Thursday, 4 January 2018

OnSong, Pads, iRig BlueBoard, Bluetooth speakers & review of Sony SRS-XB40 bluetooth speaker

I recently replaced my old 'computer speakers' (Gigaworks T20s) with a bluetooth speaker.

How does this relate to worship, you ask?

Well, I lead in some small venues for groups, small churches and small events. Understandably, we don't want to set up a full band for these situations.

I've learned to be incredibly flexible in these situations being faced with people who don't understand sound, those who do PA but get flustered so need help, times where there is no PA or they need me to deliver PA, times where space is very small or there's no time to set anything up!

Over time I've learned to bring extras of pretty much everything! Spare leads, plugs, accessories, strings, about 7 types of spare batteries, power, iPad, nail clippers, the list goes on...

Back to the bluetooth speaker... I commonly use pads, beats and backing tracks (or have them loaded into OnSong). Where the PA allows, we use pads quite commonly in band at church and I regularly use the pads when I'm out in the smaller venues as well.

If you don't use pads, they add a huge amount of atmosphere to the sound and can help you transition between tracks.

I've also started using pads in combination with looped beats (up to 25mins in time) so that if you want to play a couple of songs together and have a beat around the same tempo, I've got that option. Unlike say using the BeatBuddy, you don't have the options to jump to a chorus or another part of the song but you do have more flexibility.

But what if there's no PA or no time to hook into the PA or you just need a quieter sound in a smaller room? This is where the portable speakers come in handy...

Cue the Sony SRS XB-40 and a powerful and bass sound with a smallish footprint (about 30cm by 10cm by 10cm to be relatively precise!)

To trigger the pads and sounds from the iPad, I use the bluetooth-triggered iRig Blueboard. This requires you to open the iRig BlueBoard app on the iPad and then swipe to open OnSong without closing the BlueBoard app.

Previously when leading in smaller venues,  I'd set up my mini speakers in the room and run a wire from the iPad to output the pads or other audio from those speakers. But now they are defunct, would I be able to trigger OnSong gestures and audio via the iRig BlueBoard and simultaneously send those sounds to the bluetooth speaker?

The answer is a resounding yes. Yes, you can simultaneously use the iRig Blueboard and output audio from an iPad (from any app such as Music, OnSong) to a bluetooth speaker.

So now the setup has the potential to be: guitar (sometimes into a PA, sometimes not), iRig BlueBoard pedal, iPad on iPad stand and bluetooth speaker playing back the pads. Ideal and fewer wires too!

As for the sound of the Sony SRS-XBO, I'm glad I spent a bit more money and got a physically larger bluetooth speaker and one with more bass. Out of the box, the sound isn't at all bad and you can control the EQ by downloading a Sony app to your device. The speaker flashes in time to the music by default but holding down the extra bass button for 3 seconds turns it off. You can also turn off the extra bass feature.

For what it's worth, the sound is phenomenal and will fill a small room without any problems. Very highly recommended. I tested out various other speakers from JBL, Ultimate Ears, Bose and some cheaper ones that seemed to have good reviews but were not worth the money. The Sony SRS-XB40 stood out for me and was bought when it was on offer from Currys! The closest competition for price was the JBL Charge 3 but I felt the Sony had the edge in what I needed and was looking for. It also has an audio input in case you want to go wired. Very glad I didn't get a physically smaller speaker otherwise bass would have been compromised!

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