apps such as Z3TA+ working on my iPad…..

Under iOS, things are similar to before and you get a very straightforward selection panel system to load your iOS instrument and effects apps into. The fact that you can do this on multiple devices at the same time doesn’t make the process any one or less difficult. There is a certain amount of faffing about to be done in terms of setting MIDI channels for your various iOS instruments on each device and making sure those match up with the device/MIDI channel combinations on the desktop but this is easy enough to do.

... bs-16i on my iPhone.... :-)

… alongside bs-16i on my iPhone…. :-)

Within the desktop Music IO plugin, the design has changed a little so that you can now select both the iOS device and the audio channel that instance of the plugin is to work with. This all works very smoothly. Yes, there is a little bit of rather convoluted audio routing required at the desktop end (as described in my previous posts) but this soon becomes second nature…

Anyway, once all the routing was done, it was rather wonderful to hear a combination of Thor, Cyclop, Z3TA+ and bs-16i all appearing in my Cubase mix and blended with whatever desktop virtual instruments/audio I wanted to use. Whether I could imagine ever hooking up 4 iOS devices – and having potentially 16 audio streams coming into my desktop system via Music IO – well, I’m not so sure I would ever actually need to do that….  but two devices is certainly a possibility. The bottom line here, however, is that this kind of technology does help make integration between iOS and the desktop that much easier; perfect it might not yet be because of the rather convoluted audio routing required to record the iOS audio within your desktop DAW, but it is undoubtedly impressive stuff even so.

At UK£7.99, Music IO is an absolute steal given what it allows you to do and, if you just want MIDI connectivity, then the Music IO team have a separate MIDI-only version of Music IO that is available for free. Music IO is something that, personally, I’m going to get a lot of use out of. Even in the relatively early stages of this technology, the results are very creditable. Anyway, here’s hoping the updates – and features – keep coming.

Music IO: Audio and MIDI over USB

Music IO: MIDI over USB

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    1. As you mention in the intro, there’s a number of these apps now. Would you say there’s such a thing as any of them being better than others? I’m specifically most interested in the Windows angle but generally too. I see some operate as VST and others not… and that’s as far as I’ve got around to investigating so far!

      • Hi Mike… good question…. If you just want to hook up a single iOS device then I’m not sure there is too much to pick between Music IO or Studiomux and, as they now both operate via plugin format at the desktop end (they used to approach this element in a different fashion to each other) for the perspective of getting each set up, things are fairly similar. I guess some users will just prefer the workflow offered by one over the other…. Currently, I’ve got into the habit of using Music IO but, as this technology is changing with each iteration of the apps, it is quite possible that they will continue to leapfrog past each other on occasions with new releases…. Not sure I’ve actually helped here :-) best wishes, John

    2. Lady App-titude says:

      V 1.40 of the Mac server app has been very unstable for me — frequent unexpected quit crashes both in the Finder and running in the background of my DAW. After two days, I had to revert to 1.30. I am surprised you did not mention the major problems with this release in your review.

      • Hi Lady App-titude…. sorry to hear you have been experiencing problems with the v.1.40 server for Music IO on your system. I didn’t see any of those issues on my own test system however and everything seemed pretty solid in operation. I’d be surprised if either Music IO or Studiomux performed ‘perfectly’ on every OS/hardware combination out there at present though…. this is quite an ambitious thing that they are trying to do and the multitude of hardware/software that could be residing on the host computer must make it very difficult to do foolproof beta-testing…. If you continue to have issue though, do drop the development team an email (you might have done this already?) detailing the issue and your setup; they are a pretty responsive bunch of folk…. Good luck and very best wishes, John

        • Patrick/Secret Base Design says:

          Hi — I think Dan has picked up this ticket on the support queue (always hard to know for sure — lots of different stage names show up here and there). The Mac server underwent a lot of changes for the multi-device support, so if anyone has trouble, it’s possible to roll back to the 1.30 build, and everything should still work.

          We’ve tried to make the individual pieces work when there are mixed version numbers. So — if the server or a plug-in gives trouble, an earlier version can be swapped in. Even with the iOS builds, if you keep copies of IPAs, it should be possible to roll back (Apple doesn’t want you to do this, obviously, but you can). iOS upgrades are a bit more permanent, but so far, I’m not aware of any issues from iOS 7 up to iOS 9, and things look ok on El Capitan and Windows 10 too.

          We try to stay on top of the support queue, so if if you hit trouble, drop us a line!

          And wrt the other apps that are doing audio and USB over MIDI — I think they’re doing good work too. This stuff is tricky, we’ll probably both have rough patches here and there, but it’s amazing what is now possible. The MIDI-only version of Music IO is free, so that it’s easy for people to test things out, and see if they like it. The full versions of the apps are not terribly expensive; no reason not to grab both, and see what fits best with your hardware and work flow.

    3. Lady App-titude says:

      Thanks! Yes, I have been in email communication with support and sent them some crash logs today. Unfortunately, the crashes seem random, not related to any specific action done by the user. Once I finish my current project, I will try to do more testing. For now things have been solid w/ 1.30. (Except for the fact that it doesn’t work perfectly with every app. Korg Module will not transmit audio via the lightning cable. But most other apps I’ve tried — e.g., Korg iM1 — have worked well.) I am currently finishing up a major project (40+ tracks) that has made extensive use of MusicIO!

    4. hello
      I managed to get this to work on Logic Pro X and I can record audio by setting up a midi track and putting the musicIO plugin as an effect, routing it to BUS 1 and then setting up an audio track with BUS 1 as source. seems to work.
      what I cannot seem to achieve is to see the actual midi notes recorded into the midi track in Logic, no matter what I do. I am using Sunrizer (IOS) and it does send out midi notes – as much as I highlight “midi from” in the app, midi notes never appear in Logic, I wrote to Secret Base Design but they response was a bit cryptic. any advice on how to solve this would be appreciated
      the walk-through videos on Secret Base Design website are really poor quality and unhelpful. c’mon guys!

    5. this is what I am trying to achieve. I can’t get the midi part to work

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