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Midi Recording

The Role of the MIDI Interface
by Ron Tongue

What is a MIDI interface anyways?

In order for the computer to properly communicate with a MIDI instrument or other MIDI device, it must know how to translate the data.

Think of this interface as kind of like your telephone.

Your telephone is able to translate incoming and outgoing data into an audio signal we can hear and understand.

A MIDI interface basically does the same thing, only it translates MIDI data back and fourth from a MIDI instrument to a computer. It's like the middleman in a business transaction.

There are several different types of MIDI interfaces. The most basic ones have only one input and one output. They are relatively inexpensive and very easy to use.

edirol MIDI Interface

The more advanced interfaces allow you to connect up to eight MIDI instruments and/or devices at one time. Considering that each keyboard can play up to 16 tracks. By connecting eight keyboards at one time, you will potentially have 128 instrument sounds.


More advanced MIDI interfaces are also valuable to musicians who use MIDI for film scoring with the ability to sync the audio to the video (such as the MOTU MIDI Timepiece AV).

NOTE!! Many new MIDI keyboards now have USB ports on them. This allows you to bypass a MIDI interface by directly connecting to your computer's USB port.

Can you connect more than one MIDI instrument to your computer at a time? Yes. You are only limited to the number of USB ports on your computer. And you can easily add more USB ports for cheap.

However, I do recommend using a multiple port interface for larger MIDI configurations.

Older Windows based machines usually had a joystick port on the back of the soundcard. This port is a wide 15-pin connector.

soundcard port

Not only does it accept joysticks, but it can also accept a special MIDI cable.

midi soundcard cable

If this is the case, you don't need a MIDI interface. Your soundcard is in fact your MIDI interface, which is already built into the computer. Since the advent of USB ports on computers, many joystick ports have been phased out.

There are several different MIDI interfaces available today. Of all the interfaces I've used over the years, I've never found one that I didn't like. They all did the trick.

If you're looking for a recommendation,
here is what I suggest:

To connect only one MIDI instrument to your computer, for dirt cheap (around $39.00), you can go with the M-Audio USB Uno 1x1 Interface.

m-audio uno

My only concern with this device is that if one of the cables became damaged, you would have to replace the entire unit. You are also limited to the length of the cables.

If you can afford a little more, I would recommend the M-Audio Midisport 2x2. It is currently going for around $69.00. There are several benefits to using this device over the Uno 1x1.

m-audio midisport

  1. It can connect two MIDI instruments at a time giving you 32 channels.
  2. It is more durable.
  3. You have to buy the MIDI cables separately, BUT, you can choose your desired length. And if one breaks, you only have to replace the one cable and not the entire interface.

If you're looking for a "middle of the road" device, then I highly recommend the MOTU Micro Lite USB Interface (around $139.00).


It has all the same benefits as the M-Audio Midisport but is capable of connecting 5 MIDI instruments at once giving you 80 MIDI channels.

If you're looking for a "top of the line" device, then I recommend the MOTU MIDI Timepiece AV.


I currently own this device in my home studio. Although it is more complicated to use, it is by far superior to any other interface I've seen.

It is capable of connecting 8 MIDI instruments at one time giving you a total of 128 MIDI channels. Not only that, it can sync other hardware devices and video components in your studio. Got film scoring on the horizon?

NOTE!! You also need to purchase 2 MIDI cables per instrument to connect the interface to your MIDI instrument (excluding the USB Uno).

What fun would a MIDI studio be without a MIDI instrument? Let's take a look at some.

midi last
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