Practical iPad Music Making: Connecting Hardware

What’s this MIDI thing about?

Creatively, music is about assembling a new whole out of lots of pieces. So it makes sense that in a music workspace, making connections is important. Like traditional computers before it, part of what makes the shiny, new iPad musically useful is its ability to work with other gear.

Enter MIDI. For the uninitiated, MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is the de facto industry standard means for communicating musical events between different hardware and software. It doesn’t transmit sound, but it does transmit information like pitch, note events, knob twists, button presses, and clock and transport information.

I’ve been working with Tekserve, an independent Apple service and sales shop in Manhattan, to help show iPad owners how they can use this protocol – now more than a quarter century old – to make all their gear work together. Tonight at an event Tekserve titled “the future of music,” then, I’m the Ghost of Music Technology Past.

In the video at top, co-produced by CDM and Tekserve, I show a hands-on with MIDI gear and the iPad. Of course, by definition, what I’m saying also applies to other computing platforms that can support MIDI, which includes Mac OS, Windows, and Linux.

MIDI and iOS: Seen in this Video

Various iOS apps let you send MIDI (or other protocols, like OpenSoundControl) wirelessly, via the WiFi connection. (Bluetooth seems not to be an option, because of how Apple provides access to that connection.)

But here, we’re using good, old-fashioned hardware connections, which means you can work with hardware from the 80s through today – and you don’t have to have your computer with you. So, we need a hardware adapter.

Apple Camera Connection Kit: Works with USB devices that support MIDI class, and USB MIDI interfaces that connect to hardware with a 5-pin MIDI DIN port. Below, here’s a demo of the CCK with the Korg iMS-20.

Line6 MIDI Mobilizer: Works with any device with a 5-pin MIDI DIN port, no additional hardware required. Also the only device that works with the iPhone and iPod touch and not just the iPad. Line6 points out that it also theoretically supports faster speeds, but the thing I like most about it is that you get little LED lights that flash when MIDI is sent or received – ideal for troubleshooting! SonicState did a great video hands-on review:

If you’re serious about MIDI, you probably won’t regret having both.

MeeBlip is an open-source, hackable synth designed by James Grahame and sold and supported in collaboration with Create Digital Music. And if you don’t necessarily want a $500 iPad, here’s a demo video of the MeeBlip “gex0008” shot with a used Yamaha QY10, a portable MIDI sequencer.

Synthetic Bits little midi machine: A hardware-style analog step sequencer.

Edirol UM-1 EX is a USB MIDI interface that has those 5-pin MIDI DINs on one side and USB on the other. It’s now discontinued, but the UM-1 line lives on — see the UM-1G, now sold as Cakewalk by Roland. Just like its predecessors, there’s a little “advanced mode” switch that you can toggle to “OFF” for driver-free operation with the iPad.

MIDI Touch is a brilliant little app for making custom MIDI controller maps. (It works wirelessly, too.) I need to actually make a template for the MeeBlip. Check out microKORG and Shruthi-1 templates on Palm Sounds. Version 2.0 recently arrived.

Audio interfaces work, too. There are various driver-free audio gadgets out there; the $30(!) Behringer UCA-222 just happened to be sitting out Tekserve’s show floor and worked just fine.

The Akai LPK25 is a cute little music keyboard; Akai now offers a whole mess of controllers that work without drivers. That’s also true of similar, portable options like Korg’s nano series. I might opt for the Akai MPK mini, as then you get pads and encoders, too.

No iPad music demo would be complete without the insanely-deep iMS20 from Korg, which is what I use with the Akai keyboard (sorry, Korg) at the end. You could forget every other app and immerse yourself in the Korg app and probably be happy.

More Essential MIDI Apps

I’m not a believer in the notion of loading up your iPad with a zillion apps – I learned that lesson the hard way long ago loading up my computer with a zillion plug-ins. For me personally, I’d rather have a few good apps I depend on. For MIDI, here’s what’s on my machine:

  • StepPolyArp is the other MIDI sequencer I use, aside from little midi machine. It supports wireless DSMidiWifi and Line 6 Midi Mobilizer, and it’s utterly brilliant – you get to just focus in on editing a MIDI pattern with some truly powerful tools. I actually wanted to fit it into the video, but just didn’t really get it in.
  • Midi Monitor from iOSMIDI is a must-have app for heavy MIDI users: it’s perfect for diagnosing hardware support, messages in and out, and even comes with a layout for testing gear, modeled after Midi Touch from the same developer.
  • MidiVision is a simpler monitor app; this is an iPad story, but MidiVision is your best bet for an iPhone or iPod touch (and doing MIDI monitoring fits a handheld nicely).
  • S1 MIDI Trigger works really nicely with hardware MIDI. Like MidiTouch, it’s a custom layout app; it started out wireless-only but added hardware support. I haven’t yet decided which I prefer; stay tuned.
  • AC-7 Core is easily the most powerful controller app out there. It’s primarily for controlling your DAW on your computer, but it has MIDI support for hardware, too.
  • Synthetic Bits’ FunkBox is a fun little drum machine, focusing on simple, finger-friendly, hardware-style interaction like the awesome aforementioned little midi machine. Bonus here: it will send MIDI clock in version 2.0, which will allow tempo-synced fun. (That means you could use this with an iPad and something like an old Yamaha QY10, as seen above, and have it all clocking together.) Must-download. Get it. I wish there were more desktop apps this simple and fun.
  • One Red Dog Media’s Molten is similarly excellent. It also has MIDI clock support. As with FunkBox, it’s a standalone drum machine, too, but the fun part is that you can also use it as a controller or sync other devices (or your computer) via MIDI clock.

S1 was spotted this week on Synthtopia, demonstrating how you can use an iPad to extend tangible controllers you already have:

Here’s FunkBox in action, using MIDI clock:

And while it’s at the very end of the video, at around :50 you can watch Molten synced up to a MacBook Pro running Apple’s UltraBeat drum machine. This video does not show hardware MIDI, but that’s possible, too, via Core MIDI, the Camera Connection Kit, and a MIDI adapter.

What I really desperately wish had hardware MIDI / Core MIDI support: Shiverware Musix, a hexagonal music grid, and Audanika SoundPrism, which aligns music to a sophisticated pitch array.


There are some details to be aware, lest this seem that I’m simply advocating the iPad – I’m not; I’m really advocating using MIDI to keep everything compatible.

MIDI clock is pretty rare. Molten is the only app I know of at the moment that both transmits and receives MIDI clock over a hardware connection for synchronizing tempo. The MIDI Mobilizer evidently only recently added clock as a feature, so that could have something to do with the delay.

Bluetooth isn’t yet, as far as I and developers can tell, possible — too bad, as it’s a good option for wireless MIDI.

For hardware support, power is a consideration – a lot of gear has to be externally powered. Here’s one good write-up on that.

Let’s say that again: if you expect anything other than a very simple MIDI input device or adapter to be powered by the iPad, you’ll be disappointed. Even on desktop computers, we often find issues with power availability. Imagine that an order of magnitude worse on iPad; most devices beyond things like that portable MIDI keyboard above will require external power. We had a hub handy while we were shooting this. I like Richard Lawler’s idea of hacking together a battery-powered hub as a workaround for this (and other mobile devices likely to suffer the same issue).

There’s some serious fragmentation. Core MIDI works via a camera adapter – an unrelated device – but a lot of developers haven’t added it to their apps, and it doesn’t work on the iPhone. The Line6 MIDI Mobilizer is great, but it requires using a proprietary set of APIs (though some developers do say they prefer its simplicity). Apps tend to support one or the other, but not both – and a lot of apps don’t support hardware MIDI, period.

One thing I found in the demo that I can’t stress enough is that that tiny 30-pin dock connector is very, very delicate. The iPad seems a little precious to use in a gig. Sweat and multi-touch don’t mix, some people have told me, and the dock connector has a tendency to pop out. Akai’s dock might be a good solution, but I haven’t tested it yet. And using up the dock connector means you have to plan ahead and power up your battery, since the iPad doesn’t have a separate power jack. (That makes docks appealing, but then you may wind up spending more than you intended on your tablet.)

Maybe it’s so obvious that people forget to say it, but because MIDI has been around so long, traditional computers, netbooks (at half the price), and even used MIDI hardware are very competitive options. If you’re in the market for an iPad and trying to use this to justify the purchase, you’ll probably need some added reason – like, for instance, you love these apps or have other uses for the iPad.

Those things said, what is great about MIDI and enduring standards is that it means technology isn’t disposable, and isn’t cut off from other technology. You can have a synth you’ve loved for 25 years that works with something you’ve just bought. That’s pretty great.

Where to Find Resources

At top, a hands-on video with iSequence by Hank Lepstein on Noisepages.

Compatible device round-ups:
Synthtopia has reader reports with the Camera Connection Kit

Midi Touch and Midi Monitor developer has a nice round-up of other apps with CoreMIDI support

Notably, SyntheFX and Luminair are your choice if you use DMX and lighting.

iosaudio is keeping a running list of apps with support for different MIDI (and even OSC) features. You can see some of the fragmentation that’s happened, but you certainly don’t lack options.

Akai is the first company to offer integrated docks for MIDI support. The SynthStation49 is a big keyboard. More useful, at least from my perspective, is the Alesis iO Dock. (At the NAMM show, Alesis called it “StudioDock” but seems to have changed branding.) It helps alleviate some of the issues I had, with spaghetti cables and easily-disconnected dock connectors. But pricing and availability are uncertain, and since it’s not done, no one has yet tested how good it is.

If there’s interest, one developer suggested starting a spreadsheet on which readers could collaborate; I’d happily start one.

See also our Noisepages iPad/iPod musician group.

Lastly, iConnectMIDI is a high-end MIDI interface box. It looks pricey at nearly US$200, but it also works as a standalone MIDI box and with computers as a 2-port MIDI interface. That plus dedicated USB and power connections for an iPad means that for serious users, you could probably justify the purchase, especially since you can use it with your computer. It also works with the iPhone and iPod touch, so it will be a direct competitor with the Midi Mobilizer (albeit not nearly as portable). I hope to review it, because apparently I’m a MIDI fanboy. (Who knew?)

Want wireless support and compatibility with hardware? See our previous story:
The Missing Link OSC/MIDI Translator Makes Your Electronic Music Gear Wireless

Developers? Android?

If you’re a developer and want to talk more about this stuff, we have two excellent running groups:

There’s an epic thread running about using the open source Pure Data (Pd) environment on iOS.

We also have the mobile music + visual hack group for developers.

Pete Goodliffe has some terrific, open source sample code for using CoreMIDI in iOS. I’d love to see more.

Android developers, the future looks a bit murkier as far as hardware MIDI support, though most everything else is possible on Android (and even, increasingly, in mobile and desktop browsers). But if you’re curious to play around with Bluetooth MIDI – something you can’t do on iOS – Peter Brinkmann just shared some sample code with Pd and has it available open source on Gitorious.

iOS and Android developers may both want to check out libpd; see my previous write-up.

Will MIDI be available on mobile devices that aren’t on iOS? Signs point to yes. MIDI is (conceptually, at least) about the age I am, which is an eternity in computing, but it appears to be going strong.

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers

I hope this guide can evolve to be a comprehensive starting point for people wanting to integrate their iPad with their MIDI rig. So if you have questions, ideas, tips, apps of your own, sample code, sample apps, templates, or … you know, music, let us know!

Huge thanks to our friends at Tekserve for co-producing this video, especially to Chad Carino for shooting and editing.

  • Charlie Lesoine

    Steppolyarp is so frustrating for me. Wish it could change rhythms patterns on the fly. Going to make my own app!

  • Herbie Hancock

    Fairlight CMI FTW!!

  • Malaventura

    Great post, just a month ago I didn't take attention on it, but now, like a ipad user I enjoyed so much. My favourite app is TouchOSC, soon I'll release a layout for it & Ableton Live (here is a preview of what you find when I put it out:&nbsp ;

    Midi touch have something great, you make your layouts on the ipad and its comunicate with your computer or midi gear without intermediaries. It's less complex but touchOSC is more flexible.

    I have Griid too, that is simple, minimal & work like a rock, very stable app.

  • Hank Lepstein

    Thanks for posting my video on here! I have some more videos I will be posting soon once I find the time to edit them. I've been working out figuring out a way to get the iPad to fits my workflow in the studio, and it seems like for me it's best used as an instrument. Recording and tracking it just like I would any instrument instead of fighting the whole Audio Copy/Paste system and having to use iTunes send audio in and out of the device. I've been using apps like nlog, bleepbox, thumbjam, xenon, crystal, morphwiz, etc anything that can be played from the iPad or with the LPK25.I've really just had to many issues hooking up my Behringer interface (latency or accidentally unplugging the damn thing). Also treating the ipad like a hardware synth with midi hasn't really worked out for me (latency, and not being able to sync lfos..). 

    Basically- after experimenting a lot with the iPad I've finally realizing the best way to make it work is to keep it simple because it really is a frustrating (but awesome) device.

    Great post by the way!

  • cubestar

    +1 for Steppolyarp have sub patterns!

    Jim @ Five12 has hinted at an iOS app for a while (swoon).

    Is there an easy way to search for midi capable apps as they come out/are updated?

    I'm interested to see if the studio dock can do everything at once.

    Here are a couple of cool related Namm products:

  • cubestar

    "iosaudio is keeping a running list of apps with support for different MIDI (and even OSC) features. "

    Already answered (doh!)

  • Holotropik

    Great info, thanks 😉

  • Peter Nyboer

    Nice article, nice overview! Thanks for doing this. One question, though…@5:50, you play the akai keyboard, but you are clearly not relying on the built-in speaker for audio, but there is no audio cable plugged in. Was this a fix-in-post moment, or are you sending audio via bluetooth, or…?

  • Where is my comment?

    nice compilation!

    Btw. for those into stuff, the gm5 and gm5x5x5 usb MIDI interfaces work fine with the CCK

  • Christopher Penrose

    This is a great post and video resource.  You don't come across as a salesperson or fanboy on video, Peter — but definitely a lot less apologetic about iOS.  :)  I was expecting to see a piece on Honeycomb today and was simultaneously glad (since the iPad has been here for almost a year and there are considerable musical workflows for the device as you demonstrate) and sad (since it doesn't seem that Honeycomb has made any noticeable improvements to its audio and MIDI support). 

    I did a live performance last summer using TouchOSC and a very early alpha of SynthTronica on the iPad.  The iPad gigged fine.   I did have a rag to clean the iPad screen and did so between performances.  The issues I had were keeping my MacBook's wireless up.   Next time I will bring a standalone router if I want to use OSC.  But it is true, I wasn't using the dock connector for anything.

  • loopstationzebra

    A good article, Peter. I'm glad to see you finally got this topic going. But…..and you know what I'm going to say….I want you to go deeper into the lack of MIDI support (or haphazard MIDI support) on the app side.

    We've all heard the reasons. You and I have debate them endlessly here. They range from 'the devs aren't really that aware of the need' to 'MIDI clock coding is difficult' to 'there's no great iOS forum' to..etc.

    Last week we heard from Peter Johnson in one of the threads here, and he provided some excellent insight as to what's going on. He also posted a longer response on his forum:…

    You should do a part 2 of this story and talk to some devs (inc Peter) in some kind of back and forth Q&A. I'd get the guy from NLogSynthPro in the mix (only because it's one of the best synth apps out there). Maybe the Korg iMS-20 devs. The Nano Studio dev only recently, on his forum, started acknowledging the need for MIDI in his app (kinda, sorta). Get them together in one great interview. Ask them what's what, and what they expect and see coming. Peter has clearly already found a bug with clock over USB MIDI. He remains the only one who's found that bug…prolly because he's the only one who's bothered to implement clock. lol. Or tried to. :)

  • Dave Brubaker

    My iPad is behaving a little erratic with TouchOSC I think it may be all the dried cumstains on the screen.

  • Peter Kirn

    Yeah, I want on-the-fly pattern changes in StepPolyArp, too. It’s conceived as more of a studio tool than live tool, I guess, but it’d radically change the app for me. little midi machine therefore has the edge. Hopefully we can provide some MIDI examples in Pd for iOS and Android so people are free to build their own constructions – may not necessarily be a product that results, but could be a nice way to make your tablets interactive.

    @”Herbie”: Couldn’t agree more. Hope to talk to the Fairlight folks about that one, because we get an interesting glimpse into music tech history here.

  • midihendrix

    Yo Peter, nice article – great job tonight at the tekserve event.

    Although I (and a few others) might troll your blog from time to time, I just wanna let you know that your continued efforts in spreading the knowledge are helping out newbies and veterans…..your work in music/art technology is def making a difference for lots of peeps.

  • epiphanius

    Fabulous work, Peter. I'd say keep it up, but you've covered so much so well, that there's little point.

  • Christopher Penrose

    I haven't implemented any Core Midi support for SynthTronica and it is planned for an update soon after the initial release.  I will certainly consider implementing clock in my synth — but without being a Trekkie I can say "the needs of the many outweigh …  etc."   I am jumping over to the One Red Dog forums to join in on the Midi clock coding discussion for iOS.

  • Richard Lawler

    Thanks Peter. Great round up and video. I've learned some useful things.

    Although, you mention it in the video, I'd call for extra attention to the iPad's USB power problems. The iPad running iOS 4.2 is very picky about how much power a USB device may draw. I've had very poor luck getting off-the-shelf devices to work happily with the iPad Camera Connection Kit and iOS 4.2. (Note that iOS 3.2 was far more lenient in this regard.) Users shouldn't assume any USB device will work directly with the iPad with iOS 4.2. It's a good idea to double-check that someone has had success with any specific device before making any purchases.

    The alternative is a nightmare of even more cords, powered USB hubs and power adapters. 

  • Richard Lawler

    Sorry, I missed the link. 

  • Dom

    Great piece thank-you!

    I've been trying to send midi to a MBPro from the ipad using the camera connection kit, but for the life of me I can't find a way for it to work! Any tips?

    (p.s. I'm clearly not a midi expert so be kind!)

  • jared j

    this will seem dumb, but I will ask. I don't have an ipad (oh no!) can I use these on my pc when recording? I haven't started downloading anything, but the synth/effects look really fun to add to my guitar/bass/drum machine/nord lead 2/sampler arsenal. Could I just get a midi plug and run from my computer to a midi ready synth/midiboard? I've never felt the midi-itch, but this site has so much stuff, it would be a good place to start.

  • Peter Kirn

    Thanks for the kind words, folks.

    Power is indeed a big deal. I find I test gear first plugged into a powered hub, then into the device itself. 

    Since loose connections and power are such an issue, I'll be interested to see if any of these third-party solutions really satisfy. 

  • DJ Hombre

    Don't forget that the DJ apps are getting in on the MIDI action as well.  DJay and Quixpin are both working on implementing USB MIDI functionality so you can plug the iPad into one of the many DJ controller devices like Hercules and the Vestax products.

  • Joe

    Great post, and very timely! I am planning to do some gear shopping this weekend. I was originally thinking of getting a standalone synth (Roland GAIA) but I'm now more inclined to get a decent MIDI controller keyboard (Novation SL 49 MkII) instead.

    Basically I'm after a controller keyboard for Reason that can also do basic synth sounds without a PC – hence my interest in the Roland synth. But now I figure I could use my iPod touch and the Line6 device as a sound module with the MIDI controller keyboard.

    Your post mostly focuses on using iDevices the other way round – to control VSTs, old synths, etc. Do you think that an iPod touch could make a decent sound module to use with an external keyboard, or am I wasting my time?

    I think I could get some mileage out of using Nlog and Nanostudio for this purpose, but I'm not sure about a few things… mainly latency and polyphony.

    I'm also interested in using external CC controllers to tweak the synth… do we know if Nlog or Nanostudio support this? And if so, is it with two-way MIDI feedback?

  • Joe

    On second thought, "sound module" may be the wrong term. I really just want to practice synthy keys without having to turn my computer on.

  • loopstationzebra

    @Christopher Penrose.

    With respect to your 'needs of the many' reasoning, I don't know. Just because the comments area of the app store isn't full of people complaining about lack of MIDI support, doesn't mean it's not a serious and valid issue. In fact, the lack of MIDI may well be PREVENTING serious musicians from buying your app. Or anyone else's app. There may be an entire market sector that is taking a 'wait and see' attitude – withholding support for apps until the needs are actually met.

    Silence isn't exactly an accurate indicator of intent or desire. Not with something this new.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Joe: Honestly? I'd get the Roland. 

    The answer to the first question is, yes, you can turn your iPod touch into a sound module, which is pretty cool. That's there in the video – you can see me and the iMS20 from Korg and a simple Akai controller; substitute any MIDI controller you like there.

    The problem is, the iPod touch isn't the world's greatest sound module, exactly. If it's a first- or second-generation iPod, some software won't run. You don't get tools like the iMS20, because of the limited screen space. Those tools are either iPad-only or far more restricted on the handheld — take, for instance, Crystal. It runs on the iPhone, but with limited features:

    Now, an iPad could work. There aren't a lot of MIDI-ready synths there at the moment, but I expect more, and the Korg alone is really deep. If you want synth sounds without turning on a computer, the iPad could probably suffice.

    But even there, I'd probably still choose the Roland. You get a more versatile, complete synthesis engine than is currently available on the iPad. You get the satisfaction have having tactile knobs and faders for programming.

    And in your case, with a MIDI mobilizer, you could *still* plug the GAIA into your iPod and play with some iOS synths. You'd just run from the GAIA's MIDI out port into the iPod.

    Just because you can do something doesn't always mean that you should; hopefully that's still evident after watching the above… not that that's always stopped me, personally. 😉

  • timh

    Has someone tried this 5-in-1

    dock connector by any chance?

    It has TWO usb ports: a micro-USB port for power (or pc connection) and a regular one for gear (preferably MIDI controllers of course). I was wondering wether this would allow for more power consuming devices?

    Great post Peter!


  • newgreyarea

    I use my iPad with an USB adapter and an powered USB hub and the MS-20 controller and . . . 

    After I set it all up, I think to myself, why the hell does korg not slap that software in the controller and call it a day? Yeah, we all dream of a re-issued MS-20, but even the software version inside a piece of hardware would be cool. They've already made all the different pieces for it. 


  • James Levine

    Nice work last night Peter!

    Really liked Steve Horelick's presentation on MidiTouch. Could you explain why modeling synths are so receptive to these matrices, and what he was doing to find his tone centers? One thing I find a bit narrow minded about MidiTouch is its limitation of simple 4-side shapes. Why not incorporate an Islamic aesthetic to the controller and balance curves with angularity? Thus far, there's no topography to the controls you can make.

  • Peter Kirn

    Hey James,


    "…why modeling synths are so receptive to these matrices" — you mean the parameters? I think it's that the parameters themselves (stiffness, etc.) naturally map to two axes.

    But if I understand you correctly, adding other kinds of lattices – triangular, hexagonal, etc. – would be a great idea. I might steal that. Well, steal it from you, steal it from millenia of geometric tradition, etc. 😉

  • Formal


  • Craig8128

    Great article, one that will probably cost me some $$$.

    I've bought and twiddled with a lot of iPad music apps, and one thing I'd caution people to be aware of are neat apps that are the product of a single developer. I have a number of interesting apps that were, apparently, someone's brainchild until they got it working, put it up on the app store — and then moved on to something else.Promised updates and bug-fixes never materialize. If it's a free app, no big deal, but if you paid $5 or $10 or $15 for it — it's an expensive way to get frustrated.

    Not all apps are like this, but just be aware of it.

  • Joe

    @ Peter Kirn

    Many thanks for the reply – that clears a lot up. I do indeed have a second gen iPod touch and I think you're correct in saying it's underpowered. I just tried the free version of NLog; it lagged pretty badly and could only manage about five notes polyphony (and this is without any MIDI stuff attached). Nanostudio is better – and an established favourite of mine for public transit – but only has 8 notes polyphony which is a little short of what you'd want for a practice session. The GAIA is probably my first choice now, though I'm also liking the Novation Ultranova, which has a deeper architecture but, ironically, fewer physical controls. Also: a lovely shade of blue. Anyway, I'll be trying both of them hands on tomorrow. Thanks again for the advice.

  • Peter Kirn

    The Ultranova is very cool, too, for sure. Note that the Ultranova is class-compliant; the GAIA is not so requires drivers. 

    I still find an iPod touch or iPad useful for MIDI programming, by the way; it's killer for setting up some quick mappings or testing something out.

  • Hank Lepstein

    Are there any developers out there using the beta version of the OS that have said what changes Apple has made in the operating system that will effect us music makers? Are the power requirements still the same for the CCK?

    Will I be able to connect my Android phone to dump pictures onto my iPad? Just kidding. We can't have any of that goin on…

  • VJ Culture

    Nice timing on the article.

    I've been looking (passively) for an app that outputs LFOs via MIDI or OSC.

    Anyone have any suggestions?

    At NAMM this year I was expecting to see more mobile device integration. Either the big players are way behind or the small developers don't feel a need to attend NAMM.

  • cubestar

    An oldie but a goodie in the realm of USB synths is the X-Station. Very hands on, can be had cheap 2nd hand. Sounds better to me than Roland VAs. I think it's class-compliant also, I'll have to get a camera kit to test it.

  • loopstationzebra

    The Line6 MIDI Mobilizer is dead tech. I'd go with the Cam Conn Kit hands down. I see more support behind the cam conn kit at this point from the dev side. The MM was first out of the gate, but it requires it's own SDK. Devs are simply passing it by because it's just one more thing for them to have to spend time on. They are going to prioritize the CCK. The cool controller app MIDI Touch is a good example. Released in Nov, wireless and CCK support, no Line6 support. The list goes on…

  • Peter Kirn

    Power requirements: I don't expect power draw to be increased. It was decreased presumably to put a tighter leash on battery life. I could be wrong, but I don't think they're going to do that and then about-face. Developers would be unable to tell you because beta SDKs are covered by NDA, but that's a hardware thing, not an SDK thing, anyway.

    The MIDI Mobilizer isn't dead tech because of precisely this power issue. Without Camera Connection Kit support, the iPhone and iPod touch rely on that accessory. There are already apps that support it, and they're not going away. Line6 has even released an update to their private SDK.

    And you have to remember, there are still more iPod touches and iPhones (even just iPhones alone) out in the market than iPads, by a wide margin. We found dramatically more CDM readers own iPhones than iPads in our recent survey.

    So, unless the situation changes and CCK support shows up for the iPhone, expect Line6 to truck on. It's really a matter of whether MIDI is integral to your application. If it is, unfortunately, you'll have to support all you can; at least we have developer feedback that the Line6 API is very nice to use. If it's not, well, you don't really care, do you?

  • Peter Kirn

    @VJ Culture: I like the LFO idea. A no-brainer there will be if we can get some of the Pd-based apps out there, as there's already preliminary Core MIDI support…

  • bliss


    A stah is born. 😉

  • rondema

    Peter – your Soundprism wish has been granted!

  • Craig8128

    Can anyone offer me some advice on how to use the iPad to drive a software synthesizer on a macbook? I may be doing something wrong, but it's not working with the standard iPad 'sync' cable, and when I plug in the Apple Cam Connection kit, I find I need a type A male type A male USB cable, which I'm finding very uncommon and I'm concerned there's a reason for this.


  • Formal

    @ craig. You can not control PC apps with just a USB cable. You need some sort of midi interface both on the ipad and on the computer.

    You might try OSC

    or Wifi Midi.

    Those are both wireless options.

  • rondema

    Oops.. Should have credited that SoundPrism link to&nbsp ;

    Credit where credits due 😉

  • Jonah

    Are there any apps that use the coreMIDI wifi as part of iOS 4.2 and the camera connection to send MIDI in and out? 

    What I want to do is send MIDI from my laptop wirelessly to the ipod into a wired MIDI connection via the camera kit then into a synth and vice versa. I spent all last week searching, but couldn't find anything.

  • Jonah

    Haha, okay looks like MIDI TOUCH does this, but it's ipad only? whyyyyyy!! :)

  • Craig8128

    @Formal — seriously? I mean, I can plug my Axiom controller into my macbook via USB and play Ableton instruments. And I've got a USBMIDI cable doo-dad that seems to work well enough. I guess this is a naive question but — what is missing from the chain such that I can't use the iPad / camera connection kit / USB as a controller for a soft-synth?

  • Insilico

    Great article, thanks Peter. I just bought an iPad so this is very exciting to read. I've been looking for an app that I could control my hardware synthsbwith, in particular my blofeld. The iblofeld has just been released by icontrolmidi but it has a very poor GUI. it also only sends cc so can't access all the sysex parameters. I'm looking to send sysex from the iPad but I can't find it. The only options I've found are using touchosc with The Missing Link (extra hardware, costs $$$) or midi control app plus a midi translator (too much work/ too complicated) or alternatively using VNC to control a software editor. None of these are ideal… Where is the sysex for iPad???

  • Insilico

    Ive just been in discussions with the developer of midi touch. The next release will include sysex support!

    Finally I will be able to make an ipad touch editor for the blofeld, among others. 

  • Mark Kunoff

    Epic thread, Peter!

    It would be great to start a 'ipad performers' page, or noise page with "best practices" and "optimization" for performing live with an iPad.

    For example, one better turn off notifications while performing otherwise people really will say, "You WERE checking your email!"

  • Mark Kunoff

    Oh btw, you mention the dock connector as being very fragile. Did you mean the connector or the port?

    Do you have any recommendations on how to prevent potential damage?

  • Phil Hood

    Great article. Disagree with the first line, though. Creating on computer is often about assembling parts. But writing symphonies is more like being an architect and realizing a vision. And playing jazz is creating spontaneously in the moment. Or the computer can be played like an acoustic instrument, too. Cutting and pasting is just the path of least resistance for electronic musicians.

  • Mike Martin

    Almost every Casio keyboard introduced in the last two years is Class Compliant for USB MIDI. Works great with Apple's Camera kit, plus almost all Casio keyboards have an audio input so you can easily listen to the iPad in the stereo.

  • renderful

    Wow, thanks for the tip on StepPolyArp! Absolutely amazing sequencer.

  • Paul Nagle

    Helpful stuff, wish I'd read all this before buying my iPad 2 and making the stupid assumption that because Funkbox sent MIDI clock that the various DAWs would. 

    I was already resigned to the pain of getting stuff in and out having seen it in action but thought I could live with that.

    Now I guess it's a waiting game to see whether apps do start to appreciate the need for MIDI and interfacing with external gear or I'm left with a nice toy to use with Bebot, Brushes and Angry Birds…



  • Alwyn

    Great Post but can you clarify if you could use a USB male to USB male cable to connect a iPad with the camera connection kit ?

    This way its just a iPad a camera connection kit and a USB male to Male cable to get midi to my daw

  • Emmanuel

    Thanks for these great informations ! I have an usb audio interface Tascam us-122MKII, will I be able to connect and use it with my Ipad2 ? It seems no driver exists for it… Any solution or tip to suggest ? Many thanks in advance ! :)


  • nico

    Very nice article, thx for the mass of tests!

    We can also see on youtube the camera kit working with iphone 4

    I tried with different usb midi hardware:

    Iphone 4S ios 5.0–>KO

    Iphone 4 ios 4.3.3—>KO

    Ipad 1 ios 3.2.2—>KO

    Can you report the working conf and tweaks?

  • justonequestion

    Does anybody know if it's possible to send midi from any DAW (in my case Ableton Live) to an ipad?

    I'd like to send midi clips to the ipad and record it back in ableton. 

    Haven't found any information about this yet :(

  • yeatsie

    Anyone know how i can get my midi keyboard playing via my Roland UM-1G MIDI-USB interface on my Android A500 tablet? Any Android apps support it yet?

  • What Are The Latest PS3 games?

    Generally I don’t learn post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, quite nice article.

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  • Tpick

    Thank you for your post – I just shared it on my Facebook page. I am not able to get this feature working with my ipad2. And 2 of the Apple Genius’ (Richmond, BC store) claim it can’t be done, isn’t supported and know one else in the store has ever heard of it.
    I have, rather had a logiix 4 port usb powered hub, camera connector kit, M-Audio keyrig 49 and Garageband.

    I plugged the powered usb hub into the ipad2 via the camera connector and got a “device not supported message” (not word for word)
    I clicked ok and plugged the m-audio into the powered hub and the keyboard powered up but will not communicate with garageband.

    I saw another youtube video were a guy got the same setup I have to work, minus the powered hub.

    Maybe it’s my ipad2. What annoys me is Apple interest in this ‘feature’. I also sent one of the local music store and they don’t sell apple so they weren’t going to help and the midi/usb docking station that they sold for the ipad 1, they said they’ve had a 50% return rate on.

    Perhaps, one is just lucky to get one of the ipad2 that will support midi. However, if anyone has some insight into my problem I am grateful for the help.

    • Guest

      Try first connecting the camera connection kit to the ipad, before plugging in the USB connector into the camera connection kit. This often makes it work for some of my gear.

    • Peter Kirn

      Yeah, it seems like somehow the iPad’s USB firmware is not reading adequate power from the connected hub. I’d go with reversing the connection order. Note that there are also now some USB devices that are self-powered, I suspect to reduce this problem.

  • Sergey K

    Try new Professional Midi Controll, Midi Studio from Wiksnet Inc. Studio Features:-[CoreMidi]-[WI-FI]-[USB]-[True Velocity Sensitive ] (with the force of impact).-[Modulation]-[Drums]-[Faders]-[Knobs]-[Buttons]-[Touch pads]-[Two Keyboards]-[Different Keys Size].-[Custom Key Scale] – (Like: Major, Minor, Klezmer, etc…)

  • dingster

    Interesting article…but a quick question. I have been using TrakProDJ for controlling Traktor over the Wireless as a MIDI controller, but am getting the occasional audio drop out. I suspect (and have read elsewhere) that the wireless is causing this.

    Is it possible to simply connect (via the camera adaptor) USB to USB (ie iPad -> Camera Adaptor -> USB to USB Cable -> PC) and still retain the MIDI functionality? Or would I need some other kit/software?

    This is only a hobby thing, but until I decide whether I want to actually splash out on an actual controller, am looking at cheap alternatives.

    Thanks for your help.

  • Shawna Bell

    Is it possible to simply connect (via the camera adaptor) USB to USB (ie iPad -> Camera Adaptor -> USB to USB Cable -> PC) and still retain the MIDI functionality? Or would I need some other kit/software?

  • ravo888

    edirol um-1ex is not any longer available, could roland um-one be the replacement ?

  • Gabriel Mata Guzmán

    Do you know if the yamaha sy22 is compatible with garageband_?

  • Karl NNeighteen Finlay

    How do I get my iPad to recall the saved parameters of my cubase file? For instance if I use my iPad to control the output levels on the mixer, how do I get the midi to instantly tell the iPad what the parameters for the outputs are already set to when I load the project? Because the problem I’m getting is I open a project then have to move the faders on the iPad to exactly where they are on cubase. Thanks

  • bkrising

    I had instant success with no latency using the Apple camera adaptor, a M-Audio Midisport 1×1 midi interface and Roland A-800 controller with external power supply (wall wart). USB from the Roland controller cannot be used. The Midisport does require plugging into the traditional Midi in-Midi out plugs on the Roland controller, the USB end plugged into the iPad via the camera connector. I tried using USB directly from my Kurzweil PC3LE, and two similar Roland controllers into the camera adaptor with no results.
    I’m assuming the Midisport will work with any keyboard featuring tradtional midi in-midi out ports and the camera adaptor.
    The Midisport appears to be more substantial and less expensive ($39) than most of the interfaces I have looked at. Just a bit of luck. The Midisport was sitting in my garage for the last few years, a victim of upgrade. You may be able to find one on Ebay for less.

  • Ray

    Scratching my head to find a simple app that plays user samples triggered by external MIDI devices such as a D4 + pad. Any ideas? Searched high and low in app store and tried SampleLab but the triggering is too unreliable for live performance (one trigger per numerous hits!)…Help please…

  • Rich K.

    A great post and still useful.

    I’m using the iPad in my band to play a spot of MS-20, Polysix and IK iLectric from my Roland VK-7, and at home for the latter with a Privia PX-320. In both cases, all three apps sometimes drop out, hang or even crash, occassionally. Not saying I’m the fastest keyboardist out there, but I do tend to play some fast rifts, and it seems the iPad has trouble keeping up. I’m not sure if it’s the MIDI interface I’m using (an old e-Mu XMIDI 1×1) , the apps themselves or the iPad processing. Anyone in a similar bind who’d share some wisdom on this ?

  • Dudekeys

    i have an Turtle Beach usb midi cable, does it work using camera connection kit?

  • Momo Chaine

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    that board is a sale for me, lots of others also… i like to record to pc and use Reason… but gear i’d like to not have to use any pc… making power supplies is my 2nd least favorite activity.
    I am waiting for my kit, but has already designed new front panel graphics to print as a decal. My artwork is however an approximation made from the PCB-pictures and the shots of the box. العاب ماهر,العاب شمس,hguf

  • Ranoldus

    So….is a camera connection kit and a simple wire usb to midi enough to turn my old crappy keyboard with midi into something superb?

  • saliim

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