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Zenph? Yamaha? High-definition MIDI?

Michael Gallant

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Hey y'all,


I just finished editing a short article on Zenph Studios (www.zenph.com) - the guys who seem to be extracting super-exact, complex MIDI data from old solo piano recordings - and there's talk of a potential new, high-definition MIDI protocol. Yamaha also seems to be involved (they provided a customized Disklavier to play back Zenph's files) and there's even an interesting announcement up at http://www.midi.org/newsviews/hdmidipr.shtml.


This could be a blip, or it could be something very big and very cool... anybody have furher news on what's up iwith HD-MIDI?





(KB assistant ed)

Michael Gallant, Associate Editor

Keyboard Magazine


More people pay for Keyboard magazine than any other music-tech magazine. Period.

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An update to MIDI, whether you name it MIDI 2.0 or HD MIDI is something that has been discussed for years. But just like in computers, new protocols take time to be universally accepted and widely used.


Heck, still right now most hardware synths keyboards can hardly respond accurately to the basic range of 0 to 127 velocity values... Simple problems like black keys responding stronger than whites are common in almost every synth brand as we speak. I can't see any manufacturer making a new "super keyboard mechanism" able to precisely send more than 128 values anytime soon. Even the latest open architecture synths wouldn't be compatible with a new MIDI protocol either.


Not to mention that some past great innovations like poly aftertouch aren't even interesting to manufacturers anymore, because of their $$$ priorities. Funny to hear we now need to reinvent the wheel. :)


Don't get me wrong, I will applaud any upgrade to the MIDI 1.0 protocol, but I sincerely doubt it will be implemented to a large scale, except in specialized laboratories and top-of-the-line prototypes/instruments.


Actually, the only limitation I ever experienced with MIDI since it exists is the number of channels. An increase to 128 channels to me would be sufficient an upgrade.


Or maybe... A faster basic transfer rate, so that software could be created for (let's say) MIDI jams on the Internet, for example. :cool:

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Hey Mike,


I won't attempt to predict the future of MIDI. But I will say I'm mighty impressed with that sample I just listened to at Zenph's website. It's amazing how well they transcribed the piece, even if it does take superb equipment to do the playback. But I suppose that's the point: do we need a new spec for this, or do we wait until hardware gets cheaper first? All we know for sure is that technology will progress. I suppose my guess is the spec'll be made. Ok, so I did end up predicting... :)

Kawai GS-40 grand & other keys
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Wow, two exciting news in one! A new, faster MIDI protocol would allow the transmission of mutichannel poly aftertouch, for example... Yum.


What is most impressive to me in what they're doing at Zenph is the technology to extract the MIDI files from the recordings. Maybe they're also using the scores of those pieces for accuracy? If so, no Art Tatum MIDI files? :D


Also,could I purchase some of those MIDI files to play at home using my piano samples?! :D:D

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Has a piano player with a couple of piano CDs and some MIDI background actually looked into Zenph's operation? I ask because news of Zenph has returned comet-like to the forum after a six month absence, but when I go back and review the old threads (and linked web pages) things at Zenph seem to be going backward rather than forward. They've obviously rewritten their sales pitch; rather than touting how they will extract a performer's "style" and apply it to other pieces (so we can hear Elton John's take on Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring), they're now sounding more like a recording studio, extracting MIDI data from old wav files so that the piece can be re-recorded on better equipment. Yet even with these more modest ambitions I don't see anything new from six months ago. In particular, they don't seem to have "extracted" anything new and continue to promote the same two recorded performances (Gould doing Bach and Cortot playing Chopin) that they were showing six months ago.


I remain extremely sceptical of the whole Zenph operation and would love to hear someone other than its president (John Walker) tell me what they can do. Everything I've read so far sounds much more like a pitch for venture capital than a musical breakthrough.



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Originally posted by AnCap:

Suggestion for midi 2.0: it should use USB, and you should only need to plug one cable to get in and out.

I guess USB 2.0 would be the case for this.


BUT, I would really hate to see MIDI get tied up with drivers and such. MIDI, as it is, works as advertised with no updates or compatibility issues. With USB, using a computer will be a necessity.


I don't see the manufacturers wanting to spend the money on USB support for stand-alone keyboards.


I always wondered of a simple over-clocking would suffice for MIDI? Just double the bit-rate.


Resolution is somewhat of a misnomer. Many keyboards simply don't Send or Receive the full 128 increments. They have cheap ADC's and DAC's.

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Originally posted by Prague:

I would really hate to see MIDI get tied up with drivers and such. MIDI, as it is, works as advertised with no updates or compatibility issues. With USB, using a computer will be a necessity.

Absolutely. Keep it self-contained, please.
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