iRig BlueBoard full review
These days the iPad is becoming a familiar sight on stage as more and more musicians use them for their performances. Whether that's to display music, chords and lyrics, or for effects or even as an instrument in itself, Apple's tablet is certainly versatile. However, there's an inherent problem: musicians rarely have a hand free to control whichever app they're running.
Guitarists are familiar with controlling their sound using various foot pedals so it makes sense that you could control your iPad music apps using a foot pedal.
That's where the iRig BlueBoard comes in. IK multimedia claims to have created the first wireless MIDI pedal board which works with the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Mac. It's lightweight and a sensible size (23cm wide) to carry around with your equipment or laptop bag and at 250g it is certainly a lot lighter than a typical pedal board. You will need a device that has Bluetooth 4.0 otherwise it will not be able to communicate.
When a foot switch is pressed, the BlueBoard sends out control signals that are converted to MIDI by the iRig BlueBoard app. You can then send those MIDI messages to all sorts of MIDI compatible apps.
Once you have it connected up to your iPad or computer you can start to control various apps using your feet. If you connect your guitar to the iPad and start using a guitar effects app, you can then assign different effects for each of the BlueBoard's buttons.
For example, you can use one button to add distortion; another for delay; another reverb etc or maybe you want the button to launch a combination of effects at once. Then as you step on each of the buttons you can add or remove those effects.
But you can use the BlueBoard for a whole lot more than that. Once you start using it, you'll no doubt think of many more uses which are suited exactly to what you want to achieve.
The blue LEDs are bright and show when a button is active, but the rubbery buttons themselves are more like oversized TV remote control buttons. This is a problem as you can't feel the switch being pressed under your foot. Although the button lights up, you won't notice until you take your foot away from the pedal. For many uses this won't be a major problem but it did prove quite a challenge when we tried to use it to control a loop pedal.
And if you have big feet, or like to wear big, heavy boots when gigging you might find the buttons a little bit too close together to be able to easily press one without also pressing another. The lack of feedback takes some getting used to, particularly if you are used to pressing your pedals without really looking.
The board comes with four AAA batteries but in the battery compartment is a micro USB port. This is used for firmware updates, but we discovered you can also use it to power the device. Annoyingly, the port faces the floor so you'll have to buy a right-angle micro USB cable (but even then the connector will stick out the bottom a little bit). We only wish the port was on the side of the board.
The good news is that you're not limited to four pedals as you can completely customise the BlueBoard to suit your needs. For example, you could hold down one of the buttons to change channel banks in your app. There are also two TRS jacks for connecting additional MIDI controllers like expression pedals.
iRig BlueBoard: Specs
- Bluetooth Wireless MIDI Pedal Board
- Backlit rubber pads
- Completely wireless, battery powered (4 x AAA)
- iRig BlueBoard dedicated iOS and Mac apps
- Dimensions: 275 x 92 x 25mm
- Weight: 250g