We explain MIDI 2.0 in plain English, discuss the benefits & show you why 2.0 matters to the modern musician

MIDI 2, or MIDI 2.0 as it's officially known has now been confirmed at NAMM 2020. If you use MIDI instruments you should really be excited. The new 2.0 update now offers two-way conversations between your gear, precision timing and 32-bits of resolution, plus more features. The MIDI Manufacturers Association or MMA is calling MIDI 2.0 "the biggest advance in music technology in decades"... but why? We take a look at the key benefits of MIDI 2 and what the core documents adopted were.

MIDI 2.0 FAQ - What's it all about?

What is MIDI 2.0?

MIDI 2.0 improves on MIDI 1.0 because it's bi-directional and changes MIDI communication from a monologue to a dialogue. In plain English, this means two way MIDI conversations between your gear. Thanks to MIDI-CI (Capability Inquiry) messages this means your 2.0 devices can talk to each other and auto-configure themselves to work together, too. It completely changes the game.

When Is MIDI 2.0 Being Released?

It's still in its infancy - but it has started rolling out now, in 2020.

What Are The 5 Benefits Of MIDI 2

There are many benefits to using MIDI 2.0, such as higher resolution up to 32-bit, more controllers and better timing. But the main benefits as stated by the MIDI association are as follows:
  1. Two-way MIDI Conversations
  2. Higher Resolution, More Controllers and Better Timing
  3. Profile Configuration
  4. Property Exchange
  5. Built for the Future
Two-way MIDI Conversations Up until now, MIDI 1.0 conversations were a one-way thing: From transmitter to receiver. However, 2.0 now allows for a bi-directional conversation. Your devices talk to each and work together, auto-configuring themselves instantly. Higher Resolution, More Controllers & Better Timing According to the MIDI Association, MIDI 2 now offers a level of nuanced musical and artistic expressiveness never-before-seen. You now have 32,000 controllers at your disposal, which includes controls for individual notes. You also get 32-bit resolution offering a smooth analogue feel. New Note-On options were added to provide greater articulation and note pitch whilst there have been vast improvements to the timing. Some MIDI 1 gear can actually "retrofit" certain MIDI 2 features, so you'll have no problem adding 2.0 to your setup. Profile Configuration 2.0 now offers Profile configuration. You can now dynamically configure a device for a particular use. For example, if a control surface speaks to a device with a "mixer" Profile, then the controls will automatically map to faders and other mixer parameters. If you have a "drawbar organ" Profile, then the same control surface with automatically map to virtual drawbars and other keyboard parameters. It will even map to dimmers if you're using lighting controllers. this means you can set up super quickly! Here's an Analog Synth and Drawbar Organ Profile Demo from the MIDI Association Property Exchange MIDI 2 now offers detailed information sharing thanks to Property Exchange. Your 2.0 gear will retrieve and set many properties like preset names and individual parameter settings so you don't have to. This means your DAW can show everything you need about your 2.0 synth on screen, essentially bringing your old hardware synths into the digital age and showing you the same info as their software versions. Everything you need to know about that vintage MOOG you have now shows up on screen. Built For The Future The Mid Association say that 2.0 is future proof. Whereas MIDI 1.0 was tied to specific hardware implementation, 2.0 can be implemented on any digital transport like USB or Ethernet. The team has ensured there is ample space left over for new MIDI messages should MIDI 3.0 ever turn up!

Does MIDI 2.0 Work With MIDI 1.0? Is MIDI 2 Backwards Compatible?

Yes. MIDI 2.0 is backwards compatible. Not only can MIDI 2 devices talk to each other, they auto-configure themselves to work together. MIDI 2 devices also exchange information on functionality, which makes them backwards compatible. Your 2.0 gear talks to your existing gear and finds out whether it's using MIDI 2 - if not, it simply communicates using 1.0 instantly.

What Are The Core Documents of MIDI 2.0

The five core documents adopted at NAMM 2020 were:
  1. MIDI Capability Inquiry (Update)
  2. Specification for Universal MIDI Packet (UMP) Format and MIDI 2.0 Protocol
  3. Common Rules for MIDI CI Profiles
  4. Common Rules for MIDI-CI Property Exchange
  5. Property Exchange Foundational Resources and Basic Resource
Again, you can read more about that technical stuff HERE.

What MIDI 2.0 controllers are available?

Right now, as of January 2020 the only MIDI 2.0 keyboard Controller available is the Roland A-88MKII MIDI Keyboard Controller.   Read more about MIDI 2 over at the MIDI Association Shop a full range of MIDI Keyboards over at PMT Online today or call in to your local PMT store to try out a full selection. Read more: 7 Best Cheap MIDI Keyboards Under £100 That Don't Suck 7 Best MIDI Keyboards For Serious Musicians