The iRig Blueboard is a small pedal board that uses bluetooth to connect to a computer or a mobile device and sends Midi commands to any application listening for it.
If you have been on this blog before, you know that I favor “bigger” pedal boards. Here’s a scale comparison with a Behringer FCB1010:
The Blueboard is also battery operated. Since the connection uses Bluetooth 4 in LE mode (Low Energy), the AAA batteries should last a decent amount of time, even if the LEDs under the switches use some of it (they are always ON and brighter when selected).
So, it’s +1 for portability.
The Blueboard is solidly built. It is surprisingly heavy for its size. Maybe it’s weighted to prevent movement on the floor. I haven’t opened it, yet, to check what’s inside. Although it is made of plastic, I think that it would survive being stepped on (edit: it does. I tried!).
Again +1, for built.
sadly, there is NO specs available, in the box or on IKMultimedia’s site, explaining exactly what an expression pedal is. But after some research I found a site that explains how they work: click here for Strymon’s anatomy class.
The same site also has a good page showing how to modify a simple potentiometer volume pedal to transform it into an expression pedal. I use my mammoth Dunlop Volume Pedal as an expression pedal. No so portable anymore… but that’s ok.
Once you put the batteries in and turn the Blueboard on (hidden switch under the BB), a blue LED flashes quickly on the top, in the right corner. The Blueboard is now in pairing mode, waiting for a computer to acknowledge connection. This is not a standard Bluetooth connection. The Blueboard is only visible to a Blueboard application. So you have to download a free app. One is available on the Apple App Store for use on an iPhone or iPad, and another version can be downloaded from IKMultimedia’s website. More about that software later.
I had no problem with my iPhone or iPad. Connection was quick and stable. Note: the Blueboard can only connect to one device at a time. That makes (bluetooth) sense.
When I tried to connect the Blueboard to my Macs, it just didn’t work. The application was installed, but the Blueboard remained invisible. Since the bluetooth connection is not standard, there is no point checking in the “Bluetooth Preferences”. It will never show up there.
Eventually, I rebooted the computers (Mac min and MacBook Pro) and the connection was made, although it is always more reliable if I open the application first and then turn the Blueboard on.
I’ll score this as +0 (or -0, if you prefer). It does work, eventually…
You have to use the Blueboard software to make the connection with the pedal board. I have found no other way (and trust me, I tried) to connect to it.
The idea is that the software will get switch presses indication from the Blueboard and will generate Midi commands as a Core Midi device. The commands are available to any midi application that understands Core Midi (most of them do).
What Midi commands? This is where the Blueboard starts loosing points.
The Blueboard can sent Program Change (PC) commands OR Control Change (CC) commands. That’s it. You cannot send NoteON or NoteOFF commands. Oh! By the way, it cannot be programmed to send a mix. It either sends ONLY PC OR ONLY CC commands from all four buttons. This is a global parameter, that applies to each (and all) bank.
Let’s give that a -1 right away. It get’s worse.
The Blueboard will send a command on button presses only. This means that it cannot be used to send “momentary” commands, i.e. send a command when a button is pressed and send a different command (or the same command with a different value) on button release. Many software expect “momentary” commands. The most basic one is the Sustain Pedal, available in every synth program out there. Even GarageBand understands Sustain Pedal commands. The Blueboard can’t do it, and you can’t rig it on you computer (or idevice) since the BB will only acknowledge button presses, not their release.
To me, this is a -3. Actually, this is a deal breaker for me. It get’s worse…
The changes that you make in the application cannot be saved. The software will revert to default behaviour when you re-open it. How lame is an application that cannot save changes? Especially when you can actually switch from bank to bank and modify everything, including Midi channel. You just can’t save anything.
To me, this is a -2.
The iRig Blueboard is a fine pedalboard, extremely compact and well built. Too bad the software is so bad! I will have to return it because of this. (UPDATE: I did return it)
I contacted IKMultidemia’s tech support and they assured me that they would pass the feature requests to their “developers”. They just won’t let me know when the new version of the software will be available, and with what features. I can keep the Blueboard for a month before the Apple Store will not let me return it for a refund. Hopefully, something will happen and I will be able to edit this post (and keep the Blueboard!).