Dual Raspberry Pi Pico powered ProtoZOA provides a quick start for MIDI 2.0 experimentation

MIDI specialist AmeNote has announced a prototyping board designed for those looking to build around the new MIDI 2.0 standard: the ProtoZOA, powered by no less than two Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller boards – and one unit is available free to all members of the MIDI Association.

“Our plan is to release most of ProtoZOA’s source code as Open Source with a permissive license,” says AmeNote co-founder Mike Kent, who chairs the MIDI Association’s MIDI 2.0 working group. “This will allow even non-members of the MIDI Association to use the code to develop MIDI 2.0 products.”

MIDI, the Digital Musical Instrument Interface, was featured in an article by Dave Smith and Chet Wood of Sequential Circuits in October 1981. Designed to reduce the proprietary mess of the electronic synthesizer market, MIDI provided a pathway for intercommunication between providers – and has since become the go-to standard.

However, it’s a standard based on 40-year-old technology, and the MIDI association thinks it needs an update: MIDI 2.0. Released in January 2019 and showcased at the Winter NAMM Show in early 2020, MIDI 2.0 offers a range of improvements over its predecessor, including two-way communication, a new packet format for high-speed transports, a specification for queries capacity and support for both wired and wireless multimedia networks – while maintaining backwards compatibility with traditional MIDI hardware and software.

Right now, however, the MIDI Association is working hard to encourage developers to switch to the new standard – that’s where AmeNote’s ProtoZOA comes in. A custom development board powered by two Raspberry Pi Pico boards with RP2040 microcontrollers, brought to our attention by Adafruitthe ProtoZOA implements MIDI 2.0, including capability discovery features, USB connectivity, the new Universal Packet Format, MIDI 1.0 to 2.0 translation with MIDI 1.0 in and out ports, and includes expansion for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless MIDI, SPI, and UART connectivity, plus an optional LCD panel.

Based on the tinyUSB stack, the ProtoZOA uses one Raspberry Pi Pico as the main driver device and the other as a PicoProbe-based debugging tool, allowing developers to experiment with MIDI 2.0 at the lowest levels. The source code, on the other hand, is made available under a permissive license – so anyone can take it and use it as a basis for developing their own MIDI 2.0 compatible devices.

“AmeNote chose not to keep our industry-leading expertise in USB MIDI 2.0 technology as a competitive advantage,” the company explains, “but we decided to share this with other developers, including our potential competitors, to help to launch upcoming MIDI 2.0 products to market.”

There’s only one catch: the card is currently available exclusively to members of the MIDI Association and/or the Association of Musical Electronics Industry (AMEI). Members can request to receive a single ProtoZOA, along with all source code, for free, while additional maps are priced at $250 each. AmeNote has confirmed plans to make ProtZOA available to the general public in Q4 2022, but says pricing is yet to be determined.

More information is available on the AmeNote website.

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