What is USB for MIDI Android?

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a technical standard that allows electronic musical instruments, computers, and other equipment to connect and communicate with each other to exchange musical performance data. This allows musicians to use MIDI devices like keyboards or drum machines to control virtual instruments and record music on computers or mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

USB MIDI support allows Android devices like phones and tablets to connect to external MIDI hardware like MIDI keyboards using a simple USB cable or USB host adapter. This allows an Android device to act as a MIDI sequencer, sampler, synthesizer or effects processor that can be played and controlled using the external MIDI device. It provides an easy way for musicians to produce music and expand the music making capabilities of their Android device using MIDI gear they already own.

Android started adding USB peripheral mode support back in Android 3.1 which allowed it to act as a USB host that can power and communicate with connected USB devices like keyboards or MIDI interfaces. Later versions of Android improved MIDI over USB support and latency for pro audio use. Modern Android versions have high quality audio pipelines and very capable MIDI and USB implementations that can rival desktop operating systems for mobile music production using USB MIDI gear.

Benefits of Using USB MIDI on Android

One of the biggest benefits of using USB MIDI on Android is the potential for low latency. As noted in this resource, low latency and timing stability is critical for many MIDI applications, especially live performance. Android’s USB host mode audio has vastly improved over the years and now rivals the latency of desktop operating systems.

Another major advantage is the ability to easily connect MIDI keyboards, controllers, and other hardware gear directly to your Android device. The USB connection is more reliable and consistent than wireless Bluetooth MIDI. This allows mobile musicians, DJs, and producers to incorporate hardware into their mobile rigs. A single USB cable minimizes setup complexity and saves battery on external devices.

Compared to the 3.5mm TRS MIDI connections often found on older Android devices, USB MIDI provides higher bandwidth, resolution, and two-way communication. The bottom line, as Android evolves and develops more sophisticated, professional-grade music production tools, USB MIDI unlocks more possibilities and fewer compromises than before.

Setting Up USB MIDI on Android

To use an external MIDI keyboard or controller with your Android device, you will need a few key pieces of hardware and apps:


  • An OTG (On-the-Go) adapter cable – this allows you to connect USB devices to Android. Many newer Android devices have an OTG port built-in.
  • A MIDI keyboard or controller.

MIDI Driver App

You also need a dedicated app to enable MIDI support over USB. One popular option is MIDI Enabler Pro.

Connecting the Devices

Connect the OTG cable to your Android device and the USB cable from your MIDI keyboard controller to the OTG adapter. Launch the MIDI Enabler Pro app and your device should now recognize the connected MIDI controller/keyboard.

You can then use your keyboard to control MIDI-capable synth, DAW, and music apps on your Android device.

Top MIDI Driver Apps

When connecting USB MIDI devices to an Android device, a MIDI driver app is required to enable communication between the hardware and music apps. Some of the top options include:

MIDI Enabler Pro

MIDI Enabler Pro is a popular MIDI driver developed by Mobileer that establishes a foundation for MIDI communication on Android. It supports connecting multiple MIDI devices over USB and wireless Bluetooth. Key features include MIDI mapping and routing between apps.

MIDI Bridge

MIDI Bridge is an alternative MIDI driver app with compatibility across over 50 music making apps on Android. It focuses specifically on bridging MIDI data between music apps, synthesizers, and external MIDI hardware controllers.


For users of IK Multimedia’s iRig line of mobile music interfaces, the iRig MIDI app enables MIDI connectivity over USB and wireless for IK hardware. It also includes MIDI patching capabilities between different apps and sound sources.

Recommended MIDI Hardware

When choosing a portable MIDI keyboard or controller pad to use with an Android phone or tablet, there are several budget-friendly options to consider. Some of the most popular include:

  • Small portable keyboards like the IK Multimedia iRig Keys compact MIDI controller. These are affordable, work well with Android devices, and come in compact form factors that are easy to transport.
  • Controller pads like the Akai Professional MPD218. Controller pads provide an intuitive way to play rhythms and drums on an Android device. The MPD218 retails for around $100, has 16 velocity sensitive pads, and connects via USB.
  • Portable MIDI keyboards under $100 like the Korg MicroKey. The MicroKey line comes in 25, 37, 49 and 61 key options and can connect to Android devices via USB. The keys are velocity sensitive and smaller than full-sized keys.

When shopping for a MIDI controller, make sure it specifically advertises Android compatibility since not all devices work properly. Focus on portable battery-powered devices with direct USB connections. There are many good options under $100, making mobile music production on Android an affordable reality.

Using USB MIDI with DAW Apps

Many popular DAW apps for Android support connecting USB MIDI devices for recording, editing, and production. Two of the top compatible DAWs are Caustic 3 and FL Studio Mobile.

Caustic 3 provides full MIDI support and is designed for mobile music creation. You can connect a USB MIDI keyboard or controller and record, edit, and quantize MIDI data. Features like unlimited tracks, effects, and automation make Caustic 3 a powerful mobile DAW.

The mobile version of Image-Line’s acclaimed FL Studio also fully supports USB MIDI connectivity. With FL Studio Mobile you can record and edit MIDI data from USB controllers and keyboards. It offers piano roll editing, quantization tools, hundreds of virtual instruments, and mixing/effects capabilities.

In addition to capturing MIDI performances, USB connectivity in Android DAWs allows you to play software instruments and trigger loops/clips. This makes music production and performance more portable by avoiding wireless MIDI lag and configuration.

Using USB MIDI with Synth Apps

Several popular synth apps for Android support USB MIDI connectivity to external controllers and keyboards. This allows you to play soft synths using hardware MIDI controllers and keyboards for an authentic performance experience.

Some popular options include Synth One, an analog-style virtual synth, and FM Player, for FM synthesis sounds. Both offer deep sound design capabilities and respond to MIDI input over USB.

To connect a USB MIDI keyboard or controller, you’ll typically need a USB OTG (On-The-Go) cable or adapter that allows your Android device to serve as a USB host. Many newer Android phones and tablets have this capability built-in.

Once connected via USB, you can play notes and manipulate parameters on the soft synths using the knobs, keys, pads and faders on your MIDI hardware. This tactile control expands the creative possibilities beyond just using an on-screen keyboard.

Some musicians even use multiple synths and MIDI controllers together to build complex multi-layered sounds and performances. The compact form factor and touch displays of Android devices provide unique advantages over traditional hardware setups.

As Android’s audio capabilities continue to evolve, producing music with USB MIDI and virtual synths is becoming an increasingly viable mobile production workflow outside the studio.

Latency Considerations

Latency refers to the delay between playing a note on a MIDI controller and hearing the sound come out of your Android device. This is an important factor when using USB MIDI, as high latency can make playing virtual instruments feel laggy and unresponsive.

There are a few ways to test and benchmark MIDI latency on Android. One method is to use dedicated latency testing apps like Superpowered’s Latency Test. This measures roundtrip latency from a MIDI controller by analyzing audio output. Values under 10ms are considered good.

Another approach is the official Android MIDI test, which analyzes timing data sent over USB MIDI. This can isolate the MIDI latency component specifically.

If experiencing high latency, the audio buffer size has a major impact. Lower buffer sizes reduce latency but increase risk of glitches. Start with 256 or 512 samples as a baseline. Note that not all Android devices support adjusting this.

Additionally, check for interference from other apps and background processes. Consider disabling WiFi, Bluetooth and notifications during critical audio work. If issues persist across devices and apps, faulty hardware could be to blame.

Other Connectivity Options

In addition to USB, there are two other main connectivity options for MIDI on Android – Bluetooth and WiFi.

Bluetooth MIDI has become more popular and widely supported over the years. The main benefits of Bluetooth MIDI are that it’s wireless, doesn’t require any cables or adapters, and works directly between devices. The downside is that Bluetooth can introduce more latency compared to a direct wired connection. Bluetooth MIDI support also varies between different MIDI and synth apps. Overall, Bluetooth MIDI provides a convenient wireless option, but latency and compatibility issues may exist.

MIDI over WiFi using protocols like rtpMIDI has emerged as another wireless option. Apps like MIDIberry and TouchOSC allow you to send MIDI data between devices over a WiFi network connection. The advantage here is potentially lower latency compared to Bluetooth. However, there is still some latency, and setting up a WiFi MIDI connection requires more steps and configuration. Support for WiFi MIDI is not as widespread yet among MIDI apps and devices. But it provides promising capabilities for wireless MIDI control and communication.

In summary, Bluetooth and WiFi MIDI provide cable-free options for connecting MIDI devices wirelessly. Each has tradeoffs compared to a direct wired USB connection in terms of latency, compatibility, and setup complexity. Evaluating your needs and setup can help determine if wireless MIDI is suitable or if USB is preferable.

The Future of Mobile MIDI

Mobile music production continues to grow rapidly as technology improves. One major area of expected advancement is lower latency, which will make real-time mobile music production feel more responsive. As noted in this article, “Advances in processing power, connectivity, and software will likely bring down latency to imperceptible levels in the coming years.” This will allow for seamless use of virtual instruments, effects, and other plugins when producing music on a mobile device.

Connectivity options are also likely to expand. The rise of USB-C ports on mobile devices will lead to greater adoption of USB MIDI connectivity. Bluetooth MIDI and wireless solutions may also become more prevalent and reliable. As connectivity improves, mobile music production will become more versatile and integrated with other music hardware and software.

Overall, the convenience and accessibility of mobile devices is expected to drive continued growth in music production apps and solutions. As stated in this market research, the global smartphone music production software market is projected to grow substantially through 2030 and beyond. The power to produce studio-quality music entirely on a mobile device will further democratize music creation in the digital age.

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