BT series update – Positive Grid’s Bluetooth footpedals get some tweaks

BT4 jw hardware 4If you have been hooked into the wonderful world of iOS music making for any length of time then Positive Grid will need little by way of introduction. Their headline iOS music apps – JamUp Pro, Final Touch, BIAS Amp and BIAS FX – have all made a significant impact and guitar players in particular have been very well served.

As well as porting some of their iOS apps over onto the desktop (a brave move given the established competition), PG also announced some time ago that they were going into hardware production. It took longer than most folks might have hoped to materialise, but the BT-4 Bluetooth MIDI Footswitch finally became a reality a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to get hold of a pre-release unit and I reviewed it here on the blog at the end of October. I was impressed with the hardware; it is very solidly constructed and seems robust enough for serious gig use. The hardware requires a (free) app for editing its settings – the BT Bluetooth MIDI Pedal Editor – and I worked with a beta version of that app in reviewing the hardware. It’s pretty simple to use and I had no problems setting up a simple expression pedal to add to the four footswitches the BT-4 provides.

The BT Bluetooth MIDI Pedal Editor app - now updated for improved performance with non-PG apps.

The BT Bluetooth MIDI Pedal Editor app – now updated for improved performance with non-PG apps.

The hardware/software combination actually worked pretty well with both BIAS FX and JamUp Pro – PG’s own guitar rig modelling apps – but I didn’t have much joy configuring the BT-4 to work with other iOS music apps that respond to MIDI control. At the time, I put this down to working with a beta version of the app. However, early purchasers of the production line units reported the same problems and also some difficulties in getting a reliable connection between their iOS hardware and the BT-4.

Positive Grid were obviously well aware of the issues and, this week, to their credit, via their social media outlets, have actually issued a public apology to early adopters for the difficulties they have experienced. There has also been a firmware update for the hardware and, as of Tuesday this week, an updated version of the editor app (taking it to v.1.0.2).

Using the latest hardware firmware and version of the editor app, I was easily able to get the BT-4 working with ToneStack.

Using the latest hardware firmware and version of the editor app, I was easily able to get the BT-4 working with ToneStack.

While I suspect there might still be a few tweaks to come, having given the latest version of the editor app a spin this morning, when attempting to use the BT-4 with non-PG apps, things are most certainly significantly improved. For example, I was easily able to assign both footswitch and the expression pedal to controls within ToneStack. Equally, I had some success in getting the BT-4 to controls some operations within Loopy HD (although also some head-scratching). This update apparently also details with issues that some users had with OnSong (where the footswitches can be used for turning pages, etc. in your sheet music collection).

I also had some success with Loopy HD....

I also had some success with Loopy HD….

These improvements in performance come just in time for the release of the  two-switch BT-2 version. For those looking for a simpler (and presumably, less expensive) solution for an app such as OnSong, then this might be a more obvious option.

Anyway, while nobody – Positive Grid included – would want to see users frustrated and disappointed by a new product – software or hardware – and serious teething problems should have been addressed before the product was officially released, it is good to see that PG are willing to hold their hands up to the problems and are making progress to resolve them. The press release/social media postings suggested that there might still be a few (more minor) wrinkles to iron out but that work is in hand to do so..

It’s a shame that these initial issues occurred though; it was a brave undertaking by Positive Grid to take a punt on hardware development….  and the basic concept with the BT-series is a good one as the physical construction of the hardware seems to be of a standard robust enough to survive the world of live performance. Fingers crossed that any remaining issues can be dealt with promptly.

BT Bluetooth MIDI pedal Editor

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    1. Steve White says:

      I bought an Airturn to use with JamUp back in 2014. It worked brilliantly… until rendered useless by a software update at the end of that year (on an iOS 7 iPad 2, since tried unsuccessfully on iPad 3 and iPhone 5s on iOS9 , still works with iOS6 iPhone 3G).

      I’ve emailed Positive Grid countless times, pointing out I only bought the hardware as they advertised it as working with their App. The fact they have continually ignored this issue has left me very disappointed. I assume, but don’t know, this was because they were focused on getting the BT4 out and uninterested in people like me who had already invested in their previously recommended hardware.

      My point is, it may be futile to hope that ‘remaining issues can be dealt with promptly’, my experience is that this is not how they work.

      Anyway, great blog – it’s cost me more than that Airturn ever did, but never to my regret.

      ps and I now use the Airturn with Loopy where it works without a single head scratch.

      • Hi Steve…. Thanks for the kind words on the blog and sharing your experience with the AirTurn…. I can’t comment on this unit really as I’ve no experience with it. With the BT-4 however, because it is PG’s own hardware – and I hesitate to even guess at how much pre-investment would have been required to get it from ‘nice idea’ to ‘final production model – they have a considerable incentive to get it right… or to right-off that investment (with both financial and credibility loss). Providing the design/hardware specification is not the issue (and if it physically works with their own apps – as it does – it ought to be possible to make it work with 3rd party apps) then that suggests to me it is more at the software end (and, in particular, the Editor app) that any remaining work might lie…. I sincerely hope they can make it work because, as a company, PG have thrown themselves pretty whole-heartedly into iOS and it would be great to see a company so enthusiastic about the platform succeed with what is quite an ambitious product move…. Here’s hoping…. Best wishes, John

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