A MIDI Interface provides the requisite link between two or more pieces of MIDI equipment to allow them to communicate. There is huge variation in the price and complexity of MIDI Interfaces. A simple model might cost no more than a few pounds and have a single MIDI input and output, and a USB connection. At the other end of the scale, a professional device might have many MIDI inputs and outputs and cost several hundred pounds. When buying a MIDI interface, doing a small amount of research is the key to selecting the right one. On eBay, the seller of a MIDI Interface should be able to answer any questions regarding its specifications. The reward for properly researching the different MIDI interfaces available on eBay should be a device which works perfectly in its intended role.
What is MIDI?
MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is an industry standard connection to allow electronic musical triggers, sound sources, and computers to communicate. These do so using connections commonly labelled MIDI In, MIDI Out and MIDI Thru. Connections are usually made through dedicated cables with standard or miniaturised MIDI connectors on each end. MIDI devices that are capable of communicating wirelessly have been around for some time, obviating the need for a direct hardwired connection, but not all MIDI hardware offers this capability. More recently, some MIDI interfaces have also started to offer wireless connectivity, allowing them to be virtually placed at any point in a MIDI network.
A Typical MIDI Setup
An example of a typical MIDI setup might be as follows. An electronic drum kit is used to trigger an electronic drum module, which in turn outputs to a computer acting as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). A DAW is basically a computer with a soundcard and software which allows it to record, edit, and playback digital audio. All three MIDI devices are connected by MIDI cables running between them. In the simplest case, the MIDI Out of the electronic snare drum is connected to the MIDI In of the drum module, and the MIDI Out of the drum module is connected to the MIDI In of the computer. As the drummer plays a note on the musical trigger; for instance, on the electronic snare drum, it instantly conveys this information via the MIDI cable to the sound source, which in this case is the drum module. The module uses the MIDI information to identify the snare drum as the trigger and outputs the corresponding snare sound via the audio channel. The drum module also instantaneously passes the information to the computer where the note is recorded by the sequencing software. The end result is that the drummer experiences something similar to playing an acoustic kit but with the added advantage that everything played has been digitally recorded at the same time.
The Requirement for a MIDI Interface
A single MIDI connection can handle 16 channels of information. An electronic drum kit, with triggers in the pedals, cymbals, and drums might easily meet or exceed this limit. This would mean there were no available channels for any other MIDI equipment such as keyboards, electronic stringed instruments, and electronic wind instruments. MIDI interfaces are available in 2-, 4-, and 8-port configurations which would increase the number of available channels to 32, 64, and 128 respectively. It is possible for one MIDI instrument to trigger more than one MIDI sound source. For example, a single keyboard can control multiple synthesisers to produce a multilayered sound. A MIDI Interface can be placed at any point on the MIDI network to intercept the mix at that point and divert it elsewhere. Not all MIDI devices feature a MIDI Thru connection, meaning that they cannot be linked together sequentially in what is known as a daisy chaining. A MIDI Interface enables to position the MIDI device wherever it is required within a MIDI daisy chain network. For someone new to using MIDI equipment, the technology can sometimes seem baffling. Searching the eBay Reviews & Guides section can often help provide useful information, not just about the item to be purchased, but the best way to go about doing so on the eBay site.
Choosing a MIDI Interface
Buying an interface which is only just capable of providing enough channels for a current setup leaves no room for future expansion. It is important to future proof the purchase to some extent by trying to imagine what additional MIDI devices might be desirable and designing the network to allow their future inclusion. At the same time, it is worth bearing in mind that the MIDI standard is an old technology that will at some point become obsolete. If investing in a more expensive MIDI interface, it is worth considering alternative solutions. As USB connectivity continues to replace MIDI, MIDI devices will not hold their resale value well and may quickly become redundant. It is worth considering if a wireless MIDI interface would be a suitable choice for the intended application. In a more complex system in which simplification of the hardwired network would be beneficial, a wireless MIDI interface may well be the better choice. It is also worth checking if any of the existing MIDI devices that will use the interface are already capable of any of doing so wirelessly. Smartphone users may find that it may be possible to adapt their handset to act as a simple wireless MIDI interface. If this is the case, and it is able to provide the required level of connectivity, then a wireless smartphone MIDI interface would be appropriate. In addition to the purchase of the interface, a suitable app to control the new hardware would also be required. Before purchasing a MIDI interface on eBay, remember to use the “Ask a question” link in the listing to find out any additional information required, to be sure the device will suitable for its intended application. It can also be a good idea to check the “Seller’s other items” link in the listing to see what other MIDI devices they might have for sale. Checking the seller’s feedback can be a good way to find out if others on eBay have purchased the same item and are happy with it.
Buying a MIDI Interface on eBay
Whether looking for a simple single port MIDI interface, a multi-port professional model or something in between, there is likely to be an eBay listing for whatever requirements the buyer has. Buying a used MIDI Interface might be worth consideration if budget constraints do not allow the desired level of connectivity to be purchased new. Once a suitable MIDI Interface has been located, it should be double checked for compatibility with existing hardware before committing to purchasing the item. Ensure that the MIDI device has the required number of connectors and that those connections are of the correct size, either standard or miniaturised, to fit existing hardware. When the chosen MIDI interface arrives, it is a good idea to check it is compatible with all the equipment it will need to connect to. If the item has been carefully researched, this should be the case, and all that will remain is to leave good feedback for the seller.
Find MIDI Interfaces on eBay
To buy a MIDI interface, go to the eBay homepage. Begin by opening the All Categories tab and then clicking on the link for Musical Instruments followed by Pro Audio Equipment. Next, click on the link for Audio/MIDI Interfaces and then on MIDI Interface. The search can be further refined using the options on the left of the page. It is possible, for example, to view only the MIDI Interfaces which fall within a particular budget. Also, the input connectivity required can be specified here using the Mic/Line Input criteria on the left of the page. The most popular brands of MIDI interface can also be selected from here. Another alternative is to enter specific terms into the search bar at the top of any eBay page to locate a particular type of interface, or brand of interest. For example, to find an unused MIDI Interface, simply type “MIDI Interface new” into the search field.
There is a great deal of variation in the complexity and price of MIDI Interfaces, making it more difficult to choose the correct one. When buying a MIDI interface, choosing the right number of MIDI ports is of key importance because future expansion needs must also be taken into consideration. Smartphone users may find that their handset is capable of being used as a simple wireless MIDI interface. It should be remembered that USB connectivity looks set to eventually replace MIDI, and this fact should act as a restraining influence on investing too heavily in solely MIDI based technologies. When buying a more complex technical item on eBay like a MIDI interface, it is important that the buyer properly investigates and understands the product. This should involve researching the item in the eBay Review & Guides section and ensuring that any relevant questions are put to the seller.