Announced in early 2020, the MIDI manufacturers association are calling MIDI 2.0 "the biggest advance in music technology in decades". Prior to MIDI, which if you didn’t know, is acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, there was no real standardised way of getting instruments such as synths and drum machines to talk to each other. But in 1983, MIDI 1.0 was introduced and adopted by all the major manufacturers, such as Roland, Yamaha and Korg, as the first universal digital interface for instruments, which meant that there was now an really simple, standardised way to link, sync and control hardware devices, and later down the line software, regardless of different brands or the type of digital instrument.
It’s testament to how well thought out that original version of the MIDI was, as nearly 40 years later, it’s still the standard way of getting devices and software to talk to each other, and it’s become and absolute essential for both recording studio setups as well as live performers. But now in 2020, MIDI has evolved...
Key features of MIDI 2.0...
Backwards compatibility - If a MIDI 2 devices connects to a non-2.0 device, it will just continue to communicate using MIDI 1.0 in the way that we’re used to MIDI devices talking to each other.
Bi-Directional communication - MIDI messages can now be sent 2 ways between devices across a single connection.
MIDI Capability Inquiry (MIDI-CI) - Allows MIDI 2.0 compatible devices to automatically talk to each other so they can understand each other’s capabilities.
MIDI Profile Configuration - Dynamically configures a device for a certain use, so for example, if a control surface inquires a device that has a “mixer” profile, then the controls will automatically map to faders, pan pots and other parameters associated with a mixer.
MIDI 2.0’s Property Exchange - Discovers and retrieves specific information from another device such as, preset names, individual parameter settings and other unique functionalities. This means for example, you might be using a hardware synth connected to your computer, but if it’s MIDI 2.0 compatible, your recording software will be able to automatically detect every single parameter of the synth and display it on your computer screen, effectively giving your hardware synth the same level of recallability and easy in-depth editing as it’s soft synth counterpart.
Higher Resoloution - MIDI 2.0 dramatically improves on the amount and speed of data that can actually be communicated between devices. Supporting up to 256 MIDI channels and 32-bit resolution, MIDI 2.0 means that communication between devices can be much more complex, making timing characteristics more reliable and less buggy, and control changes more efficient. That higher resolution allows for much more detailed control of parameters. Think of it this way, MIDI controls on version 1.0 allowed for adjustments of a parameter between the range of 0 to 127. With MIDI 2.0, this range goes into the thousands, so let’s say you’re controlling a parameter using a knob or a fader on your controller surface, those adjustments are going to be much smoother and more precise, kind of how you’d expect from an analog control knob.
Future-Proofed - MIDI 2.0 has also been future proofed to enable it’s functionality to evolve and expand over the years to come. MIDI 2.0’s new Universal MIDI Packet format makes it easily implemented on any digital transport such as USB or Ethernet. There's also ample space reserved for the creation of brand-new MIDI messages in the future, so hopefully, just like it’s predecessor, MIDI 2.0 will be the standard musical instrument digital interface for decades to come.