A useful mobile guitar amp with sound effects software. (July 1st, 2010)
Product Manufacturer: IK Multimedia Production srl
Price: Free to $39.99 US, plus add-ons
- Great practice tool.
No audio latency.
Clean settings sound good.
Plenty of effects in full version.
Includes a tuner and metronome.
Different priced versions of AmpliTude.
- Distortion and Overdrive.
Expensive applications when added to cost of iRig.
No direct access to the iPod.
Last month IK Multimedia announced AmpliTube iRig for the iPhone, iPod touch, and the iPad. It became available in the iTunes store recently, and looks like one of the truly unique products for budding musicians. This hardware and software set up gives you a mobile guitar amp with sound effects software.
The HardwareThe simple hardware, the iRig interface adapter, looks plain, but packs a punch. It uses a 1/4" mono instrument input, feeds the signal into an iPhone or iPod touch, and sends the resulting output to an external source via a 1/8" stereo jack.
It is roughly the size of a standard guitar slide, so you can easily be throw the iRig into a guitar bag without taking up much space, which allows you to bring the device wherever you take your guitar. The overall build feels solid and I can’t imagine it breaking from the normal wear and tear of lugging it around with my other guitar gear.
The SoftwareI am a long time fan of IK Multimedia’s desktop amp modeling software, Amplitube, so I am excited to see how the experience transfers to a mobile platform. I must admit, the first time I launched the application I had low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality of the default clean setting. While obviously not a substitute for a real amplifier, Amplitube can create a variety of very usable sounds. After taking some time to become familiar with the software’s interface, I created several different tones that sounded similar to those that I could create with my own equipment.
I tested the full version of the modeling software, AmpliTube, which includes 11 stomp box effects, 5 amp models, 5 cabinet models, and 2 microphone simulations. By combining the various parts in different ways, you can create a host of sounds to use in various music styles. I think that Amplitube’s strengths lie in its clean settings, as many of the distortion sounds tend to sound similar, with more of a fuzz sound then a classic overdrive. I do not mean to say that the overdriven sounds are unusable. With the right tweaking I was able to get some great sounding Blues tones with just a little bit of distortion, in addition to some Jimi Hendrix-esque fuzz sounds.
Luckily, to go along with the thousands of effect combinations, IK Multimedia has included a system for storing and recalling presets. You can store up to 32 different presets, which allows for a wide variety of tones. It would be nice if you could add custom names or tags to distinguish the tones, but presently they are only numbered. After I added more than 15 presets, it was too easy to forget which number is associated with each tone.
In addition to the tone modeling features, Amplitube includes a built-in metronome and tuner. This application’s best use may be for practicing, so these two tools are extremely handy. The tuner rests in the bottom tool bar and you can see it at all times for quick tuning changes, while the metronome rests in the dedicated “Tools” window. Unfortunately, the metronome lacks features and only offers tempo settings ranging from 60 BPMs to 240 BPMs, with no options for beat division. However, I appreciate the inclusion of a tap to set the tempo feature. Also included is the ability to import songs, so you can play along, with the added functionality of looping sections. Unfortunately, they include no direct iPod access, which means you must import songs into the application separately over a Wi-Fi connection.
At the end of the day, what it all really comes down to is how the software sounds, and in Amplitube for the iPhone, the results are surprisingly good. I did not believe that I could use my phone to create such workable guitar tones. While I will not hook the iRig into my setup for a live performance, the overall quality and expandability blows away any other portable, practice rig that I have come across. I can easily see myself using this setup nightly to extend practicing hours.
The iRig hardware retails for $39.99 and you can download a free version of AmpliTube from the iTunes store. If you want more effects, you can choose AmpliTube LE for $2.99, or the full version for $19.99, which is the version tested for this review. If IK Multimedia can find a way to bring down the combined price of the full Amplitube software and the iRig interface to a lower level, they will probably corner the market. Until that time, they offer the best, but pricey, mobile guitar practice setup available.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor