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Midi Quest and MIDI Communications

Before beginning the tutorials, you should read this frank discussion about MIDI SysEx and Midi Quest.

MIDI is not plug-and-play. While there have been great advancements in making it easier to connect your MIDI hardware to the computer, MIDI is not inherently plug-and-play. Particularly for older hardware, it it critical that you read the Fast Tips information for each instrument so that the instrument and Midi Quest can be configured properly to communicate with each other.

One of the most common tech support issues that Sound Quest deals with are communication errors where Midi Quest will not communicate with a piece of MIDI hardware. If you find yourself in a situation where Midi Quest is not receiving SysEx from an instrument, 99.9% of the time the problem is a result of a configuration problem or a MIDI interface problem. Midi Quest is working, it is a matter of configuring your system properly so that communication can happen. Remember, MIDI is not plug-and-play.

Sound Quest has been around for a very long time, 32 years and development on Sound Quest's first products began the year that the first MIDI instruments began shipping. In that that time we have seen an incredible range of MIDI communications issues and while we would prefer that MIDI and SysEx communication was plug-and-play, no company has more experience dealing with MIDI hardware and SysEx than Sound Quest and we are here to assist you to get Midi Quest integrated into your studio.


MIDI information is not arriving from an instrument

When you don't receive a SysEx response from a MIDI device, there can be many, many causes. You will need to work through all of the potential problems until you find the source of the issue and correct it.

Open the Monitor View by tapping on the Studio-MonitorView Status View button in the Studio so that MIDI Activity can be viewed. If a keyboard is displayed, tap on the monitor button in the upper right corner to switch views. Leave the monitor open through the entire test process and if you should mistakenly close it, go back and re-open it. This monitor will show all incoming and outgoing MIDI messages as well as internal error messages if there is a failure. Events displayed in red are events sent from Midi Quest to MIDI hardware. Events displayed in black are events received by Midi Quest. Events displayed in blue are status messages that cover a wide range of issues and, if displayed, can be used to diagnose problems.


In the Studio view, select the MIDI device you are having problems with.

Press the Studio-FastTips Fast Tips button on the button bar, read the Fast Tips information and ensure that the instrument is correctly configured to communicate with Midi Quest. These instructions will include how to enable System Exclusive communication on the instrument if it is necessary.

It is critical to remember that not all MIDI devices ship with System Exclusive enabled. This is particularly true of Korg instruments. In these cases, response to System Exclusive messages must be enabled on the instrument or MIDI device by you. It is not possible for Midi Quest to do this on its own.

The Fast Tips will also include other necessary instructions to ensure that the instrument and Midi Quest are able to communicate. Failure to read and follow these instructions will usually ensure a failure to communicate with your hardware.

Fast Tips view

If Midi Quest and the MIDI hardware appear to be correctly configured and communication problems persist, you will need to start looking for problems.

Verify that the MIDI Interface is being found by Midi Quest

Tap on an instrument in the Studio and press the Settings button to display the current settings. MIDI IN and MIDI OUT ports should be listed for the MIDI interface in the two lists. If the MIDI interface being used isn't listed, it indicates that IOS has not found the MIDI interface hardware. If this is the case, it will be necessary to contact the MIDI interface manufacturer to determine what the issue is and resolve it.


Verify the MIDI Interface can Receive SysEx

One of the most common problems Sound Quest currently encounters is customers attempting to use MIDI interfaces which actually don't transfer SysEx properly. If an inexpensive MIDI interface (<$30US) has been purchased from a Chinese company, most likely your problems result from the fact that most of these interfaces DO NOT process SysEx properly. This can manifest in one of three ways: the interface doesn't transmit SysEx, the interface doesn't receive SysEx, or the interface will not receive SysEx immediately after sending SysEx. The most common of these three are the latter two.

The first test to run is a manual dump of SysEx from the hardware. Not all instruments are capable of this but most are. When the SysEx is transmitted from the instrument, it should be displayed in the Monitor window. If it doesn't, it means that there is a failure somewhere in the hardware chain between the instrument and Midi Quest. Most frequently the problem is with the MIDI interface but not always.

If an inexpensive Chinese interface is being used, it should be swapped at least temporarily for one from M-Audio, Roland, or MOTU to ensure that the interface is not the problem.


Ensure Two-Way MIDI Connection between the iPad and MIDI Device

This mistake is made by many experienced MIDI musicians so if it happens to you, don't feel badly. For Midi Quest to automatically collect SysEx from MIDI hardware, a two way connection is necessary. MIDI OUT from the MIDI interface to the MIDI IN of the device. MIDI OUT from the MIDI device to the MIDI IN of the interface.

When working with MIDI rack modules, MIDI communication from a DAW or sequencer is usually one way, from the iPad to the device. it is easy to forget the SysEx requires two way communication. So make sure there is a MIDI cable coming from the MIDI OUT of your MIDI device to the MIDI IN of a MIDI interface.


Verify Your MIDI Cables Work

This problem is also particularly common with MIDI modules. There is a MIDI cable from the module MIDI OUT to the MIDI interface MIDI IN however the cable is not working properly and because it is rarely used, you have not realized it.

Over the years, Sound Quest has seen a number of MIDI cable related problems so if you are having communications problems, you will need to carefully verify that your MIDI cables are working properly. The issues we have seen in the past are as follows:

a. No SysEx transfers because the MIDI cable is damaged and non-functioning

b. Intermittent SysEx transfers because the MIDI cable is damaged and only works part of the time

c. MIDI cables that are able to successfully transfer standard MIDI messages such as MIDI note events but are faulty in some way so that bulk SysEx transfers with substantially more bytes are not properly transferred