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iRig vs AmpKit LiNK - which is better? Part 1 of 2

When it comes to getting a guitar (or other instrument) input into your iPad there are arguably two major players, iRig by IK Multimedia and AmpKit LiNK by Peavey. We are fortunate enough to have got hold of both of them and we have been using them for a while now, testing them head to head.

So, which one is better? Read on to see what we found.

The Hardware

The iRig and AmpKit LiNK both have the same purpose, to get a line level audio signal from an instrument or microphone into your iOS device. This signal is input via the headphone socket (not the Dock connector) because of the Microphone input present there. The interfaces both have a headphone socket to monitor the processed signal back out of the Apps.

The main difference though is that, unlike the iRig, Peavey's AmpKit LiNK is powered, by 2 x AAA batteries, with what Peavey claim is "circuitry that virtually eliminates feedback".

We tried both interfaces on our iPhones but primarily we are reporting on the results from the iPad, especially now that Version 1.1 of the AmpKit app is iPad native. 

How we tested them

We are obviously not audio specialists or expert musicians, but we wanted to test these devices in a reasonably authentic way as far as the average iPad owner might use them. We played our Epiphone Les Paul twin humbucker guitar, through both the iRig and AmpKit LiNK, into the two apps that partner them, Amplitube 2 for iPad from IK Multimedia and AmpKit v1.1 from Agile Partners.

We tried both devices with identical settings through each app in turn. As far as possible we kept the amp settings, guitar settings and iPad exactly the same. All we did was swap out one device for the other and compare.  We tested them on various settings, Dry signal, Clean with a few touches of Reverb, Delay and Chorus, then on Crunch setups through to High Gain screaming distortion settings.

Where we could, we recorded samples of what we were hearing using the in-app recording function and sharing it out via iTunes file sharing. We have not edited the sounds at all apart from trimming the empty space at the start/end of some tracks.

All 12 sample tracks were then uploaded to SoundCloud. Unfortunately, their embedded player still does not work on the iPad, so you will need to follow the links we include here to the SoundCloud site itself, where you can play the tracks on your iPad/iPhone.

The Dry signal

We started out by turning off the amps and recorded a simple Blues scale played on the guitar through each app. There wasn't much to tell between the devices to be honest. If we were being exceptionally picky, using headphones, it sounds like the powered AmpKit LiNK is a little thinner sounding than the non-powered iRig, which surprised us a little. This is actually a tonal advantage as you will see in Part 2 but for now, it is not really something to worry about. See what you think by listening to the two tracks below on SoundCloud (we recommend using headphones rather than your device's speakers as the sound differences are not that great).

iRig into Amplitube dry signal

AmpKit LiNK into Amplitube dry signal

Clean

The next test we did was on a clean amp setup, using the standard 'clean' preset in both apps, with just a bit of Reverb (and a shade of Tremelo on Amplitube). The result was as expected with a clear, undistorted sound (once we had tamed the Les Paul's humbuckers) and no particular issues to report. Both the iRig and AmpKit LiNK provided a strong and clear tone from our test guitar with only slight tonal differences, as you can hear in the samples below (again we advise headphones to better discern the tone).

iRig into Amplitube - Clean

AmpKit LiNK into Amplitube - Clean

iRig into AmpKit App - Clean

AmpKit LiNK into AmpKit App - Clean

That's it for Part 1, in Part 2 we will turn up the heat a little bit and then let rip with the high-gain stuff and see what happens. Be sure to catch Part 2 for our final recommendations as well.

In the meantime, if you have anything you would like to add, please let us know in the comments below.

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Reader Comments (4)

i want to use the iRig or the Peavey for feeding audio from a mixer into the iPhone (mine is a 3G) so someone on the other end can listen to the feed.

i am a voice-over artist & this is one way i thought how i might be able to audition remotely, instead of traveling to the casting agency's office, or making an MP3 on my computer & attaching it to an e-mail.

Can i hear the caller on the other end with either of these units? that's not required, but could come in handy.


thanks,

R-i-C-L TX

Just to say thanks for an excellent and well thought out review. As a new player I'm going to go with iRig as it's a touch cheaper, doesn't need batteries and I'm too old to need heavy metal distortion. Absolutely loved the audio comparisons and on my headset I actually thought IRig gave the more mellow performance which is what you want when you're approaching fifty! Thanks again for one of the best and most honest reviews.

January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOld timer

Old Timer - thank you for your kind comments. It is probably very subjective, but despite the slight lift in volume and treble tones AmpKit LiNK has, we would agree that iRig sounds more mellow, ever so slightly warmer.

January 19, 2012 | Registered CommenteriPad Creative

I was asking myself the very same question, which one is better. When i got my ipad2 i sold my line6 pod because i thought i could ge the same amp simulation and effect processing on he ipad...i was wrong. When i bought iRig i really loved the ease of use. The interface is absolutely fantastic, but i still missed the feeling like playing a real amp. I couldn't get my finger on it but irig sounds a bit flat and really 'simulated'. When i checked the app store a while ago i noticed ampkit, i installed the free version and used the irig plug with ampkit. I had to turn down the volume because of the feedback, but i was surprised by the soundquality, to me playing my fender baja telecaster now sounded and felt like playing a real amp! I now regret paying the full app of irig.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLizzart

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