In this week’s episode of The Logic Pros, it’s the beginning of hardware month. As previously mentioned, we will be looking at a number of interesting hardware add-ons, instruments, controllers and more for Mac and iOS setups, starting with the puc+:
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The slew of great, inexpensive iPad/iPhone synths and other music making apps are only limited by the smaller display on those devices. Add a MIDI controller into the equation, however, and your iPad quickly becomes a synth module with endless sound creation possibilities all controlled with a familiar MIDI input device. But connecting these devices to iOS and, in some cases, OS X can be a bit of a pain point. We’re limited by the number of ins and outs in our setup, and connecting a MIDI controller requires adapters or an interface that support the connection. Even with the right hardware, you’re left to deal with a mess of cables and serious interface investments as your collection of MIDI devices grows.
But the good news is everything gets a whole lot easier with puc+, an upcoming palm-sized Bluetooth MIDI interface from Zivix that lets us connect MIDI controllers to iOS and Mac wirelessly. The company is well ahead of its time in the wireless MIDI space, having already offered a range of Wi-Fi based products including the original puc and the jamstik iPad guitar controller we detailed a while back.
It’s not out yet, but puc+ is available for preorder through an already successful crowd funding campaign, so we decided to get an early review unit and take it for a spin to help guide your decision to order or not.
This time around, Zivix has upped its game to tap into Apple’s Bluetooth 4.0 MIDI with the new puc+ and jamstik+. With the changes to the way iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 prioritize Bluetooth MIDI, Zivix has been able to enhance the experience with USB, a more stable connection, longer range/battery life and more.
The big change here from the company’s previous puc product, which only included a 5-pin MIDI connection, is support for connecting your USB MIDI gear. This is a real game changer for puc as just about all modern controllers and external gear for iOS and Mac use USB for connectivity and more.
The puc+ can beam your MIDI about 30 or 40 feet across the room wirelessly, with about 7 hours of runtime using AA batteries. But you can also plug it in for long sessions and even power low draw MIDI devices.
Here’s how to set it up:
1. Pair your puc+ with your iOS device or Mac. Pressing the power (and singular) button on the puc+ puts it in pairing mode:
—For iOS, you simply have to find your MIDI input settings in the app you want to use. For our example, we’ll connect our puc+ to an iPad via GarageBand. There isn’t exactly a standard interface for this on iOS, but for most music making apps you’ll find MIDI input and output settings easy to find within the app’s settings or configuration menus. You can see what it looks like in GarageBand above.
—For Mac, we need to launch the Audio MIDI Setup utility from within OS X’s Utility folder (Finder>Applications>Utiltiies>Audio MIDI Setup). Then we press CMD + 2 to open the MIDI studio (or navigate to Window>Show MIDI Studio). Double click the Bluetooth module (highlighted in the image above, OS X Yosemite only), and press the “connect” button next to your puc+ that appears in the window (the device will be displayed as an 8-digit number starting with “ZX”).
2. Now that you’re connected to your Mac or iOS device, you can connect your MIDI controller to the puc+ using USB or the old school 5-pin MIDI connector. The puc+ comes with a breakout cable that goes from the device’s micro USB port to a standard female USB A connector and micro USB connector. Your MIDI keyboard gets plugged into the standard USB A input (as it would if going direct into your Mac or interface) and the extra female micro USB connector is used for a power supply if your USB controller draws more than 300mA on its own.
That’s all there is to it. Once connected to your iOS device/Mac, you’ll be able to use your controller wirelessly with supported music making apps on your iPhone or iPad and anything you’d normally control in Logic on your Mac. For advanced users, the setup with puc+ gets really interesting when you send your iPad MIDI out to Logic, allowing you to control your iPad synths with your MIDI controller and simultaneously record them into Logic (something we will touch on down the line).
Interfaces, and adapters, cables, and more adapters, not the worst, but certainly not ideal. In some ways, it’s hard to believe MIDI isn’t already a “wireless thing”. We aren’t talking about GBs of data here, but rather very small amounts being sent at just the right time. Zivix is certainly on to something, and Apple seems to agree. We are sick of the cables when it comes to MIDI, so until these features are available out-of-the-box, send in the pucs.
If you have experience with wireless MIDI let us know in the comments below. Also just a quick heads up, just about all of Korg’s iOS synths and instruments are on sale right now.
The Logic Pros is a new regular series exploring all of the most interesting gadgets and software for making music on your Mac/iOS devices. If there is any gear you would like us to take a closer hands-on look at, let us know in the comments section below or shoot us an email.
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