BlueBoard is targeted at iOS, but supports recent OS X laptops and minis, as well. That means wireless switches that light up, plus jacks for expression pedals.

BlueBoard is targeted at iOS, but supports recent OS X laptops and minis, as well. That means wireless switches that light up, plus jacks for expression pedals.

Singers or instrumentalists have plenty of brilliant-sounding apps these days running on iOS and Mac. But unless you plan to strip off those socks and play with your toes, you might want a stomp interface.

IK Multimedia’s iRIG BlueBoard could be an ideal solution for Mac and iOS mobile users alike, a $99 wireless box that adds four switches and two expression inputs.

It’s not the pioneer in this territory. On iOS, any USB MIDI interface will theoretically work with the Camera Connection Kit – now supporting the iPhone – though, oddly enough, there aren’t so many popular, currently-manufactured USB or MIDI DIN solution that immediately spring to mind. (Two important exceptions: first, there’s Behringer’s FCB1010, which costs not much more than this and could be used with a MIDI interface even on iOS. Just be prepared to add more weight to your carry-on; the FCB is big and heavy. Second, while it’s pricier, the Keith McMillen SoftStep is also very portable, runs via USB, and provides more expression – though it isn’t wireless, if that matters to you.)

Dedicated devices had until recently gone the Dock Connector route. Griffin Technology’s four-switch StompBox pedalboard used a wired dock connection in a simple but reasonable design. Digitech went much fancier, with a full-blown dock with expression pedal. Each of those gets a nice review for The Register by author Bob Dormon, linked here. (For their part, DigiTech also lets you use iOS as remote control for their programmable dock.)

But Dock Connectors and, worse, docks, seem an invitation to obsolescence. And they don’t work with the Mac, either.

Italian maker IK Multimedia has come up with what seem to be cleverer solutions. Having been the company that led the charge to convince guitarists to use their computers to model amps and effects with AmpliTube, they’ve had an aggressive accessory and app strategy on iOS, including a range of free apps (you only pay when you want to add more models).

iRIG STOMP, their earlier offering, is simple but effective. The idea: swap out the minijack for jack plugs, and add a metal bypass footswitch and volume knob, so you can add an iPhone/iPod touch effect to your existing floor rig. Since it just uses audio connections, no control connection is needed.

For more than one switch, IK announced a Bluetooth-based, four-switch solution at the beginning of this year, but they’re just now shipping it.

It represents a long-overdue move to transmitting MIDI over low-energy Bluetooth 4.0. This isn’t a proprietary controller: it’s just a generic MIDI controller transmitting messages over Bluetooth. As such, you can use any app that can receive MIDI messages. That includes, IK is quick to point out, AmpliTube, VocaLive, SampleTank, iLectric Piano, and iGrand Piano. But it also includes even rival apps, including Apple’s own GarageBand.

IK has dropped the nice metal footswitches found on their iRIG and other interfaces. But the good news is, using rubber pads instead means you can get light-up feedback behind the switches, so you know which effect is active.

blueboard_pedal

BBoard_back_upd-jack_dx

And while you might initially be disappointed that there’s no expression pedal, that’s a good thing, too. Not one but two TRS jack plugs on the back let you add your own expression pedals, which I think is a whole lot better than having one molded into the design.

Nerd break here: I’m actually rather eager to see if we can use this as a simple way of loading audio effects in Pd on Android and iOS, stompbox style, and it should be equally useful with desktop.

The specs:
Smaller than these pics may suggest: 27 cm wide x 9 cm deep (10.6″ x 3.5″), 2 cm tall (less than an inch)
4 AAA batteries for power.

What you need is something with Bluetooth 4 support. That’s iPhone 4S or later, iPod touch 5th generation or later, or iPad 3rd generation or later (including mini).

On the Mac side, Apple quietly added support in summer of 2012 for the Mac mini and MacBooks.

Made in Italy, US$99.99, EUR79.99 pre-VAT, shipping now.

This one definitely makes sense for review, so we’ll be looking at it.

(Oh, and… IK. The name. Just have to remember to think “Bluebeard,” and not “Blue b…” something else.)

Full Compass did a video earlier this year:

  • PaulDavisTheFirst

    ahem. Behringer FCB: $150 … 10 buttons/switches, 2 expression pedals, LED display.

    4 buttons/switches, no pedals, no LED display, bluetooth only $99.

    Maybe I’m missing the true inconvenience with those adapters.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Ooh, wait – that’s important. FCB1010 is apparently back in stock. I thought it had been discontinued – which may be just that it was between production runs or something.

      Behringer is the only player, though, I think, at any reasonable price.

      The reason you’d choose this over that is simple: this is far, far more compact and light. I got rid of my FCB eventually because I couldn’t lug it around. And if you have your own expression pedals…

    • seismologist

      Keith McMillen Soft Step and/or 12 Step… USB. $250-ish.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, totally. And SoftStep works really nicely.

    • squaretooth

      Don’t forget Line 6′s FBV line of foot controllers that can send MIDI over USB and also reasonably priced.

    • plurgid

      I have an FCB1010 and it’s pretty awesome, except for one thing and that is that I’ve only got two usb ports on my laptop, and the midi interface it needs requires one of them, which is uncool ’cause I’ve also got a USB keyboard and a USB audio interface. So to make it all work you’ve got to daisychain, which is a perfectly fine solution until you’re at soundcheck and you’ve got to troubleshoot ’cause something stopped working. Tell you what’d be better … a bluetooth midi interface. Just plug that thang into whatever, and your laptop can see it. I’d definitely pay for that

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      I might too, if it had 10 buttons.

      Running sooperlooper with 4 switches? Not my idea of a good time :)

    • http://nutation.net/ rseymour

      I’ve run sooperlooper w/ 3… :-/

    • Will

      In a live setting I’d much much rather plug something in than hope there isn’t too much interference with whichever consumer grade wireless tech I’m using. USB hub please.

  • hamsalad

    Are there any issues with BTLE and midi? Latency, dropped connections, etc?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I’ll be testing that.

  • dead_red_eyes

    If this works with Loopy on iOS, I’m in!!

    • IK Multimedia

      It will work with any Core MIDI apps. So, yes Loopy HD.

  • leow

    A couple more wireless foot controllers:
    The Airturn AT-104 and BT-105. Seems like they are mainly designed for turning virtual sheet music pages, but there is a 4-pedal version which appears to be quite popular with the Loopy community. There are YouTube videos demonstrating its use with Loopy and JamUp Pro XT, as well as one showing the AT-104 being used with a Surface Pro (but only to advance slides in a PowerPoint presentation).
    The X-Tempo Pok. An 8-pedal controller that sends keystrokes, so mainly useful with a desktop DAW, especially Ableton. However, Loopy can be controlled with a bluetooth keyboard, so perhaps the Pok would work, too. (I first read about the Pok on this site when you wrote about Laura Escude and her live looping set-up)

  • Will

    This thing is neato and the only music tech company I find more distasteful than IK is Behringer but at the end of the day the FCB has been in production for a decade(+?) because they nailed it.

    I do think it’s interesting that this matches up with the KMI Softstep on the price per pedal front. 4/$100 vs 10/$250 = 25 bucks each. $250 is out of budget for a lot of us but look at what you get on each pedal for $25 on the KMI!

  • Helvetica666

    Awesome. There is nothing superfluous. Lightweight, battery powered, small.

  • Per Boysen

    Wow, what a neat product! Seems to be perfect for a small light weight performance rig.

    I noticed you forgot to mention Gordius – by many regarded the best among USB/MIDI foot controllers. After having used up three Behringer FCB1010′s I decided to go with one of the Gordius controllers and it has already outlived all my Behringers :-) (and saved my the replacement cost).

  • Sylvain Poitras

    “Camera Connection Kit – now supporting the iPhone”

    Wow, that’s the headline as far as I’m concerned… you mean I can use my KMI 12-Step with my iPhone 5? Where’s that credit card…

  • Paul Rose

    I have a softstep but I find it’s a total pain to program. I never used it at its potential because I never got my head around the editing software.

  • Amedeo Farello

    Warning: this is sheer self-promotion.
    To those who use the FCB 1010 with a Mac: do you know FCBBooster?
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fcbbooster/id442907651

  • Michael

    I built a six-button stomp pedal with the $16 Teensy USB Development Board and about $10 more in parts. It is wired and works fine off USB power provided by the CCK.

    http://forum.loopyapp.com/discussion/comment/4544

    I don’t see the photos there any more, so perhaps I should post it somewhere more permanent.