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Entries in guitar (44)

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

StudioTrack for iPad Updated plus 50% off

Now is the time to grab StudioTrack for iPad from Sonoma WireWorks if you haven't got it already!

Added integration

We've been eagerly awaiting this update [press release link] which finally brings GuitarJack control panel and GuitarTone (great sounding amp sim) integration to the iPad.

This functionality was previously only available via Sonoma's FourTrack iPhone app. This is the app we had to use when reviewing GuitarJack 2 last month, which was less than optimal running on our iPad at 2x.

Now we can enjoy StudioTrack's 8 recording tracks along with this integration, we are very happy.

GuitarJacked

If you have been holding off on purchasing GuitarJack 2 for your iPad, this update will definitely improve your experience of using it.

We can't recommend GuitarJack 2 highly enough, it continues to impress as much as it did when we reviewed it, even more to be honest.

Non-Retina but great price

Although StudioTrack's UI has not yet been fully updated for the new iPad's 'Retina' display, it is good to see the updated version (1.5) being offered with a 50% discount at just $9.99/£6.99 for a limited time.

We highly recommend you grab a copy for the discounted price while you can. If you want to know more about StudioTrack and how it works, here's our review of the first release.

iKlip Studio Solves A Problem

If you have already invested in IK Multimedia's iRig device and you've had the same problem we have managing devices and cables dangling off your iPad, you may be interested to hear about the new iKlip Studio.

The recently announced iKlip Studio

Announced at this year's Winter NAMM and priced at a very reasonable $29.99, this adjustable iPad stand also folds flat for storage and importantly incorporates a little holder for your iRig, which then clips onto the back of the iKlip Studio.

Rear view of iKlip Studio with iRig mount

We haven't seen it in the flesh yet but it looks fairly sturdy and we think it's a great idea that will potentially solve one of our main annoyances about using the iRig with our iPad.

Here's a little taster video from IK Multimedia about the iKlip Studio's general features - let us know what you think in the comments:

AmpDock We Think We Love You!

It is probably very wrong to get so excited about an iPad accessory before we have even seen it, but we felt the same way about the iO Dock from Alesis and their new AmpDock, designed specifically for guitar and bass players, has got us in a stupor again.

Basically a slightly cut down version of their iO Dock, Alesis have made the AmpDock more robust for live use. AmpDock features an enclosing cover on the fourth side so that you iPad isn't exposed on the top edge, as it was on the iO Dock.

There's also a handy little kickstand on the back to angle the AmpDock when it is sat on top of your amp and to allow clearance of the amp's handle. If you have ever tried balancing your iPad on top of your amp you'll know how useful and reassuring this feature will be.

But the main thing that got us excited was the inclusion of a pedalboard controller in the $299 price!

This is a great boon and means that, for the iPad-owning musician, AmpDock is ready to rock (or not, depending on your guitar style) out of the box without any further expenditure.

More details and specs below, after the teaser video from Alesis:

AmpDock Key Features

  • The first professional guitar processor to use your iPad or iPad 2 for signal processing
  • Works with GarageBand, AmpliTube, JamUp, and virtually any audio or CoreMIDI app
  • Includes a rugged pedalboard controller with program, effect, bypass, volume and continuous controls
  • Guitar Input 1 and switchable Mic/Line/Guitar Input 2; professional outputs, and MIDI jacks
  • Kickstand allows for stable positioning on top of guitar amps
  • Hinged door completely encloses and secures your iPad
  • Mountable to a mic stand using the Alesis Module Mount (sold separately)
  • 1/4" high-impedance guitar input and combo input for microphone, second guitar, or another instrument
  • 1/4" outputs with Guitar/Line impedance switch
  • Stereo auxiliary outputs for connection to external effects
  • Two assignable endless knobs to control parameters in compatible apps
  • Analog Input 1, Input 2, Main, and Headphone volume controls
  • MIDI input and outputs and USB MIDI jack for use with other controllers and MIDI software or hardware

AmpDock Specs:

  • (1) - High Impedance Guitar Input
  • (1) - XLR/ 1/4" Combo Jack for switchable for Guitar, Line Level, and Phantom Power
  • (2) - 1/4" unbalanced Auxiliary Outputs
  • (2) - 1/4" balanced Outputs
  • (1) - 1/4" Stereo Headphone Output
  • Ground Lift Switch
  • Class Compliant USB 1.1 and 5-pin DIN MIDI I/O
  • True Bypass

GuitarJack 2 Reviewed - Is It The Best Yet?


After surprisingly little begging on our part, the nice people at Sonoma Wire Works in California agreed to send one of their GuitarJack 2 review models over to the UK for us to take a look at.

Of course, we agreed to let you know what we thought of it in return, and as always we have written our review just as we found it, in 'real world' situations we would use the device in, so here goes.

Overview

We expect by now you already know what the GuitarJack 2 is, but its main purpose is to provide you with the best sounding, cleanest audio input into your iOS device, specifically the iPhone 4, iPad 2, iPad, and iPod touch (not 1st gen.).

Here's a little video showing the GuitarJack 2 in action:

First Impressions - Construction

Our first observation? This thing is built like a tank!

All the other interfaces we've laid our hands on have been made of plastic of some sort. They seemed fairly substantial but one was certainly flimsy enough that if it were left on the floor it would not withstand the impact from a misplaced boot.

GuitarJack 2, on the other hand, has an aluminium shell and a heft to it that makes us think it could easily withstand a stomping from our 'gig boots' (we haven't tried it because we do have to send it back). It is a big chunk of made-in-America metal.

This solid shell is backed up by the very welcome metal jack sockets for a ¼" guitar/instrument cable, an ⅛" headphone jack (with increased drive for monitoring with headphones) and on the other side an ⅛" stereo microphone/line in.

The ¼" input is a solid brass Switchcraft jack, which we think is a good thing. In fact it is so solid that removing our guitar cable from this jack often involved inadvertently disconnecting the GuitarJack 2 from the device's dock connector.

About the Dock Connector

The one thing that we have found with most dock connecting devices, including Apple's own Camera Connection Kit, is that it is very easy to knock the 30 pin connector loose and it remains a problem in a busy recording setup even with GuitarJack 2.

Proxima Dock Extender Cable bought for under £5This connector issue also means that GuitarJack is not best hung off your device with cables connected to each jack, whether in portrait or landscape mode. The weight is liable to pull the interface away from the dock.

Sonoma have obviously thought about this though and you will find four little rubber feet on the bottom of the unit which give it some grip on a desk surface when your device is laid flat on its back, as in the product shot with the iPad (above) and iPhone (below).

They also suggest using a dock extender cable, even offering a $26 one for sale on their site, but we managed to pick one up on Amazon (UK) for under £5 (pictured above) that has full charging and syncing capabilities. It is this cable that we used when recording all the samples below and it never came loose.

Some info and hardware specs

Before we get into how the GuitarJack 2 sounds, here are a few specs from Sonoma Wire Works for the techies in our audience:

  • 1/4 inch (6.5 mm) instrument input
  • 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) stereo mic/line input
  • 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) stereo headphone/line output with increased drive for headphones
  • Dock connector designed for use without removing most cases
  • Device powered for ultimate portability - requires no batteries or power adapter
  • GuitarJack Model 2 includes a 24-bit AD/DA Converter, however only 16-bit audio playback and recording is currently possible until a firmware update becomes available.
  • Sleek and rugged aluminum shell

Software Features

(Control Panel in GuitarTone, FourTrack, StudioTrack & TaylorEQ)

  • GuitarJack 2 Control Panel in FourTrackLevel Control: 60 dB of continuous level control
  • Input Modes:
    • Instrument (1/4 inch) - mono - Pad, Lo-Z or Hi-Z mode
    • Mic/Line (1/8 inch) - mono, dual-mono or stereo - Pad, Normal or Boost mode
    • Both inputs - Mic/Line input on the right channel and Instrument on the left channel
  • Included Software:

We will be taking a look at the software integration in a future post. For this review we will be concentrating on the GuitarJack 2 hardware and its sound.

So what does it sound like?

We know, by now you're probably thinking, "This is all very good, but what does it actually sound like?", so let's get to that.

For a device costing this much, it better be good right?

Well, we have to say, it is!

GuitarJack 2 is by far the cleanest audio input device we have tested. Noise is non-existent in all but the highest of gain settings and even then you have to turn the volume up very high to know it's there.

Audio from a microphone is clear and totally devoid of noise. Sound recorded from another audio device (in our test the audio from an iPad's headphone socket) sounds just as good.

Guitar tones are crisp, clear and well balanced. Even with high-gain, distortion loaded, fuzz-maven settings in AmpKit+, there was an obvious lack of feedback.

We ran plenty of sound tests and we recorded our general observations and a few samples for you to hear below.

Compared to Headphone jack input devices

Our main concern was how the GuitarJack 2 would sound in comparison to audio input devices that used the iOS device's headphone jack.

We have always been a bit disappointed with the noise levels present in audio interfaces connecting via the headphone jack.

To be honest, this may be less GuitarJack 2 versus iRig / AmpKit LiNK / JamUp Plug / iRig Mic, etc. than it is 'dock connecting audio devices' versus 'headphone jack connecting devices'.

The iPad/iPhone audio circuitry always generates noise in our experience and, as such, we think devices like iRig Mic, etc., will continually be at a disadvantage because of this.

But let's see what GuitarJack 2 sounded like with a guitar.

Guitar Input

We tried lots of different guitar apps and setups. GuitarJack 2 worked with everything we tried except Amplitube. IK Multimedia's apps just don't seem to detect an audio source via the dock connector, something we hope they rectify very soon.

We had been sent an A/B switch by Sonoma Wire Works too, which let's you input your guitar and split the output in two so that we could record on the iPad and iPhone at the same time. We used the amazing sounding AmpKit+ because it has both iPhone and iPad versions and we know it well.

A/B testing a guitar signal using AmpKit+ on iPad & iPhone

After trying lots of distortion laden settings and comparing the GuitarJack 2 with iRig, AmpKit LiNK and the JamUp Plug, the biggest difference was the lack of screeching feedback using the dock connected device as compared to the headphone jack devices.

But it was when we stripped everything down to the cleanest amp settings we could in the AmpKit+ app, took away the noise gate and matched the settings on both the iPhone and iPad, that we finally understood how clean the signal was from GuitarJack 2 in comparison.

Here's a few sample recordings so you can judge for yourself. We used our A/B setup shown above to record the same audio onto two devices simultaneously. We recommend listening with headphones for a better comparison and don't worry, Phil doesn't have to rely on his guitar playing to make a living!

First up, clean as we can get it, using AmpKit LiNK:

and now using GuitarJack 2

It is the audio hiss that you can clearly hear from the device connected to the headphone jack (in this case the AmpKit LiNK) that sealed it for us. The GuitarJack 2 is far superior and offers the cleanest signal we have heard so far, even without a Noise Gate pedal.

Feedback

This demo took us by surprise. When we were recording these we could only listen to one of the devices for monitoring (unless we wore two pairs of headphones, which seemed a bit weird).

So we chose to monitor our guitar through the GuitarJack 2 connected to the iPhone whilst recording. That sounded ok with this sample, noisier than we would normally use because of the high gain and lack of Noise Gate pedal, but acceptable:

Then later we listened to the version we had recorded via the AmpKit LiNK into the iPad. The feedback we heard here was not the nice tonal kind, but even using AmpKit's excellent re-amp feature afterward we had trouble dialling it out.

Here's how the same set-up, with the same 'Dynamically Dirty' preset, sounded through AmpKit LiNK, the headphone socket audio device that has arguably the best feedback prevention (warning: it's not very comfortable to listen to):

The difference is clear, we're sure you will agree. We haven't done anything with these sounds except trim the end bit off and export them from the apps used to record them.

Microphone input

As mentioned, GuitarJack 2 has an ⅛" stereo mic input with software controls to use mono, dual-mono or stereo input depending on whether or not you are using the ¼" input at the same.

When we used our old mono condenser mic (XLR to ¼" mono) we couldn't get it to work using both of the GuitarJack 2's inputs (for example vocals and guitar, or vocals and output from an iPad for video demos).

Our old mic and XLR to stereo jack cableThe 'Both Inputs' mode on GuitarJack 2 seems to take the Right channel only from the stereo mic input and our mic was only showing up on the left.

After playing with lots of of step-down/mono/stereo adapter combinations we gave up and ordered an XLR to stereo ⅛" cable that is bridged, so the mono signal is split into a left and right channel output. This worked wonderfully.

So how did the microphone sound? We compared GuitarJack 2's input to the nearest headphone jack competitor we had, the iRig Mic from IK Multimedia. This device also has three hardware switchable sensitivity settings, as does GuitarJack 2 (via the software control panel).

We wanted to specifically show you what the noise levels were like on each setting. We strongly recommend you listen with headphones to more effectively hear the comparisons.

First, the iRig Mic:

And here's our inexpensive mono condenser mic connected to the ⅛" stereo socket on GuitarJack 2:

Hopefully the difference is obvious, especially on the high sensitivity setting used at the end of our audio. GuitarJack 2's noise-free audio is clearly evident here in the second example.

Further testing underway

We are still conducting various 'real world' tests with GuitarJack 2, especially using dual inputs for videos of the iPad in action recorded on the iPhone 4, as well as the GuitarTone software that only works with FourTrack currently, but hopefully with StudioTrack on the iPad very soon.

As soon as we have more to show you we will let you know.

Final thoughts

In our opinion, audio recorded via the GuitarJack 2 sounds better, cleaner, more dynamic and more reliably useable than that of any other audio interface we have used for iOS devices.

Much of this is due to the fact that GuitarJack 2 interfaces with the dock connector. But just as much of the GuitarJack 2's performance comes from the way it has been professionally engineered and optimised to work with both the hardware and especially the compatible software.

If, like us, you could not normally justify the $199 RRP cost of the GuitarJack 2, you can get away with devices like the ones we have mentioned above that connect via the iOS device's headphone socket. For many purposes these would probably be enough and are a fraction of the cost.

If, though, you are serious about your sound, if you want the best possible start and quality of audio recording that you can reasonably expect on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, then we think you should sell something else and/or scrape together the pennies to buy yourself the GuitarJack 2.

We are sure you'll consider it a worthwhile investment in your music and other audio productions.

GuitarJack 2 was still available for a discounted price of $149 from Sonoma Wire Works direct, at the time of writing and its online and street price may be around the same when the deal finishes. A quick Google search has the price at a fairly uniform £139 here in the UK.

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

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

JamUp Pro now expanded plus 50% Off Expansion Packs

The nice people at Positive Grid have sent us a note to say that JamUp Pro, the relatively new Guitar FX-app-on-the-block has just been updated to Version 1.3.

We loved this boutique looking and great sounding app when we reviewed it back in November last year.

What's New?

New in 1.3 are an "updated DSP engine, audio copy and paste, and 20+ new amps and effects available via in-app purchase.".

The new in-app purchases are obviously the big thing, but we are particularly excited to see support for ACP included in this update too.

If you're quick you can take advantage of a 50% discount on the new expansion packs, but for just one week only.

Go and grab your update.

App Store Link: JamUp Pro

iRig Mix for iOS Opens Up a World of Portable Audio

IK Multimedia are throwing their considerable weight firmly behind the iOS platform with their latest round of product announcements ahead of this year's NAMM show, starting next week.

The first of these we wanted to tell you about is the iRig Mix. Here's the trailer video which got our heads in a spin with the sheer potential of this device for the mobile musician.

Be sure to watch through to the end to see the multitude of ways iRig Mix can be used.

Check out the iRig Mix page for more demo videos of the device in action and details.

Needless to say, we are very excited at the prospect of this new device, what do you think of it? Let us know in the comments.

iPad Case That Thinks It's A Guitar

As expected, the iPad is featuring heavily at CES, or rather, accessories for the iPad are popping up everywhere. SlashGear and Engadget both reported this morning on the soon-to-be-released Guitar Apprentice from ION Audio (the people that brought us the iCade and Piano Apprentice for iPad).

The idea is that keys on the $99 fretboard light up, teaching you how to play guitar and perhaps also enabling guitar games. The potential is there for this accessory to be used by iPad musicians with CoreMIDI compatible apps to play an iPad synth app for example in an iBand.

We think it is a fun and creative idea for those who already have an iPad, but if you are really looking to learn guitar, we think you should get a starter electric or acoustic guitar and, if you have an iPad, get the brilliant WildChords app by Ovelin. You'll do a much better job of learning to play real guitar that way.

4 Chances To Win JamUp Pro and JamUp Plug

The nice people at Positive Grid, developers of the brilliant JamUp Pro and the JamUp Plug, have launched a seasonal giveaway. You can read our review of both to see why you should want to win them.

For the next 4 weeks Positive Grid are giving away a copy of the JamUp Pro app along with their specially made for iOS hardware plug, which we really like.

All you have to do is leave your name and email address on the giveaway page and you are entered for all 4 weeks of the giveaway.

Nothing to lose and well worth winning!