Take over the stage and rock out - or something
Lets Do the Show Right Here
A life free from wires may seem like a utopian ideal - one for the dreamers and people who read too many sci-fi novels, but itâ€™s getting closer to reality. In fact, it IS a reality for MIDI right now. The latest technology from M-Audio brings us true wireless MIDI with their MIDAIR range.
The unit we have for review is the MIDAIR 25. Flip the lid on the box and inside youâ€™ll find two basic components - the little blue box USB MIDI interface which houses the wireless receiver, MIDI In and Out, plus the USB connection for working with a host computer and the other bit, a 25-key, Oxygen8 (not V2) - like 25-key MIDI keyboard, complete with eight knobs, one fader (yay!) but no transport control (boo!).
You also get 6 AA batteries (Duracell no less), a USB cable, AND a power supply for running the keyboard or the receiver, and a CD with some XP drivers. OS X donâ€™t need any extra gubbins - it just works (10.4.x)
Hooking up the base unit to my Mac and the interface was recognized instantly by AudioMIDI setup, although I had to boot my sequencer a couple of times before I got it to take. Communication is simple, just switch on the keyboard, and the base unit negotiates a connection with the attractive blue LED blinking and then steady. Then your good to go and basically, the MIDI just works like youâ€™d expect it to - hit the keys to make noise, wiggle the knobs to move control values. Its worth noting that the actual MIDI keyboard part does not have any USB connectivity, so the Enigma editor that forms part of the other USB MIDI devices sadly does not apply here.
The MIDAIR does have another trick up its sleeve though - you can use it in standalone mode - say if you're a live player, you could hook this up to your keyboard rack and run around on stage putting your feet on the monitors and generally making a nuisance of yourself. However, you will need to provide the receiver with power as it wont be getting it from the USB connection 'course. If the thought of a mere 25-key â€œaxeâ€� is just too embarrassing, there is a 47 key version and the MIDAIR is now available in just a transmit/receive combo so you could plug whatever MIDI controller you like into it.
Of course, there are going to be limitations - the thorny question of range, as you race headlong across the stage sliding the final few feet on your knees whilst wigging out on the hottest synth noise terror, you might want to make sure youâ€™re not too far away from the receiver or youâ€™ll fade away and frankly look a bit foolish.
In practice I was able to get around 25-30ft with line of sight and up 20ft with a wall in the way.
It's not just for live though, the studio might be just the place for your latest wires-free acquisition, or maybe you want to noodle whilst watching Lost etc etc.
I did try maxing out the transmission system with a wild flailing controller fest, and it did seem to hold out ok, so the wireless bandwidth can take it - M-Audio tell us that "It can easily handle full MIDI bandwidth". The frequencies it operates at are the same as Bluteooth in the 2.3gHz range, though not actually Bluetooth. M-Audio say that it uses technology licensed from Frontier Designs (they of the wireless Tranzport) and is legit in all environments compliant with the FCC standards. But out of the range of passing taxicabs, chatty cops, or amateur radio buffs.
But, because it is in the same range as Bluetooth, there is a chance that if your audience is full of loved up phone junkies beaming contact details or saucy photos of each other around the venue (via Bluetooth), you may get interference if there are too many devices vying for available bandwidth - sadly, I have not had the chance to test this out as written . But I did switch on all my Bluetooth devices with no problems.
All in all, this unit will do what it says - and if you've been aching for the freedom to roam to your hearts content whilst playing (for at least 20 feet or so) then this unit, or one of it's brethren should do the job nicely.
Perhaps the full list price makes it a bit of a costly luxury (though you're sure to get it for less if you shop around), but the alternatives are more pricey - albeit with greater range (on paper)
Price: MIDAIR 25 $249, MIDAIR 37 $299, MIDAIR $149
Excellent review, way to put that keyboard to the test! Well informed suggestions and a good balance between the pros and cons.
15-Dec-06 07:05 PM
Jordaan, I appreciate your comments - was feeling a bit tender after the last ones ;-)
16-Dec-06 09:31 AM
Hey boss, good to see a change from the Shorn approach to reviews..... hehe
More plz... maybe no Santa shirt next time
ps. Merry XMAS from down under ;) 3-0 ..... haha... I shouldn't rub it in
20-Dec-06 04:49 AM
ps. I still love Shorn's work.... the world needs us crazy ones ;)
20-Dec-06 04:54 AM
Santa shirt? Eh? I dont remember wearing one of those....
At least, not in public
21-Dec-06 05:34 AM
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