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Basics of USB-MIDI –

USB MIDI 2.0 ADOPTED 

USB and MIDI

MIDI has stayed relevant for over 30 years by adapting to the different ways that computers send information to and from external devices. MIDI can now be sent over 5 Pin DIN, Serial Ports, USB, Firewire, Ethernet, Bluetooth and more. But currently the most prevalent way to connect to computers, tablets and smartphones is USB. This article will cover the basics of USB-MIDI.

Why USB came about

In the early 1990’s, there were far too many types of connectors on computers. There were separate serial ports, parallel ports, keyboard and mouse connections, and joystick ports, It was hard for people to tell whether the peripheral they were buying would actually work with their computer.  So Compaq, Intel, Microsoft and NEC ( joined later by Hewlett-Packard, Lucent and Philips) formed the USB Implementers Forum, Inc, a non-profit corporation to publish the specifications and organise further development in USB. Similar to the MIDI Manufacturers Association, the USB-IF makes sure that there is interoperability between USB devices. 

Goals of USB

The USB-IF had some clear goals when first developing the USB specification

  • Standardize connector types: There are now several different types of USB connectors, but they are all standardized by the USB-IF
  • Hot-swappable: USB devices can be safely plugged and unplugged as needed while the computer is running. So there is no need to reboot.
  • Plug and Play: USB devices are divided into functional types (Audio, Image, Human User Interface, Mass Storage) and then operating system software can automatically identify, configure, and load the appropriate device driver when a user connects a USB device.
  • High performance: USB offers low speed (1.5 Mbit/s), full speed (12 Mbit/s) and high speed (up to 480 Mbit/s) transfer rates that can support a variety of USB peripherals. USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed USB) achieves the throughput up to 5. 0 Gbit/s.
  • Expandability: Up to 127 different peripheral devices may theoretically be connected to a single bus at one time

USB System Architecture

The basic USB system architecture is actually pretty simple and consists of the following main components:

  • A Host Computer, Smartphone or Tablet
  • One or more USB Devices
  • A physical bus represented by the USB Cable that links the devices with the host  

The Universal Serial Bus is a host controlled bus. All data transfers are initiated and controlled by the host and USB peripherals are slaves responding to host commands. So for  USB MIDI peripheral devices you need a computer, smartphone or tablet in the system to control and initiate USB communication.

USB Device Classes

USB devices are defined into specific functional classes, for example image, human interface devices (keyboard, mouse, joystick), mass storage, and audio. The operating system can then know what the devices is designed to do and automatically load what is called a class compliant driver for that type of devices. In 1999, the MIDI specification was developed by the USB-IF in cooperation with the MIDI Manufacturers Association and included in the Audio class of devices.  That is why sometimes when you connect a USB-MIDI peripheral, the OS will display a message that says USB-Audio devices connected.  As far as USB is concerned MIDI is an Audio Class Compliant device. 

Class Compliant Drivers versus Manufacturer Specific Drivers

Class compliant drivers are convenient because you don’t have to download any external software.  But often manufacturer specific drivers provide added functionality. Let’s use Yamaha has an example.  Because data transfer on USb is much faster than 5 pin DIN it is possible to have multiple ports of MIDI (a port is a group of 16 MIDI channels) on a single USB cable. The dedicated Yamaha USB Driver provides for 8 ports of high speed USB, includes the names of all the devices that are compatible with the driver and has some routing capabilities. These features are only available if you download the driver from Yamaha’s website.  Also many audio interfaces are also MIDI interfaces and audio and MIDI travel over the USb cable.  So if you purchase a MIDI or Audio interface you should always check the product manual and manufacturer’s website to see if there is a dedicated USB driver for your product that provides added functionality. Often even if the manufacturer specific driver is available when connected to a device which don’t allow driver downloads into the operating system (for example iOS devices), the product will still work as a class compliant USB device. 

Types of USB MIDI connectors

Over the years, USB has developed and there are now a number of different cable types and USB specifications. Let’s take a look at the different connectors.  

Originally most desktop and laptops computers had the standard sized Type A USB connector. A standard USB cable has a Type A connector on one end to connect to the host and a Type B connector on the other end to connect to the peripheral device. This is still the most common cable to connect a MIDI instrument to a computer.

USB Type A host connector

Type B USB peripheral connector

The Type A connector has a pin that supplies power to external peripherals so you need to be carefully about trying to connect two hosts via a Type A to Type A cable. This can cause serious damage to your gear so consult the manufacturer and manual before attempting this. 

The Type A connector is for host controllers (computers, smartphones, tablets and some digital musical instruments that act as hosts) and USB hubs. A USB hub is a device that expands a single (USB) port into several so that there are more ports available to connect devices to a host system.USB hubs are often built into equipment such as computers, computer keyboards, monitors, or printers. When a device has many USB ports, they all usually stem from one or two internal USB hubs rather than each port having independent USB circuitry. If you need more USB ports, there are also external hubs that you can buy. You need to check to see if your USB peripherals need to be powered by USB and if they do you may need a powered USB hub. 

On many digital musical instruments you find two USB connectors – one Type A connector labeled To Device and one Type B labeled To Host .  The To Host is usually used to send MIDI, Audio or both Audio and MIDI to a computer, smartphone or tablet. If your digital music product sends both MIDI and Audio over USB, you will almost certainly need a manufacturer specific driver. 

The To Device is usually used for USB Storage devices like Flash Thumb drives, but it can be used for other things depending on what the Host music product supports for device classes. 

USB A-Type 

Considered the standard and most common type of connector, A-style connectors are found on the PC or charger side of most cables. This flat, rectangular interface is held in place through friction. Durable enough for continuous connection but easy enough for users to connect and disconnect, this connector type is also available in micro variations.  

USB B-Type 

Type-B USBs were traditionally used with printer cables but, they’re now found on many popular models of Android smartphones and external hard drives. These USBs feature a square interface and are available as a Micro-USB B, USB Mini-b (5-pin), and USB Mini-b (4-pin). 

USB C-Type 

The newest type of connector on the market, Type-C is a one-size-fits-all solution. Developed to support devices with a smaller, thinner and lighter form factor. Type-C is slim enough for a smartphone or tablet, yet robust enough for a desktop computer. It also has the advantage of a reversible plug orientation and cable direction, eliminating the guesswork about which direction the connection goes. 

The future of USB Connectivity 

USB Type-C is designed as a one-size-fits-all solution for data transfer and power supply on any device. Featuring a smaller connector, Type-C fits into one multi-use port to simultaneously charge devices and transfer data and also offers backward compatibility to support previous USB standards (2. 0, 3.0, and 3.1).

Type-C is quickly becoming the new standard for operating systems and hardware providers; Intel’s Thunderbolt recently switched to USB Type-C ports while enabling cross compatibility with USB 3.1. The new Apple MacBooks feature a Type-C port.

The USB-IF predicts that by 2019, all laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and other consumer electronics will be equipped with USB Type-C. 

In the meantime, if you have a newer computer, you may need an adapter to connect your MIDI gear to your computer. 

MeeBlip cubit duo: USB MIDI interface and MIDI thru

Free shipping in the USA, discounted shipping in Canada.

cubit duo is a stand-alone 4-port MIDI thru box (MIDI splitter) and a USB MIDI interface – all in one.

With a computer: connect USB and you get a high-performance 1×1 interface — one input for playing, one computer MIDI output sent to the four OUT jacks simultaneously. That’s four identical outputs with zero software lag, perfect for keeping your gear in sync.

With a mobile device: you get a MIDI interface you can use with apps.
* Requires USB port and cable, adapter for Lightning-equipped iOS devices.

With hardware-only setups: cubit duo works as a stand-alone thru box, connecting any MIDI input to four identical MIDI outputs.

cubit duo is lightweight and compact. It’s also driverless and USB-powered. And the jacks are top-mounted to fit into tight spaces, even when cabled up.

Features:

  • USB mode: 1×1 USB MIDI interface
  • Standalone/THRU mode: 4-output MIDI splitter (thru box)
  • Four hardware-mirrored MIDI OUT jacks – no software lag, ultra-tight timing
  • Opto-isolated MIDI IN to reduce ground loops
  • High-performance 32-bit ARM Cortex processor
  • Class-compliant USB MIDI – no drivers needed
  • Bright green MIDI light flashes when sending or receiving data for easy troubleshooting
  • Size: 108 x 76 x 25 mm (4. 25″ x 3:” x 1″), weight: 110 g (3.9 oz)
  • Includes 1 m (3 ft) USB cable
  • USB powered
  • Works with macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android*

Don’t forget cables – get a bundle with cubit duo and four MIDI cables at a special price.

(*iPhone or older iPad models require Lightning to USB adapter, sold separately. Android may require OTG USB adapter. Compatible device required.)

Designed and assembled in Canada. cubit duo is available exclusively at meeblip.com and meeblip.eu – we assemble, test, and ship direct to you to keep costs low and quality high.

Customers outside the USA and Canada: You may be asked to pay VAT and other fees on delivery. Talk to us if you have questions about international shipping. We have a dedicated store for Europe, including the EU and UK.

We ship by the US Postal Service or Canada Post.

Frequently asked questions

Why is this a 1×1 interface, if there are four output jacks?

The one port is mirrored across all four output jacks. That allows us to ensure there’s no timing difference between the four output jacks.

Doesn’t that mean all my gear will play the same notes?

MIDI has 16 channels, so if you want notes or patterns to be routed to a particular device, you can set that output channel.

What do you mean, “ultra-tight timing”?

If you want to get scientific, the output circuitry has a maximum propagation delay of 44 nanoseconds – that’s billionths of a second. To us humans, it’s basically zero lag.

How do I set this up with my computer? Do I need to install drivers or something?

No drivers are needed – you just plug and play. You’ll see cubit go as an additional MIDI input and output, alongside any other MIDI and audio gear you have, inside your DAW’s preferences.

What happened to cubit splitter and cubit go?

We’re not kidding when we say it’s two gadgets – it literally replaces the functionality of both our previous cubits, cubit splitter and cubit go. We’ve discontinued those products, because this one does it all. (We’ll continue to support them, though – we still use ours!)

CASIO Music

USB MIDI Synthesizers

CASIO synthesizers and digital pianos have long established themselves among home music enthusiasts and music school employees, as well as among professionals who need a reliable instrument for intensive use during performances and rehearsals. The popularity of CASIO synthesizers is determined not only by excellent sound quality, a wide repertoire of sounds and many additional functions, but also by a variety of connectivity options. First of all, this applies to CASIO USB-MIDI synthesizers.

CASIO USB-MIDI synthesizers offer more than just the classic set of inputs. They are also equipped with USB or MIDI connectors. This makes it possible to expand the creative possibilities of musicians.

USB and MIDI Synthesizers – for musicians who push the boundaries

Perfection in every key and a host of options and functions: these advantages of USB and MIDI synthesizers have already been highly appreciated by many composers and producers. CASIO USB-MIDI synthesizers are the “wunderkinds” of portable keyboards. Using the appropriate USB cable, you can easily transfer data from the synthesizer to a PC, laptop or MAC.

As the name implies, USB-MIDI synthesizers support the USB and MIDI standards. Depending on the model, the instrument can support up to 16 multi-timbral channels in accordance with the General MIDI Level 1 standard. In this way, players can assign instruments to 16 or fewer MIDI channels and use them simultaneously. In this way, impressive arrangements with a unique spectrum of sound are realized in the MIDI format and creative musical ideas are embodied. The integrated MIDI connector also allows you to connect the synthesizer to other instruments, drum machines and audio modules, as well as directly control your PC, laptop or MAC, which greatly expands your creative possibilities.

USB MIDI Synthesizers – Pure Pleasure

Customers who purchase a USB-MIDI synthesizer can rely on the proven quality and features of this compact CASIO instrument. Exclusive materials, up to 76 semi-weighted piano-style keys (the number varies by model) and guaranteed performance prove that not only premium instruments can be luxurious.

CASIO’s signature feature set, including multi-voice polyphony, numerous rhythms, and up to 700 powerful voices based on the realistic reproduction of piano and other acoustic instruments, will convince even demanding players. The set of functions is complemented by a variety of digital effects, some of which are activated by a key combination, pad or knob. Up to 250 instant settings, up to 100 DSP, Hall, Echo, Chorus effects and creative tone control with the modulation wheel – just to name a few. Active functions are displayed on the integrated LCD screen; a recording and playback function, a mixer and various splitting and sampling functions complete the range of creative possibilities.

If you would like to learn more about CASIO USB-MIDI synthesizers, check out the detailed information provided on the CASIO Music website, or contact your local CASIO dealer for advice and hands-on experience with the capabilities of your chosen instrument.

Connecting a MIDI keyboard – types of connections, working with various devices

MIDI keyboards are an integral part of home and professional studios. Musicians use them to create tracks in the studio and to perform music on stage. A wide variety of midi controllers help solve the necessary creative tasks, such as playing “virtual” instrument parts on the keys, drumming and percussion on the pads, adjusting various instrument parameters and DAW knobs and faders. MIDI keyboards do not produce sound by themselves. In this guide, we will explain how to connect a midi keyboard, what devices can work with it, and what types of connections exist.

Connecting a MIDI keyboard

If you have already purchased a MIDI keyboard or are just choosing, then carefully examine what interface connectors it has. This will allow you to understand in advance where you can use the device. Most often, they are equipped with a USB port, a 5-pin MIDI port, or both at the same time.

Computer connection

The most popular MIDI keyboard device is a personal computer or laptop. An affordable device with high performance, memory capacity is what every musician uses to work with sound.

You can connect to a PC in the following ways:

  • Through the USB output on the midi controller to the USB input of the computer using a standard USB type A to USB type B cable.
  • Through the MIDI output from the controller to the MIDI input of the audio interface connected to the computer special 5-pin MIDI cable.
  • Via MIDI-USB interface from controller MIDI output/input to computer USB input.

From keypad USB port to computer USB port

All the latest midi controllers are equipped with a USB port – this is the easiest way to connect. All you need is a standard USB-A to USB-B or USB-C to USB-B cable. Depending on the device model, you may need to install an additional driver to work on Windows computers. On Mac OS, it’s usually as simple as plugging in, running the software, and playing. Once connected, further interaction with the controller takes place in the DAW or VST instrument player.

On MIDI keyboards equipped with an additional 5-pin MIDI port, you have the option of simultaneously connecting via USB to a computer and via MIDI to an external synthesizer.

From the MIDI port of the keyboard to the USB port of the computer

Another switching option is the MIDI-USB interface. This compact solution allows you to connect your 5-pin MIDI equipment without the need for an external audio interface. We recommend choosing a reliable manufacturer so that the device works correctly under Windows and Mac OS operating systems. The advantage of this connection is the ability to use midi devices that do not have a USB port, which can often be seen in older equipment. You can give a second life to an old synthesizer!

From MIDI key port to MIDI interface/module port

Your device does not have a USB port? It’s OK! Some interfaces and instruments only have a 5-pin MIDI input. To connect such equipment, you will need a corresponding MIDI cable with 5-pin connectors at both ends. Their typical length is 3 meters, you can buy in our store.

When connected this way, note that the MIDI OUT of the keys is connected to the MIDI IN of the sound card. This connection method has a big plus. You can record analog synthesizer sound from the analog outputs, and simultaneously record parts in MIDI format for later editing. Studio engineers really appreciate this method, which makes it possible to completely rework the sound of the keyboard.

MIDI keyboard operation on Windows and Mac OS

Most midi controllers are automatically detected and configured on all types of Windows and Mac OS computers. However, while Mac OS devices do not require additional drivers or software to be installed, it is not uncommon for Windows computers to come across a midi controller model that will require a separate driver to work. For example, devices from Novation such as Launchpad and Launchpad Pro.

Computers and laptops on Mac OS operate on the principle of Plug-n-Play without the need for deep configuration. At the same time, for Windows, there is one important point that concert musicians should take into account – this is the need for the Internet to automatically install the driver from Windows Update.

The rest of the work on Windows and Mac OS is little different: you just connect the controller, run the necessary software, create tracks, select instruments and record hits. Most of the popular virtual instruments, effects, and DAWs are designed for both platforms, so you’ll definitely be able to work comfortably on your midi keyboard.

Connecting to mobile devices on Android and iOS

Do you have a midi keyboard, but there is no suitable computer nearby? Pay attention to your mobile phone or tablet – this is an amazing sound module for your keyboard! You can create full-fledged music tracks with just your phone in your pocket. Of course, smartphones and tablets cannot fully compete with professional music software for computers, but they can still perform well and sometimes save your concert. From free piano apps to full DAWs on your phone or tablet, you can choose what you need for your music.

Connecting a midi keyboard directly to a mobile device is more difficult than to a computer, because the first one does not have a full-sized USB port, so you will need to purchase an additional appropriate adapter.

Connect to iPad and iPhone

You can connect your iPhone or iPad to a midi keyboard via the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter. One plug is inserted into a mobile device, and a midi keyboard is connected to the camera socket using a standard USB A to USB B cable. This is a reliable connection, but the adapter is rather bulky. But there are some pluses – the presence of an additional Lightning port, thanks to which you can connect the power adapter and charge your device during performance.

Adapter from Lightning to USB Camera – reliable solution

If you just need a Lightning connection, you can also use the Lightning to USB adapter. The pros of using this adapter are that you only need one cable, it’s smaller and cheaper.

Adapter from Lightning to USB is a compact and stylish solution.

Device connection Android

For Android devices, connecting a midi keyboard is the same as connecting an iOS device. However, the big difference is that you will need a different type of cable as the Lightning adapter is not compatible with Android devices.

To connect the midi controller to an Android phone, use one of the following methods:

1. OTG (On-The-Go) USB-A to Micro USB adapter.

OTG cable USB A to to Micro USB

2. OTG USB-A to USB-C adapter (for devices equipped with a USB type-C port).

OTG USB A to USB cable C

Both OTG adapters require a USB A to USB B cable or a MIDI to USB interface if your MIDI controller has MIDI In/Out ports.

3. For USB-C mobile devices, you can use a USB C to USB B cable to connect to your Android device without the need for a second cable (USB A to USB B).

Wireless Bluetooth MIDI connection to mobile devices and personal computers

Some MIDI keyboards support Bluetooth-MIDI connection. If yours does not have this option, then you can purchase external adapters to send midi messages without any cables. Bluetooth MIDI is great if you’re in a studio and want to keep it as clean and organized as possible, or if you just want to increase the distance between your keyboard and device without using a very long cable.


Wireless options
Bluetooth midi controllers:

1. For midi devices with built-in Bluetooth, you can connect to a computer, laptop, as well as a smartphone or tablet directly.

2. For midi keyboards with MIDI In/Out ports, you can use a solution like CME’s Widi Master and similar.

3.