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iConnectMIDI4+ Preliminary Review - part 1

Introduction

It's finally arrived! It exists! It's here!



The long-awaited and anticipated iConnectMIDI4+ is not a myth as some have speculated. It really does exist and is now ready for order from various mainstream retailers.

As some of you who follow the blog here or our Youtube channel know, I have owned an iConnectMIDI2+ since they first came out and I have been delighted with the device as a means of connecting an iPad to a Mac or PC with bidirectional digital pass through audio and bidirectional MIDI, as well as DIN control of external MIDI devices. I have been eagerly waiting for the iConnectMIDI4+ and now that I've had a chance to play with one for this review let me tell you I am very very excited by this gear!

I like many of you have been looking forward to the iConnectMIDI4+ for a number of specific reasons also: the increased number of DIN ports, multi-iPad support, USB hub MIDI controller hosting and Ethernet connectivity, but let's take a look at the specs for a moment to get a side-by-side comparsion:

iConnectMIDI2+ iConnectMIDI4+
1 PC/Mac USB port
1 iPad USB port that will charge an iPad with the additional PSU
2 X in/out DIN MIDI
1 PC/Mac USB port
2 iPad USB ports, both of which will charge an iPad with the supplied PSU
4 x in/out DIN MIDI ports
1 USB hub host port for class compliant peripheral / controller connection for up to 8 USB controllers
1 Ethernet port for RTP MIDI connectivity providing 4 virtual RTP ports

 And here's a quick snapshot of the device information page from iConfig for the device.



Oh the connectivity possibilities!


As a result of the increased connection options, the iConnectMIID4+ opens up a wide arena in terms of inter-device routing possibilities.



For example...


You can use the device with just a PC or Mac and a powered USB hub as a centralizing multiplexing control for external DIN MIDI peripherals from your DAW. Suppose you have, say, 4 or 5 MIDI keyboards / synths / drum kits / pad controllers, along with 3 or 4 DIN connected MIDI synthesizers, drum machines, etc. you can use the iConnectMIDI4+ to connect them all together.

But that's not all! Owing to the powerful routing options inside the revamped and extended iConfig application, you can also connect peripherals without the need for a PC or Mac at all to host them; the iConnectMIDI4+ along with a powered hub can do that for you, and, you can set up hardwired port routings for your peripherals. In a live situation where you simply need control of various synthesizers from a number of different peripherals, this makes the iConnectMIDI4+ ideal!

But there's more here with the iConnectMIDI4+ than with the 2+ in terms of iPad connectivity too. Whereas with the iConnectMIDI2+, even though you can also set up the hard routing inside the device for MIDI control to / from the iPad and DIN ports, you really need an externally connected PC or Mac to host your MIDI controllers. That's no longer the case with the iConnectMIDI4+. Let's suppose also that you are beginning to use an iPad for doing your sequencing, say using Genome or some other excellent iPad MIDI sequencing application and you don't want to haul a laptop to a live gig. Now you can do that using the iConnectMIDI4+ natively.

I.e. in addition to the scenario I suggested above, you can also connect just an iPad to the iConnectMIDI4+ and bidirectionally sequence the MIDI from all the USB connected controllers as well as the DIN connected synths / drum machines etc. No PC required! And if you need to change the routing, you can do so using the (still) free iConfig iOS app.

An iPad 1 is more than capable of doing real-time MIDI control of multiple peripherals this way; now they are nearly being given away refurbished or 2nd hand in cereal boxes, you could pick one up for around $100 just to do your sequencing (assuming you have an app that you want to sequence with that will still run on iOS 5 - if not, you could pick up a refurb or 2nd hand iPad 2 instead - which will run iOS 7 perfectly adequately to that task also).

Moving on - you can now of course connect not one but two iPads at the same time.

 

Each has access to bidirectional pass through audio and MIDI and both can talk to the connected devices. So, extending the scenario just posed - you could connect two iPads in a live situation, have one control half of your synths and USB controllers and the other control the other half. Or both have access to both. It's pretty amazing what this opens up in terms or possibilities!

It doesn't stop there. Of course you can also connect a PC or Mac as well. Now you have incredibly easy multiway bidirectional digital pass through audio and MIDI routing options that have no parallel anywhere else in the current audio world in a single low-cost device like the iConnectMIDI4+ to the best of my knowledge.

Not only can you route from the PC/Mac to / from each iPad (or how about one iPad and one iPhone?...) you can also - sit down for this one - route digital pass through audio between the two iPads. Wow!

Now, ... Audiobus 2 has just recently hit the streets (audiob.us) and it is a fantastic piece of enabling technology that allows you to set up multiple audio chains between apps inside an iPad - if you aren't using it you should be! :-) However, with increased app routing you are going to begin to tax even very capable iPad Airs at some point, and if you have lower specification iPads, you can now use each one to their respective optimum potential by setting up an Audiobus chain inside each one to whatever each can handle and then chaining the audio out from one into the audio in to another via the iConnectMIDI4+ directly.

Wow!

Did I mention Wow! .... ?

;-)

Let me tell you - you want this if you have multiple iPads or an iPad and a capable iPhone! And this all works with lower spec iPad devices as well. If you have a newer iPad with a lightning connector, you should be able to use an Apple lightning to 30 pin adapter just fine - I did in my test of the device. However, check in with iConnectivity to see if they will begin to supply direct connect lightning cables at some point too as some have experienced issues even with Apple's own adapters with the iConnectMIDI2+ (apparently a faulty batch from Apple according to the iConnectivity FB page).

The goodness doesn't stop there. Now, you also have the ability with the Ethernet port to connect to other wired and wireless devices. So, let's suppose you have a second Mac or PC as part of your rig and you want to control devices connected to that device from your "other" Mac / PC which is hosting your iConnectMIDI4+ . With the Mac, RTP MIDI is built in to MacOS MIDI routing and on a PC running Windows you can download RTP drivers to do exactly the same job.

The iConnectMIDI4+ shows up via the Ethernet connection as 4 virtual RTP ports, and, again, via the Ethernet port routing settings in the iConfig application, you can route the bidirectional MIDI to / from any one of the other ports - or multiple ports simulatenously. So, for example, you can have a MIDI controller - say a keyboard - attached to the iConnectMIDI4+ route its MIDI out via one of the virtual RTP ports using the Ethernet connection, to a VST running in a Mac or Windows-hosted DAW on a separate Mac or PC. You can also of course multiply the possibilities endlessly - so you can route MIDI in / out from one or both of the connected iDevices to / from one or multiple RTP ports to one or multiple Macs or PCs... Up to four of them! Just keep expanding your thoughts here!!!

Not only that - you can also wirelessly connect further iPads into this setup also for MIDI I/O. To make connecting iPads easier, iConnectivity have supplied the (free) netMIDI app - which although it has been available and functional as a standalone app for a while now, comes into its own when used with the networked RTP routing from the iConnectMIDI4+. Each of the ports shows up in the application on the iPad and you can then connect to one simply by touching the screen - no need for messing around with any IP addresses.



Did I mention Wow yet? ;-)

Operating performance

I tested the iConnectMIDI4+ quite extensively with a variety of setups including many of those I've highlighted above (I didn't play any live gigs using it though ;-) ). One thing I was careful to test particularly was what the latency looked like. I tested two forms of latency in particular - one where I measured the time from MIDI trigger inside a DAW on a MIDI track to the returned audio wave from an iPad being registered in an audio channel in the DAW. Accounting for the inherent latency of the DAW and aggregate, my timings suggest that the iConnectMIDI is not adding on average more than a couple of milliseconds of latency - 3 tops.

I also did a test using MIDI to RTP connection - back to MIDI via a network to test the RTP latency. Again - I found the same results - around 3ms. So, my take is that the iConnectMIDI4+ - like the 2+ - can be used as part of your audio and MIDI I/O setup without introducing any appreciable latency. This is very good news. (There had been other reports surrounding the 2+ on the web by third parties that had suggested the latency was huge - for a DAW setup anyway - but not only did I not find that with the 2+, I made a point of testing it with the 4+ and found the same thing - very low latency.) So, for me, no hesitation in using the iConnectMIDI4+ as part of my setup. Oh - and just to check out how well this all worked, I ran some tests with the iConnectMIDI4+ connected to a 1.8GHz Dual Core Macbook 2006 running Snow Leopard as well, running the latest Presonus Studio One Pro 2.6.2 as a DAW. Same results :-)

Summary

I highly recommend this device. (I highly recommend the iCM2+ as well! :-) ) It meets every expectation I had for it and more. I'm still exploring all the routing possibilities but it's already immediately useful in my rig and I expect it will only increase in usefulness as time goes by.

Next time...

OK. Keep watching the blog over the next few days for further review sections; I'll also send out notification updates on my Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/MusicInclusive) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MusicInclusiveLLC) with more details when a new review piece is posted.

Next time I'll pick this up with some more setup details.

Oh and check on the MusicInclusive Youtube channel and iConnectivity's own site (www.iConnectivity.com) over the next few weeks as well; I shall hopefully have some video tutorials prepared which will be available via the iConnectivity site shortly and which will go into each of the connection options in depth including live iConfig setup.


Keep on making music!

Derek Jones

Comments

April 21, 2015 @11:33 am

Derek, Is it possible to use the iConnectMIDI4+ without a computer for a live situation like: Inputs: iPad & iPhone into the USB 1 & USB 2 ports Output: USB 3 port to an audio interface (connected via some type of USB-B female to USB-B female cable) Todd

Todd
June 01, 2014 @11:29 am

In a MIDI setup, will the iConnectmidi4+ recognize an EWI? which has to have;- breath control= CC02 from the Fantom .X to work with the Fantom X. My intention is to link 3 boards, Yam:s950 + FanX + FA06, & the EWI4000s with a computer. Will this work as you describe, ALL KNOWING ALL WORKING TOGETHER ??...................dg.

DEREK GORRINGE
May 08, 2014 @05:25 pm

Hi Guest

Did you try connecting the M-audio kbd to a powered hub and then to the iConnectMIDI4+? See if that works for you

Kind regards

Derek

Derek Jones
May 08, 2014 @05:07 pm

I really like the iConnectMIDI4+ !! (The CME Xkey is also awesome btw.) My main problem so far with the ICM4+ is that it does not work with the M-Audio KeyStation USB Class Compliant MIDI keyboard. That keyboard is recognized by CoreMIDI on the iPad when it's connected via a powered hub and the Apple CCK, but it doesn't work connected to the ICM4+ USB host port.

guest
April 25, 2014 @01:36 pm

Stephen,

Yes - the PSU is switching and can be used internationally with an adapter.

No - the unit will not run from bus power - you must use the PSU.

Kind regards

Derek.

Derek Jones
April 25, 2014 @01:28 pm

Derek,

I'm not really an audio/sound mixing guy. I've never really done anything in Garage Band much less Logic. But I've had Logic Pro X for about 12 months and have had the MIDI4+ on order that long as well.

My use case is trying to send MIDI data from Logic that's was converted from century old paper player piano rolls and send that MIDI wirelessly to the DIN MIDI IN port of a PianoDisc player system to play those old songs on a modern "player piano".

I just received the MIDI4+ yesterday. iConnectivity was very helpful in posting a draft of their manual to their website last night so I had something to go on. I'll post below what I just updated on my ticket at iConnectivity's tech support site:

RJ,

I got it working! A few comments and a few questions:

Comments:

1) I love this device!

2) The iConfig application for the Mac that I downloaded from your website yesterday could not find the MIDI4+ over the network. It had to be plugged into the Mac with the USB cable. It's a reasonable requirement, but you just might want to specifically state that to save new users trouble and frustration. My original assumption was that iConfig would just find it over my home network without a direct USB connection - like bonjour does with printers etc.

3) There is nothing in your manual regarding how to connect from a Mac or an iOS device via Ethernet. I did figure it out, but you might want to include this information in your manual. For instance, on the iPad I needed to download your NetMIDI app, open that app and then select "ETH 1" before going back to Synthesia. Once I did that then I could get Synthesia to send MIDI over the network to my acoustic piano and have it play. Similarly (although a little harder to initially figure out) on my Mac I had to go to Utilities - Audio MIDI Setup.app and then "Show MIDI Window" select "Network" "+ Session" then select "ETH 1" and add it to the just created session. Then the Logic Pro X DAW could see the new session I'd set up as an available port to route MIDI to. I know it was a draft of the manual and perhaps the draft was largely based on the MIDI2+ which doesn't have an ethernet connection. But just for the final version the inclusion of detail around wireless MIDI would be very helpful. At least for me it was THE reason I waited for the MIDI4+ and the ONLY thing I want it for really.

4) Did I mention I LOVE this thing? So worth the wait!

Questions:

1) I used the iConfig app on my Mac to rename the DIN 1 port on the front to "PianoDisc" since that's the name of the acoustic piano plugged into that port. I also renamed the ETH 1 port. However I couldn't find anywhere that I could change the "ETH 1" description that actually changed what I saw in the iPad NetMIDI app or the Audio MIDI Setup app on my Mac. No matter how I tried to change the description all I ever saw was "ETH 1" "ETH 2" "ETH 3" and "ETH 4". Is there someplace I could effect the name I see as the wireless port?

2) I know the Mac OS X Audio MIDI Setup app is not yours. But it appears that while the session I created and then added the ETH 1 to in order to enable it to appear inside Logic Pro X persists on my Mac the connection to ETH 1 does not. It appears that after rebooting my Mac or having powered the MIDI4+ off and back on that the session doesn't "remember" it had ETH 1 connected to it previously and automatically reconnect. Each time I have to go back in and manually re-add ETH 1 to the seasion. It seems your NetMIDI iOS app behaves similarly. Each time you have to manually connect to ETH 1. Is there any way to set these up so that whenever ETH 1 is seen across the network it's automatically reconnected?

Derek Jones on behalf of Mopac01
April 25, 2014 @01:25 pm

Comment on posting here

If you want to preserve paragraphs in your posting, you will need to use simple HTML < p > and < / p > tags (removing those spaces)

Mopac01's post was well laid out and unfortunately lost the formatting but doing what I've suggested there will help. Mopac01 - I will repost your comment with that in :-)

Kind regards

Derek

Derek Jones
April 25, 2014 @01:13 pm

Mopac01 - thanks so much for the comments and your posting your suggestions that you sent to iConnectivity. I'll also try and answer anything else I can here in the blog as well. :-) Kind regards Derek Jones.

Derek Jones
April 22, 2014 @05:48 pm

Hi Derek, great review, thanks. Just a few questions re the power supply. I note the unit ships with its own power supply - must this be used to power it or can it run off USB power? Also, is the power supply one of those auto switching 110-240V types that can be used internationally with the appropriate adapter?

Stephen
April 21, 2014 @05:24 pm

C. Beam - yes - using a Belkin hub was actually recommended to me by the iConnectivity support folks last year when I started using the iCM2+ and I purchased one of these 7-port ones back then. I picked up another one for use with the 4+ and I have had no problems with either. I've used a number of Belkin hubs in audio setups without any issues. I'll consider a more detailed shopping list, but for the moment, I purchased the Belkin hub from Amazon - about $25 as I recall. I also picked up the CME XKey 25 from Amazon for I think it was $99.

Derek Jones
April 21, 2014 @03:33 pm

First you have been my biggest lifeline to the m4+ and might I add the next best thing to having my own ;) though it's days away right?...4/25-4/29. Ok. I see you have a belkin USB hub. Has this hub been good to you with regards to them4+? Is this the best hub for this setup in your opinion? Perhaps you could add a shopping list like where to find the products in your setup... It would help a lot of new users. At the moment you seem to be the TOP Insider for using this device in your setup... I'll bet you have an a4+ in the mail already! Cheers, beamO

C.Beam
April 21, 2014 @07:42 am

Quentin - no I hadn't come across that - I'll check it out. Thanks for the heads up. For others who haven't looked, they produce networked and USB MIDI products which might be a great complement to the iConnectMIDI4+ if you need to address lots more DIN MIDI devices. Regards Derek

Derek Jones
April 18, 2014 @03:32 pm

You know www.alyseum.com ?

quentin
 

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