Bluetooth has changed.

You know the old Bluetooth experience. Assuming you got the device connected in the first place – already a bit of a challenge – you could look forward to dropped connectivity, slow transfers and high latency, and dead batteries.

But that was years ago; Bluetooth has evolved. New devices are easy to connect, consume very little power, and perform reliably. And that means there’s no reason that a Bluetooth connection couldn’t replace a cable when it comes to MIDI. Given that mobile devices are slim and light, it means finally using gadgets like the iPad the way they were connected – as mobile devices, not tied down with cable spaghetti.

Now a Japanese startup is poised to make the promise of the latest Bluetooth Low Energy tech into reality. QUICCO SOUND has posted their first image, and the buzz I’m hearing suggests this little gizmo could deliver. There’s no English-language documentation yet, but we know that it’s getting attention from a major Japanese business daily and they’re starting crowd-funding.

Those two rectangles correspond to the MIDI in and out ports of your synth or other conventional MIDI instrument; plug them in, and it makes your device wireless. Then, you just need a tablet or phone app – or desktop – that can make the other end of the Bluetooth connection, and you’re set. With a growing crop of great iPad step sequencers and the like appearing, there’s some real possibility here. (We’ve been gawking at these at recent Berlin meetups of mobile app developers; in Berlin alone, there are already a couple of sequencers I’m eager to see released.)

Follow Quicco on their Facebook page:

Thanks to Sebastian at Audiobus for the heads-up.

  • Henry

    Would be great if you could have plenty of these and control them all from one sequencer on their respective receiving ends. It could – for some applications – even replace USB connections, which have been introduced to more and more synths on top of the regular MIDI ports. Less cables is usually a good thing.

    However, when everything goes wireless, we may get all sorts of other technical issues appearing that haven’t been there before. I suppose, even with smart segregation of frequencies and channels and whatnot, there is always a limit to what you can do.

    Plus, as long as you can’t really get power and audio wireless, one or two more cables don’t really make a difference. But, this is a nice idea anyway.

    • Peter Kirn

      Well, it makes some difference. So long as one end is wireless, you can move that end around – in this case, for instance, something like the iPad.

  • pinta_vodki

    This is great. In my band we are trying to use a vintage Octapad as a controller for a Mac. And it seems it will be a real hassle moving it back and forth between near the drummer and front of the stage when the drummer is busy and someone else needs to play it.

    This thing would solve the issue.

  • drbill

    I’ve always seen pretty poor latency with BT audio. Is this a problem with MIDI, too?

    • Peter Kirn

      In a word – no. Wireless is now capable of doing low-latency communication. Also seeing sync via wifi.

    • Dan Radin

      Well, sort of. Bluetooth has 150ms latency, which is not really usable for musical instrument applications. aptX Low Latency is a technology that reduces latency to a usable 32ms. There are a handful of Android devices that support it, but to use it with Mac/PC/iOS/non-supporting Android devices, you’ll need a dongle or some other hardware that receives the Bluetooth aptX Low Latency signal.

    • Sebastian

      There are already Bluetooth Low Energy Products out there that have less than 20ms latency, like the Jamstik or Miselu C.24. We’re not talking about audio here btw, we’re talking about MIDI latency which has a lot lower bandwidth.

    • Dan Radin

      Ok, I stand corrected, thanks.

    • Secret Base Design

      BT4.0 latency can be adjusted (power/performance tradeoff). Latency on iOS 7 is much better than iOS 6, and there’s room for Apple to tweak it further. We’e got a an app out for MIDI (Apollo MIDI over Bluetooth) that gets latency in the 20ms range between iOS devices, or between iOS and Mac. The latency isn’t as low as a hard-wired solution, but it’s pretty darned good.

    • Fyrd Instruments

      Latency is just the word used to describe a phenomenon: the delay between an action and its consequence. My point is: it depends on how you use the MIDI protocol. If a musical instrument sends MIDI data (notes on/off, velocity, pressure…) to a DAW for instance, the latency is really a big deal (big latency means your instrument will feel sloppy/not responsive). On the other hand, if you send MIDI sync messages (only), the latency will “just” create a small shift during the start phase (nothing unmanageable IMHO). Concerning sync, the jitter/drift phenomenon is way more complicated to handle than latency.

  • nudephotomusic

    I hope there’s a way to connect them device to device, so you can use them with hardware only setups. But even using a phone/tablet as a hub / router would be great.

    Hoping someday there’s a low-latency audio solution in a similar form factor. I’m aware how much bandwidth that would take – but who knows, maybe some future wireless protocol will be fast enough.

  • Jeffrey Horton
  • UMCorps

    Bluetooth -> OSC -> C/V anyone?

  • minphase

    Wouldn’t those rectangles prevent you from plugging into both MIDI IN and OUT ports on a machine that has tight spacing? Why not put the fat part in the middle ?

  • Big Mister Doom

    What are these iPad sequencers you speak of Peter? I am currently looking for a nice sequencer for iPad and wonder if I should wait… I suppose that begs the question – What is everyone currently using? Is there a best of class right now?