DIY USB/MIDI Host

Here’s a handy little project that is really easy to build and gives great value, either in extending the life of another piece of gear or extending its versatility.

We’ve all probably got a piece of gear that’s joined at the hip to our laptops and DAWs; for me it’s my Arturia BeatStep that I picked up for a song on eBay.

beatstep-image

I truly love this piece of kit – it performs a really basic set of functions extremely well, intuitively, with no fuss. But… if you want it to sync to your MIDI clock, you’re pretty much going to have to hook it to a computer via USB as there’s no dedicated MIDI IN port on this device. I’m on a mission to remove my computer from my performance setup, and I’ve built a lovely MIDI and CV Master Clock in order to do this – but I really don’t want to give up or replace my BeatStep.

I discovered that HobbyTronics make a ready-to-go USB/MIDI Host board that can be used to easily add 5-pin-DIN inputs and outputs to a USB-only device. The only caveat is that it doesn’t work with all devices (devices that identify themselves as a USB Hub or that require an additional driver probably won’t work) but the Arturia BeatStep was on the list of known “good” devices so I ordered one.

Getting it up-and-running was very easy – just add a 5V power supply circuit and a MIDI input stage.

I had this thing running in my keyboard rig for a few days just on a breadboard and it behaved great, so I committed the time to making a stripboard for it and ordering an enclosure.

The only even remotely challenging bit in the entire build was cutting a vaguely rectangular opening in the enclosure for the USB connector; other than that, this was a really straightforward job that I’d recommend to anyone who’d find such a gadget useful.

Build Documents

Schematic (Board)

USB Midi Host Schematic Board

Schematic (Panel)

USB Midi Host Schematic Panel

Stripboard layout

USB Midi Host Board

Stripboard layout (flipped)

USB Midi Host Board Flipped

BOM

My panel design and cutting guide are available below as 600dpi PDF files.

USB Midi Host Panel

USB Midi Host Cutting Guide

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nicola says:

    Hi Dave, I just built one usb/midi host and it’s great. I use it to connect my Nanopad 2 and Nanokontrol 2 to a Waldorf Micro Q and it works very well. It doesn’t work if I connect the nanos to my Novation Circuit. It seems the Circuit it’s not receiving midi data. Any idea about the problem? May be something related to the midi 1/4″ adapter cable needed for midi in/out with the Circuit? Thanks a lot, this is a great tool!
    Nicola

    Like

    1. Morocco Dave says:

      Hi Nicola,

      Hobbytronics state that the host board doesn’t work with devices that use a built-in USB hub; it could be that’s what’s going on with your Circuit. I have a similar problem with my Novation Launchpad, which I was hoping to be able to turn into a stand-alone MIDI controller.

      There are solutions out there which work with USB hub devices, but I’ve not pursued any of them as yet – from memory I think the Arduino USB hub shield will work, but you have to track down the right (hacked) driver in order to do it.

      It’s interesting to hear that it work with the Nanopad, though – I’m planning a cheap controller-to-modular-triggers module at the moment , so that’s very useful to know!

      Thanks for getting in touch, and good luck with getting the Circuit working,
      Dave

      Like

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