Colored MIDI cables

Some time ago, while shopping for MIDI cables, I came across colored variants of the standard MIDI cable with 5-pin DIN connectors. I got the idea that this would be an interesting way to easily separate input and output cables in tight spaces and low lighting, for example, in the back of an equipment rack.

I started to think about how they could be applied to a normal home studio setup with an audio interface, some rackmount synths and a couple of keyboards. I'm assuming that your audio interface has MIDI connectivity, but you could just as well be using a dedicated MIDI interface, possibly with several ports.

One important basic thing to remember in MIDI cabling is that you connect the MIDI output of your MIDI interface to the MIDI input of a synth. Likewise, you connect the MIDI output of your synth to the MIDI input of your MIDI interface.

So I bought me some red, green and blue MIDI cables, and this is what I came up with.

Red is IN

The color red has connotations of danger or activity, among many others. That is why it is a good choice for a cable that delivers MIDI messages into a synth. It also serves as a reminder that those messages can potentially change something in the synth.

Since the MIDI messages originate from the MIDI interface, my convention is to connect one end of a red cable to the MIDI OUT of the MIDI interface, and then connect the other end to the MIDI IN of the synth.

Green is OUT

The color green is often the opposite of red, for example in traffic lights. I use a green MIDI cable to deliver MIDI messages out from the synth.

My convention is to connect one end of a green MIDI cable to the MIDI OUT of the synth, and connect its other end to the MIDI IN of the MIDI interface.

Blue is THRU

There is not that much use for MIDI thru cabling nowadays, except if you have only one MIDI interface and several synths. But if you are controlling more than one synth with the same MIDI interface, you can set their MIDI receive channels accordingly. Provided that the first synth in the chain has a MIDI thru port (not all modern synths have that anymore) you can connect a cable from the MIDI THRU port to the MIDI IN of the next synth in the chain.

My convention is to use a blue MIDI cable for the MIDI THRU, if only because blue rhymes with THRU. The other choice of cable color was yellow, so I went for the blue because I think it looks nicer.

As it happens, these three colors--red, green, and blue--are also the colors of the flag of the Republic of Karelia, and my mother's side is Karelian, so that was a nice coincidence.

Red, blue, and green MIDI cables in use
Red, green, and blue MIDI cables connecting a sequencer with two synths.

Color blindness

I'm aware that some people are color blind, which makes it difficult to tell these cables apart. Since I have normal color vision, I can't confidently say how this type of cabling would look to a person with red-green color blindness (sources say it affects up to 8% of males and 0.5% of females of North European descent). Chances are it is not much better than using traditional black cables, but in both cases simple tags at the ends of the cables should work just as well.

For me this setup works because I know at a glance which cable to follow if I want to disconnect it, or which cable color I should pick if I'm making fresh connections.

Musikhaus Thomann delivers

I bought my colored MIDI cables from Musikhaus Thomann. There are various lengths (1 meter, 2 meters, 3 meters, 5 meters), and they come in red, green, blue, yellow, and obviously black.

Here are some affiliate links to these cables; if you follow the links to the Thomann webshop, they put a cookie in your browser. If you then buy something, I get some affiliate points that help me keep this site up and running without advertising.

Red, 3 m: the sssnake SK366-3-RED

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Green, 3 m: the sssnake SK366-3-GRN

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Blue, 3 m: the sssnake SK366-3-BLU

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