midimini

“It was acceptable in the 80s…”

The standard MIDI DIN cable – that’s the big honkin’ connector you use on most of your MIDI gear – has become the bane of music hardware makers. The problem is, as gear has gotten smaller, the standard DIN connector hasn’t. And that’s a big problem, literally. To add a MIDI port to a device, you need to not only have enough clearance for the connector itself, but the whole around the port and the physical assembly that contains it. Speaking as a hardware maker, that takes up space you can’t even see from the outside.

As a result, a lot of hardware that should have had MIDI in and out doesn’t, to save room. Or it’s forced to be thicker than it needs to be. Or it squeezes out other useful ports.

To be clear, on devices that can fit a MIDI DIN, it still makes sense. It’s a standard part, you’ve got the cables, you’ve got things to plug it into, and the connector is safe to use. But if it simply won’t fit, something else is a must. And that’s why other connectors are already shipping on gear. Imagine if they were all interoperable.

It doesn’t have to be this way. S-Video could have become a replacement in the 90s, back when we used such things. (It’s actually also a DIN connector, with a more-than-enough 4-pin arrangement, but it’s smaller.)

Now, you may have noticed a lot of gear includes minijacks onboard. A stereo minijack (3.5mm “miniklinken”) connector has three pins – and MIDI also has three pins. (Okay, it has five, but two are unused.) Look at the breakouts included in the box, and what you’ll see is a standard 3-pin stereo minijack on one end, and then a horse-drawn buggy taped to a telegraph machine DIN connector on the other.

But here’s where things get interesting. Imagine you have two pieces of gear, each with these minijack-to-DIN breakouts. And you want to connect them together. What would happen if you skipped the little DIN dongles and ran an ordinary stereo minijack cable between them?

Well, whether it worked or not would depend on how that minijack connector itself was wired. So, I asked a few manufacturers, off the record and unofficially, what they were doing. It wasn’t hard to convince people to talk about it; anyone who has ever dealt with this problem dreams of ditching DIN.

It turns out most of them are using the same wiring – seen above.

Pin 1 – Tip
Pin 2 – Sleeve
Pin 3 – Ring

So long as you have two pieces of gear wired this way, you can connect them with a standard stereo minijack audio cable (that’s a single stereo minijack at both ends). It’s exactly the same as using a MIDI cable.

In this category:
IK Multimedia (iRIG MIDI – that’s the diagram at top)
Novation (such as Launchpad Pro)
Arturia (such as BeatStep Pro)

See this discussion of the iRIG MIDI on Sound on Sound, from way back in 2011 (meaning it’s time to do this, folks):
D.I.Y. MIDI/5-pin DIN to stereo mini Jack leads

Unfortunately, one other key maker is an outlier. Korg, which uses minijacks on its SQ1 sequencer and new ElecTribes, swaps sleeve and ring, unless I’ve got the wrong information. As long as you’re comfortable soldering your own cables, you could solve that, but it means there isn’t an immediate de facto standard.

On the other hand, it’s already pretty terrific that a lot of the stuff you’d immediately want to use hit at the same wiring at random. (No one, to my knowledge, has ever published something like this.)

So, rather than wait any longer, I think it makes sense to go public. Rather than wait for a standard, all you really need is for manufacturers to start using this same wiring. And by all means, don’t eliminate MIDI from a product just because DIN won’t fit. The “post PC” age is turning out to be more reliant on MIDI than the one before it, from iPads to all-hardware live rigs.

If nothing else, if you make DIY hardware, you can start doing this now. And you can plug your custom synth or whatever directly into a Launchpad Pro or BeatStep Pro (just to name two) and start playing it.

That’s a pretty cool accidental standard. So maybe we should make it less accidental.

Comments welcome. And if you have hardware with minijacks, I didn’t cover all of them. I’d love to hear what you’re doing.

  • I pushed this idea heavily when I was working for a manufacturer recently and even donated my irig midi to the cause, as I no longer had use for it. I’m unsure how seriously they took me, but it would be nice to see it come to fruition on some new products.

  • I pushed this idea heavily when I was working for a manufacturer recently and even donated my irig midi to the cause, as I no longer had use for it. I’m unsure how seriously they took me, but it would be nice to see it come to fruition on some new products.

  • I pushed this idea heavily when I was working for a manufacturer recently and even donated my irig midi to the cause, as I no longer had use for it. I’m unsure how seriously they took me, but it would be nice to see it come to fruition on some new products.

  • Peter

    Of course Korg is the standard outlier. Theyve been going left versus right for years.

    • Peter

      Also, some midi devices uses more than three pins, so you might not be able to support all devices with an adapter cable:

      http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/9651/gcpmidiout.gif

      • circumstance

        i have a few midi solutions boxes that get their power over midi. but they don’t work if i use them with my faderfox devices (with the minijack midi connector) — i haven’t explored fully but does your diagram explain it? (I know, i know…i should contact faderfox directly πŸ™‚ )

        • It does indeed. When I said MIDI uses “only three pins” I should have qualified – “for data.”

      • Dan Phillips

        For any cable carrying power, a TRS-style jack isn’t appropriate anyway. Multiple pins are much safer, ensuring that power isn’t temporarily connected to the wrong part of the circuit.

        • Fayek Helmi

          reallllly good part actually!

        • Correct, but here they’re just using data..

          • Dan Phillips

            The diagram above, to which I was responding, shows power on 1&3/6&7 – that’s what they’re using the extra pins for!

    • Peter

      anyways my dream device would be something like-

      – 1/2 ru size device
      – with 4 usb midi jacks
      – 8×8 din midi i/o on a dsub25 or something, and then you can make the end points be din or stereo trs or whatever you want. Bonus if they do Dinsync!
      – Midipal type rules and standalone presets, or little midi generation apps and routings
      – a little cv out section with gate trigger and two cv outs.

  • Peter

    Of course Korg is the standard outlier. Theyve been going left versus right for years.

    • Peter

      Also, some midi devices uses more than three pins, so you might not be able to support all devices with an adapter cable:

      http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/9651/gcpmidiout.gif

      • circumstance

        i have a few midi solutions boxes that get their power over midi. but they don’t work if i use them with my faderfox devices (with the minijack midi connector) — i haven’t explored fully but does your diagram explain it? (I know, i know…i should contact faderfox directly πŸ™‚ )

        • It does indeed. When I said MIDI uses “only three pins” I should have qualified – “for data.”

      • Dan Phillips

        For any cable carrying power, a TRS-style jack isn’t appropriate anyway. Multiple pins are much safer, ensuring that power isn’t temporarily connected to the wrong part of the circuit.

        • Fayek Helmi

          reallllly good part actually!

        • Correct, but here they’re just using data..

          • Dan Phillips

            The diagram above, to which I was responding, shows power on 1&3/6&7 – that’s what they’re using the extra pins for!

    • Peter

      anyways my dream device would be something like-

      – 1/2 ru size device
      – with 4 usb midi jacks
      – 8×8 din midi i/o on a dsub25 or something, and then you can make the end points be din or stereo trs or whatever you want. Bonus if they do Dinsync!
      – Midipal type rules and standalone presets, or little midi generation apps and routings
      – a little cv out section with gate trigger and two cv outs.

  • Peter

    Of course Korg is the standard outlier. Theyve been going left versus right for years.

    • Peter

      Also, some midi devices uses more than three pins, so you might not be able to support all devices with an adapter cable:

      http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/9651/gcpmidiout.gif

      • circumstance

        i have a few midi solutions boxes that get their power over midi. but they don’t work if i use them with my faderfox devices (with the minijack midi connector) — i haven’t explored fully but does your diagram explain it? (I know, i know…i should contact faderfox directly πŸ™‚ )

        • It does indeed. When I said MIDI uses “only three pins” I should have qualified – “for data.”

      • Dan Phillips

        For any cable carrying power, a TRS-style jack isn’t appropriate anyway. Multiple pins are much safer, ensuring that power isn’t temporarily connected to the wrong part of the circuit.

        • Fayek Helmi

          reallllly good part actually!

        • Correct, but here they’re just using data..

          • Dan Phillips

            The diagram above, to which I was responding, shows power on 1&3/6&7 – that’s what they’re using the extra pins for!

    • Peter

      anyways my dream device would be something like-

      – 1/2 ru size device
      – with 4 usb midi jacks
      – 8×8 din midi i/o on a dsub25 or something, and then you can make the end points be din or stereo trs or whatever you want. Bonus if they do Dinsync!
      – Midipal type rules and standalone presets, or little midi generation apps and routings
      – a little cv out section with gate trigger and two cv outs.

  • BLEO

    The first time I ever saw this in action was back in 2008 when my dear friend trash80 stuck an arduino in a GameBoy to rock MIDI. This method was dubbed “Taco MIDI.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwrMuOA0VnY

  • BLEO

    The first time I ever saw this in action was back in 2008 when my dear friend trash80 stuck an arduino in a GameBoy to rock MIDI. This method was dubbed “Taco MIDI.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwrMuOA0VnY

  • BLEO

    The first time I ever saw this in action was back in 2008 when my dear friend trash80 stuck an arduino in a GameBoy to rock MIDI. This method was dubbed “Taco MIDI.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwrMuOA0VnY

  • Will

    > The β€œpost PC” age is turning out to be more reliant on MIDI than the one before it, from iPads to all-hardware live rigs.

    Bam. Why I read CDM. Simple yet spot-on observation that would likely only come out of the mouth of a software user+hardware user+long-time watcher+maker.

    +10 to this whole endeavor. MIDI remains wonderful; DIN connectors have long outlived their welcome.

    • Yermom

      I’m fine with DIN. I see what people are saying about smaller devices, but most of the time there is room for MIDI DIN ports and they are better connectors for a multitude of reasons. For one, it’s better physical coupling that will not allow as much side to side movement that can result in breaking plugs or sockets.

      • Genjutsushi

        Yeah I think they have been dropped on a lot of gear not because of space, but because of cost. Things like the simple oxygen 8 by m-audio have lost their ports in an attempt to hit a lower price point to the competition

        • Bingo. Yeah, the 3.5mm jack is a lot cheaper than a DIN.

          And space combined with cost is really a deal-breaker.

      • No need to kill DIN – I don’t think you could if you tried. I’m really suggesting that a standardized minijack would make it a no-brainer to include MIDI on more compact gear, and could mean easy inter-connects without special dongles.

        • Yermom

          I know Line 6 and Korg have DIN to stereo minijack cables. Not sure if the follow the same convention, but there definitely is a precedent. I do think the Line 6 ones are 2.5mm though.

  • Will

    > The β€œpost PC” age is turning out to be more reliant on MIDI than the one before it, from iPads to all-hardware live rigs.

    Bam. Why I read CDM. Simple yet spot-on observation that would likely only come out of the mouth of a software user+hardware user+long-time watcher+maker.

    +10 to this whole endeavor. MIDI remains wonderful; DIN connectors have long outlived their welcome.

    • Yermom

      I’m fine with DIN. I see what people are saying about smaller devices, but most of the time there is room for MIDI DIN ports and they are better connectors for a multitude of reasons. For one, it’s better physical coupling that will not allow as much side to side movement that can result in breaking plugs or sockets.

      • Genjutsushi

        Yeah I think they have been dropped on a lot of gear not because of space, but because of cost. Things like the simple oxygen 8 by m-audio have lost their ports in an attempt to hit a lower price point to the competition

        • Bingo. Yeah, the 3.5mm jack is a lot cheaper than a DIN.

          And space combined with cost is really a deal-breaker.

      • No need to kill DIN – I don’t think you could if you tried. I’m really suggesting that a standardized minijack would make it a no-brainer to include MIDI on more compact gear, and could mean easy inter-connects without special dongles.

        • Yermom

          I know Line 6 and Korg have DIN to stereo minijack cables. Not sure if the follow the same convention, but there definitely is a precedent. I do think the Line 6 ones are 2.5mm though.

  • Will

    > The β€œpost PC” age is turning out to be more reliant on MIDI than the one before it, from iPads to all-hardware live rigs.

    Bam. Why I read CDM. Simple yet spot-on observation that would likely only come out of the mouth of a software user+hardware user+long-time watcher+maker.

    +10 to this whole endeavor. MIDI remains wonderful; DIN connectors have long outlived their welcome.

    • Yermom

      I’m fine with DIN. I see what people are saying about smaller devices, but most of the time there is room for MIDI DIN ports and they are better connectors for a multitude of reasons. For one, it’s better physical coupling that will not allow as much side to side movement that can result in breaking plugs or sockets.

      • Genjutsushi

        Yeah I think they have been dropped on a lot of gear not because of space, but because of cost. Things like the simple oxygen 8 by m-audio have lost their ports in an attempt to hit a lower price point to the competition

        • Bingo. Yeah, the 3.5mm jack is a lot cheaper than a DIN.

          And space combined with cost is really a deal-breaker.

      • No need to kill DIN – I don’t think you could if you tried. I’m really suggesting that a standardized minijack would make it a no-brainer to include MIDI on more compact gear, and could mean easy inter-connects without special dongles.

        • Yermom

          I know Line 6 and Korg have DIN to stereo minijack cables. Not sure if the follow the same convention, but there definitely is a precedent. I do think the Line 6 ones are 2.5mm though.

  • Robin Parmar

    I like this sort of thinking. But minijacks are notorious for their failure rate, and the sockets are even worse. I suggest instead the mini three-pin locking connectors found on things like my AKG headphones. I have no idea what they are called! But they work forever and are a lot smaller than DIN connectors.

    • jblk

      I like this idea a lot!

    • PNWskier

      Mini XLR, I think?

    • Kent

      They are Lemo connectors. They are very difficult to solder in the field.

      • D

        Soldering outdoors, despite being well ventilated, is not recommended.

        • Kent

          I hope that this was a poor attempt at a joke. If not, sheesh…

          • I thought it was a well funny joke actually

  • Robin Parmar

    I like this sort of thinking. But minijacks are notorious for their failure rate, and the sockets are even worse. I suggest instead the mini three-pin locking connectors found on things like my AKG headphones. I have no idea what they are called! But they work forever and are a lot smaller than DIN connectors.

    • jblk

      I like this idea a lot!

    • PNWskier

      Mini XLR, I think?

    • Kent

      They are Lemo connectors. They are very difficult to solder in the field.

      • D

        Soldering outdoors, despite being well ventilated, is not recommended.

        • Kent

          I hope that this was a poor attempt at a joke. If not, sheesh…

          • I thought it was a well funny joke actually

  • I like this sort of thinking. But minijacks are notorious for their failure rate, and the sockets are even worse. I suggest instead the mini three-pin locking connectors found on things like my AKG headphones. I have no idea what they are called! But they work forever and are a lot smaller than DIN connectors.

    • jblk

      I like this idea a lot!

    • PNWskier

      Mini XLR, I think?

    • Kent

      They are Lemo connectors. They are very difficult to solder in the field.

      • D

        Soldering outdoors, despite being well ventilated, is not recommended.

        • Kent

          I hope that this was a poor attempt at a joke. If not, sheesh…

          • I thought it was a well funny joke actually

  • DJ Hombre

    The Yamaha Tenori-On has a cute mini-MIDI socket to handle both MIDI in&out data. Only useful if you have the corresponding cable which busts it out into the ‘honking great MIDI’ jacks we’re all used to.

  • DJ Hombre

    The Yamaha Tenori-On has a cute mini-MIDI socket to handle both MIDI in&out data. Only useful if you have the corresponding cable which busts it out into the ‘honking great MIDI’ jacks we’re all used to.

  • DJ Hombre

    The Yamaha Tenori-On has a cute mini-MIDI socket to handle both MIDI in&out data. Only useful if you have the corresponding cable which busts it out into the ‘honking great MIDI’ jacks we’re all used to.

  • beatboxing

    I wish we’d just use the already ubiquitous USB or RJ45. Whether you just use them as a physical conduit for serial or actually made a transport stack carrying serial data, just give us one less cable to worry about. I’d say XLR as a distant 3rd.

  • beatboxing

    I wish we’d just use the already ubiquitous USB or RJ45. Whether you just use them as a physical conduit for serial or actually made a transport stack carrying serial data, just give us one less cable to worry about. I’d say XLR as a distant 3rd.

  • beatboxing

    I wish we’d just use the already ubiquitous USB or RJ45. Whether you just use them as a physical conduit for serial or actually made a transport stack carrying serial data, just give us one less cable to worry about. I’d say XLR as a distant 3rd.

  • Rafael Marfil

    Nice idea! Pplease also manufacture the adapters to keep using gear with DIN connectors. Thanks for the article!

  • Rafael Marfil

    Nice idea! Pplease also manufacture the adapters to keep using gear with DIN connectors. Thanks for the article!

  • Nice idea! Pplease also manufacture the adapters to keep using gear with DIN connectors. Thanks for the article!

  • Colin Fraser

    I’ve been using mini-jacks for MIDI on my MIDIBass 303 interface since 2004.
    They do a great job.

  • Colin Fraser

    I’ve been using mini-jacks for MIDI on my MIDIBass 303 interface since 2004.
    They do a great job.

  • Colin Fraser

    I’ve been using mini-jacks for MIDI on my MIDIBass 303 interface since 2004.
    They do a great job.

  • lala

    Let’s go with mini jacks.
    I won’t miss big old 5 pin.
    And they are cheap. πŸ™‚

  • lala

    Let’s go with mini jacks.
    I won’t miss big old 5 pin.
    And they are cheap. πŸ™‚

  • lala

    Let’s go with mini jacks.
    I won’t miss big old 5 pin.
    And they are cheap. πŸ™‚

  • slabman

    RJ-11. Also – someone invent small, decent locking power connectors

  • slabman

    RJ-11. Also – someone invent small, decent locking power connectors

  • dyscode

    from all choices mini-jacks _always_ have the worst solutions and always will be. I support the RJ11 alternative. Have yet a RJ11 connection to fail me.

    • D

      Heathen! RJ45 is the one true god.

      • dyscode

        Oops, your right. Typo. I actually meant RJ45! and AVB instead of,… well everything else. πŸ™‚

  • dyscode

    from all choices mini-jacks _always_ have the worst solutions and always will be. I support the RJ11 alternative. Have yet a RJ11 connection to fail me.

    PS: Typo, it should be RJ45, not RJ11

    • D

      Heathen! RJ45 is the one true god.

      • dyscode

        Oops, your right. Typo. I actually meant RJ45! and AVB instead of,… well everything else. πŸ™‚

  • dyscode

    from all choices mini-jacks _always_ have the worst solutions and always will be. I support the RJ11 alternative. Have yet a RJ11 connection to fail me.

    PS: Typo, it should be RJ45, not RJ11

    • D

      Heathen! RJ45 is the one true god.

      • dyscode

        Oops, your right. Typo. I actually meant RJ45! and AVB instead of,… well everything else. πŸ™‚

  • Eric Beam

    I support this.. It is inline with the more common MIDI over XLR extenders. This is my usual pin-out below.

    The text pin-out above should read out.

    Pin 4 – Tip
    Pin 2 – Sleeve
    Pin 4 – Ring

  • Eric Beam

    I support this.. It is inline with the more common MIDI over XLR extenders. This is my usual pin-out below.

    The text pin-out above should read out.

    Pin 4 – Tip
    Pin 2 – Sleeve
    Pin 4 – Ring

  • Eric Beam

    I support this.. It is inline with the more common MIDI over XLR extenders. This is my usual pin-out below.

    The text pin-out above should read out.

    Pin 4 – Tip
    Pin 2 – Sleeve
    Pin 4 – Ring

  • Paul Lehrman

    a) Minijacks suck and break way too easily.
    b) Imagine plugging your earbuds into a MIDI minijack. Ouch! (but your dog might like it).
    c) Imagine plugging a MIDI device into your iPhone’s audio jack. Apple will NOT honor your warranty.
    The 5-pin DIN was chosen because the potential for confusion with other types of signals was very low. If I were in the hardware business I would be horrified at the amount of customer support I would have to do for people who got confused about what goes into where. Yes, MIDI jacks are a bit cumbersome, but they’re not much bigger than USB jacks, and mechanically they work really well, considering they don’t have locks.
    On the other hand, those mini-XLRs that AKG headphones use are awfully cute.

    • telstar

      Back when MIDI was invented, a lot of audio gear was using the 5-pin DIN as well. Plenty of confusion potential.

  • Paul Lehrman

    a) Minijacks suck and break way too easily.
    b) Imagine plugging your earbuds into a MIDI minijack. Ouch! (but your dog might like it).
    c) Imagine plugging a MIDI device into your iPhone’s audio jack. Apple will NOT honor your warranty.
    The 5-pin DIN was chosen because the potential for confusion with other types of signals was very low. If I were in the hardware business I would be horrified at the amount of customer support I would have to do for people who got confused about what goes into where. Yes, MIDI jacks are a bit cumbersome, but they’re not much bigger than USB jacks, and mechanically they work really well, considering they don’t have locks.
    On the other hand, those mini-XLRs that AKG headphones use are awfully cute.

    • telstar

      Back when MIDI was invented, a lot of audio gear was using the 5-pin DIN as well. Plenty of confusion potential.

  • Paul Lehrman

    a) Minijacks suck and break way too easily.
    b) Imagine plugging your earbuds into a MIDI minijack. Ouch! (but your dog might like it).
    c) Imagine plugging a MIDI device into your iPhone’s audio jack. Apple will NOT honor your warranty.
    The 5-pin DIN was chosen because the potential for confusion with other types of signals was very low. If I were in the hardware business I would be horrified at the amount of customer support I would have to do for people who got confused about what goes into where. Yes, MIDI jacks are a bit cumbersome, but they’re not much bigger than USB jacks, and mechanically they work really well, considering they don’t have locks.
    On the other hand, those mini-XLRs that AKG headphones use are awfully cute.

    • telstar

      Back when MIDI was invented, a lot of audio gear was using the 5-pin DIN as well. Plenty of confusion potential.

  • ranzrrx

    I go a little offtopic, but I have an old Emagic EMI 2|6 (usb audio card) with MIDI but without MIDI connector! It has just 2 RCA connectors (Spdif). The unit has this connectors labeled as MIDI (sharing label with the spdifs), so I think there were a custom cable included that I don’t have. I would like to build my own cable. Any help?

    • Steven Henry

      Heh, I had both the 2|6 and 6|2 back in the day and was thinking about the midi connecters as i was reading the article… how did that work with a mono RCA connector? the cables were really short as I remember (15cm?), so maybe they didn’t need the shield?

      Maybe give it a go with pin 4 to the tip and 5 to the ring..

      • ranzrrx

        http://files.soniccdn.com/imagehosting/fd/997_640.jpg

        cool! do you have the cable to check pineage with a multimeter in contuction mode beeper?

        • ranzrrx

          PS: I still using my card with the Jazzmedia driver on the up to date OSX Yosemite

          • Steven Henry

            damn! i gave mine away (without the cables :-D) when I switched to intel and there was no drivers… miss that 2|6 though, it was perfect for hooking up to dj mixers.

          • ranzrrx

            me too. I do the same with the 6|2 10 years ago. But some months ago I get the 2|6 on a friend studio obviously abandoned and full of dust.
            thanks again!

        • Steven Henry

          lucky i’m a cable hoarder! tested it there and it’s the other way round… so, 4 to the ring, 5 to the tip. the rest disconnected.

          • ranzrrx

            cool thanks man!!

  • ranzrrx

    I go a little offtopic, but I have an old Emagic EMI 2|6 (usb audio card) with MIDI but without MIDI connector! It has just 2 RCA connectors (Spdif). The unit has this connectors labeled as MIDI (sharing label with the spdifs), so I think there were a custom cable included that I don’t have. I would like to build my own cable. Any help?

    • Steven Henry

      Heh, I had both the 2|6 and 6|2 back in the day and was thinking about the midi connecters as i was reading the article… how did that work with a mono RCA connector? the cables were really short as I remember (15cm?), so maybe they didn’t need the shield?

      Maybe give it a go with pin 4 to the tip and 5 to the ring..

      • ranzrrx

        http://files.soniccdn.com/imagehosting/fd/997_640.jpg

        cool! do you have the cable to check pineage with a multimeter in contuction mode beeper?

        • ranzrrx

          PS: I still using my card with the Jazzmedia driver on the up to date OSX Yosemite

          • Steven Henry

            damn! i gave mine away (without the cables :-D) when I switched to intel and there was no drivers… miss that 2|6 though, it was perfect for hooking up to dj mixers.

          • ranzrrx

            me too. I do the same with the 6|2 10 years ago. But some months ago I get the 2|6 on a friend studio obviously abandoned and full of dust.
            thanks again!

        • Steven Henry

          lucky i’m a cable hoarder! tested it there and it’s the other way round… so, 4 to the ring, 5 to the tip. the rest disconnected.

          • ranzrrx

            cool thanks man!!

  • ranzrrx

    I go a little offtopic, but I have an old Emagic EMI 2|6 (usb audio card) with MIDI but without MIDI connector! It has just 2 RCA connectors (Spdif). The unit has this connectors labeled as MIDI (sharing label with the spdifs), so I think there were a custom cable included that I don’t have. I would like to build my own cable. Any help?

    • Steven Henry

      Heh, I had both the 2|6 and 6|2 back in the day and was thinking about the midi connecters as i was reading the article… how did that work with a mono RCA connector? the cables were really short as I remember (15cm?), so maybe they didn’t need the shield?

      Maybe give it a go with pin 4 to the tip and 5 to the ring..

      • ranzrrx

        http://files.soniccdn.com/imagehosting/fd/997_640.jpg

        cool! do you have the cable to check pineage with a multimeter in contuction mode beeper?

        • ranzrrx

          PS: I still using my card with the Jazzmedia driver on the up to date OSX Yosemite

          • Steven Henry

            damn! i gave mine away (without the cables :-D) when I switched to intel and there was no drivers… miss that 2|6 though, it was perfect for hooking up to dj mixers.

          • ranzrrx

            me too. I do the same with the 6|2 10 years ago. But some months ago I get the 2|6 on a friend studio obviously abandoned and full of dust.
            thanks again!

        • Steven Henry

          lucky i’m a cable hoarder! tested it there and it’s the other way round… so, 4 to the ring, 5 to the tip. the rest disconnected.

          • ranzrrx

            cool thanks man!!

  • Crazepan

    This is something interesting ,other than limiting costs,it could create new way of thinking-projecting.Thumbs up for CDM

  • Crazepan

    This is something interesting ,other than limiting costs,it could create new way of thinking-projecting.Thumbs up for CDM

  • Crazepan

    This is something interesting ,other than limiting costs,it could create new way of thinking-projecting.Thumbs up for CDM

  • Stag

    Yes, please yes! We’ve scrapped entire products because of this issue!

    Have considered mini-din and mini-jacks but this means products need to ship with an adapter cable that needs to be readily available and cheap. Which it would be if it was a standard hookup… how do we solve this? Is anything available?

  • Stag

    Yes, please yes! We’ve scrapped entire products because of this issue!

    Have considered mini-din and mini-jacks but this means products need to ship with an adapter cable that needs to be readily available and cheap. Which it would be if it was a standard hookup… how do we solve this? Is anything available?

  • Stag

    Yes, please yes! We’ve scrapped entire products because of this issue!

    Have considered mini-din and mini-jacks but this means products need to ship with an adapter cable that needs to be readily available and cheap. Which it would be if it was a standard hookup… how do we solve this? Is anything available?

  • Vladimir Mayakovski

    hm, and what if the firmware of the chip intended to drive MIDI can identify OSC, and use that instead, and fall back on midi only if there is no OSC compliant device on the other end? OSC is higher resolution, faster and human readable, why isn’t it used more oftenly?

    you could also use stereo 2.5mm jacks for midi, even smaller, and you cannot jam audio cable in it by accident. the only problem with 2.5 and 3.5mm jacks, as most of eurorack owners already know, are not the connectors known for their longevity, but at least they can be found anywhere

  • Vladimir Mayakovski

    hm, and what if the firmware of the chip intended to drive MIDI can identify OSC, and use that instead, and fall back on midi only if there is no OSC compliant device on the other end? OSC is higher resolution, faster and human readable, why isn’t it used more oftenly?

    you could also use stereo 2.5mm jacks for midi, even smaller, and you cannot jam audio cable in it by accident. the only problem with 2.5 and 3.5mm jacks, as most of eurorack owners already know, are not the connectors known for their longevity, but at least they can be found anywhere

  • Vladimir Mayakovski

    hm, and what if the firmware of the chip intended to drive MIDI can identify OSC, and use that instead, and fall back on midi only if there is no OSC compliant device on the other end? OSC is higher resolution, faster and human readable, why isn’t it used more oftenly?

    you could also use stereo 2.5mm jacks for midi, even smaller, and you cannot jam audio cable in it by accident. the only problem with 2.5 and 3.5mm jacks, as most of eurorack owners already know, are not the connectors known for their longevity, but at least they can be found anywhere

  • Alex Vyverman

    Something important to note, midi connectors are optically isolated. This is a very important way of avoiding ground loops in the unbalanced nature of most midi gear.
    USB midi is already making a lot of problems by omitting this aspect (because most people don’t understand basic grounding schemes in audio)

  • Alex Vyverman

    Something important to note, midi connectors are optically isolated. This is a very important way of avoiding ground loops in the unbalanced nature of most midi gear.
    USB midi is already making a lot of problems by omitting this aspect (because most people don’t understand basic grounding schemes in audio)

  • Alex Vyverman

    Something important to note, midi connectors are optically isolated. This is a very important way of avoiding ground loops in the unbalanced nature of most midi gear.
    USB midi is already making a lot of problems by omitting this aspect (because most people don’t understand basic grounding schemes in audio)

  • Pongo

    I am wary of having dissimilar functions represented by the same kind of connectors. What would happen if 3.5mm headphones were accidentally plugged into a MIDI jack? Would the headphones survive? Like Robin Parmar below suggests, the MINI XLR is a great idea, especially with the locking button the AKG headphones haveβ€”as long as nobody is using it for highly sensitive and highly expensive microphones!

    • foljs

      “””What would happen if 3.5mm headphones were accidentally plugged into a MIDI jack? “””

      Nothing.

      • Pongo

        Despite the fact that it’s a current-loop device intended to drive the LED of an opto-isolator? Well, I’ll defer to your electrical engineering expertise.

  • Pongo

    I am wary of having dissimilar functions represented by the same kind of connectors. What would happen if 3.5mm headphones were accidentally plugged into a MIDI jack? Would the headphones survive? Like Robin Parmar below suggests, the MINI XLR is a great idea, especially with the locking button the AKG headphones haveβ€”as long as nobody is using it for highly sensitive and highly expensive microphones!

    • foljs

      “””What would happen if 3.5mm headphones were accidentally plugged into a MIDI jack? “””

      Nothing.

      • Pongo

        Despite the fact that it’s a current-loop device intended to drive the LED of an opto-isolator? Well, I’ll defer to your electrical engineering expertise.

  • Pongo

    I am wary of having dissimilar functions represented by the same kind of connectors. What would happen if 3.5mm headphones were accidentally plugged into a MIDI jack? Would the headphones survive? Like Robin Parmar below suggests, the MINI XLR is a great idea, especially with the locking button the AKG headphones haveβ€”as long as nobody is using it for highly sensitive and highly expensive microphones!

    • foljs

      “””What would happen if 3.5mm headphones were accidentally plugged into a MIDI jack? “””

      Nothing.

      • Pongo

        Despite the fact that it’s a current-loop device intended to drive the LED of an opto-isolator? Well, I’ll defer to your electrical engineering expertise.

  • Count_Iblis

    Why not just transition MIDI to USB for more than just equipment to computer setups

    • foljs

      ..

  • Count_Iblis

    Why not just transition MIDI to USB for more than just equipment to computer setups

    • foljs

      ..

  • Count_Iblis

    Why not just transition MIDI to USB for more than just equipment to computer setups

    • foljs

      ..

  • chaircrusher

    I read the whole discussion, and it comes down to two issues:

    1. Jack integrity. Mini-stereo jacks suck, unless you buy really good ones, and spend time ensuring they mount solidly, without flexing a circuit board every time you jack or unjack.

    2. Using a connector also used for other applications, which invites disastrous accidental connections.

    Even mini-usb jacks are more durable than 1/8″ stereo jacks. Never had one fail, and it seems like the stereo out is what always fails on a laptop.

  • chaircrusher

    I read the whole discussion, and it comes down to two issues:

    1. Jack integrity. Mini-stereo jacks suck, unless you buy really good ones, and spend time ensuring they mount solidly, without flexing a circuit board every time you jack or unjack.

    2. Using a connector also used for other applications, which invites disastrous accidental connections.

    Even mini-usb jacks are more durable than 1/8″ stereo jacks. Never had one fail, and it seems like the stereo out is what always fails on a laptop.

  • chaircrusher

    I read the whole discussion, and it comes down to two issues:

    1. Jack integrity. Mini-stereo jacks suck, unless you buy really good ones, and spend time ensuring they mount solidly, without flexing a circuit board every time you jack or unjack.

    2. Using a connector also used for other applications, which invites disastrous accidental connections.

    Even mini-usb jacks are more durable than 1/8″ stereo jacks. Never had one fail, and it seems like the stereo out is what always fails on a laptop.

  • Kent

    No thanks. Although fine for the toys like Korg Volcas, Minibrutes, etc., there is a reason they weren’t chosen in the first place. I use 5 and 7 seven wire MIDI cables quite often for bi-directional communication and remote powering. The DIN connector is more robust and allows for more conductors.

  • Kent

    No thanks. Although fine for the toys like Korg Volcas, Minibrutes, etc., there is a reason they weren’t chosen in the first place. I use 5 and 7 seven wire MIDI cables quite often for bi-directional communication and remote powering. The DIN connector is more robust and allows for more conductors.

  • Kent

    No thanks. Although fine for the toys like Korg Volcas, Minibrutes, etc., there is a reason they weren’t chosen in the first place. I use 5 and 7 seven wire MIDI cables quite often for bi-directional communication and remote powering. The DIN connector is more robust and allows for more conductors.

  • cooptrol

    Yeah, it’s smaller and connectors are ubiquitous. But how can you trasmit 5 v with only 3 conductors? I know this feature is not much used, but passive Thru boxes are awesome!!

  • cooptrol

    Yeah, it’s smaller and connectors are ubiquitous. But how can you trasmit 5 v with only 3 conductors? I know this feature is not much used, but passive Thru boxes are awesome!!

  • cooptrol

    Yeah, it’s smaller and connectors are ubiquitous. But how can you trasmit 5 v with only 3 conductors? I know this feature is not much used, but passive Thru boxes are awesome!!

  • Ja

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see how 3.5mm cables were less reliable.. I have lots of midi devices, have used high quality midi cables and they are not reliable either. I would say that a more expensive 3.5mm TRS cables which I also use and plug in and out quite a lot, are way more reliable than upper class midi cables.
    But why are we talking about cables – isn’t everything going wireless?

  • Ja

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see how 3.5mm cables were less reliable.. I have lots of midi devices, have used high quality midi cables and they are not reliable either. I would say that a more expensive 3.5mm TRS cables which I also use and plug in and out quite a lot, are way more reliable than upper class midi cables.
    But why are we talking about cables – isn’t everything going wireless?

  • Ja

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see how 3.5mm cables were less reliable.. I have lots of midi devices, have used high quality midi cables and they are not reliable either. I would say that a more expensive 3.5mm TRS cables which I also use and plug in and out quite a lot, are way more reliable than upper class midi cables.
    But why are we talking about cables – isn’t everything going wireless?

  • Gustavo Bravetti

    On my crazy days I found myself on a gig and with a missed MIDI cable (note that today I travel with a backup for almost every single cable and ac adapter I use on my shows), luckily I found this kind of cable on the venue workshop, I just sharped a bit the tips on the floor, no socket needed:

  • Gustavo Bravetti

    On my crazy days I found myself on a gig and with a missed MIDI cable (note that today I travel with a backup for almost every single cable and ac adapter I use on my shows), luckily I found this kind of cable on the venue workshop, I just sharped a bit the tips on the floor, no socket needed:

  • Gustavo Bravetti

    On my crazy days I found myself on a gig and with a missed MIDI cable (note that today I travel with a backup for almost every single cable and ac adapter I use on my shows), luckily I found this kind of cable on the venue workshop, I just sharped a bit the tips on the floor, no socket needed:

  • David Battino

    Hooray for hardware MIDI! This photo, from my January 2012 Keyboard column, shows two MIDI Mobilizers I connected with a 2.5mm TRS cord. The iPad MIDI step sequencer is playing a synth app on the iPod Touch.

  • Hooray for hardware MIDI! This photo, from my January 2012 Keyboard column, shows two MIDI Mobilizers I connected with a 2.5mm TRS cord. The iPad MIDI step sequencer is playing a synth app on the iPod Touch.

  • Hooray for hardware MIDI! This photo, from my January 2012 Keyboard column, shows two MIDI Mobilizers I connected with a 2.5mm TRS cord. The iPad MIDI step sequencer is playing a synth app on the iPod Touch.

  • tomtiki

    If they were not unplugged very much, stereo mini jacks would be ok as long as they are not plastic. And DIN adapters for those that need them.

  • tomtiki

    If they were not unplugged very much, stereo mini jacks would be ok as long as they are not plastic. And DIN adapters for those that need them.

  • tomtiki

    If they were not unplugged very much, stereo mini jacks would be ok as long as they are not plastic. And DIN adapters for those that need them.

  • Robin Whittle

    Thanks for this blog post which does some of the heavy lifting of an international standard!

    A headphone plugged into an Out version of the socket proposed in this post will have at most +2.3 milliamps driven into the left earpiece, which will cause a click but no damage.

    One advantage of using the tip for the pullup is that if someone puts a weird (+/-12V or more) signal on the tip of a 3.5mm lead into a socket such as this which is an Out, then it will only drive the 220 ohm pullup resistor to +5 volts. If the data signal had been chosen for the tip, then this weird voltage would have driven the MIDI Out active low driver, which might not be immune to ill-effects from such voltages.

    For an In socket wired as per this post, a weird voltage on the tip of a mono lead would, for a negative voltage, not affect the opto-isolator’s LED due to the 220 ohm resistor and reverse polarity diode specified by the 1983 MIDI specification. A positive voltage would drive the LED, but it would need something above +8 volts to exceed the 30mA which I guess is a typical maximum current for the LED. I guess the average LED and its 220 ohm resistor would cope with +12 volts, but with about 11 volts across the resistor, this would be 655 milliwatts, so it would be best to use a proper 1/2 watt resistor, which means through hole, not surface mount. (Hopefully no module would drive Β± 12 volts so hard onto an output socket.)

    With serial MIDI, using DIN connectors or this stereo 3.5mm socket arrangement, the data is sent via a current loop to an opto-isolator in the receiver, and there is normally no ground connection for the centre pin of the receiver socket. In the Devil Fish, as noted below, we retain the 22 ohm resistor from this pin to ground, which is low enough to make it work as a sync socket, but high enough to cause little or no ground noise.

    For machines using this 3.5mm socket arrangement for MIDI In, generally the sleeve should not be connected to ground, to avoid ground loops. This doesn’t matter within a single Eurorack system where all the modules share the same ground, but it might be significant for separate devices, especially if one or more have capacitively coupled noise imposed on their ground by the capacitors in its mains adaptor, as mentioned below.

    If a Eurorack or other device with MIDI In according to this post has the sleeve of the connector grounded, then to avoid potential ground noise from other devices, it would be necessary to use a lead without a ground connection.

    Most 3.5mm stereo mini-sockets are for through-hole or SMD mounting, and are quite flimsy. The sockets we use in the Devil Fish are robust panel mount (6mm x 0.5mm thread) sockets which have several names, including: Kobiconn 161-7400-EX (I guess this is the manufacturer and the others are resellers); Lumberg LKB 13; Schurter 4831.2300.
    http://www.firstpr.com.au/rwi/parts/3.5mm-sockets/

    USB MIDI is likely to cause ground noise problems which can be very hard to understand or eliminate, because the grounds of the two devices are connected.

    USB interfaces in general is subject to failure due to static electricity, or, I think more likely, due to high voltages between devices when cables are plugged in. During the possibly messy act of connection or disconnection the ground connection may not be made while one or both signal pins are connected. These high voltages could destroy the USB interface chip on one or both ends. (For the QS-303/606 the USB interface is part of the main microcontroller chip.) These circumstances could arise if one device is grounded and the other is connected only to a power adaptor. Switch-mode power adaptors (almost all current production adaptors) have difficulties with high frequency emissions not meeting EMC regulatory standards. It seems that many designers try to solve this with two capacitors leading from the DC output “ground” to each of the mains pins – active and neutral. (There is typically no ground pin to use for these capacitors to reduce high frequency emissions.) So without any other connections, a device such as a laptop computer, when powered like this, will have its ground driven to a sine-wave being approximately half the mains voltage, which with a 240V supply, means peaks of Β± 170 volts. These two capacitors in the power adaptors are quite large so there is plenty of current induced through them (by the average 120 volts AC which is driving the pair and by the sudden connection of this to the USB data lines at the other end) to destroy a chip.

    USB MIDI is complex and bi-directional. I understand that there are frequently timing problems with USB MIDI, due to the complex chain of driver software in the operating system of devices such as PCs, tablets or whatever affecting the priorities and exact timing of the USB messages.

    Most USB connectors are surface mount (a few are through hole) and so are unlikely to have a robust mechanical connection with the PCB or case of whatever they are mounted in. The only suitable panel mount USB Mini-B socket I know of is the expensive Amphenol MUSB B 55104 or one of its siblings. For the USB MIDI connection of machines with a Quicksilver kit, we use one of these and an Analog Devices ADuM4160 USB isolator device, which integrates two chips which communicate via five 1GHz transformers. This solves both the ground noise and voltage damage problems.

    USB for MIDI is costly, complex and involves connectors which may take up more space than a 3.5mm mini socket. Due to operating system and driver problems which are beyond the capacity of most people to understand or fix, it does not always convey MIDI messages with the minimal and constant latency which is inherent in the original serial MIDI system.

    The 3.5mm sockets used on the Devil Fish MIDI Out system, for MIDI Out (with a short adaptor lead to female 5 pin 90 degree DIN) use the arrangement suggested above: Tip = pullup to +5V via a 220 ohm resistor; Ring = active low data (also via 220 ohm resistor). Likewise for the MIDI Out connection for Devil Fishes and TR-606s fitted with the Quicksilver 303/606 systems. I think I chose this to remain compatible with Colin Fraser’s MIDIBass 303. MIDI In is via the 5 pin DIN Sync socket. http://www.firstpr.com.au/rwi/dfish/

  • Robin Whittle

    Thanks for this blog post which does some of the heavy lifting of an international standard!

    A headphone plugged into an Out version of the socket proposed in this post will have at most +2.3 milliamps driven into the left earpiece, which will cause a click but no damage.

    One advantage of using the tip for the pullup is that if someone puts a weird (+/-12V or more) signal on the tip of a 3.5mm lead into a socket such as this which is an Out, then it will only drive the 220 ohm pullup resistor to +5 volts. If the data signal had been chosen for the tip, then this weird voltage would have driven the MIDI Out active low driver, which might not be immune to ill-effects from such voltages.

    For an In socket wired as per this post, a weird voltage on the tip of a mono lead would, for a negative voltage, not affect the opto-isolator’s LED due to the 220 ohm resistor and reverse polarity diode specified by the 1983 MIDI specification. A positive voltage would drive the LED, but it would need something above +8 volts to exceed the 30mA which I guess is a typical maximum current for the LED. I guess the average LED and its 220 ohm resistor would cope with +12 volts, but with about 11 volts across the resistor, this would be 655 milliwatts, so it would be best to use a proper 1/2 watt resistor, which means through hole, not surface mount. (Hopefully no module would drive Β± 12 volts so hard onto an output socket.)

    With serial MIDI, using DIN connectors or this stereo 3.5mm socket arrangement, the data is sent via a current loop to an opto-isolator in the receiver, and there is normally no ground connection for the centre pin of the receiver socket. In the Devil Fish, as noted below, we retain the 22 ohm resistor from this pin to ground, which is low enough to make it work as a sync socket, but high enough to cause little or no ground noise.

    For machines using this 3.5mm socket arrangement for MIDI In, generally the sleeve should not be connected to ground, to avoid ground loops. This doesn’t matter within a single Eurorack system where all the modules share the same ground, but it might be significant for separate devices, especially if one or more have capacitively coupled noise imposed on their ground by the capacitors in its mains adaptor, as mentioned below.

    If a Eurorack or other device with MIDI In according to this post has the sleeve of the connector grounded, then to avoid potential ground noise from other devices, it would be necessary to use a lead without a ground connection.

    Most 3.5mm stereo mini-sockets are for through-hole or SMD mounting, and are quite flimsy. The sockets we use in the Devil Fish are robust panel mount (6mm x 0.5mm thread) sockets which have several names, including: Kobiconn 161-7400-EX (I guess this is the manufacturer and the others are resellers); Lumberg LKB 13; Schurter 4831.2300.
    http://www.firstpr.com.au/rwi/parts/3.5mm-sockets/

    USB MIDI is likely to cause ground noise problems which can be very hard to understand or eliminate, because the grounds of the two devices are connected.

    USB interfaces in general is subject to failure due to static electricity, or, I think more likely, due to high voltages between devices when cables are plugged in. During the possibly messy act of connection or disconnection the ground connection may not be made while one or both signal pins are connected. These high voltages could destroy the USB interface chip on one or both ends. (For the QS-303/606 the USB interface is part of the main microcontroller chip.) These circumstances could arise if one device is grounded and the other is connected only to a power adaptor. Switch-mode power adaptors (almost all current production adaptors) have difficulties with high frequency emissions not meeting EMC regulatory standards. It seems that many designers try to solve this with two capacitors leading from the DC output “ground” to each of the mains pins – active and neutral. (There is typically no ground pin to use for these capacitors to reduce high frequency emissions.) So without any other connections, a device such as a laptop computer, when powered like this, will have its ground driven to a sine-wave being approximately half the mains voltage, which with a 240V supply, means peaks of Β± 170 volts. These two capacitors in the power adaptors are quite large so there is plenty of current induced through them (by the average 120 volts AC which is driving the pair and by the sudden connection of this to the USB data lines at the other end) to destroy a chip.

    USB MIDI is complex and bi-directional. I understand that there are frequently timing problems with USB MIDI, due to the complex chain of driver software in the operating system of devices such as PCs, tablets or whatever affecting the priorities and exact timing of the USB messages.

    Most USB connectors are surface mount (a few are through hole) and so are unlikely to have a robust mechanical connection with the PCB or case of whatever they are mounted in. The only suitable panel mount USB Mini-B socket I know of is the expensive Amphenol MUSB B 55104 or one of its siblings. For the USB MIDI connection of machines with a Quicksilver kit, we use one of these and an Analog Devices ADuM4160 USB isolator device, which integrates two chips which communicate via five 1GHz transformers. This solves both the ground noise and voltage damage problems.

    USB for MIDI is costly, complex and involves connectors which may take up more space than a 3.5mm mini socket. Due to operating system and driver problems which are beyond the capacity of most people to understand or fix, it does not always convey MIDI messages with the minimal and constant latency which is inherent in the original serial MIDI system.

    The 3.5mm sockets used on the Devil Fish MIDI Out system, for MIDI Out (with a short adaptor lead to female 5 pin 90 degree DIN) use the arrangement suggested above: Tip = pullup to +5V via a 220 ohm resistor; Ring = active low data (also via 220 ohm resistor). Likewise for the MIDI Out connection for Devil Fishes and TR-606s fitted with the Quicksilver 303/606 systems. I think I chose this to remain compatible with Colin Fraser’s MIDIBass 303. MIDI In is via the 5 pin DIN Sync socket. http://www.firstpr.com.au/rwi/dfish/

  • Robin Whittle

    Thanks for this blog post which does some of the heavy lifting of an international standard!

    A headphone plugged into an Out version of the socket proposed in this post will have at most +2.3 milliamps driven into the left earpiece, which will cause a click but no damage.

    One advantage of using the tip for the pullup is that if someone puts a weird (+/-12V or more) signal on the tip of a 3.5mm lead into a socket such as this which is an Out, then it will only drive the 220 ohm pullup resistor to +5 volts. If the data signal had been chosen for the tip, then this weird voltage would have driven the MIDI Out active low driver, which might not be immune to ill-effects from such voltages.

    For an In socket wired as per this post, a weird voltage on the tip of a mono lead would, for a negative voltage, not affect the opto-isolator’s LED due to the 220 ohm resistor and reverse polarity diode specified by the 1983 MIDI specification. A positive voltage would drive the LED, but it would need something above +8 volts to exceed the 30mA which I guess is a typical maximum current for the LED. I guess the average LED and its 220 ohm resistor would cope with +12 volts, but with about 11 volts across the resistor, this would be 655 milliwatts, so it would be best to use a proper 1/2 watt resistor, which means through hole, not surface mount. (Hopefully no module would drive Β± 12 volts so hard onto an output socket.)

    With serial MIDI, using DIN connectors or this stereo 3.5mm socket arrangement, the data is sent via a current loop to an opto-isolator in the receiver, and there is normally no ground connection for the centre pin of the receiver socket. In the Devil Fish, as noted below, we retain the 22 ohm resistor from this pin to ground, which is low enough to make it work as a sync socket, but high enough to cause little or no ground noise.

    For machines using this 3.5mm socket arrangement for MIDI In, generally the sleeve should not be connected to ground, to avoid ground loops. This doesn’t matter within a single Eurorack system where all the modules share the same ground, but it might be significant for separate devices, especially if one or more have capacitively coupled noise imposed on their ground by the capacitors in its mains adaptor, as mentioned below.

    If a Eurorack or other device with MIDI In according to this post has the sleeve of the connector grounded, then to avoid potential ground noise from other devices, it would be necessary to use a lead without a ground connection.

    Most 3.5mm stereo mini-sockets are for through-hole or SMD mounting, and are quite flimsy. The sockets we use in the Devil Fish are robust panel mount (6mm x 0.5mm thread) sockets which have several names, including: Kobiconn 161-7400-EX (I guess this is the manufacturer and the others are resellers); Lumberg LKB 13; Schurter 4831.2300.
    http://www.firstpr.com.au/rwi/parts/3.5mm-sockets/

    USB MIDI is likely to cause ground noise problems which can be very hard to understand or eliminate, because the grounds of the two devices are connected.

    USB interfaces in general is subject to failure due to static electricity, or, I think more likely, due to high voltages between devices when cables are plugged in. During the possibly messy act of connection or disconnection the ground connection may not be made while one or both signal pins are connected. These high voltages could destroy the USB interface chip on one or both ends. (For the QS-303/606 the USB interface is part of the main microcontroller chip.) These circumstances could arise if one device is grounded and the other is connected only to a power adaptor. Switch-mode power adaptors (almost all current production adaptors) have difficulties with high frequency emissions not meeting EMC regulatory standards. It seems that many designers try to solve this with two capacitors leading from the DC output “ground” to each of the mains pins – active and neutral. (There is typically no ground pin to use for these capacitors to reduce high frequency emissions.) So without any other connections, a device such as a laptop computer, when powered like this, will have its ground driven to a sine-wave being approximately half the mains voltage, which with a 240V supply, means peaks of Β± 170 volts. These two capacitors in the power adaptors are quite large so there is plenty of current induced through them (by the average 120 volts AC which is driving the pair and by the sudden connection of this to the USB data lines at the other end) to destroy a chip.

    USB MIDI is complex and bi-directional. I understand that there are frequently timing problems with USB MIDI, due to the complex chain of driver software in the operating system of devices such as PCs, tablets or whatever affecting the priorities and exact timing of the USB messages.

    Most USB connectors are surface mount (a few are through hole) and so are unlikely to have a robust mechanical connection with the PCB or case of whatever they are mounted in. The only suitable panel mount USB Mini-B socket I know of is the expensive Amphenol MUSB B 55104 or one of its siblings. For the USB MIDI connection of machines with a Quicksilver kit, we use one of these and an Analog Devices ADuM4160 USB isolator device, which integrates two chips which communicate via five 1GHz transformers. This solves both the ground noise and voltage damage problems.

    USB for MIDI is costly, complex and involves connectors which may take up more space than a 3.5mm mini socket. Due to operating system and driver problems which are beyond the capacity of most people to understand or fix, it does not always convey MIDI messages with the minimal and constant latency which is inherent in the original serial MIDI system.

    The 3.5mm sockets used on the Devil Fish MIDI Out system, for MIDI Out (with a short adaptor lead to female 5 pin 90 degree DIN) use the arrangement suggested above: Tip = pullup to +5V via a 220 ohm resistor; Ring = active low data (also via 220 ohm resistor). Likewise for the MIDI Out connection for Devil Fishes and TR-606s fitted with the Quicksilver 303/606 systems. I think I chose this to remain compatible with Colin Fraser’s MIDIBass 303. MIDI In is via the 5 pin DIN Sync socket. http://www.firstpr.com.au/rwi/dfish/

  • James Ethridge

    I think minijack cables are very nice for short connections between gear. It’s very clever that several manufacturers have gone this route to reduce connector real-estate. I’ve even worked with folks who have done this to retrofit guitar pedals with MIDI functionality as well. I don’t think it’s the best all around solution, however. Keep in mind MIDI has to scale well for stages where cable runs can be quite long and the connections should be fairly mechanically robust. Similarly, USB isn’t an acceptable standard for many professional use cases. Try doing a 50ft usb cable run in a place filled with noise from various switching power sources scattered all around (lighting ballasts, etc). Personally, I’d love to the whole industry move towards MIDI over IP. Plenty of options for physical connection depending on the use case – optical, cat6, wifi. I’m sure pro’s will be happy to use off the shelf networking gear, and jam sessions for electronic musicians can become plug-n-play LAN parties the way the gods intended. With the IoT push, the technology is already here and cost effective – the industry just needs to wake up and smell the tech.

  • James Ethridge

    I think minijack cables are very nice for short connections between gear. It’s very clever that several manufacturers have gone this route to reduce connector real-estate. I’ve even worked with folks who have done this to retrofit guitar pedals with MIDI functionality as well. I don’t think it’s the best all around solution, however. Keep in mind MIDI has to scale well for stages where cable runs can be quite long and the connections should be fairly mechanically robust. Similarly, USB isn’t an acceptable standard for many professional use cases. Try doing a 50ft usb cable run in a place filled with noise from various switching power sources scattered all around (lighting ballasts, etc). Personally, I’d love to the whole industry move towards MIDI over IP. Plenty of options for physical connection depending on the use case – optical, cat6, wifi. I’m sure pro’s will be happy to use off the shelf networking gear, and jam sessions for electronic musicians can become plug-n-play LAN parties the way the gods intended. With the IoT push, the technology is already here and cost effective – the industry just needs to wake up and smell the tech.

  • James Ethridge

    I think minijack cables are very nice for short connections between gear. It’s very clever that several manufacturers have gone this route to reduce connector real-estate. I’ve even worked with folks who have done this to retrofit guitar pedals with MIDI functionality as well. I don’t think it’s the best all around solution, however. Keep in mind MIDI has to scale well for stages where cable runs can be quite long and the connections should be fairly mechanically robust. Similarly, USB isn’t an acceptable standard for many professional use cases. Try doing a 50ft usb cable run in a place filled with noise from various switching power sources scattered all around (lighting ballasts, etc). Personally, I’d love to the whole industry move towards MIDI over IP. Plenty of options for physical connection depending on the use case – optical, cat6, wifi. I’m sure pro’s will be happy to use off the shelf networking gear, and jam sessions for electronic musicians can become plug-n-play LAN parties the way the gods intended. With the IoT push, the technology is already here and cost effective – the industry just needs to wake up and smell the tech.

  • WetBoy

    Faderfox use this method too, no idea what wiring they use though.
    I’m going to use this method for the Volca midi mod

  • Walter

    Hi, I have tried it for the Akai MPC Studio and it worked πŸ™‚ Thanks a lot for your article. Would be very nice if the gear manufacturers would commit to a standard for MIDI on the TRS 3.5mm.

  • Tenkai

    Only one problem with this article, what view is the midi port from? from the pin end, or from behind?

    • disqusingthis

      That too

    • Joel Worsham

      It really looks like we’re looking at a typical female MIDI port, as would appear on a unit itself, rather than the cable. But I can’t tell for sure…

  • disqusingthis

    Article states:
    Pin 1 – Tip
    Pin 2 – Sleeve
    Pin 3 – Ring

    Diagram shows
    Pin 4 – Tip
    Pin 2 – Sleeve
    Pin 5 – Ring

    • Robin Parmar

      Ha! Just wrote the identical thing on the MIDI site where this article also appears.

  • Jason C

    this is one of the best articles on this site. truly insightful and i think a lot of hardware manufacturers should take note.. it should be brought up with the midi standards association. Korg will likely never change but its’ easy enough to have a conversion cable.

    brilliant.

  • redgreenblue

    The only real drawback I can see is if we lose the opto-isolators that shield midi from ground loops. Otherwise this is a fine solution.

  • Kaz

    An even better solution than minijacks – RTP Midi. Wireless has come a long way since 2011. By now we should’ve gotten the latency down to a mere microsecond with the newest wireless standards.

  • k101011 k

    I’ve made my own solution to this. A euro rack module that turns Ring/Tip for midi on in and outs. A 1-to-5 thru module:
    http://leipzigwest.org/WK3_overview.jpg

    you can just add a 9V DC input and a small case πŸ˜‰