Apollo MIDI Over Bluetooth Offers Low-Latency Wireless Connectivity

Secret Base Design has released Apollo MIDI Over Bluetooth Free – a time-limited free version of its Apollo MIDI app, which is designed to try out using MIDI over low-latency Bluetooth LE connections.

With Apollo MIDI over Bluetooth, you can easily connect a pair of iOS devices, or an iOS device and a Mac, using Bluetooth LE. Bluetooth LE is designed for low latency, which makes it a good option for music applications.

The app requires that your devices support Bluetooth LE.

  • This is available on the iPad3, iPad4, iPad Air, and iPad Mini.
  • iPhones starting with the iPhone 4S support Bluetooth LE.
  • Newer Macs also support Bluetooth LE; older Macs may require a USB Bluetooth LE adapter.

If you’ve got older devices, they don’t support Bluetooth LE and work. Try the free version of the app to try it out and verity that it will meet your needs. See the Secret Base Design site for full technical details.

Apollo MIDI Over Bluetooth Free is available as a free download. If you find it useful, the full version is US $4.99.

If you’ve tried Apollo MIDI Over Bluetooth, leave a comment and let us know how it works for you!

25 thoughts on “Apollo MIDI Over Bluetooth Offers Low-Latency Wireless Connectivity

    1. With OSX, inter-Mac BLE connections only became possible with Mavericks. Earlier versions support “host” mode, but not “peripheral.” Now that both endpoints are available, I might add that functionality to the desktop version of Apollo, but I’d expect something like ipMIDI would be a better solution. I have not experimented much, but I think it would be hard to beat a wired ethernet connection.

      We’re working on Windows and Linux versions of the code too — but the primary motivation is getting MIDI in and out of iOS. There’s some hardware wrangling going on too; if we don’t release our own hardware, I’ll try to hack in support for Quicco’s gadget.

      1. I second the mac to mac connection. Newer macs no longer have ethernet ports so a wireless midi connection makes a lot of sense. I definitely see a use for it in my setup.

        1. Wow — I hadn’t thought about the loss of the ethernet port on the newer Airs. I guess it makes sense to add both endpoints in for the Mac (it’ll have to be Mavericks-only, though).

          1. Yes! Thank you for considering it. I’m sure it won’t be an issue for most users anyway seeing Mavericks (and likely all future Mac OSes) will be free updates.

          2. Oh and retina macbook pros don’t have ethernet ports either (not just airs), which is what a lot of musicians use nowadays (especially the ones doing live gigs)

            1. …Though adding an Ethernet port when needed, to an Air or Retina MB isn’t difficult… Apple’s Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapters or USB to Gigabit Ethernet Adaptors are freely available and work very well…

  1. Nice to be able to try it.
    I’m interested in bluetooth for making a simple midi controller working with iOS or pc, I’ll check this working with loopers.
    Hopefully I won’t be fighting to make a decent loop.
    The computer to computer could be a big plus too

  2. Some good questions; I’ll try to summarize —
    Latency is low, and the jitter is not bad either; BLE wireless packets are 20 bytes, so there’s not as much delay in waiting for the next packet compared to WiFi (which is more like a freight train of data in each packet). The bandwidth for WiFi is much higher, but BLE is more responsive — Bluetooth is the underlying tech for most game console controllers, and it’s been engineered to work well with “MIDI-like” applications. Performance is better on iOS 7 than iOS 6 — there are some tweaks that can be done in the operating system to bump radio performance (at the cost of more power consumption), and Apple clearly did something to make things better with iOS 7.

    Apollo can send and receive SYSEX — I’m working on an editor for the FCB1010, and that’s programmable with SYSEX. At the moment, Apollo *does not* buffer other data streams when a SYSEX is going by — so it’s possible for multiple MIDI streams to get merged, and things to break. I’ll try to address that soon — but for now, if it’s only one stream, it should work. I’m seeing a potential problem with long messages though: occasionally, bytes get dropped. I suspect the drop is happening in my CCK-USB-MIDI connection between the FCB and iOS, and not over Bluetooth. The drops seem to happen with a cheap-o $5 USB-to-MIDI adapter, and not with an M-Audio adapter, but I have not tracked it down for sure.

    And because the folks here will know what I’m talking about…. You can send clock across, but I’m not happy with how well it works. It chews up a good portion of the bandwidth, and increases latency and jitter. I’m going to put in WIST-like functionality, so that the endpoints sync up, and keep in time using locally generated clocks (tempo change and song position will get sent through, obviously). Clocks in modern devices don’t drift anywhere near as much as they did in the 80’s, so filtering clock messages should be fine. Also, some apps (Animoog, I’m looking at you) generate tons of aftertouch messages, and I’ll need to add some filtering to cut down on that — the bandwidth of the BLE connection is a little bit higher than wired MIDI, and it’s possible to overrun the capacity (resulting in huge latency).

    Let me know if you’ve got other questions! It’s not going to be the right solution for everything, but I think it’ll reduce the MIDI connectivity headache for a lot of situations.

      1. I’m happy to answer questions, and really appreciate the coverage!

        The range for BLE is about 30 feet — I’ve gotten it to work for longer distances, but it’s really designed for low power and short distances. For a longer wireless connection, something like Panda Audio’s MIDIbeam might be a good option; I’ve talked to the Panda engineers, and have been really impressed. They’ve put together a working Apollo-compatible hardware adapter (sort of like Quicco), but it’s not clear if it’ll make “business-sense” for them to manufacture it.

        And one other thought — for computer-to-computer connections, there are a few good wired options. The iConnectMIDI boxes look great (MIDI *and* audio!), or for about $12, you could use a pair of USB-to-MIDI adapters, and a gender changer.

        I really like BLE, but it’s not the right solution for every case. With iOS gadgets, you’ve got only one physical port, and the adapters for that are fairly expensive — BLE is a good fit there. On computers and regular synth equipment, if there’s a port that gets the job done without a headache, that’s probably the way to go….

    1. My ears perked up when you said you’re working on an FCB1010 editor – planning on releasing that? (iOS app?)

      1. It’ll be an iOS editor (universal), that will upload/download FCB1010 presets. It will emulate the FCB as well; tap on the screen to send whatever MIDI messages have been programmed for a pedal. I’ve got one, I love the functionality, but programming it is a royal pain.

        I’m hoping to get it out the door in a month or two. If you’re interested in beta testing, drop me a line at [email protected], and I’ll hook you up. I’ve got a “stock” FCB, but there are also variants with mod chips — I’d like to have it work for as many of the variants as possible (without having to buy every variant….)

  3. It works great! No latency at all. I tried it with Animoog and it worked both ways. From my macbook to ipad and the other way around. I can record MIDI in Ableton Live, but it doesn’t seem to transmit the aftertouch messages from the Animoog keyboard. I selected “send aftertouch” in the Animoog app. Maybe I missed a setting.

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