If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
It is hard to imagine that more than forty years ago, when MIDI was created, that the inventors could dream of the computing power available at our fingertips today. Forget a computer the size of a room or even a bulky desktop; today, MIDI can be connected to a smartphone. With this incredible technology, access to a cornucopia of instruments is available at the tap of an icon.
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and this component sends signals to other controllers such as keyboards or synthesizers, in order to be operated digitally from a computer or smartphone.
Understanding MIDI seems complex at first, but a relatively simple illustration defines its use quite clearly. Think about composing a song on a piano. The notes are recorded as audio, and the audio can be edited and manipulated to some degree. However, if a note is wrong, then it most likely has to be recorded again.
Now think about the same song recorded on a keyboard with MIDI. The computer records the song as information, not as audio. This transcription means that instead of playing the song on a piano, a different instrument entirely can be selected to play the composition. Simply, MIDI is data rather than audio, and that data is converted to audio during editing.
Since the recording is simply a data transmission, nearly every element can be manipulated, edited, and controlled. From the duration of the note, to the intensity, to the pitch, it is all completely open for creative interpretation. MIDI recordings are the framework upon which audio can be built.
In order to run a MIDI recording, you’ll need a reliable MIDI interface. The best MIDI interfaces allow the user to connect their instruments to their computer, or even their smartphone. One interface can be used for controlling things like DAWs (digital audio workstations), synthesizers, drum machines and any other device with a MIDI input.
We’ve rounded up some basic 1 x 1 MIDI interfaces, which will do the trick for sequencing and performing (note: if you’re planning to do more than that, you’ll want to consider MIDI interfaces with more ports).
Look for bus-powered interfaces, too, which means the unit is powered via USB rather than an AC cable. This is great for recording on the go.
The best MIDI interfaces also come with drivers included, so there is no need to install anything, making them a truly plug-and-play solution.
1. iConnect MIDI mio
The iConnect mio is expertly-crafted, granting tremendous usability. With USB and iOS compatibility the iConnect mio allows for on-demand creativity. As long as you have your smartphone and a controller, you’re ready to go. With no drivers needed, this is a great plug and play option.
PROS: The iOS compatibility is a great bonus.
CONS: Not serving Android is kind of a bummer.
2. M-Audio MIDIsport Uno
The M-Audio Uno packs all the processing punch you’d expect from something with the M-Audio logo. The Uno is a one in, one out MIDI, supporting 16 MIDI channels. The Uno is bus-powered, making it a seamless plug and play option great for travel bags or smaller home studio setups.
Simple and compact, this set comes with its own built-in USB and MIDI cables.
PROS: Solid build quality and rubberized for added durability.
CONS: Some report having issues with Windows connectivity.
3. FORE MIDI Interface
The Fore MIDI interface is an easy to use, bus-powered, one in, one out MIDI interface. The unit promotes high transmission speeds and is compatible with most Mac and Windows operating systems.
Low latency drivers help you get more accurate sound. The reliable construction ensures that the cables won’t bend or break even over long-term use.
PROS: The LED light shows connectivity with controller.
CONS: On rare occasions, the interface picks up interference from other equipment, such as radios and TVs nearby.