Its funny that we've been waiting for technology that is 30-years old to become available to cutting edge tech, but that is where we are. With the release of the iPad - MIDI has been something that has been missing - at least wired MIDI - wifi is all well and good, but adds an extra layer of complexity and latency, not to mention requires a computer, which kind of defeats the point of having a small, portable device..
Line 6 have come to the rescue with their MIDI Mobilizer, a dockable (slots in the port all iPhones, iPod Touch and iPads have at their base), dongle type thing with two mini-jacks for MIDI in and out. Specially made cables are supplied. Officially, just the iPhone and iPod Touch are supported, though I can confirm that the iPad also works.
Take a Memo
Simply hook up the hardware - it works with all iPhones, iPod Touch and iPad models, then download the free MIDI Memo App, and you're good to go. On the iPad the app runs in 2x mode so the graphics are scaled up to iPad size, but its perfectly workable.
You now have a simple MIDI recording device. Simply swipe the protect bar to create a new recording, hit the giant record button, play and thats it. While recording, you are given a running length (recording starts when the first MIDI data is received) and file size. Hit stop to close the recording.
There is no quantize, loop, tempo or any other kind of modification available apart from being able to rename the recording. If you happen to have any network connection, you can then email the .MID file.
It should be mentioned that Line 6 created this app to enable you to backup the memory in your Line 6 products via MIDI SysEx (system exclusive dump), so there is no real need to include any more advanced MIDI functions for the MIDI Memo App. However, they have opened up the hardware to developers, who can use the interface with their own apps. Inevitably, this will lead to some more sophisticated MIDI applications - who knows, we may see a full featured MIDI sequencer?
However, to achieve this there will need to be a MIDI thru function - say if I have a MIDI keyboard hooked up and a sound module too, with the MIDI Mobilizer in between, there's no way I could send the MIDI through the recorder and play the sounds on the module. This to be fair is not the fault of the hardware - at least I don't think so, I have no way of knowing whether there's any lag or latency when playing through the hardware.
MIDI File Player
Some prospective purahcasers may be considering this as the perfect portable MIDI Song of MIDI file playback device, and its true it can be used as such. But at present, at least with the MIDI Memo software, the only way to get your multi-channel recordings into it is by playing the song out in real-time from a computer and recording it directly into the MIDI Memo App.
Once in, you again cant adjust tempo or transpose or change the channel, but it will playback the file to your MIDI system.
As it comes, the MIDI Mobilizer is probably best suited to backing up patches in your MIDI gear - the perfect companion for the touring tech. True, MIDI sequence playback is also possible and may work fine for many situations, but the lack of sophistication in the included App may be a problem. I'm sure that real soon, we'll see some more Apps that take advantage of the hardware.
Note: Just after this article was published, and App - MIDI Surface was released - which gives allows you to construct multiple customized controller setups - expect a review soon.