[Beta Program] Midihub Review by HKA


#1

Combining the very best aspects of MIDI utility devices past and present; and coupled with an instantly approachable and understandable desktop app for programming the device, Midihub is, in short, the definitive MIDI utility box.

What you do with the Midihub is really down to the user. At its most simple, it works as a rock-solid 4-in, 4-out USB MIDI interface. I found the timing to be spot on and didn’t choke on large MIDI SysEx messages, a common failing with a surprisingly large number of its contemporaries. Setting it up couldn’t be simpler – as a standard class compliant device it was plug-and-play. Four inputs and outputs are presented to the host computer, along with a fifth reserved virtual port for programming the device.

In my setup, I found myself using it predominantly as the above-mentioned USB MIDI interface, connecting a rack of keyboards and drum machines to my computer for sequencing. As the Midihub has eight programmable presets, which are selectable on the unit itself, I also put together some standalone patches to allow me to merge and route MIDI notes from my master controllers to the synths, as well as MIDI clock around the place. This saves me from having to power on my entire sequencing rig if I just want to play one rack synth. I’ve no doubt that in a live situation it would truly shine – unfortunately I haven’t been able to put this to the test yet though. Blokas are keen to push the Midihub’s ability to work as a standalone device, which once programmed, requires no computer to operate. In my opinion, this experience could be improved upon by adding a separate DC power connector, as otherwise I have to unplug the USB lead from my PC and instead plug it into a USB wall-wart if I want to use it standalone. I suppose you could run it from a powered USB hub, but I’m eager to avoid any unnecessary clutter in my already full studio!

I particularly like the whole ‘pipes’ paradigm used for configuring patches on the Midihub. Doing it in this very visual way makes it very clear what a patch does, especially important if you’re running a particularly complex patch. At present, the pipes and modifiers cover the expected and necessary ground – filtering, transposition and remapping to name a few. It would be interesting to see where this technology can go from here however – I can see a bright future in humanisation of MIDI data – such as varying the velocity of events in rhythmic ways (similar to the old Groove Quantise tool in Cakewalk). Another aspect that I would like to see developed would be that of MIDI SysEx generation. I can picture a modifier where you can write out a SysEx string, and have one or more of the bytes changed by the input from say a CC.

The industrial design of the Midihub is rather striking, taking an elegant minimalist approach. It looks very smart and feels well engineered. I’m confident that it would hold up just fine on the road. Having worked in music electronics, I would imagine the retail price to be somewhere in the region of £150 – 175. Given how much it offers, this really is a product that any serious MIDI user would want to own. I certainly would buy one.

To wrap this up, I’m very happy to have taken part in the beta testing for the Midihub – even in the relatively short period of time I’ve been using it, the software has come on quite a lot so I’m confident that it will continue to improve. Thank you Blokas and I wish you success with your upcoming crowdfunding efforts!