It seems a little ironic that as we celebrate the achievement of the creation of the standard MIDI protocol with its 30th Birthday, we now have plug-in manufacturers lining up to give us different platforms and standards with which to host them.
Yesterday, Waves announced their new DiGiGrid describing it as ‘The perfect partnership of audio hardware and software.’ UAD offer us their highly popular UAD processing platform, Avid offer HDX, then there’s the assorted plug-in formats, with everything from VST to AAX.
We will all have an opinion about which is the best format, each manufacturer obviously claims it is their format. To be frank, I don’t care, this is not my attempt to proselytize for one brand or the other, I already use three platforms in my sound creation. If you think it’s frustrating for those of us buying the stuff, then imagine being a plug-in designer who has to create different versions of the same plug-in, simply to work on another platform, spending time porting plug-ins to new formats instead of designing new ones.
As each new ‘better, faster, higher, longer… blah, blah, blah’ strapline flashes before me, I just think, come on guys, I know you have businesses to run and brands to build, but so did Roland, Sequential Circuits and all the other brands that agreed on the MIDI protocol 30 yrs ago. By all means go ahead and invent, but another wheel? No thanks.
It is said that if the drug companies worked together instead of competing for market share, then we would have already have cured half the illnesses that kill us. I don’t know how true that is, but I do wish we could all settle on one format and then get on with it. Perhaps I am living in cloud cuckoo land? If I am, then it’s an expensive place to live.
Mike here from snowy UK. I have been having very similar thoughts. It never ceases to amaze me that MIDI is the only true standard in our industry, ie there is only one of them. Every other part of our industry whenever you talk about a standard, there are more than one you have to choose from. For example, audio file formats, wav bwf aiff etc; sample rates, 44.1k or 48k; loudness spec, ATSC A85 or R128, even balanced audio on an XLR is it pin2 hot or pin 3 hot; I could go on and on and…. Other than MIDI we have never been able to agree a universal standard. That said, MIDI, at the end of the day, is a communications standard enabling different brands to communicate using a common language. However that still has limits, I can’t transfer patch settings from one brand to another, the “System Exclusive” mode only allows me to transfer brand specific data over MIDI.
As to the announcement from Waves, if you add that to other developments we have a growing number of dedicated boxes on which you can only run that brand’s plug-ins. I have an HDX system, but I cannot run UA plug-ins unless I buy into the UA brand and buy some hardware and then the software, because I cannot run the UA plug-ins on my HDX system.
All this got me thinking, what if the manufacturers could agree on a universal processor platform on which you could run any brand of plug-ins? Surely they could find a processor format that could this. What about the Intel Processor chips? Instead of creating proprietary hardware formats why not agree to use the Intel processor chips. Anyone producing Native plug-ins is already writing for this platform whether it is Mac or PC. Then manufacturers could create hardware boxes like the Apollo or DiGiGrid boxes with Intel processors, put their own stamp on the from factor, how it looks and their own take on what I/O should be added. We could all run our chosen plug-ins on our chosen hardware solution. It would also improve project portability, because the proliferation of different hardware boxes also makes transporting and sharing projects so much more difficult, not only do you have to have the same plug-in but they also have to be on the same hardware platform.
The manufacturers managed to sit round the table and agree a universal MIDI protocol 30 years ago so how about agreeing a universal plug-in platform protocol?