MIDI Space Update: A Free Graphical iOS MIDI Player?

It was 1:00 a.m. Thanksgiving morning when I decided to pull out my iPad and tinker with MIDI Space.

I recently ripped on MIDI Space in my “MIDI on the Run” post. I was disappointed by MIDI Space as it had great potential – it was the only free MIDI soft synth on the iOS App Store that provided a 3D graphical view. Unfortunately, it hit short of being functional.

MIDI Space offers a 3D graphical view of the song you’re playing

During my initial (and subsequent) tests I had no luck getting many MIDI files to play right. I often use a MIDI rendition of R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” to test MIDI software because it has worked well in so many different softsynths, including TiMidity++ – which can be cantankerous at times.

On Thanksgiving morning, I decided to try to record a MIDI file being played in MIDI Space. Since MIDI Space doesn’t allow you to export the file as a MP3 or WAV, I had to break out the trusty IBM ThinkPad T42 to record the audio. (Since then, I purchased the Creative Labs SoundBlaster USB “sound card” that allows me to record audio right on my ThinkPad W541 with Audacity.)

After tinkering with some files and changing the instruments, somehow MIDI Space started working right. Files started playing properly.

I’m not sure if there was an unknown update or if I had accidentally changed a setting, but it started playing almost all of the instruments. It actually sounds really good. Take a listen for yourself:

MIDI Space playing a MIDI rendition of REM’s “Nightswimming”

Want to hear what that song would sound like if played on a piano, harp, or a tenor sax? MIDI Space allows you to also change instruments. Unfortunately, this setting changes all of the MIDI channels to this instrument, instead of having the ability to change each channel individually. (For that, I’d recommend using Somire’s MIDI Editor.) Also, to return to playing with the regular instruments, you must stop and restart the song.

There are 118 instruments to choose from in MIDI Space

Unfortunately, MIDI Space is far from perfect. There is still no scrubbing – so you can’t skip back or forwards in a song. MIDI Space will not play in the background or when your iPad goes to sleep, unlike most other MIDI apps I’ve tried. And there’s no export function, as is the case with most other MIDI apps. I’ve also noticed the graphical view can sometimes “glitch” out, not syncing with the song or ending too early.

Overall, MIDI Space is a mixed bag of pros and cons. When you get it to work, most MIDI files sound great with it. It also provides a nice 3D graphical view of the MIDI notes and you can play around with different instruments. However, MIDI Space is fraught with other issues: it will not play in the background or when your device goes to sleep, and it also doesn’t allow you to scrub through a file.

I really hope this app gets updated – it has great potential.