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Bluetooth MIDI is here to stay

Bluetooth MIDI is here to stay

This is an article that was originally posted on the Cakewalk blog and they kindly gave us permission to excerpt it here on MIDI.org and link to the full article. The cover photo is courtesy of Pete Brown from Microsoft. 

There are dozens of wireless data standards today. So why is Bluetooth so popular?
Wireless standards may be grouped into a few classes:

Optimized for short-range communications (Bluetooth),
Wide area communications (801.11g/n/a, DECT etc, 802.11 over AVB),
Nationwide or global coverage (cellular networks 3G, 4G LTE, etc)
Personal area networks (Bluetooth LE, UWB, etc).

By far the most ubiquitous wireless protocol in use for audio devices is Bluetooth. This is primarily due to low-cost of Bluetooth hardware, ease of use, widespread adoption and availability of devices with built-in Bluetooth support – cars, cellular phones, headphones, speakers, even door locks are equipped with Bluetooth functionality today.

AVB (Audio Video Bridging) is one of the more promising networking technologies for audio due to its high bandwidth capabilities and scalability, and has also generated a lot of buzz in the audio community. Although wired AVB has gained a fair amount of traction with many pro audio interfaces as well as the automotive industry, wireless AVB unfortunately has been slow to develop.

Bluetooth may have gotten a bad rap in the past for error prone device discovery and pairing, high latency and glitchy audio playback. With the adoption of more recent Bluetooth standards such as BT 4.0 and higher, stability has greatly increased and the latency is much improved. With the addition of MIDI data transmission via the Bluetooth LE specification, Bluetooth is now a complete media streaming solution. Bluetooth 5 continues to evolve, adding 4X the range, 2X the speed, and 8X the data broadcasting capacity compared to Bluetooth 4. Longer range powers whole home and building coverage, for more robust and reliable connections.

by Noel Borthwick [Cakewalk]Chief Technology Officer

MIDI APIs

The most widely used MIDI programming interface is the classic MME (Multimedia extensions) API that has been in existence since 1991. DirectMusic was another somewhat lesser-used, higher-level API for MIDI. MME has been in use by DAW applications for decades. While audio support in Windows has progressed a lot from MME via ASIO, WDM, and WASAPI, MIDI support in Windows has seen no updates until recently.

In Windows 10, Microsoft introduced the new UWP MIDI API. The idea was to provide a more modern and extensible way for UWP applications to communicate with MIDI devices and provide support for newer MIDI protocols / interfaces. Since this API was designed for UWP applications, it was not adopted by most DAW vendors who are building Win32 applications.

Recently, in Sept 2016 Microsoft released a UWP wrapper to allow Win32 applications to also use the UWP MIDI API through a translation layer. Cakewalk evaluated this API and found it viable. Details about this announcement and more info about UWP MIDI can be found in this Microsoft blog post.

Advantages of UWP MIDI

  • UWP is the new API platform so any changes to MIDI functionality will be available only via UWP and not the older MIDI APIs
  • Can be used by both UWP apps as well as Win32 apps (using the Win32 wrapper)
  • Supports Bluetooth LE MIDI (BLE-MIDI) protocol
  • Handles multi-client access to MIDI ports
  • Much simpler API to use overall

Bluetooth LE MIDI support

The Windows 10 Anniversary Edition, includes in-box support for Bluetooth LE MIDI (BLE-MIDI) that was developed by an MMA working group. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a wireless connection specification supported by the majority of mobile computing devices. BLE can extend battery life for mobile devices using connected accessories (such as MIDI keyboards and controllers) that don't continuously stream data.

Bluetooth MIDI can be used by any application via the Windows 10 UWP MIDI API. As long as the PC has a Bluetooth LE capable radio, no additional hardware is necessary to talk to Bluetooth MIDI peripherals such as keyboards, pedals and controllers. Note that the PC itself can't be a Bluetooth peripheral as of now, since Microsoft hasn't implemented that yet.

For the full article by Noel Borthwick, please click on the link below. 

...

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