USB & MIDI: Everything you need to know to get it right (USB MIDI Host vs Interface explained)

USB & MIDI: Everything you need to know to get it right (USB MIDI Host vs Interface explained)


You'd think that new technology meant better... but while MIDI over USB is faster, bi-directional and offers a lot more routing flexibility compare

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You’d think that new technology meant better… but while MIDI over USB is faster, bi-directional and offers a lot more routing flexibility compared to plain old 5 PIN MIDI cables, it brings along one big flaw (sorry… feature…) of USB – the fact that one side needs to be a host and another a device. With that, one of the most beautiful features of MIDI was thrown out the window with USB MIDI: One USB device just cannot speak directly with another USB device :/

There’s a lot of confusion about connecting USB MIDI based devices. This video explores a few alternatives to connecting USB MIDI keyboards and controllers to synths and grooveboxes, and also takes a look at a cool wireless MIDI option over bluetooth.

Want to get more tips in one convenient place including those to come in the future? Check out my In-Complete Book of Electronic Music Ideas, Tips and Tricks (hint: it’s in-complete because it’s always being updated…):

► Patreon:


The Hobbytronics product is no longer available. Here are some USB MIDI Hosts I’ve not tried (affiliate links help the channel):
► ExcelValley:
► Kenton:
► iConnectivity Mio 4:
► RK005:
► BomeBox (non affiliate):

Free Mac Patch Bay software shown in the video:

USB MIDI interface cables:
► iConnectivity Mio – this is the one I bought and tested:
► This one is cheaper and seems well rated on Amazon:

A few Raspberry Pi tutorials:

Check out this cool touch screen interface for RPi as USB HOST by Georgios Giannoutsos Barkas:

Here’s a link to Yamaha’s Bluetooth to 5 PIN MIDI adapter:

Other gear used in the video:
► Novation Circuit:
► Maschine Mikro MK3: On Amazon ( or direct from NI (might save you on taxes depending where you are):
► Komplete M32: from Amazon ( or direct from NI (
► The wireless bluetooth keyboard is XKEY Air 25 ( and there’s a 37 key version (

Other places I hang out:
► Instagram:
► Web:
► Facebook:
► Twitter:

My music:
► Bandcamp:
► Spotify:
► Apple Music:

0:00 USB MIDI problems
1:00 Regular 5 PIN MIDI
1:30 USB: host & device
1:50 The device problem
3:00 Host vs. interface
3:40 Standalone hosts
5:00 Plugging it in right every time
6:30 Hooking it up
7:20 Using Raspberry Pi
7:50 BomeBox & others
8:20 Computer as host
9:50 Manipulating MIDI
10:10 Wireless MIDI
11:50 More MIDI tips

Want to email me personally?

► Ziv (at)

NOTE: Occasionally I’ll try out affiliate marketing and include affiliate links. This means that I may earn a commission when you click on or make purchases via affiliate links. The content of this clip is entirely my opinion, and was not paid for or dictated in any way by the company creating the gear. Without addressing the particulars of products shown here as they might be under NDA, gear shown on this channel may be either sent by the manufacturer, on loan for review or bought at a discount.



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    Very useful information. Thanks good stuff!

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    Could not get my akai ewi usb in ableton to control a hardware synth via usb as you did here with controller and digitakt. Anyway this is possible? Obviously the easiest and most expensive way is to get the ewi 4000s

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    I imagine you making art with the method of Pollock.

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    You know, the USB-A plug is 4-dimensional. The three dimensions of space are not enough – it also depends on WHEN you plug it in. Therefore I also often need 3 tries when I only have 2 options available.

    No, but thanks to your explanation. I will look at it the next time I connect a USB device.

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    You show both devices connected to the computer, with Ableton running, yet use Patchbay to connect and transpose them??? Sure, that's an option, but Ableton can do all that and more, even in it's crippled 'Light' version. Also, though you show the iConnectivity Mio 1 in your video, you don't show the Mio 2, which is much more capable. Check out iConnectivity if you have complicated midi connection issues. You can get solutions a bit cheaper than Bome Box if you don't need the translation features.

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    Why can’t everyone doing a ‘how to’ video explain it as clearly as you! I had exactly this question but the info was more confusing. Excellent.

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    MIDI best ! USB slow and plays with a delay and cannot play in real time.

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    Admittedly, I didn't watch the entire video, but here's my question. I'm using a roland drum module to connect to my laptop. The roland module has both USB out, and midi in/out. Is there a benefit to either of these over the other? Both would be going into my computer via USB. Just curious if there's any benefit of using either or

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    Great vid about linking devices – very useful. Not sure companies are 'evil' just because you can't be bothered to look at the USB connector though! Shouldn't ever need more than two tries even if you're guessing!

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    Great video! Please check for new Bluetooth MIDI Host solution – the WIDI Master. 🙂

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    Great video….very informative… But , can you tell me how I can plug a Fishmann Connect on my analog Synths or my Arturia midi Synth please ? Just an Usb to Midi cable works ? Or I need a usb/midi host ?/

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    I shouldn't have drank every time he said USB midi host

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    I bought a Midi Plus usb midi host from amazon, tried this same same setup and it's not working, any suggestions? I'm using the yamaha modx and the mpc one. Thanks.

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    For the last (bluetooth) part, do you need the iPad to be around to continue to serve as the host for the 2 synths/controllers?

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    I think, maybe you can help me. I have an "MPC one" and a Yamaha MODX6. Traditional midi is messing up my pitch bend wheel (gets stuck in new pitch). Someone told me, to fix the problem, use ISB. Problem is, both my devices have USB type B. What do I do? Hope you can help, thanks!

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    This vid helps me as I am quite a MIDI noob.

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    Thank you for this video! After viewing this I purchased the MIDI host from Hobbytronics. Works great and was about $60.
    Now I can use my Nektar controller, which only has the USB port with my Roland Boutiques, IPad, QY70, etc.

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    Hey I have a question , I have a Roland go keys which has midi usb out , it is a stand alone piano but has the MIDI usb out , do I still need a usb host or can I use the normal midi to usb cable?

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    Reply to my question and gain a sub! XD
    Would you just happen to know how to get the KAT kmp1 drum pads to control the on-board drum machine of an old school Boss BR1600 recorder? The buttons are lame and hard to use so I want to use the Kat for the large pads to create drum tracks.
    I connected the midi cable to both but nothing? Something inside the boss to change settings on? I can't find it?

    I will soon ditch my old school digital recorder and start using a daw and pc but I have too many songs I have been working on over the years on the boss to ditch it yet.
    Learned a lot here! Thx