CME, which released the ultra-compact WIDI in 2020, has followed up with more wireless Bluetooth solutions.
When we reviewed the original WIDI Master in November 2020, we tested the “virtual MIDI cable” in various configurations – using different modules to output MIDI to a MacBook Pro running VSTs and to GarageBand on an iPad. We used it to output MIDI from a range of modules and found it to be almost universally effective.
The WIDI Master is a tiny transmitter that plugs into the five-pin MIDI jack on any instrument or audio device. The WIDI is powered by the host device and has a tiny separate receiver unit that plugs into the MIDI In jack of the host.
It advances the work done for the QuiccoSound mi.1 we reviewed a few years back, allowing almost limitless MIDI connectivity – instrument to computer, instrument to iOS device and even instrument-to-instrument connections are possible.
A typical use might be connecting a drum module to your laptop to trigger a VST; or given the trapKAT’s new programming for the KAT-branded 2box module, connecting the trigger device to the brain wirelessly.
However, there is one potential “flaw” with the WIDI Master – it requires DC power from the MIDI connection. And while that worked fine with most devices in our test arsenal, it failed to fire with a couple, including a Zendrum and Avatar sample pad.
Enter the WIDI Jack.
This member of the WIDI stable uses the same technology, but offers more versatile connection options.
Where the Master can only connect to a five-pin MIDI jack, the Jack has two mini jacks which can link to TRS MIDI, DIN-6-mini MIDI and DIN-5 MIDI cables. This means you can connect the Jack to almost anything – if you have the correct cable.
But more importantly for my needs, you can power it via the USB-C port. There are a few options for powering the WIDI Jack and I opted for a mobile phone power bank. These rechargeable devices have enough juice to keep the Jack running for hours – especially given the minuscule power draw of the tiny transmitter.
As mentioned, I powered the WIDI Jack with a power bank and used the optional TRS-to-DIN-5 cable to connect the transmitter to a few devices, including the Zendrum which had eluded wireless operation with the processor products.
The Jack instantly found the WIDI Master connected to a drum module and I was off and playing in seconds, with no noticeable latency.
To connect an iPhone or iPad was just a tad more complicated. You need to first download the WIDI app. If you’ve enabled Bluetooth on the iOS device, the Jack should show up in the app. You simple pair it and off you go. In apps like GarageBand, you can access your wireless MIDI instrument in the Settings->Advanced menu, where the WIDI Jack should appear under the ‘devices’ list.
I had some difficulty connecting the Jack to an older Mac, but it was straight-forward with a new M1 Macbook running Big Sur. When I say “straight-forward”, that doesn’t mean intuitive. If you hadn’t read the manual, you’d just go to your Bluetooth settings and look for the Jack there. But, in fact, you have to go to Audio/MIDI settings, click the Bluetooth icon and you’ll find the device listed and awaiting connection.
The developer explains that “the manual pairing process with operating systems is due to the architecture of those operating systems. It has to do with the way they design their Bluetooth applications and if Bluetooth MIDI specifically has any priority.”
And once it’s connected, the WIDI Jack should show up as an active MIDI input on your DAW or VST. And again, the latency was hardly noticeable (manufacturer CME claims “as low as 3 ms”).
It uses the latest version of Bluetooth (BLE) and transmissions were flawless and latency felt negligible (the manufacturer claims delays as low as 3ms and a range of 20 m/65 ft. without obstacles). CME also claims “four times the range” of any rival system.
There’s no doubt the WIDI Master was a very effective solution, but didn’t support instrument-to-instrument transmission where either of the instruments didn’t have enough power for it. So, in that sense, the new product is a step forward.
It is more versatile than the Master, with more connection options. It is also fairly intuitive – although OSX pairing is not quite how you would imagine – and it is important to read the instructions.
The WIDI Jack now sells for $59 for a single unit. If you’re using it for instrument-to-instrument MIDI, you’ll need a pair of them – or another WIDI device to pair with it.
Bluetooth: BLE 5 offering MIDI over Bluetooth
Connectors: 2.5mm mini TRS Jack MIDI input and output (optional MIDI
cables with different plugs to connect to different MIDI
Compatible devices: MIDI devices with 5-pin DIN OUT, WIDI Jack, WIDI BUD,
Bluetooth MIDI controllers. Mac, iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch
with Bluetooth 4.0 or later
Compatible with: iOS 8 or later, OSX Yosemite or later
Latency: as low as 3 ms (test with two WIDI Jacks on BLE 5)
Range: 20 m
Power supply: Powered via MIDI OUT or USB, compatible with 5V and
Street price: $59 (often discounted). In fact, digitalDrummer readers can snare a 15% discount by using the code SUMMER21 at the CME online store for a limited time.
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