By Mike Riley on Thu, 10/31/2013
The loadout for musicians is rapidly changing. Companies like IK Multimedia are redefining the way musicians interact with their instruments. One example of this is the company’s recently released iRig BlueBoard ($99.99). Instead of having MIDI cables snake across the floor from foot pedals to control boards, the iRig BlueBoard communicates MIDI transitions wirelessly via Bluetooth. How well does this work? Read on to find out.
In its most basic form, the iRig BlueBoard is a box powered by 4 AAA batteries that consists of four programmatically assigned buttons. (this is my only criticism—why not make this a rechargeable device like most other modern Bluetooth accessories?) When a button is pressed, the BlueBoard wirelessly transmits the button’s assigned MIDI control code via Bluetooth to a device that knows how to react to the code. In the case of IK Multimedia’s product line, this can include both hardware and software. Most importantly, the free iRig BlueBoard App for iOS is what manages and routes these messages. These MIDI messages can then be sent to software such as IK’s extremely popular AmpliTube ($19.99) guitar patch program, VocaLive ($19.99) for singers, and iGrand Piano ($19.99) for keyboardists. And because iRig BlueBoard is wireless, it doesn’t need to plug into an iPhone or iPad’s connector. As such, it leaves that port free for other accessories such as IK’s iRig Stomp, iRig Mic, and iRig Keys.
Besides using it for the obvious guitar and keyboard MIDI controller configurations, the BlueBoard and accompanying BlueBoard app could also be used by stage and lighting crew to manage stage equipment controls that operate via MIDI signals. Since the wireless signal can be sent to devices 30 feet away from the BlueBoard coupled with the fact that the buttons are backlit when active, the BlueBoard makes an excellent and relatively inexpensive wireless MIDI controller for musicians and stage crew alike. The iRig BlueBoard also features two expansion TRS jacks for volume and wah foot pedals or any other continuous MIDI controller device. The fact that it is so lightweight and small enough to fit in a gig bag makes it that much easier to bring along to all types of performances. And because it broadcasts the codes via standard Bluetooth 4.0, the iRig BlueBoard works with Mac laptops as well as iPhones and iPads.
While the concept of a four-button wireless MIDI controller seems obvious and simple, it took a company like IK Multimedia to put the idea into affordable everyday practice. Just as AmpliTube and iRig Keys have permanently changed the way I play and compose with my musical instruments, so too has the iRig BlueBoard permanently altered the way I interact with MIDI-capable devices. No longer do I have to worry about tripping over MIDI cables or cluttering up my room with unnecessary wiring. Thank you, IK Multimedia!