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Monday, January 19, 2015

Introducing The New MIDI HD Protocol

MIDI creator Dave Smith image
MIDI Creator Dave Smith
The MIDI standard is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, so let's take a minute to appreciate just how cool an invention this really was.

For many of you reading this, you don't remember a time before MIDI, but the rest of us remember it as a time when hardware synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines couldn't talk to one another if not from the same manufacturer. You chose a manufacturer if you wanted all three, and usually at least of these were not to your liking.

MIDI, originally proposed by Sequential Circuits founder Dave Smith (now with Dave Smith Instruments and pictured on the left), solved this by suddenly making not only these devices interchangeable, but controllable via external switches, pedals and, a little down the road, computers.

The standard hasn't changed much over the years, but definitely needs some updating, and that's exactly what the newly proposed MIDI HD does. Some of the new protocol's features include:
  • Plug and play network connectivity over USB and Ethernet
  • Thousands of channels for handling complex systems
  • More precise pitch control and articulation for expanded expressivity
  • Tighter timing thanks to time stamped messaging
  • More controllers and parameters
  • Room for future expansion
  • Backwards compatibility with MID 1.0
That sounds pretty cool, but don't get the wrong idea - MIDI HD is not a replacement for the standard MIDI that we're all used to. MIDI 1.0 is really cheap to implement and MIDI HD isn't, at least at the moment, and it's not an industry standard yet either. The added cost of MIDI HD means that many low cost devices just won't have it for a while.

That said, it's exciting that MIDI is stepping into the future. I can't wait to check it out in person to see just what it can do.

For more information, go to the MIDI Manufactures Association's office site at midi.org.

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