MIDI was introduced at the 1983 NAMM show as a means to connect various electronic instruments together. Since then, our favorite five-pin DIN has been stuffed into Radio Shack keyboards, MPCs, synths, eurorack modules, and DAWs. The standard basically hasn’t changed. Sure, we have MIDI SysEx messages to configure individual components of a MIDI setup, but at its core, MIDI hasn’t changed since it was designed as a current-loop serial protocol for 8-bit microcontrollers running at 1 MHz.
Now, ahead of the 2019 NAMM show, the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) in conjunction with AMEI, Japan’s MIDI Association, are announcing MIDI 2.0. The new features include, “auto-configuration, new DAW/web integrations, extended resolution, increased expressiveness, and tighter timing”. It will retain backwards-compatibility with MIDI 1.0 devices.
The new initiative, like the release of the first MIDI spec, is a joint venture between manufacturers of musical instruments. The company lineup on this press release is as follows: Ableton/Cycling ’74, Art+Logic, Bome Software, Google, imitone, Native Instruments, Roland, ROLI, Steinberg, TouchKeys, and Yamaha.
This is not an official announcement of the MIDI 2.0 specification. This is the ‘prototyping’ phase, where manufacturers implement the MIDI 2.0 spec as envisioned, write some documentation, figure out what the new logo will look like, and design a self-certification process. Prototyping is expected to continue through 2019, when the final MIDI 2.0 spec will be released on the MIDI Association website.
As far as hardware hackers are concerned, there shouldn’t be any change to your existing MIDI implementation, provided you’re not doing anything new. It should be backwards compatible, after all. The new spec will allow for increased range in expression and ‘tighter’ timing, which might be an indication that the baud rate of MIDI (31,250 baud +/- 1%) may change. There’s some interesting things in store for the last old-school physical layer in existence, and we can’t wait to see what comes out of it.