When converting MIDI to MP3 or similar audio format, most people never take into account that there are two very different ways of doing that.
The MIDI format was created as a means of controlling various electronic musical instruments (MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface). But as MIDI files were very small, they became quite popular during the era of dial-up modems and slow connections. MIDI music was also used in many computer games: it allowed to supply a product with a decent sound track without using too much disk space (which was far more expensive those days).
But MIDI files have a drawback. They do not contain any audio, just instructions on how to create it. If you want to play MIDI, you need a synthesizer.
Of course, all computers can play MIDI files, as there is always a software and/ or hardware synthesizer. But output sound will vary from system to system, sometimes greatly. Furthermore, MIDI files are not supported by media players and other devices. Converting MIDI to MP3 may solve these problems.
The traditional way of converting MIDI to MP3 is sound recording. The idea is quite simple: let your system play MIDI files and use the recording capability of your sound card to capture the sound. With this scenario, conversion of one MIDI piece into MP3 is extremely slow: a 5-minute MIDI will take 5 minutes to convert. Another thing, output sound depends on your system and cannot be changed.
A different approach allows interpreting MIDI files instead of recording them. A MIDI to MP3 converter that uses this method works much faster. Converting a 5-minute MIDI file will take just a few seconds on a modern computer.
Such converter does not depend on the MIDI synthesizer of your sound card and can produce sound that is clearly different from the sound of your system. This is possible due to the fact that such MIDI converter uses its own bank of sounds. Historically, these banks of sounds are called SoundFonts and come as files with a special extension (for example, .sf2).
Now, what stops us from using different SoundFont files? Nothing! And this is why a MIDI to MP3 converter that uses SoundFonts is more powerful than its sound recording counterpart. You can use different SoundFont files to get different sound with the same MIDI files. There are lots of free and commercial SoundFonts available on the internet.
In general, the method with SoundFonts is more convenient. First of all, it is faster. Second, when trying to record sounds, you may discover that your system just cannot do that. Recording features of sound cards fell into disfavor because of the potential to legally remove DRM protection of digital audio (music, audio books, etc.), and most drivers that come through Windows Update do not offer the necessary feature. In most cases, however, you can download latest drivers from the official site of your sound card's manufacturer.
Finally, with SoundFonts, MIDI files sound better. This may not be the case with small SoundFont packages. Size does matter here, as bigger SoundFont files contain more samples in better quality.
If you still convert MIDI to MP3 by recording them, consider spending some time and finding a suitable SoundFont. It will be worth the effort.
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