How to Connect a Midi Device to Your iPhone (with pictures)


When I bought my first midi controller, I did not know you have to get the sounds from a computer. I tried to connect my midi controller to my iPhone, but it did not work. It turns out the iPhone does not have enough power to use the device. But through trial and error, I found a workaround.

To connect a midi controller to your iPhone, you will only need two things, a USB to LIGHTNING CAMERA TRANSFER KIT, and a POWERED USB HUB. By using a powered USB, HUB will bypass what is stopping the iPhone from powering your midi device.

With this method, you can power two or more midi controllers with your iPhone. I have tried and tested this for recording and live gigs.

You will only need about $35 to get this to work.

LIGHTNING or 30-PIN TO USB CAMERA CONNECTION KIT

iPhone chargers are called lightning cables. Since it is not your standard micro USB ports most common for android phones and other devices, you will need to purchase the converter. This kit is a male lightning that plugs in your iPhone, with a female USB port on the other end.

The iPhone 5 or higher started using lightning cables instead of the 5-pin. For iPads, they started using lightning cables when the first iPad Mini came out and iPad 4th gen.

The 30-pin connector for older apple devices has the same kit. The 30-pin to camera connection kit has the same function as the lightning to camera connection.

The Camera connection kit was made to transfer data from cameras or USB flash drives to your iPhone. Fortunately, there is more to it than just data transfer.

WHERE YOU CAN GET THEM

The 30-PIN to Camera connection is a little bit harder to find in the market or out in BEST BUY. However, you can still purchase them online. They are about $20 on eBay.

You can purchase the lightning camera connection kit at the Apple Store, Best Buy, and Amazon. The adapters go for about $30.

POWERED USB HUB

An iPhone is capable of powering a midi device for hours of playing. The problem is that iPhones are not compatible with midi instruments. The camera connector kit is for data transfer only. That is why you need a powered USB hub.

The powered USB hub sort of bypasses the iPhone from blocking the device. It is kind of funny that iPhones are not compatible with Midi, but the apps have midi features you can use.

My theory is that Apple was going to sell its line of midi controllers. iPhones and iPads are only supposed to be compatible with Bluetooth midi devices.

I have read from most people, that somehow, without the powered USB hub, their midi devices can function, but this is very rare. Most of the time, you will need a powered USB hub.

Don’t forget that you will need a “POWERED” USB HUB. Other USB hubs are for data transfer only. Powered USB hubs can power up to three midi devices, from my experience. However, it probably can power up more devices.

WHERE YOU CAN GET THEM

I bought my Powered USB Hub at a Wal-Mart for like $5. You can probably get one online or at a Best Buy, Target, or RadioShack. Any general merchandise outlets will probably sell one of these.

Connection

  • Connect USB from Midi Controller to Powered USB hub
  • Connect the USB male output of the powered USB hub to the iPhone Camera Connection Kit
  • Connect to the iPhone’s lightning port and,
  • VIOLA! your Midi Controller is powered
  • Start the app

ALTERNATIVE

An excellent alternative would be buying a Bluetooth midi controller. These types of midi controllers are perfect especially, for the newer iPhones. Without the headphone jack, newer iPhones connect the headphones through the same port you will join a wired midi device.

It would be difficult to record music without monitors or headphones. So, for iPhones 7 and higher, you will have to choose a Bluetooth midi controller and wired headphones or—Bluetooth headphones, or air pods and a wired midi device.

There is also a lightning splitter you can get. It divides one lightning port into two so, connecting both your wired headphones and wired midi controller at the same time. I do not recommend this because I have tried this before and it compromises the functions of the devices connected. It also drains the iPhone battery quicker with this method.

MIDI DEVICES COMPATIBLE WITH YOUR iPhone

There are a lot of midi controllers with useful features you can use with your iPhone. It can be a DJ Controller, Midi Keyboard Controller, Midi Mixer, Pads, or USB Audio interfaces.

Here is a table of compatible and useful devices you can connect to your iPhone using the methods I mentioned:

DEVICE FEATURES DESCRIPTION
AKAI MPK MINI MK II (PRICE: $89) 25 velocity-sensitive keys
 
Eight fully assignable trigger pads with two banks
 
16 fully assignable knobs

Four user programs

Octave switch  

Modulation and pitch joystick  

Free software included
The Akai MPK MINI has incredible features like most analog synthesizers. Most beginner and intermediate producers use this product for creating music or recording live music. To edit the pads, you still need to connect to a computer.
NOVATION LAUNCHKEY MINI (Price: $89) 16 fully assignable, LED indicating trigger pads  

25 velocity-sensitive keys  

Eight fully assignable knobs  

Free Software included  
The Launchkey Mini is an excellent choice for more electronic-driven music. It is a combination of a midi keyboard controller and Novation’s Launchpad. 
KORG MICROKEY AIR 25 (Price: $99) 25 velocity-sensitive keys  

Pitch and modulation joystick  

Bluetooth connectivity  
USB compatible  

Free software included
The KORG Microkey Air 25 is a more compact midi keyboard controller than the previous ones mentioned. Its Bluetooth features make it easier to use remotely. The device can connect to an iPhone effortlessly. 
APOGEE JAM (Price: $159) Connect guitars and bass to iOS devices, Mac, and PC  

A clear signal for better quality recording  

USB input  

Headphone jack  

LED indicators for precise level adjustment  
Works with most iOS audio apps  

Little to zero latency for monitoring and recording
Apogee Jam is one of the best mobile interfaces right now. It is small and compact so you can record live audio wherever you are. This device is seamless and will work well with iOS devices. I suggest iOS 10 or higher for better results.
NUMARK PARTY MIX DJ CONTROLLER (Price: $99) Portable 2-Channel
DJ Mixer  

LED lights synced to music  

Four different pads and modes  

Free software included
This controller is an example of a midi device that is not usually compatible with iPhones, but with the workaround, it will perfectly with the Edjing app and Djay app.

APPS COMPATIBLE

There are several cool and useful apps for recording music. Here are some apps that are Midi compatible for the iPhone:

APP KEY FEATURES DESCRIPTION
GARAGEBAND (FREE) Full-Blown DAW  

Over 40 instruments
 
Amp Collection  

Vocal Effects  

Loaded with HQ samples  

Inter-app audio  

Midi Compatible
This app is a full-blown DAW better than most paid or free apps in the app store. This app is capable of doing what your computer software can do and more.
IMPC PRO 2 (Price: $8.99) MPC style workflow

IMPC University  

FREE sample packs  

Use as a live launchpad  

Midi compatible  

Fully assignable pads and knobs
This app is an MPC style DAW.  You load up the pads with samples and record by sections. It has a and futuristic user interface that is very pleasing to the eye. Using this app with the iPhone, you get minimal to zero latency.
KORG GADGET 2 (Price: $19.99) Easy to use DAW  

Multi-tasking  

Midi Compatible  

Advanced midi options  
Over 40 iconic virtual instruments including -Synths
-Drum machines
-External effects
-Guitar effects    
KORG is well-known for its keyboard and synth products. Now, they’re conquering the virtual instrument market by releasing this fantastic app. It features over 40 of KORG’s most iconic sounds in one app. The user interface on this app looks gorgeous. Like GARAGEBAND, this app can be a full-blown stand-alone DAW or an excellent live instrument.
ANIMOOG FOR iPhone (Price: $4.99) Anisotropic Synth Engine  

X/Y PAD  

Midi-learn  

Visually appealing user interface  

A diverse library of presets and sounds  

Polyphonic pitch shifting  

Moog filter  

Record module
Animoog is a $10,000 instrument put in one $5 app. MOOG modular synths are well-known in the synth world and have brought this fantastic app to life. This app has a built-in looper where you can create ominous sounds and layer them. It combines vintage and modern tones. This app works very well live.

WHAT IPHONE TO USE

iPhone 6 onwards is the best choice. Some of the older iPhones may be slower and might not work well. iPhone 7 and higher removed the headphone jack. I would say the iPhone 6s Plus is the ideal iPhone to use because it introduced the 3D touch that adds more features to the music apps.

WILL IT WORK ON ANDROID DEVICES?

With Android devices, you will not need the powered USB hub anymore. All you will need is a USB to micro USB converter and your good to go.

Android devices, however, have latency in using midi devices, and you will probably not be satisfied with it. iPhones and iOS devices are still the best choice for mobile recording.

CONCLUSION

I discovered this method using an iPhone 6 Plus. I have been using the iPhone for recording drafts and playing live music for years, and it has never failed. I hope this article helped you.

To read another article about mobile recording and useful tips, click here.

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