Converting MIDI Files to MP3

This subject came up recently on, and is an FAQ topic on most MP3 and audio sites. Although many audio programs, such as Windows Media Player and Winamp, will play MIDI files along with MP3s and other digital audio files, MIDI files are fundamentally different from the others. Unlike MP3 and WAV files, they contain no sound data at all, just score notation for the music to be played. This information needs to be interpreted by a piece of musical software or hardware, just as a written piece of music needs to be interpreted by a musician with an instrument. In a sense, you could think of MIDI being like HTML, and the music like a Web page.

When you play a MIDI file with a media player, the music is played through the built-in synthesiser chip in your sound card. More often than not, this will result in a very cheesy and artificial sounding piece of music -- regardless of how good the piece of music may actually be! This is because most sound cards are designed with very low quality on-board MIDI instruments, even if the output is technically CD quality audio. If you are fortunate enough to have a professional sound card with high-quality MIDI implementation, then this may not be an issue and you can simply play the file in Winamp while recording the sound card's output in sound recorder, Cool Edit or any other audio program.

With a SoundBlaster Live! card, you select "What U Hear" as the audio record device. Other sound cards use "Playback", "Sound card Output" or other similar terms for the same thing. If your sound card doesn't have this feature, you can simply plug the speaker output of your sound card into the line-in and record it, although this is not ideal. If, however, your sound card makes everything MIDI sound terrible, regardless of how you record it, then you may want to try one of the following alternatives.

WAVmaker ( is a program dedicated to the task of rendering MIDI files into WAV files (which you can then convert to MP3 using your favourite MP3 encoder). The benefit of using WAVmaker over the methods described above is that you can individually select each instrument to be used in the composition. It also comes with a CD full of quality MIDI instruments that can be used in the program -- giving you a lot more flexibility than simply using your sound card's built-in sounds. It is extremely easy to use and even supports batch conversion. Just open the MIDI file, preview with the default instruments, select any new instruments whose sounds you prefer, and click render (Figure 1).

Audio Compositor ( Compositor is aimed at the professional musician and is a more sophisticated and versatile MIDI to WAV rendering application (Figure 2). The benefit of Audio Compositor over most other MIDI converters is that it supports standard file formats such as SoundFonts (SF2), Kurzweil instruments (KRZ), and Downloadable Sounds (DLS). These files can be downloaded from the Internet, purchased on CD, or hand crafted with the built-in patch editor -- giving almost infinite flexibility for your MIDI sounds. Audio Compositor can also be used in real time with a sequencer as a virtual MIDI instrument. Plus, because it comes with a patch editor, wave editor, and sample librarian, it could be the all-in-one solution you need if you don't already own any other audio software.

Edirol Virtual Sound Canvas ( the top end of the spectrum is the Edirol range of MIDI instrument software, of which Virtual Sound Canvas (VSC) is the most comprehensive (Figure 3). VSC is designed to be used within music composing software such as Cubase, Logic Audio, Sonar, Cakewalk or FruityLoops, as a ‘virtual instrument' (using both VSTi and DXi standards). It also has a built-in MIDI to WAV conversion function, so you can use it as a stand-alone application (Figure 4). Either way, it is intended to be a software replacement for expensive hardware sound modules such as the Roland JV1080 (Figure 5) and Yamaha MU15 (Figure 6).

Got a digital audio question? Ask HelpScreen.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Daniel Potts

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?