One of the advantages of digital music is that there are many ways to accomplish page turns.
While instruments that can be played one-handed briefly can simply reach up and tap the screen (my wife does this with her iPad), the French horn (and most wind instruments) require two hands to play.
To that end, I’ve used quite a few Bluetooth page-turning pedals. This is not an exhaustive list, but if you’re in the market for a pedal, hopefully, this can simplify your choice(s).
Bluetooth Pedal Reviews
I’m going to look at these pedals:
All three (plus many more) are available on Amazon.
AirTurn Duo Review
Find the AirTurn Duo on Amazon.
This was my first Bluetooth pedal – I used it for a little over two years with my Samsung Chromebook Pro.
Here’s what I liked about the pedal:
- Reasonable form factor – although it’s a fairly large rectangle, it is quite thin, so it was easy to slip into my bag or case and not take up too much room.
- Despite being so small, it’s got a long (advertised) battery life, and since it uses micro-USB, it’s easy to find a charger to top it up in an emergency.
- Lots of control options – useful if you’re using several different devices (I was not).
- The “center” part can come out of the pedal housing and be used separately as a handheld page-turner (for presentations). This kind of modularity was unexpected (but nice).
- Even though it looks a bit awkward in shape, it was pretty easy to find the forward and backward pedals by feel.
- Activating the pedals is completely silent (no mechanical moving parts), but had a decent feel. It was a bit “mushy”, but it was possible (with a bit of practice) to rest your foot directly on top of the pedal for a second or two without turning the page.
Since the center part of the pedal is the “brains” it would be nice if it was possible to buy the pedal “housing” with the left and right pedals separately. Because…
I stopped using it because part of the pedal housing simply stopped working – the right pedal simply would not activate the “page forward” command. The “page forward” did work on the handheld portion, so something “broke” in the right pedal that stopped it from communicating with the center housing.
I did reprogram it briefly so that the left pedal turned pages forward (and the right pedal simply did nothing), but this mean that turning back required tapping the screen.
If I could have replaced the left and right pedal while keeping the (working) central housing, I probably would have. Instead, I bought a new pedal – the competitor to the AirTurn, the PageFlip Firefly.
PageFlip Firefly Review
Find the PageFlip Firefly on Amazon.
This was my second Bluetooth pedal after the AirTurn stopped working. I used it for about 2.5 years (although it should be noted that I bought it in late 2019, most of that time was in the middle of the pandemic).
Here’s what I liked about the Firefly:
- Dedicated buttons, switches, and lights for various options. Instead of deciphering blinking lights and remembering settings (like you have to do for the AirTurn, the Firefly has three switches (power, lights, repeat) and 5 buttons (with their own dedicated light) for different turning modes. This makes it easy to tell what’s going on at a glance.
- It has a couple of lights on the footswitches if you need to use it in a dark environment. I didn’t use this feature often, but it’s a nice touch.
- Instead of a non-replaceable battery, this uses two AA batteries. This has its pros and cons.
I stopped using this pedal for a couple of reasons.
The main reason was the ergonomics.
Although I appreciated the single-function switches, the actual pedal shape and layout did not work for me. It was much more difficult for me to find the pedal without looking down, and if I set it up to use the right pedal easily, then it was very difficult to find the left pedal.
Like the AirTurn, this pedal seems to use a silent, non-mechanical switch. However, the Firefly lacked the tiny amount of feedback that I got from the AirTurn pedal – so more than once I would try to position my foot over the pedal to prepare for a page turn and the page would turn before I consciously depressed my foot.
The second reason I stopped using it was portability.
The screenshots don’t show it well, but the Firefly is very tapered. The “pedal” end is around 1/2 inch high, but the control end is about 1.5 inches. This makes it much more difficult to fit in my music bag, and impossible to fit in my horn case. I’m pretty sure some of this heft comes from using AA batteries (instead of an integrated internal battery), and while it’s nice to be able to pop in fresh batteries before a gig, finding (or carrying) a portable battery or charge is easier than remembering to carry AA batteries.
Playwell CubeTurner Review
Find the Playwell CubeTurner on Amazon.
This is my third page-turning pedal. I first saw it being used by another horn player at an orchestra gig. I was still using the PageTurn pedal, and the compact size appealed to me. I finally bought it after about a month of debating, and it has quickly become my favorite page-turning pedal.
Here’s what I like about the Playwell CubeTurner:
- It’s small. This makes it easy to toss in my case or in my music bag and not need to worry about making special room for it.
- It’s simple. It only has two buttons (along with a power switch). Unlike the AirTurn, there aren’t a lot of modes to figure out, and unlike the PageFlip there is no need to have extra space for additional switches and buttons.
- It works well underfoot. This is my favorite part about it (especially compared to the PageFlip). Since it has two raised, physical buttons, it’s easy to feel when your foot is over a button (and which button it’s over). Since these are physical buttons that move (and click), it’s also possible to press down very slightly on the pedal without triggering a page turn. This is useful if you have a fast page turn – you can get it ready before you need to turn without the fear of accidentally triggering it early.
- The buttons have a satisfying click when actuated. This could definitely be a con in a recording situation, but I’ve used this in all sorts of ensembles from chamber to full band and orchestra, and it hasn’t bothered me. However, the pros of the mechanical switch outweigh the cons for me.
Maybe the biggest downside (besides the audible click) is that since it’s so small, the battery life isn’t great. I haven’t had it die on me, but the advertised life is something around 24 hours of constant use. With a busy week/weekend of rehearsals and gigs, this could need recharging once or twice a week. The AirTurn, by contrast, advertises 150 hours of battery life while the PageFlip advertises 200 hours.
Plus, the Playwell is only about $25. About a quarter of the price of the other two (although time will tell how durable it actually will be).
Other Options – Looking Forward
There are lots of Bluetooth pedal options on Amazon.
While one day I may do a more exhaustive review, right now I’m happy with the CubeTurner. If there’s a Bluetooth pedal you are curious about, though, let me know in the comments below (or contact me) and I may check it out in the future.
One pedal that I am curious about would be the AirTurn BT200-2. It looks like a beefier version of the CubeTurner, with the same 150-hour battery life as the AirTurn Duo. However, a major downside of this pedal (for me, at least) is that it uses a 9v barrel adapter for charging (since it’s designed to be incorporated in a guitarist’s pedalboard) instead of MicroUSB.