Bluetooth Guitar Pedal Will Thrill Your Ears But Hurt Your Brain [Review]

DSC05111

IK Multimedia is responsible for a veritable boat-load of music peripherals and apps, like the hard-rocking guitar crunch of effects app Amplitube and the portable MIDI keyboard iRig Keys. If you’re a musician interested in working with iOS devices on stage, IK Multimedia is the place to go.

iRig BlueBoard by IK Multimedia
Category: Music Peripherals
Works With: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
Price: $99.99

It was with excitement, then, that I opened the latest review gadget from the musical company, the iRig BlueBoard, a small footprint Bluetooth-enabled pedal board meant to help you switch effects in a guitar app like Amplitube or piano sounds in something like iLectric Piano, both IK Multimedia apps.

The BlueBoard is a great idea, especially if you’re working with a guitar or keyboard hooked up to an iPad or iPhone. Being able to switch settings on the fly with a foot-operated switch is something I do all the time with my analog guitar foot pedals. Having it do so via Bluetooth is even better, as it won’t take up the 30-pin or Lightning connector, leaving that free to connect a guitar or MIDI interface, like the iRig HD guitar adapter or the iRig Keys.

Unfortunately, that’s where the great idea stops and the difficult to figure out begins.

The BlueBoard app is a cinch - others, not so much.

The BlueBoard app is a cinch – others, not so much.

First of all, don’t get rid of the box your iRig BlueBoard comes in or you won’t be able to get it to work with Amplitube, the guitar effects app for iPad and iPhone. In order to do so, you’ll need the registration number that comes with the packaging. This number is not on the actual pedalboard unit itself, though there is a tiny QR code and some sort of number underneath it on the back of the board. It’s too small for my iPhone camera to focus on it or for my QR reader app to read it, let alone my aging eyes.

You’ll need to download a free app for the Blueboard itself, which makes it super easy to connect to the device. Once connected, though, it’s non-simple to figure out how to make the pedalboard, which uses MIDI signals to communicate with any of the music apps that support it, work with specific apps. Each app requires a different bit of settings tweaks to operate.

It’s unnecessarily complicated to make this work with the various apps and systems that it should work with.

To use the BlueBoard with AmpliTube, you’ll first need to dip into the BlueBoard app settings, change the MIDI mode to Control Change, hop over to AmpliTube, add your IK Multimedia account information with user name and password, and then enter the serial number of your BlueBoard (if you still have it). Then you’ll need to choose the type of AmpliTube effect you want to control with the board, enable the effect in one of the slots, and then click and hold on the on/off button for three seconds. Then, you’ll get a window to assign control to one of the pads on the iRig BlueBoard itself.

You’ll need to do a similar amount of settings tweaking to get the BlueBoard to work in iGrand Piano, including changing the mode in the Blueboard to Program Change (instead of the above Control Change) and then drop into the settings for iGrand Piano to set the MIDI Channel to Omni, which lets it listen on all MIDI channels.

Batteries or USB power - genius!

Batteries or USB power – genius!

See what I mean? It’s unnecessarily complicated–at least, from a consumer point of view–to make this work with the various apps and systems that any one of us might want to use it with. I couldn’t figure out how to make this work with GarageBand, either.

It’s a shame, really, because the BlueBoard is a delightfully designed piece of hardware. It’s solidly built and has nice stage-friendly low-intensity blue backlighting to the four pedal buttons on the face of it. It runs on four AAA batteries, which is great for when you forget a power cord, but it can also work with a micro USB cable for power as well. There are two extra instrument controller ports on the side so you can integrate BlueBoard into your current stage setup with ease.

Once you figure out how to make the BlueBoard work with your favorite effects or instrument apps (there are no instructions in the manual that comes included with the device), the iRig BlueBoard is a fantastic bit of stage kit, allowing you to make changes to your sound and setup on the fly, without having to remove your hands from your instrument. If IK Multimedia can make things a bit more intuitive on the software side, I’d give the iRig BlueBoard a wholehearted recommendation.

DSC05117Product Name: iRig BlueBoard
The Good: Well-designed hardware; perfect for the iOS-enabled musician on the stage or in the studio.
The Bad: The software is difficult to figure out, and there are way too many individual settings to tweak to make it all work; not having the product serial number on the device is an oversight that needs fixing.
The Verdict If you save the box and figure out the settings tweaks within each music app you want to use this device with, the iRig BlueBoard is a great way to control your iOS-powered MIDI apps.
Buy from: IK Multimedia



Cult of Mac rating: Good

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, Creative Screenwriting, Shelf-Awareness, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef, and send him a cookie once in a while; he'll really appreciate it.

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