Thanks to the timely intervention of my friend Dean Swan, who interacts a fair bit with members of the MIDI Manufacturers' Association, I got clued into the press demo of new MIDI 2.0 tech that was being given in a small demo room in the Yamaha space at the Marriott at NAMM. I will write more about it in the coming days, but wanted to describe the two or three very simple demos I got to see.
The first one was a Roland synthesizer which had been equipped with a TouchKeys
overlay, controlling a prototype Korg hardware synth (a modded minilogue xd, I think) and a Yamaha FM software program, with side to side and forward/back key gestures. Everything was being connected and routed with external microcomputers (Raspberry pi etc), as nothing's been internalized yet.
The demonstrator was obviously not an MPE-savvy player, and the resulting "music" was kind of painful to listen to, but the demonstration worked. There was nothing shown that an MPE controller can't do just as well, but that wasn't the point. The point was: all of the data being sent was MIDI 2.0 data, absolutely bog-standard, now baked into the language! Every note now has properties that are applied when the note is struck, as well as per-note control of multiple parameters while it's held down. No more multichannel logic or obscure commands that not all gear can recognize.
MIDI 2.0 takes advantage of modern connection protocols. It's cable-agnostic (no more 5-pin plugs with UARTs that get fried if you zap your synth with static electricity), and works over any high-speed bidirectional cable, starting with USB 2 and working up to Ethernet and Thunderbolt 3. One of the things that's built into the spec now is something called a Profile. Each device can have a Profile on board, saved in the firmware, which can be communicated automatically to anything you plug it into. Profiles can be written by anyone and can serve pretty much any purpose you can think of within the realm of "hello, you other device, I am this device, and I can do the following and want you to work with me on this."
One example is a synth that comes with a patch editor built in. Plug it into your computer and boom, up comes a screen with the editing software ready to use, no need to install or authorize or update. On a simpler level, imagine never having to document all your hardware synth data separately as part of a DAW session any more: a synth's full state is saved with your project and instantly recalled when you fire it up, without having to send a bunch of carefully prepped SysEx to each box.
Last but not least, here's a movie you might find interesting
. This shows a fader (on the right) being moved with traditional 7-bit MIDI Control Change messages, vs. a fader (on the left) being moved with the new UMP protocol in MIDI 2.0. No more zippering or ratcheting; all data now have a stupidly-overspec'd 32-bit resolution. Pretty trippy!