Free App Brings MIDI Over Bluetooth LE To iOS Music Apps

midi-le-bluetooth-midi-ios-8Developer Matthias Frick let us know about MIDI LE, a free app for iOS 8 that’s designed to bring low-latency MIDI over Bluetooth LE to CoreMIDI compatible iOS-Synths and applications.

The advantage of MIDI over Bluetooth LE is that you can connect compatible devices wirelessly, without the need for a Camera Connection Kit and other gear. MIDI LE routes the virtual ports of supported music applications via Bluetooth.

Frick says that, if your favorite application was working with MIDI over WiFi in the past, it will most likely work with MIDI LE.

Bluetooth over MIDI is a newly introduced feature in iOS 8 and will also be incorporated into OS X Yosemite 10.10.

For more information, see Frick’s site

MIDI LE is ready for first adopters now – it’s a free download via the App Store.

If you’re not on iOS 8 yet, though, we recommend making sure that any music apps that you use regularly are updated for the new OS before you upgrade.

Frick also shared his plans for MIDI LE:

The initial motivation for was basically to write it for myself, as not a single app has this integrated right now and I wanted some way of low-latency communication (apart from CoreMIDI over WiFi or getting a Lighting-MIDI-Adapter).

I plan to release an update sometime next week to revamp the UI a bit and integrate iOS to iOS Bluetooth communication.

Frick also plans to provide examples and screenshots as soon as OS X 10.10 is officially released and is out of NDA.

If you’re an earlier adopter and give this a try, leave a comment and let us know what you tried and how it worked for you!

23 thoughts on “Free App Brings MIDI Over Bluetooth LE To iOS Music Apps

  1. This is probably a stupid question, but what sort of hardware are you supposed to use with MIDI Over Bluetooth LE? I remember Quicco Sound had an indiegogo for something called the mi.1 which was a little MIDI bluetooth dongle, but haven’t heard if it’s shipped yet (their campaign page said shipping September 2014). Or is the idea more that you might have MIDI hardware connected physically to your desktop or laptop, and it would then use MIDI over Bluetooth LE to communicate with your iPhone/iPad?

      1. Once the new Mac OS is out, you’ll be able to use your iPad as a wireless MIDI controller for your Mac, with low latency, too

    1. You can use Wej (preorder.retronyms.com) to connect any USB class-compliant controller over BLE. We’re planning to ship in the first half of 2015 if we get enough preorders to fund the project.

  2. Hey guys,
    iOS to iOS will be coming early next week. The feature is already finished and working, cleaning up the UI a bit and adding some additional functionality right now. Will probably submit to the app store later today.

    1. Matthias

      If iOS to iOS isn’t working yet and OS X support is to come, what can you do with this right now? Is this only going to be usable by beta testers of OS X for now?

      1. I have written the version with OSX support first, because I wanted to use my Keyboard/Ableton with the iPad (yeah, it was a selfish act, but I’ve been using Yosemite since a few weeks and wanted to give this a shot. To be honest I had no clue I was gonna release this at the time but a few people talked me into it).
        I have just submitted the update with iOS to iOS support to the Appstore an hour ago, so expect this to be pushed out on Monday if all goes well.

        1. Matthias, an update just hit my iThings and I’m curious if this is the iOS to iOS update you indicated. I launched on both devices but, regardless of the straightforward interface, am still unsure about the procedure on how to establish connection between my iOS devices.

          1. Are you sure? According to the iTunes Status it is still “Waiting for Review” so it shouldn’t be out yet. But just to make sure, here’s a screenshot of what the new version will look like on the iPad (with the Menu opened):
            https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/2038446/IMG_0349.PNG

            It will have a dedicated section for Clients and Advertisement. Say, you want one iDevice to be the host you’d “advertise” and find it in “Clients” on the second device.

            1. Nope that’s not it. Looks like the App Store decided to queue updates for the same version(?). Two of my other apps did the same thing as well. Sorry for the confusion. Thanks for the clarification and the screenshot.

  3. I hope this works. I keep putting off buying an iRig or some similar contraption as they are sure to become outdated whenever Apple decides to change their connection methods.
    Fingers crossed!

    1. I would imagine the camera kit would work best, as it is “hardwired”, like how your laptop communicates faster when plugged directly into router then wireless….
      probably followed second by: bluetooth, as most of us have learned that keeping wifi on with out DAW’s is generally a bad idea with cpu overhead, things like adobe constantly pinging for updates etc… or having to create a local network, hassle…
      So bluetooth, imho, would be a close second, and probably just as noticeably fast and more convenient as without having to run said wires and deal with other little snafus with that. ..

      But I am not an expert on these things, I just know midi over LAN has left me wanting… and I use iConnectvitiy’s devices with pretty good success.

      This could be a great little game changer in this regard, and VERY curious as to how it works out….

      and a question to the developer: Is there any way possible to make this work on older osx’s such as ML etc, as you probably well know that most of us with stable systems are not going to be hopping onto Yosemite right away, (heck, I just moved kicking and screaming from Snow Leopard because it was so stable), to ML myself…. I cannot see with all my additional hardware and drivers required etc even approaching Mavericks now from what I have been advised by those I trust…. or is it impossible with these older OSX’s given the spec? … But it’s a great idea, and best of luck to you sir!

      1. Due to the big increase in bandwidth performance of iOS devices since 7 MIDI over BT LE should be at least comparable to MIDI over the CCK as far a latency. I see no appreciable difference (iPad Air, iPhone 6, both iOS 8). One thing that can and does beat it consistently is the iConnectivity hardware like the iConnectMIDI4+ using their supplied cable. So, as far as MIDI communications between two standalone non wired iOS devices, MIDI over BT LE is showing itself as the way to go. I expect things to start to get pretty cool from here as more developers implement it.

      2. Little update… seems like this is indeed possible on OS X 10.7+ onwards.
        I’m currently reverse-engineering most of it, but I’ve gotten to a point where I can connect to iOS devices and print out the raw MIDI-Data on screen.
        From here on out it shouldnt be too hard to get this working on the previous OS X generations (e.g. via the IAC thingy in Audio-MIDI-Setup). I might be looking for beta-testers though, once its ready.
        So if you’re interested, feel free to drop me a line at matthias(a)s-r-n.de

  4. Hey,
    it really is a niche-product in terms of CoreMIDI on OSX. Unfortunately I have no idea as of how to implement this additionally on OSX. The existing CoreMIDI – Network stuff was first introduced in 10.4. I think there might be a way of making use of Bluetooth LE and connect it internally to the CoreMIDI-Network area. It really depends on the demand though as it seems to be quite a lot of work (and potentially reverse-engineering of Apples implementation, seeing that Apollos “MIDI over Bluetooth” version does not work with the iOS implementation as I’ve just tested).
    For now upgrading seems the only way out (and to be honest, I’ve found the transition from ML to Mavericks and now to Yosemite a delight, compared to SL to Lion, which was a disaster for the whole industry, given the significant changes in the underlying APIs, especially CoreAudio). It really is a matter of driver support too though as you correctly pointed out. The more drivers you have, the more potential weakpoints (I for one didnt have any real issues with my RME Fireface driver, but then again I’m glad they still release new drivers for a device thats well over 10 years old – not to go too offtopic now anyway).

    I have looked a bit further into the Apollo solution, and it seems like this is the best way out for those not willing to upgrade to Yosemite or having a device without Bluetooth LE [1]. From what I know by having filed a couple of bug reports with Apple about Airdrop and Handoff (two new Yosemite features relying on Bluetooth LE), I’m quite sure the CoreMIDI Bluetooth LE feature is so deeply baked into the OS, it won’t work with additional hardware (e.g. a Bluetooth USB stick 🙁 ).

    Seeing the Apollo solution right now makes me wish I had known about this back when I was still on Mavericks 😉

    [1] http://media.idownloadblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/OS-X-Yosemite-Handoff-Bluetooth-4.0-Apfeleimer-001.jpg

  5. Apollo MIDI over Bluetooth isn’t compatible with Apple’s version — we built our code from scratch before Apple had made any sort of announcement, and are running our own protocol. For Apollo connections to OS X, you need the Mac version of Apollo (free, in the Mac app store). Because it’s all our own code, we can support things back to iOS 6.0 and OS X 10.7. I doubt that anyone at Apple even knows we exist; they’re doing their own thing.

    The future of MIDI over BLE is still up in the air. AFAIK, the Quicco hardware adapter is not compatible with Apple, but they may very well try to update the firmware. We’ve got our own prototype hardware solution, and we’re knocking around a Kickstarter idea. Apple hasn’t released much info on their protocol, and they’re not providing any support for earlier OS versions. Long term, it may be the case that Apple steamrolls everyone else, but we’ll be hanging on as long as we can. We’re working on support for the PC, and a few other things, so we’re not dead yet.

    I’m running Yosemite on one of my Macs, and can confirm that the Apple BLE MIDI *does* work with USB BLE adapters (IOGear GBU521 seems to be the best behaved, and a Cirago adapter works with Yosemite, but not Mavericks). Apple has clearly been doing a lot of work with their Bluetooth drivers. In my experience, hardware MIDI is the fastest, followed by BLE, and then (much slower) is WiFi. The bandwidth of BLE MIDI is close to wired; iOS 7 seems to throttle high-bandwidth connections. I have not had a chance to benchmark Apollo against the Apple set-up, so I can’t compare latency or throughput.

    Kudos to Matthias for his app — it’s filling a hole that Apple has left; I had really expected iOS 8 to have that sort of functionality built in. At the end of the day, what we all want is a good system that makes wireless MIDI relatively painless. If it turns out to be Apple’s solution rather than Apollo, I’ll be kind of bummed out, but it’s not the worst thing that could happen.

  6. thank you all for your great works. do you think a BT LE MIDI peripheral is something worth considering as part of peripheral development? i currently make wearable sensors and whilst i have a Bluetooth SPP version that works with PC via a bridging app (e.g. for wearable knee wah etc) i’m wondering if its worth moving to Bluetooth LE with the intent of getting plug and play function that way???….at present i’m thinking its best to have a core MIDI usb compliant device that functions with camera connection kit and then use iOS wifi or BTLE (e.g. from iPhone5 and Apollo) to get mobility and transmit to iPad…i also dont have to provide battery or wireless (cheaper) but suffer from clunky wires…i’d appreciate any comments and apologise if anyone thinks i’m getting off topic

    ps: i find bluetooth pairing annoying

  7. I can not get this to work as it should; it connects but midi timing is really bad. Same with the cable version.
    i have the latest ios and osx installed, iphone 4s and ipad mini retina.

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