If 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 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).
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).
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.