The iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad are now established favorites for the mobile muso with new synths and sequencers seemingly coming out every week. Until iOS 4 however there was no standardized method for getting MIDI control signals in and out of the units for interfacing with 'proper' equipment. Some enterprising developers created methods using the Apple Camera Kit USB connector whilst Line 6 created its own proprietary method and the MIDI Mobilizer dongle to go with it. In the iOS 4 software release Apple ported the CoreMIDI programming interface framework from MacOS and developers finally had a standard method with which they were familiar. Though iOS4 was released a year ago, compatible MIDI interfaces are now only beginning to get to market.
IK Multimedia chose a somewhat subdued Summer NAMM exhibition last week to announce the iRig MIDI interface whilst Line 6 countered yesterday with MIDI Mobilizer II, a CoreMIDI compatible update to its original groundbreaking MIDI Mobilizer. It should be noted that both interfaces require iOS 4 which will run on the following devices: iPod Touch 3 and 4, iPhone 3GS and 4,and iPad 1 and 2.
The devices are very similar in form sporting the obligatory Apple 30-pin connector and miniature jack sockets with associated mini jack to DIN MIDI 5-pin cables for connection. Both units also sport input and output indicator LEDs but the IK iRig MIDI has a couple of advantages up its sleeve in the form of a MIDI Thru mini-jack and a mini USB socket to allow the iDevice to be charged whilst in operation. Both units come with (via the usual App Store download) a MIDI data recorder/player. Again the iRig MIDI has a slight advantage in also providing the Sample Tank FREE sound module app for er, free.
Every synth or drum machine on iOS, including the wildly popular GarageBand is CoreMIDI compatible so that you can use full size keyboards and controllers to play these apps. Similarly, mobile DAWS and sequencers will be able to control and sync with your music hardware. These units also make it easier to connect footswitches and other controllers for non-music-based apps which suggests some interesting possibilities.
Both interfaces are 'coming soon' for around US$70. Let the market (and marketing) decide.