Review: IK Multimedia iRig BlueTurn
Another unique and interesting iOS music accessory from IK Multimedia, the company's new iRig BlueTurn follows the design of its iRig BlueBoard Bluetooth MIDI Pedalboard, providing a similar Bluetooth-based foot controller, designed in this case to help musicians navigate digital sheet music while performing.
Whether it’s a guitar, saxophone, or piano, anybody who has ever played an instrument that requires two hands will understand the manual dexterity and hand gymnastics required to turn pages when performing a lengthy piece. The advent of the iPad has ushered in a new era of playing from sheet music in electronic form, but hasn’t really solved the need to deal with turning pages — if anything, the problem has been exacerbated by the more limited screen space, as compared to the ability to lay out three or four physical sheets of music strategically on a music stand. While page-turning foot pedals for the iPad aren’t a new thing, IK Multimedia seems to be aiming for ultra-portability with the BlueTurn.
Powered by two AAA batteries, BlueTurn is surprisingly compact, coming in at about the same width and 3/4 of the height of an iPhone 6 Plus, albeit considerably thicker. This means it can be easily carried in an instrument case or iPad bag without adding bulk or weight — IK Multimedia has gone with its usual highly-durable plastic enclosure, giving it a lightweight design that still feels remarkably solid. A power switch on the bottom allows the device to be turned off when it’s not in use, and the top includes a blue status LED. The two rubberized footpads — which are backlit so they can easily be spotted on a dark stage — have the advantage of completely silent operation. It’s an important benefit if you’re playing soft classical guitar or symphonic performances, for example.
BlueTurn connects to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch using Bluetooth LE, and basically just presents itself as a human interface device (HID profile). The two foot pads can be configured at power on to send either left/right arrow, up/down arrow, or page-up/page-down commands, in the same way that a keyboard would. Most popular sheet music applications should be able to respond properly to at least one of these command sets, and IK Multimedia provides its own free iPad app, iKlip Stage, that’s specifically designed to work with BlueTurn.
It’s worth noting as well that although BlueTurn is specifically targeted at musicians, because it simply sends keyboard commands, it can be used in other applications as well. BlueTurn works well in situations such as navigating through slides in a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation, or any other scenario where it would be useful to send up/down, left/right, or page-up/page-down keyboard commands to an iOS app.
While iRig BlueTurn isn’t the first iOS-based page turning device available, it’s the first of its kind we’ve reviewed, and when we look at the other options, it’s clear that IK has succeeded as usual in creating a great ultra-portable device for musicians on the go, with the flexibility to be used in other areas as well. As a Bluetooth HID LE device, it pairs easily, consumes little power, and basically just works; it also keeps the ports on your iPad free for other purposes, such as connecting other music accessories, or keeping your iPad powered, and its backlit buttons and noiseless operation will definitely be an attractive feature for many performers and presenters.