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Entries in AmpKit (9)

Tune-in Tuesday: AmpKit Special

In honour of the AmpKit Retina graphics update we mentioned earlier today and the limited time 50% off AmpKit+, we thought it would be fun to find a few tracks on SoundCloud that have been made with AmpKit. Hopefully it will give you an idea of some of the sounds you can re-create in Agile Partners' authentic sounding amp sim.

AmpKit comes with SoundCloud export built right in to the app so it is very quick and easy to share your riff, chorus or even whole song idea with the world. It is also possible to import a backing track or drum loop and play over it in AmpKit, or you can use one of the provided loops complete with bass and rhythm guitars.

There isn't any punch-in type of recording in AmpKit itself though, so you often end up with imperfect one-off takes or maybe the third, fourth, fifth (you get the idea) attempt being shared to SoundCloud.

With that in mind, we have selected three different samples that demonstrate just a few of the many different types of sound you can get from AmpKit.

'Ready Set Jam' by TheRedDash

"Messing around with some Drum back tracking" is how this track is described by Dash from New York, but it features the rich, well sustained Rock sound that you can conjure up in AmpKit without too much effort and reliably every time. We liked the tight, compressed rhythm style at the start too.

'Duckie Dux' by toño châvez

A tongue-in-cheek title for this track but toño demonstrates very nicely the auto-wah pedal sound here, which is actually quite difficult to get right in our experience.

'Strat Your Stuff' by shred_777

We have featured Timothy Khalil's (a.k.a. shred_777) work once before, but we liked the funky Blues sound of this track a lot and it provides us with a sample of the Stevie Ray type of tone that makes us so happy. Nice one Timothy!

Just three short samples of the sounds you can create with AmpKit on your iOS device.

Good enough for a Commerical album

Of course, if you want to take it to the ultimate level and incorporate AmpKit as your main guitar amplification for commercial productions, you can do that too, as perfectly demonstrated by One Like Son in our bonus track below. To find out more about their album made entirely on an iPhone 3GS be sure to read our post.

Over to you

We hope you enjoyed listening to our AmpKit made picks this week, but as always, we want to hear from you too whatever iOS app you use. If you have your own iOS created sounds (preferably with the iPad, but not essential) here's how you can get them to us:

  • Join our iPad Creative SoundCloud group then click on the 'Share a Track' button on the group page
  • If you're on a computer, click 'Send us your sounds' at top of the sidebar --->
  • Leave us a link to your track on SoundCloud in the comments below

We're looking forward to hearing you soon.

AmpKit+ 1.3 - Double the Resolution, Half the Price

AmpKit Icon TransBG

Agile Partners have updated their sonically amazing guitar amp sim AmpKit with new Retina Graphics and it looks gorgeous.

We think they are (at least one of) the first guitar sim app makers to update their in-app graphics for the new iPad's Retina display.

It isn't anything that really affects the every day use of the app of course, but it is a lot nicer to look at and makes the amp controls especially a whole lot clearer.

 

Retina Upgrade

As we are interested in how Developers are updating their apps, we took a series of screenshots from AmpKit+ before we upgraded so that you can compare them.

It's hard to see in these scaled down versions but if you look closeley you should see the added clarity and detail on the amp controls and stomp pedal graphics in the gallery below.

New Gear

With the release of AmpKit+ 1.3 Agile Partners have also added 3 new pieces of kit and bass players get a little love. From the Press Release:

Trace Elliot 1215
For the first time, a world class, full-featured bass amp and cabinet for iOS bass players.

Rocktron Metal Planet Distortion
A versatile, true heavy metal distortion pedal - not for the faint of heart

Rocktron HUSH Noise Reduction
If you aren't using HUSH, you aren't using real noise reduction for guitar.

Select the links if you want to find out more and see videos of Rocktron Hush and Rocktron Metal Planet Distortion.

50% off!

In addition to the updates mentioned above, the purchase price for AmpKit+ has been halved to $9.99/£6.99 and the 3 pieces of new gear have between 33% and 40% off for a limited time.

If you haven't pulled the trigger on that AmpKit+ purchase yet, now is the time to do it, it is well worth it for the savings you make over individual gear purchase prices.

App Store Link: AmpKit (Free) / AmpKit+ both Universal apps

Tune-in Tuesday: iOS Made Music Finds

We are constantly on the lookout for new iOS made tracks on SoundCloud, so continuing our regular(ish) Tune-in Tuesday spot, here's this weeks trio of picks.

'Nr One' by Kalim Stavros

We've been meaning to feature one of Kalim's SoundCloud tracks for a while now because he creates all of them in GarageBand on his iPad. This is his most recent track, an uptempo 'Funky House' affair which is proving quite popular over on SoundCloud as you'll see by all the comments.

'The track with no name' by Caustic Sunshine

Another musician we have been meaning to include for a long time is Caustic Sunshine, from just down the road in Bournemouth, UK. This beautiful, Animoog based track put together in NanoStudio on the iPad, really took us away from it all when we first heard it. One for those stressful Monday mornings.

Be sure to check out the rest of Caustic Sunshine's tracks, they're not all iPad/iOS tracks but we like them just the same.

'So U Think U Can Satch?' by shred_777

Timothy Kahlil (a.k.a. shred_777) hails from Sydney, Australia and he has some mean guitar licks going on in this Satch-fest, recorded using the amazing tones of AmpKit. We like it a lot!

Over to you

We try and do this as often as possible, each week if we can, so we would love to hear your SoundCloud hosted tracks too if they were made on an iOS device, especially if the iPad was used in some way.

Here's how you can get your tracks to us:

  • Join our iPad Creative SoundCloud group then click on the 'Share a Track' button on the group page
  • If you're on a computer, click the 'Send us your sounds' link in the sidebar --->
  • Leave us a link to your track on SoundCloud in the comments for this post

We're looking forward to hearing you soon.

New iOS Music - Plus Send Us Yours

Now that we can embed iOS playable tunes from the prolific bunch of creatives over at SoundCloud (a bit like YouTube for audio), we thought we would try and share a few of the iPad-made tracks we come across over there, but there's more.

New iPad Creative SoundCloud Group

We are watching new additions to the various iPad and iOS groups on SoundCloud to see what musicians are creating with their devices but we have also created our own iPad Creative group.

Now you can send us your tracks directly at any time (from a computer) using the SoundCloud 'Send us your sounds' link under the Social section on the right hand side of this page -->

A Few Discoveries

We are really looking forward to hearing what sounds you create on your iPad and featuring them here for everyone to listen to. In the meantime, here are a couple of tracks we enjoyed listening to this week as we were browsing around SoundCloud: 

'Mizu Ryu' by Keiran Klaassen

This one takes a while to warm up, but give it a minute or so and we think you might like where it goes. All the synth sounds you hear are made in the awesome Animoog app.

'Chill by Fire' by Li$hus

Made in GarageBand for iPad, this is described as a "A relatively unpolished ditty…", but we still enjoyed it.

'Funny Hearts' by Rumbleheyner

This one made us smile, it sounds like the soundtrack to some sort of manic cartoon. Made on the iPad with Ampkit+, iSequence and StudioTrack.

Over to you

Plenty of iOS apps now have SoundCloud export built-in so it is easy to share your audio creations with the world.

If you're on SoundCloud already please join our group and if you have anything to share post your sounds.

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

This is the second of a two part head to head review of iRig and AmpKit LiNK, arguably the two primary guitar (or other line level instrument) interfaces for the iPad (of the ones that use the headphone socket).

In Part 1 we set out the use for these interfaces and compared the basic dry signal passed from a guitar via these interfaces and the Clean Amp settings in the two iPad apps that partner with these devices, Amplitube and AmpKit.

In Part 2 we are going to ramp up the gain and continue to compare the performance of these two guitar interfaces. Read on to find out what happens as the volume gets louder...

Crunch Time

The next thing we are going to look at is the Crunch preset in each app with both guitar interfaces. In Amplitube it is Preset 1 - 'Mild Crunch' and 'Captain Crunchy' in AmpKit.

The Crunch Amp in Amplitube

If you listen very carefully you may hear that the AmpKit LiNK provides a slightly clearer, less muddy sound than the iRig. This was the case in both apps, and there is a definite small volume lift when using the battery powered AmpKit LiNK over the non-powered iRig.

This has an effect on the tone of the guitar which becomes more evident, although still slight, when using a bit more gain.

Here are a couple of samples.

iRig into Amplitube - Crunch

AmpKit LiNK into Amplitube - Crunch

Metal Mayhem

Finally, we stopped playing nice and opened up the screaming distortion and high gain amp models to see what these interfaces could do. Apart from make a lot of noise (thank goodness for the headphone out) this part of the test showed the key issue with these type of guitar interfaces - susceptibility to screeching feedback, apparently due to crosstalk from the close proximity of microphone and audio out circuits (or something similar).

If you have ever stood in front of a guitar amp with full bore distortion dialled in you will a) know just how much fun this is and b) know that you are walking a fine line between cutting tone and screeching, eardrum shattering feedback.

When on the high-gain settings in Amplitube we really didn't have any feedback problems from either guitar interface until we introduced a Distortion stompbox and a Fuzz pedal on top of the Metal Amp setting. The AmpKit LiNK seemed to be more resilient as we increased the gain, drive and volume controls in Amplitube, although not by a massive amount.

Fighting Feedback

The real difference came when we switched to the high-gain Peavey-type amp in the AmpKit app. As soon as we plugged the iRig in to AmpKit with the 'Killing the King' preset engaged we almost blew our eardrums out through audio feedback.

We had to reduce the Input gain from the iRig all the way down to about 19% and the Output gain down to around 23% before we could take our hand away from the strings without feedback. This was with the 'Noise & Feedback Filter' set to 60%, meaning a serious lack of sustain (this filter cuts the audio signal as soon as it detects interference or feedback, which means cutting off notes instead of leaving them to ring out).

With the AmpKit LiNK interface, plugged into the AmpKit app and the same raucous amp setting as we had before, we were able to set the Input Gain at about 38% with the Output Gain around 50%. The Noise & Feedback Filter was pared all the way back to about 15%.

This gives a much more biting and responsive tone with longer sustain, but we still had to fine tune the settings and fiddle quite a bit before we could reduce the feedback to acceptable levels and even then it was not entirely gone.

AmpKit App Metal (Killing the King) Preset with Gain settings

Overall then, we have to say that the AmpKit LiNK does a much better job of fighting off the feedback for longer with extremely high-gain settings, which the AmpKit app has in spades being modelled on the raunchy and particularly Metal oriented Peavey and Mesa Boogie amps.

These samples were played after adjustments were made, because we guess you know what feedback sounds like. They are a bit louder so you may want to drop the volume a bit, especially if you are listening via headphones.

iRig into Amplitube - Metal Amp + Distortion

AmpKit LiNK into Amplitube - Metal Amp + Distortion

iRig into AmpKit App - 'Killing the King' Preset

AmpKit LiNK into AmpKit App - 'Killing the King' Preset

Cable Length

One noticeable difference between these two interfaces is the length of cable and the socket positioning. The cable that leads from the iRig to your iDevice is very short. This means that it is a little bit awkward when a fairly heavy guitar cable is connected and can pull on the iPad making it unstable if on a stand or stood up in a case, especially if you have the iPad's Home button on the left.

The iRig also has the headphone cable on the opposite side to the 1/4" connecter where your guitar cable plugs into, so that you have cables going in two directions, which again can be annoying.

If you set the iRig up carefully before you start it is not too bad, but the AmpKit LiNK wins out here, although slightly heavier and with a larger form factor (probably because of the batteries) the AmpKit LiNK has a much longer cable to plug into your iDevice which means you can lay it on the desk or table next to your iPad.

There is still the danger of pulling the AmpKit LiNK and toppling the iPad, but with both connectors (1/4" and 1/8") on one side, opposite the cable to your Device, cable routing is a lot less problematic. 

Pricing

The prices are similar for both interfaces, iRig retails for about $40 (£25) and AmpKit LiNK for around $30 (£29). The price difference seems to be because the iRig is produced here in Europe so the AmpKit LiNK ends up being cheaper in the US.

Final Thoughts

As we said at the outset, we are not audio specialists so you may get varying results but we were impressed by the ease of use of both interfaces and the results.

The AmpKit LiNK will need batteries to work, although they seem to last quite a long time. It could leave you stuck though if you are away from home and have forgotten to bring spare batteries with you.

If you are primarily going to use IK Multimedia's Amplitube we would recommend either IK Multimedia's own iRig or Peavey/Agile's AmpKit LiNK.

We think they are both brilliant ways of getting your guitar (or other line level) signal into the iPad, but...

**Our overall winner of this head to head comparison is AmpKit LiNK.**

We would recommend the AmpKit LiNK for the most compatibility, especially if you are primarily going to use the AmpKit app with the high-gain amps (which by the way sound amazing!).

Whilst we would not say that AmpKit LiNK eliminates feedback, we think the circuitry inside it does reduce the effect when using high-gain settings in any app. Just be sure to keep a few spare AAA batteries in your guitar case.

So that's it, we hope you found this review useful. You can hear all of our samples from both Parts of this head to head test in one place by visiting this SoundCloud Setlist (it should work on your iPad once you get there).

If you have anything you would like to add or if you would like to let us know your experience of using iRig, AmpKit LiNK or any of the guitar amp simulation apps, please leave us a comment below.

If you don't already, you can follow iPad Creative on Twitter or Facebook (or both) for more information and news about stuff like this and other Creative uses of the iPad. 

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.

IK Multimedia show us Amplitube 2's hottest new iPad feature

One of the things we are going to do whilst we are off-work over the holidays is catch up with apps like Amplitube 2.0 for iPad from IK Multimedia. We will let you know what we think as soon as we can and give you some comparisons with the latest version of AmpKit (1.1) from Agile Partners.

Until then though, we hope this video from IK Multimedia themselves piques your interest. As always, the UI is beautiful, but we have to try the audio copy/paste features for ourselves before we can comment on how great a feature it is.

Looks promising though. What do you think?

Impressive AmpKit Demo Video

We are eagerly awaiting the iPad native version of Agile Partners / Peavey's Ampkit before finalising our review, but this video demo by Peavey rep Tom Allen at Nevada Music UK is a great way to see the app in action and hear some of the sounds achievable with the iPhone version of the app.

We know you can use the iPhone version on your iPad, but it looks pretty rough to be honest and we know there is an iPad version in the works, so we will bring you more on AmpKit when we can test the native version.

Suffice to say, we think it really does rock, especially with some of the more high-gain Rock sounds which, frankly, blow Amplitube away.

More from us soon, in the meantime, enjoy the video and let us know if you have used AmpKit on your iPad and what you think of it if you have.

iRig + iPad = Guitarist (Musician) Heaven

The Problem

Amp simulation apps have existed for a while on iOS, but the problem has always been getting the guitar signal into the device and hearing the subsequently amplified output.

Using the built in microphone, or the headset mic, has always meant not being able to hear the output if you were using an acoustic guitar. For electric guitar, not hearing an output at all is a problem, as plugging a device with audio input into the headphone jack mutes the built-in speaker.

The Solution

So the only way to do this effectively without a USB 'hack' is through a hardware device such as the iRig from IK Multimedia. This handles the audio input and importantly provides an audio output or monitor via a standard 1/8" headphone jack.

Plug your headphones into this output for quiet practice without disturbing anyone else, or connect it to speakers, a sound system, a guitar amp or even a PA system for full-on live sound.

We had no problems at all connecting a guitar straight away and after confirming the warning about turning down the volume before we start, especially with headphones connected, we were off and rocking (well, we made noise with our guitar).

iRig_into_ipad_small.jpg

Using iRig with Apps

The iRig was recognised as an input device by every app we tried without fail. This included iPad specific apps Amplitube for iPad (look out for our review soon), StompBox and StudioTrack (read our full StudioTrack review here).

We also tried iRig with a number of iPhone audio apps including:

A Few Issues

For the most part there were no issues with iRig and the above apps, the only problem we did have was with AmpKit by Agile Partners and Peavey. The main issue here was high pitched feedback at anything but extremely low input levels.

This is not a review of AmpKit, that is for a future post, but the extremely high gain Peavey amps simulated in AmpKit are a particular challenge to iRig, and Agile Partners recommend, of course, their partner Peavey's AmpKit Link audio interface.

This is a hardware device designed for exactly the same purpose as iRig, but with active (battery powered) circuitry designed to eliminate the feedback inherent with the unpowered versions like iRig.

We hope to get a review to you soon for both the AmpKit link and AmpKit app, but we have been holding out for an iPad specific version, which is apparently in the works.

Sidenote: Feedback Warning - Follow the Instructions

As we mentioned above, feedback with these kinds of devices can be a problem due to impedance issues. The scant instructions give just the essentials for setting up the iRig, but they do warn that using a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter on the headphone output will cause audio feedback.

Well, we wondered about this and as we only had the 1/8" to 1/4" adapter available to us, we tried it anyway.

We had no feedback issues with this adapter when connecting to a home cinema surround sound amplifier, but once we connected the iRig to our guitar amp (clean channel, no effects, middled tone controls across the board) and engaged a high gain amp model in the software, specifically the Metal amp, we had an immediate problem with piercing audio feedback screeching out from our amp speaker at any volume setting.

Our recommendation is to take heed of the instructions and get a cable matching IK Multimedia's suggestion. We are guessing that similar feedback will be experienced with a PA system too (although we have not been able to test this).

IMG_0209.PNG

As you can see in the above instructions, the cable setup recommended is an 1/8" stereo connector from the headphone socket out to a twin RCA (using the left one to connect to the amplifier/PA) or 1/8" to 2 x 1/4" Mono jacks.

We obtained one of the latter cables from eBay for about £4 (pictured below) and since using this new cable we almost never received feedback when using the iRig connected to the guitar amp, except in the situation mentioned above with the AmpKit app.

photo.JPG

Not Just For Guitars

Whilst the primary purpose of iRig is to get a guitar input into your iDevice and a monitor out, you can also use it to input other audio signals. We successfully recorded audio from a Bass guitar and a passive vocal microphone (although audio hiss was an issue) as well as an Acousto/Electric guitar from both its 1/4" and XLR output. IK Multimedia's website also makes mention of line level input from Keyboards, Synthesizers and mixers and we have no reason to doubt it works with these audio sources too.

We have had a great time using and testing the iRig interface and we can recommend it wholeheartedly for iPad musicians or anyone wanting to get sound into their iDevice whilst monitoring the output simultaneously.

iRig is available from most music stores and online retailers for around £25 ($39.99).