Is there a reason why one would choose a MIDI interface instead of a simple MIDI to USB cable?
There's a tenfold price difference between the two and I don't know in what regard the interface would perform better compared to the cable.

My intended usage for the cable or interface is to connect a MIDI keyboard to the computer such that musical notation software can read the played notes.

3 Answers 3


As AJ Henderson and Warrior Bob mentioned, those cables are also MIDI interfaces.

I have several of the cable-style MIDI interfaces, as well as an old eMagic AMT8 and a MOTU 828 MK2. A few of my synths with USB interfaces function as USB-MIDI interfaces, but I rarely use them for that purpose. I also have the Elektron TM-1 interface for my MachineDrum.

For typical MIDI music stuff, the cheap cable-style interfaces are perfectly fine. They generally transmit and receive MIDI notes, and can handle a bit of CC data too. They generally fail when you try to do complex SYSEX tasks, like firmware updates. Even my "EMU" branded X-MIDI failed, so don't think that a nice brand name on a cable-style interface will help. They probably all come out of the same factory in Shenzhen. Just buy the cheapest one you can find.

My MOTU is my go-to interface for firmware updates, I've never had trouble with it. I suspect that the AMT8 would be fine too, but I only plug that in when I need to work with a lot of MIDI devices at the same time, which is rare.

I've only ever used the TM-1 to do a firmware update on my MachineDrum. I thought that since the TM-1 is designed for high-speed sample-over-MIDI transfers, it would make for a quick update. Not at all - the update actually took hours. This is probably wise on Elektron's part - you don't want to add any risk to a firmware update procedure. The process probably runs at a low MIDI bitrate and includes a lot of error correction codes.

For your intended use, the cable-style interface should be just fine. If you decide that you need more ports in the future, look at used 4x4 and 8x8 interfaces. As long as they can connect to your computer and drivers are available, an old interface will be just as good as a new one.

  • Weird - my MOTU fastlane overflows my Roland MT-32 when I send sysex messages to it (yeah, I know - the MT-32 is ancient. But so is MIDI).
    – Wyatt Ward
    Jan 9, 2016 at 16:40

The cable includes an in-line MIDI adapter. (MIDI and USB are not compatible signals.) M-Audio is a respected manufacturer while the other one is a no brand adapter. It might not work as well or might not support as many channels, but at $5, it's hard to go wrong giving it a try and the reviews seem to indicate it will work for your purposes.

If I had to take a guess, the cable may be doing more in software where the M-Audio is more likely to have a dedicated MIDI processing chip in the unit. This doesn't practically mean much for most use cases though since computers are plenty powerful now as long as the driver isn't buggy.


Your "MIDI-USB cable" is a MIDI interface: a computer-addressable device that accepts and sends MIDI messages through MIDI DIN jacks. In this case both of the indicated devices are specifically USB MIDI interfaces.

Featurewise, there's likely no difference between them. The price differential is probably due to name and build quality. Sometimes the fancier devices have some extra features such as message transformations and filters, but these are unnecessary unless you already have a specific use for them, and those are easily done in software anyway.

Higher-end interfaces, as I understand it, may also have slightly lower latency or better jitter correction, but as far as I know these sorts of things don't show up until well into the several-hundreds-of-dollars range.

Anecdotally, I've found that the super-cheap no-name interfaces such as that cable often have spotty drivers and odd behaviors. My friend has one that randomly sends E3 notes, which makes it effectively unusable for practical work. Of course, low-end M-Audio equipment used to also have driver/stability issues, so it's hard to say.

Considering the extremely low price of that cable however, it might be worth it just to try it. If it works for you, great! You aren't missing out on anything.

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