The MIDI Forum

  Thursday, 14 January 2021
  3 Replies
  7K Visits
hello everyone.

does MIDI have quality variations?

I have searched the forums for the answer and I have not found the specific answer as to why some MIDI files sound cant be recreated in DAW (logic Pro). eg I downloaded a song by the band Tool in MIDI format and it sounds nothing like the song even when I change, update re-mix...

link to file is below
2 years ago
MIDI doesn't have quality variations, it's a protocol that defines how data is transmitted.

But MIDI files vary enormously in quality from the MIDI inept, to some that are difficult to distinguish from human beings playing the original tune.

I notice in the file you posted that there is no reverb on anything.
It won't sound good without at least a little reverb.
For some reason all channels have pitch bend range changed to one octave (i.e.12 semitones).
That is a little unusual.

2 years ago

The answer to your questtion is certainly YES, midi files do vary a LOT is quality, but I'm not sure that this is anything to do with the underlying point of your question, which seems to be more - why doesn't the midi file I've got sound more like the actual music it's supposed to sound like?

No matter how well, or even brilliantly, created it is, a midi file is using a limited (compared to live, real, musicians) set of instructions and sounds to recreate the original. Some things are within the control of the midi arranger. Other things are NOT, for example the midi equipment (souind fonts, sound modules etc for analog) that turn the midi instructions into actual sounds. Some sound fonts are better than others, some hardware modules are better than others. The midi arranger may have strived long hours to get the midi file to sound OK on his equipment, it may sound really dire on your setup.

I guess that the link you give is for the midi file you're talking about. I have not tried this, as the item is nothing I've ever heard before, so I've no idea what it should sound like. It would be a help if you said more about your equipment, i.e. what are you using to generate the sounds. If you're using the Windows default sound font, this is considered bt be very poor by modern standards. If you're using an external box (sound module) then what is it? Also, it would be a help to be more specific regarding at least SOME of the deficiencies.

I've always considered that part of the 'fun' of midi files is to try to improve them, using extra sound options, layering, different sounds, etc. It will still NOT sound EXACTLY like the original, but it may be a lot better.


Maybe you ddon't want to talk about quality, but about realism. Let's do a little parallelism with another art...

Have oil painting less quality than photography? Of course, they are two different things that can't be compared in terms of art quality. You may argue that a biology book would be better served with photographic illustrations than with drawings, for the purpose of teaching plants or animals.

But then, there is the case of architecture blueprints. The blueprint of an edifice is a drawing that provides better information than a photograph for the purpose that blueprints are used. In despite that the drawing is schematic and non realistic.

A MIDI file may be useful for some use cases, even more than a digital audio recording, but in any case it has fundamental limits. For instance: a singer track. The human voice needs to be recorded as audio not MIDI.
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