Make Your Own MIDI to XLR Cable – Pinout Info

I have a client coming in that requires recording to a grand piano. Since I don’t have the space for a grand piano, we run a MIDI keyboard into Logic Pro and use one of theirs. Usually we do overdubs for piano right in the control room.

This client needs to record the piano at the same time as the vocals. This created a problem as we never wired the studio for MIDI to the control room. Luckily there was a post on the Tape Op Message Boards explaining how to run MIDI through XLR. You might be thinking, “The MIDI cable has 5 connections and the XLR has 3, so how is this done?” The fact is that MIDI only actually uses 3 of the 5 connections. The rest are null and unused.

Make Your Own MIDI to XLR Cable

So if you are decent with a soldering gun, this is a fairly painless task and can be done in less than an hour.

The first step was to cut an XLR cable in half. Same with the MIDI cable. Then strip the wires. You then have to figure which of the MIDI wires hook up to pins 4, 2, and 5, which are the 3 middle pins. The outside two are not used. I figured out which of the leads they were by connecting a 9 volt battery in a loop and waiting for the tiny spark. Be careful not to shock yourself. I don’t recommend this since you can buy a continuity tester for 8 bucks and avoid the risk of getting shocked. it’s well worth the $8 investment. At least this is what I told myself afterwards.

After I figured out the leads, it was just a matter of soldering the cables. Then in the studio I plugged the MIDI cable to the keyboard and the XLR end to the mic box. Then in the control room I took the other end of the XLR cable and ran the MIDI part to the MIDI IN running in to Logic.

There you have it! MIDI to XLR in less than an hour.

To reiterate:

MIDI CABLE: 1-4-2-5-3 (5 being the ground)

XLR: 1-3-2 (1 being the ground)

Then connect: 2 (MIDI) & 1 (XLR) and 4 (MIDI) & 2 (XLR) and 5 (MIDI) & 3 (XLR)

So you have the following chain:

MIDI keyboard -> MIDI OUT -> XLR Male Studio Patch -> XLR Female Control Room Patch -> MIDI IN to Logic.