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PageFlip Firefly Bluetooth Wireless Controller

Hands-free control for much more than just flipping sheet music pages

 

by Craig Anderton

 

 

It’s great that you can put sheet music and scores on a mobile device like a smart phone or tablet, as well as a computer. However there’s still the issue of needing to turn pages, which means taking your hands off your instrument and swiping the screen (or with a computer, pushing a key).

 

I was particularly interested in PageFlip’s products because I do a lot of narration. Printing it out means paper rustling, which has to be edited out and can also interrupt the flow. Attaching an iPad to a mic stand (using something like IK Multimedia’s iKlip2) solves the paper noise problem, but with the iPad close to the mic, touching something connected to a mic stand can be a problem. Orchestras and pit musicians also need to turn pages noiselessly (and preferably, hands-free). For these applications and more, the PageFlip family of products provides a solution.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

  • PageFlip Firefly ($109.95) is a pedal-controlled, Bluetooth page-turner that works wirelessly (or wired, via the included USB cable) with Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows.

  • Because PageFlip emulates keyboard presses, the sheet music or text app needs to respond to page up/page down, arrow left/right, arrow up/down, mouse click left/right, or space/enter. Not only does this range of options mean you can control some DAW functions, what’s even cooler is PageFlip’s free software app (Windows 64-bit, 7+ or MacOS 10.9+) that lets you program custom keyboard assignments, including keypress combinations and hotkey functions.

  • The two pedals are clickless and noiseless. No click also means no tactile feedback, but it doesn't take long to get used to the "feel" of the pedals. 
  • For $20 more, the PageFlip DragonFly has two additional, smaller pedals elevated above the existing pedals; for $20 less, the PageFlip Butterfly offers three preset pedal modes that can’t be reprogrammed, and can’t connect via USB (wireless only).
  • You can add two optional, external pedals to the Firefly for four-pedal operation.
  • The user interface is super-simple: turn on power, and then select one of the five possible switching modes. An additional switch turns on an LED in each pedal so you can see them in the dark.
  • Connectivity is easy. Pairing via Bluetooth is painless; if you don’t have Bluetooth you can buy an optional Bluetooth USB dongle from Pageflip for $15, or with the Firefly and Dragonfly, also connect via USB.
  • The unit is made of rugged, high-impact plastic. The switches are flush with the front panel, so even Bigfoot couldn’t break them.

 

LIMITATIONS

 

  • The pedals use two AA batteries, and the batteries last a looong time—PageFlip estimates a year's worth of use, and 200 hours of continuous operation. The pedal emits a triple flash LED warning when it's time to change the batteries. 
  • The Windows app works with 64-bit systems, but not with 32-bit systems.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

This is an extremely clever and useful device, not only because it does its intended function of changing pages, but because it’s a wireless or USB-wired remote control that’s handy for any computer program with keyboard shortcuts. (For example with Word, one pedal could turn bold on and off, while the other turns Italics on and off.) With five presets that trigger a pair of functions and another two optional pedals for five more function pairs, that’s a lot of control possibilities. (Note that if you re-program all the functions and don’t want to have to “go to the floor” every time you want to change presets, then use two external pedals, keep the Firefly on your desktop, and then change the presets manually.)

 

Overall, it seems like a lot of thought went into the PageFlip products. They’re durable, noiseless, battery-friendly, super-easy to set up and use, and do what they’re supposed to do (and more). The Firefly is the most popular of the line, but if you’re also interested in more general-purpose computer control, consider spending the extra $20 for the Dragonfly—it's less than buying two more footswitches for the Firefly. Either way, you can’t go wrong.  -HC-

 

Resources

 

The PageFlip Firefly is available from:

 

PageFlip direct

Sweetwater

B&H

Amazon

Thomann

 

Video introduction to PageFlip Firefly:

 

 

__________________________________________

 

 

 Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

 

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1001gear  |  August 18, 2017 at 9:28 pm
DC, DS, Coda etc...?
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