What is the difference in latency between a MIDI cable and WIDI Master?
We get this question a lot on our different social channels. Many people also ask us what the latency is for a specific setup. Or when you use Windows? Or the latency with an iPad.
These are all valid questions, they are also really complex for us to answer. As we are currently testing our prototypes, it will be difficult to provide you with an exact number based on your specific setup. Let us start at the beginning.
First of all, with Bluetooth MIDI latency is always a bit higher compared to a regular MIDI cable. During our tests we are able to reduce latency between two WIDI Masters to a 3ms minimum. Please note that this is the latency between two Bluetooth MIDI devices that operate with BLE5. When you connect your WIDI device to an operating system (like iOS) or another Bluetooth MIDI device the latency can be higher as the latency will depend on the device you connect it with, your surrounding and if applicable, the operating system you are using plus its settings.
That said, you can question yourself if you would be able to distinguish WIDI Master from a standard MIDI cable in a double blind test. We have noticed that this will always lead to the same discussion about latency. This discussion is quite similar to the one we have had in the start of streaming and the download days involving MP3s and WAV files. Or that one of the supreme quality of vinyl over anything else.
We consider that you are perfectly capable of making your own decision. That is why we do not want to force you into buying something you do not actually want or need. If latency is the only metric you make your decision on, and cables work for you, you just stick to your cables. Or at least wait until you and your musician friends can test our Bluetooth MIDI solution in real life or at your local dealer. That is fair enough, right?
In the other hand, if you are interested in getting rid of those cables, advanced midi connectivity, app based cable management and wider range plus freedom of movement with midi (like on stage), then our Bluetooth MIDI solutions might be of interest for you.
In the end, we do understand that latency is one of the most important metrics in the field of MIDI. Therefore, we share all our raw tests and videos in this constantly updated blog. If you want to find out more about WIDI Master and latency go read this blog or scroll down for a bit more detailled information on latency performance.
How many WIDI Masters do I need for my setup?
Basically, WIDI Master is a point-to-point solution. Therewith, it is like a virtual MIDI cable. Some people get confused as you can buy one single WIDI Master and it has two connectors. If you are planning to control your MIDI synth with a master MIDI keyboard, you will need two WIDI Masters. One to connect with each device.
Let me try to explain how it works in general. WIDI Master adds Bluetooth MIDI functionality to your hardware device. Therefore, to allow two pieces of hardware to communicate over Bluetooth, you'd need to add this layer to both pieces of equipment. You can connect two standalone MIDI hardware devices by using two (2) WIDI Masters.
We hear you think, so why do you sell them per piece and why don't you offer them as a pair? Well, the reason behind this is that a wide range (and growing) of devices is already equipped with Bluetooth MIDI. You can pair your Bluetooth MIDI controller with any standalone MIDI hardware device with only one (1) WIDI Master.
Also, you can play your standalone MIDI hardware with any iOS device or Mac by using one WIDI Master. You just connect your WIDI Master the same way as you do with other Bluetooth MIDI equipment. With iOS the pairing is app based. Either you pair with your music app, or by using connection app like the free midimittr, then run this app on the background as network session (bridge) to link Bluetooth MIDI to all other apps.
It will work for Windows as well, but it is a tiny bit more complex. Read this blog to find out more on this subject!
So, when you want to pre order or buy WIDI Master think about your setup. What do you want to control with what? Do they already have a Bluetooth MIDI feature? Or do you want to add that to the device? If you want to connect your MIDI hardware to a Bluetooth MIDI equipped device, you'd need one (1) WIDI Master. If you want to connect two pieces of MIDI hardware and pair them together, you'd need two (2) WIDI Masters.
Can I use one WIDI Master for two devices and disconnect the two connectors?
We get this question more often. Basically the request is if you can split one WIDI Master and make it do two things. The answer is no. WIDI Master is in essence a point-to-point solution. This answer refers to the previous answer as well. If you want to pair two pieces of MIDI hardware, you'd need to add Bluetooth MIDI to both of them to make it possible to communicate. That means you'd need two WIDI Masters.
So why is are the two connectors of WIDI Master detachable?
WIDI Master consists of two connectors. One larger unit and one smaller unit. All the electronics and power circuits are in the large unit. This is the one you always need. You can connect this to the MIDI Out or Thru of any MIDI device to function. That is why you always need this connector.
As a result of this, the subconnector is not necessary to function. As many MIDI hardware only have MIDI Out with power, the seconds connector bungling loose while you place, was considered annoying. That is why we made it disconnect-able as you do not always need or want to use it.
Think of MIDI Instruments like MIDI accordeons, Keytars, MIDI guitars and MIDI Wind instruments. When you play those on stage, it is pretty convenient that you can disconnect the subconnector you do not need, and only use that large connector to add that Bluetooth MIDI feature to your MIDI hardware. If you want to read more about this, we recommend this blog post.
This seconds, small, sub-connector, is nothing more or less than a MIDI connector. There is no electronics nor firmware located in this part of the WIDI Master. It is just a 2.5mm Jack-to-DIN connector. You might not even use that part. That is it.
Can I bypass my the limitations of my operating system?
The short answer is: YES YOU CAN!
In a standard situation you can have either one or two WIDI devices. When you work with a single WIDI device and pair it with your computer or mobile device, you run into the limitation of your operating system. For instance, iOS introduces their latency buffer and force manual pairing upon you.
Although WIDI works seamlessly with the latest operating systems, you must understand that the combination of computer systems and your music software can introduce different performance standards. This is pure logic. As your mobile device and operating system are not fully dedicated to deliver wireless MIDI performance. And WIDI does exactly this. That is why, to bypass those limitations, you solution is WIDI Uhost
Can I work without computers and go completely DAWless?
The short answer is: YES YOU CAN!
Two WIDI devices will pair automatically with each other. They will function without a host. This means you can simply power them up, and they will find each other and pair. You will be up and running in no-time.
With the latest firmware (v0098 and up) and WIDI App (v1.2.XX and up), you can set your personal preferences. For instance you can optimise your setup for latency performance. Or go for optimal jitter performance. It completely depends on your use case. Furthermore, you can set the power level allowing MIDI instruments that are battery powered or have low power modes, to still deliver the juice for your WIDI device. This is particularly useful for electronic wind instruments and similar portable MIDI devices.
Also, 2 WIDI devices automatically switch between the central and peripheral role. This is Bluetooth wording for the things we used to know in the world of MIDI as master and slave. Also, they transmit MIDI messages bi-directionally. This way 2 WIDI devices that are paired function completely as connecting two MIDI cables.
You can now transmit any kind of MIDI message over air. Including long Sysex and timestamp. You simply power up your WIDI devices, and the rest is fully automated.
Can I create groups and bypass MIDI Thru and MIDI Merge interfaces?
The short answer is: YES YOU CAN!
When you go into more complex setups with wireless group connectivity, you need to educate yourself to fully benefit from these features. For instance, your group always has 1 central. Besides this you can add up to 4 peripherals.
This means you need to manually force the role of your WIDI devices first. Next you create the group in the user-friendly app and save that. When you reboot your devices, all settings are loaded by default.
As communication is duplex, you actually create a MIDI Thru or MIDI Merge functionality. With duplex we mean that communication is bi-directional. You can talk in two ways between your devices. This is equal to adding two cables between 2 MIDI devices.
In short. this means that with this firmware (v0098 and up), you can bypass MIDI interfaces, MIDI merge boxes and MIDI Thru boxes. You now can create the following wirelessly:
- 1-to-4 MIDI Thru - Group of max. 5 WIDI devices
- 4-to-1 MIDI Merge - Group of max. 5 WIDI devices
Can I create multiple groups and run them simultaneously?
The short answer is: YES YOU CAN!
You can create groups starting from 2 WIDI devices. You can have multiple WIDI groups to build a complete wireless system with automatic setup. This means, you create the group step-by-step first via the WIDI App. And when it is saved, it connects instantly upon reboot.
This way, you can fully automate your advanced MIDI settings by setting your different connections by default via multiple groups. This goes for instrument to instrument pairing to groups of max. 5 WIDI devices. And they can function besides each other as well. This way, you can manage your virtual cables and set automated connection by default.
Get it. Set it. Enjoy it!
Cyril Lance – CTO Moog Music
I was lucky enough to be able to start working with a pair of prototype WIDI adapters from CME. They worked flawlessly and transparently. For example, I immediately had our flagship synthesizer, the Moog ONE, controlling and being controlled by our older MIDI instruments and vintage MIDI controllers.
If I have two units for connecting two keyboards, is MIDI communication bidirectional? That is, keyboard A can play a sound from keyboard B while simultaneously keyboard B can be used to play a sound from keyboard A?
WIDI Master is duplex. It is designed as bidirectional communication with all 16 channels plus full MIDI message (notes, CC, aftertouch, PitchBend, MPE, Sysex etc.). You can play keyboard A to trigger keyboard B sound, or reversed simultaneously.
How many WIDI Masters do I need?
WIDI Master is sold as a single unit. You will need 2x WIDI Master to "pair" two pieces of MIDI hardware. You will only need 1x WIDI Master to pair WIDI Master with your Bluetooth MIDI equipped device. Like your computer/mobile device or a Bluetooth MIDI controller such as the Xkey Air.
How is WIDI Master powered?
The MIDI standard is designed to deliver 3.3v or 5v on the 5-pin DIN MIDI OUT (or THRU) port. WIDI Master is powered by that MIDI port (or MIDI Thru). There are many variants on the market and not all MIDI devices offer these ports. Most of them do, as it is the requested standard. That is why we cannot guarantee if your device delivers that power. Please check the manual of your MIDI device to learn more. Also, if your MIDI port does not deliver power or you only have a MIDI IN port, please refer to another product named WIDI Jack.
What about latency?
Latency is no longer an issue with today’s Bluetooth technology. We can reduce the latency between two WIDI Masters to 3ms. The MIDI protocol is not particularly fast and demanding upon itself. Therefore the bandwidth of Bluetooth is perfectly capable of transmitting MIDI over air. Please also note that Bluetooth MIDI is certainly not the same as audio over Bluetooth.
Please also note that any operating system or connected device can lead to higher latency. When you experience latency please note that we are able to reduce latency between two WIDI Masters using BLE5 to 3ms. We measured this latency by using an oscilloscope, between two WIDI Masters, the lowest was 3ms, and highest was 10ms, average was 5ms to 6ms.
The biggest latency on iOS and macOS comes from the limitation of the Bluetooth connection interval as set by Apple. If you connected several other Bluetooth devices with your device this can influence the latency as well When you playback audio it is also known that latency can be caused by the apps or software you use or the audio conversion of your system. Therewith the MIDI latency is not as simple to allocate in an entire operating system running MIDI and audio conversion through software.
If you experience latency higher than expected, you are more than welcome to create a ticket through our support page and share your setup with us. Together we can look into this, solve it and learn!
Can I use my device with WIDI Master?
There are thousands of products that use MIDI on the market. Both new and second-hand. It is virtually impossible for us to answer all questions about every MIDI device on today’s market. That is why we have the general rule that WIDI works with every standard MIDI OUT or THRU port as suggested by the international MIDI Manufacturers Association. If you are not certain please read your manual or contact the original manufacturer to ask if the MIDI port delivers the standard 3.3v or 5v to power your device. For those who don’t we offer WIDI Jack.
As mentioned before it is impossible for us to make WIDI Master compatible with all different types and forms of MIDI from day 1. The variety is endless. Please consider that this concerns hardware, software, operating systems, apps and so on. That is also why we strongly recommend to use MIDIMITTR when working on iOS and MIDI BLE Connect for Android devices as a bridge.
For MIDI hardware we need your support to conduct a list of tested and confirmed hardware with WIDI Master. The purpose is to create an open resource for any WIDI user to check upfront if their MIDI hardware works with WIDI Master. If you already have tested your gear, feel welcome to add it here in our compatibility list!