Yamaha has released a pair of Bluetooth to MIDI interfaces in the UD and MD BT-01 wireless MIDI adapters. MIDI over Bluetooth is quickly becoming the technology du jour for the latest keyboard controllers, and the 2 BT01 adapters promise to bring this exciting new feature to all of your legacy gear. I had a chance to test out both of them, and the results look promising indeed.
The UD-BT01 is made to work with instruments that have USB connectivity, and the MD-BT01 has standard MIDI in and out connections. It’s kind of nice to have both options, but most MIDI controllers and keyboards have the MIDI option even if they have USB. This is important to think about, and I’ll get to why in a little bit.
The UD-BT01 has a single USB input which would replace where you plug your MIDI controller into your computer or iOS device. On the other side, there is a USB output that must be connected to a power adapter such as one that came with your mobile phone. The UD-BT01 cannot be powered simply from the USB out of your keyboard. This is not a knock at Yamaha, it’s likely that there just isn’t any power coming out of that USB jack on your standard MIDI controller.
The MD-BT01, however, does receive its power over your standard MIDI jacks. You plug both ends of the dongle into the MIDI in and out ports on your MIDI device and it powers up and starts broadcasting. For this reason, I found the MD to be more convenient to work with, and when given the choice on a MIDI device which has both types of output, I’d use the MD over the UD.
MIDI over Bluetooth has the potential for exceptionally low latency. It’s fast and reliable, and the low data rate of MIDI allows it to communicate back and forth with your device in the sub-20 ms range. This is perfectly appropriate for both live and in the studio performance, and considering how easy it is to set up, I can see both the UD and BT 01 dongles becoming a hot ticket item in studios everywhere simply to eliminate cables and allow for keyboards to be placed anywhere in the studio.
With a number of apps available that communicate with Bluetooth MIDI (not the least of which, Apple’s GarageBand for iOS), the reason for purchasing a BT01 increases tenfold. If you want to get into music apps on iOS, you no longer need a separate interface, USB hub, or even USB camera kit to connect just about any keyboard. Yamaha offers several apps themselves to interface with their own keyboards, like the Reface Capture app for storing and organizing presets on the Reface line of keyboards.
Bluetooth MIDI benefits aren’t limited to keyboards, by the way—I can see digital mixers, electronic drums, drum pads, guitar pedals, and more all benefitting from extremely low latency wireless communication with computers and mobile devices.
The UD and MD BT01 adapters are pretty much no brainers if you work with MIDI devices and want them to communicate with a computer, mobile, or tablet device. I did prefer the MD a tad over the UD, but simply because the MD is self-powered and a bit quicker to set up. If you need to utilize the USB output, the UD works perfectly as well.