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Entries in guitar (44)

Trubadour iPad Case Made For Musicians (and other awesome people)

An over the shoulder iPad case, made especially with musicians in mind, attached to a guitar strap?

It could be a reality if a new Kickstarter project gets off the ground. This video for the Trubadour iPad Case (very much a prototype at this stage) says it all and it could be yours if you pledge $40 or more.

What do you think, is this a good idea?

(via Wired Magazine)

Pix and Stix: Hit your iPad with Real Drumsticks?

We thought we had seen all the variations of iPad accessories there could possibly be by now, but the creative chaps who came up with The Wallee iPad Case have hit upon a new idea. Pix and Stix is a Kickstarter-ish project, intended as a solution for musicians who want to make their GarageBand (or other music app) playing experience more authentic.

Consisting of a set of 'electro-conducive' rubber tipped drumsticks and a guitar plectrum, the Pix and Stix set is offered for $14.99 AUD on pre-order. It looks like they are after around $8000 AUD (~£5300) in total and they are already 25% of the way there after only a day or so!

Video Evidence?

We wanted to see a video of these things in use, especially the drum sticks, before placing an order so we emailed the team behind Pix and Stix but they said there is no video at the moment. They did say they intend to do one once they have hit their target. We think this might stop some people ordering to be honest, but interest is still strong.

How Strong is the iPad Glass?

We are a little concerned at the damage whacking the heck out of our iPad screen may cause, especially during a more frantic drumming session (or in the hands of our 3 year old). We would expect a company like this to have tested these things out though, and the iPad screen is surprisingly strong anyway.

One Plectrum Only?

We also have a nasty habit of losing plectrums constantly, so only having one plectrum included in the set could mean a lot of expensive replacements (plus shipping from Australia, another $14.95 AUD).

It is a creative idea though, and we are sure they are going to reach their funding target given the amount of tech blogs that have covered the project already. You can follow their progress on Twitter.

What do you think? Are you pre-ordering?

iWah - Use Your iPad As A Real Wah-Wah

We love apps like Amplitube for iPad and AmpKit that give us simulations of Guitar effects. On the whole the effects work well. One of the least effective though has always been the Wah pedal.

Unless you have a willing friend who will stand there tipping your iPad back and forth while you play and shout instructions at them, you need a third arm to have any chance of using the accelerometer based Wah, or learn to play the guitar one handed. 

Until now...

iWah 1 Is Here

iWah is a $135 iPad cradle that attempts to emulate a real Wah-Wah pedal by combining a foot pedal that tips your iPad back and forward and a Guitar effects app with a Wah pedal effect.

Made from Aircraft grade aluminium the iWah is designed to fit the iPad 2, but the site says that "iPad first generation interfaces are available upon request", as is a hot pink coloured version with 10% of your payment going towards the National Cancer Institute in the States.

The cradle allows the iPad to be set in horizontal or portrait orientation. This is important because if you use Amplitube for iPad or StompBox for example you will need to use your iPad in the horizontal position. Other apps like AmpKit and StompBox when changing setups use both orientations and others just Portrait, so a flexible cradle is a must.

iWah 2 - Cheaper But Limited

There will be an iWah 2 soon (currently in prototype stage), a bit cheaper at $99.99, that will be fixed position and not changeable, which will suit some who only ever use one app but it is not clear if it is fixed in portrait or landscape from the description or in some other way, so we will have to wait and see.

Our Thoughts

Although we love that a dedicated solution has been carefully engineered for the iPad, we think the idea is a bit extravagant to be honest and slightly too pricey. It is unlikely that you would use one of these for playing live, given the abuse that our guitar pedals have taken in the past.

If you, like us, have a Jim Dunlop Wah or similar already, that you can use inline, it may seem like an unnecessary expense, but we still like the idea and would love to give one a try to see how effective it is.

What do you think? Would you splash out on something like this for your iPad? Let us know in the comments. 

Playing with iTM MidiLab and iPad (video demo)

Want a free way to use your iPad as an external keyboard with GarageBand (or other DAW)? We did, so we tried out the iTouchMidi (iTM) MidiLab app which lets you do just that, via Wifi.

iTM MidiLab is actually an iPhone app and is promoted as "a dynamic showroom allowing for new users to experience the iTouchMidi concept" and a "gateway to iTouchMidi".

Just The Basics

So the app is limited in functionality, providing just the basics, but it is useable enough for amateurs and the MIDI-curious to get an idea of what can be done with MIDI controllers or just to play around with different instruments (and to save us from the awkward 'Musical Typing' mode).

In this free app you get three different control interfaces, the site lists them as:

  1. Button Matrix 4 X 4 with Midi Feedback 
  2. Midi keyboard (C-2 -> C8) with pitchbend
  3. XY Pad, sending CC 18 & 19 on midi channel 1

Quick tip - Shake your iPad to switch between the different interfaces.

Getting Started

Once you have the MidiLab app on your iPad, all you do is download a bit of server software for your Mac or Windows Computer (or even transfer it from the MidiLab app itself via browser file sharing), install and run the server on your Computer, select your Computer name from the MidiLab startup screen on your iPad and you are away.

We liked the idea so much that we put together a hastily recorded video for you to see how simple it is and importantly, how little latency there seems to be.

On a technical, iOS, note: We recorded the video with an iPhone which was held in the other hand so it is a bit shaky but the whole thing was edited entirely on the iPad with ReelDirector, a bargain at $1.99.

If you want more advanced functionality iTouchMidi sell standalone interface apps which are a little pricey at $5.99 each, but they do allow more control and add functions like Velocity (by hitting the top of the keys for a louder sound) and Program/Bank changing in iTM Keys for example.

Let us know what you think and if you try out iTM MidiLab yourself. We would be interested to know if your experience was similar to ours, especially with the low latency.

New AmpliTube Fender Version

Although it is not out yet, what you see above is an overview of the gear included in the new AmpliTube Fender for iPad. The video also shows off the gorgeous user interface, something that always impresses us with the AmpliTube apps.

This new version, featuring only Fender authorised amp models and effects, promises to be amazing especially if you have a Strat or Tele type of guitar.

We have to say that the early desktop versions of AmpliTube are responsible for getting us excited about amp modelling. IK Multimedia's status and past experience in this area really stands out in their products, as is shown by Fender's heavy involvement in this app.

All the details are on the product page, so we won't repeat them here, but be sure check them out. The new Fender version of AmpliTube will cost $14.99 as a standalone but you will be able to buy these new amp models and effects individually or as a bundle via in-app purchase if you already have the original AmpliTube for iPad, like many of us do. There will also be a free version to try out first, as always, which for some people is enough.

The video below is the official trailer for the new standalone Fender version of AmpliTube. We are really looking forward to seeing more of it, what do you think?

A Real Stompbox for your iPad - Griffin innovate again



As much as we really love the guitar fx apps that have been launched for the iPad so far there is nothing like the massive adrenaline rush from physically stomping on a distortion pedal and letting rip on a scorching guitar solo (well, we can imagine).

Griffin Technology to the rescue. The above pictured StompBox peripheral for iPad has recently been announced at CES and has got us wanting it, now! Unfortunately we will have to wait for a couple of months until it is released, but if it performs as well as promised we think this will kick up a storm in the guitar playing iPad world.

What we are not clear about is whether the guitar (or any 1/4" jack) input plugs directly in to the StompBox, we think probably not, because they include a GuitarConnect cable. This cable plugs into the headphone socket like iRig and AmpKit Link do, so there are still the crosstalk issues.

If the 1/4" jack on the StompBox is for the guitar itself then this is a direct connection via the dock connector for under $100. Look out GuitarJack!

But as we said this probably not the case, it looks like the 1/4" jack is intended for external pedals like your Wah.

We will cover the StompBox and its partnership with iShred Live (great sounds from this app) in more detail when it is actually released, but for now, here is the rundown of the StompBox's key features, start saving now:

  • Studio-quality 4-channel effects pedalboard for use with guitar, bass, and other musical instruments
  • 1/4" jack accommodates plugs from variable inputs like volume, expression, or wah-wah pedals
  • Brings true pedalboard experience to iPad; interfaces with the iShred LIVE app to switch between effects, start and stop practice tracks or metronome, and more
  • Heavy-duty dock connector cable links StompBox to iPad or other compatible iOS device
  • Included GuitarConnect cable plugs into your musical instrument
  • Developed for use with Frontier Design's iShred LIVE app (available separately)
  • Controls StompBox-enabled apps for iPad, allowing user input through its foot switches

Do you fancy one of these for your iPad? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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.

PocketAmp Rocks your iPad

PLW_iPad_PocketAmp_533.png

We happened across PocketAmp by PocketLabworks when we saw a tweet about the free PocketAmpLite [iTunes link]. Having downloaded the free version and played with the sounds for a few minutes, we plumped for the full version without much further thought.

Why we like it

PocketAmp is not quite the full-on guitar effects app that Amplitube (which we reviewed last week) is. You do still get a solid sounding amp simulation with PocketAmp though and this is why we liked it:

  • Optimised for iPad display
  • Universal app, pay once for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
  • Very, very low latency, in fact we would say zero latency in our experience
  • Simple interface that belies a vast range of sounds, selectable via the rack type of interface (not the stompbox approach used by Amplitube)
  • Variable gain on each of the Amp types (Clean, Blues, Rock, Metal) plus individual EQ (Treble, Mid, Bass) means a multitude of sounds can quickly be selected, with a nice clean sound achievable if you dial the gain back on the Clean amp
  • Very little feedback experienced even on the Metal high-gain setting
  • Instant access to your iTunes library on your device, no fiddly import process or waiting, select any song, hit play and you're off
  • Amp volume control allows you to mix the track you are playing over with your amped sound
  • Useful Effects, Reverb and Echo on the same panel which can be mixed together
  • Three 'quick presets' which are always available on-screen and an unlimited number of presets you can save with custom names to recall later
  • The price is very reasonable for the full version, $4.99 (£2.99)
  • The sound of the emulation is very good and suits a wide range of sounds including Clean, Bluesy/Crunch sounds through to Marshall-stack-sound-a-like 'Stadium Rock' settings


Tweak It

PocketAmp's interface does take a little getting used to if you are like us and your experience of guitar effects has mainly been using effects pedals or stompboxes. There is a certain muscle memory that means we can quickly set a sound using the dials on a pedal much easier than we can with PocketAmp's rack-like sliders.

Spending a bit of time carefully tweaking your sound with the sliders in PocketAmp does pay off though and we have a feeling that this app will get better the more you use it.

Input

We used IKMultimedia's iRig to input our guitar signal but the website mentions that you could use any of the current options to input your guitar signal into your iPad and we have no reason to think otherwise.

Who should buy it?

We would definitely recommend PocketAmp for your iPad, especially if you have decided not to pay out for a more expensive solution like Amplitube or AmpKit already.

PocketAmp's fast start up time and simple operation help you get straight into playing with the minimum of fuss. We like it a lot and will probably use PocketAmp when we want a quick jam without the complexity that can be introduced by other more involved apps.

If you are not sure then check out PocketAmp Lite first for an idea of what can be achieved with this app, we think you will be impressed.

The full version of PocketAmp is available for just $4.99 (£2.99) and brings extra amp models and the other effects which are really useful to have and give so many more options to shape your guitar sound.

If you have tried PocketAmp let us know what you think in the comments below, we would like to hear from you.

AmpliTube for iPad - Review

We let you know how much we liked IK Multimedia's iRig hardware as a general iPad input device a few weeks ago, but of course it was primarily designed to partner with their own software for (mainly) guitarists AmpliTube for iPad (and separate iPhone version).

We have been testing AmpliTube for iPad for a while now and we have been hoping on an upgrade to version 2.0 (as the iPhone version has been recently) before posting our review.

As version 2 of the app has not turned up yet we thought we would let you know what we think of version 1.0.2 of AmpliTube for iPad so far anyway.

This is one of only a few guitar effects / amp simulation apps specifically made for the iPad, so what did we think of it? Read on to find out.

The Premise - Analogue Amplitude

amp_and_pedal.jpg

Any guitarist will tell you that as much as they love their amp and the special relationship it has to their 'sound', the biggest bugbear is carrying that hulking great box around to band practice, gigs or anywhere else they may wish to take it.

If their amp doesn't have a headphone jack then another major problem is that getting that great sound usually involves cranking the amp up to levels far too loud to be compatible with sleeping kids upstairs, tolerant but deafened spouses and elderly (or litigious) neighbours.

The Digital advantage

The first thing that you will notice is that AmpliTube for iPad weighs a lot less than a guitar amp! Seriously though, the advantage of any audio app should be that it means you have to carry less equipment with you especially if that means you can play your guitar, amplified with effects, in places where you would not have bothered taking a real amplifier.

IK Multimedia have a software/hardware solution in the iRig and AmpliTube that could in theory replace a physical amplifier for example when recording demos, rehearsals, private practice and even plugged directly into a house PA.

iRig_into_ipad-small.jpgThe User Interface

One thing that has always impressed us about IK Multimedia's apps on our Macs, iPhones or iPads, is the attention to detail in the User Interface (UI) and AmpliTube for iPad is no exception.

The effects pedals are drawn beautifully, as are the amps, with all the knobs and switches replicated in exact detail. Other UI elements are also well drawn and for the most part their function and mode of operation is clear.

AmpliTube for iPad operates only in landscape orientation and this allows you to see four effects at once next to each other, compared to one at a time, up to a maximum of only three pedals, on the iPhone.

Most of the time we were able to adjust amp and pedal settings by directly 'turning' the control knobs on the screen without any problem.

What does it sound like

Arguably, the quality and authenticity of the sound is of utmost importance for any app trying to simulate a real guitar amp and effects. It is probably best to acknowledge that any digital version of an amp is not really going to sound like the real thing exactly.

Bearing this in mind, we were really blown away by the sounds we got from AmpliTube for iPad.

The default settings need a bit of tweaking to get the best out of them, but as mentioned above the controls are accurate and responsive on the iPad's touchscreen and they shape the sound as we would expect their real world equivalents to.

We used an Epiphone Les Paul for most of our testing and the double humbuckers push too hard to get a clean sound from the Clean amp without some serious tweaking of the default settings. With a Strat type of guitar the default was fine.

ipadgui02.jpg

As you would expect, switching to the Crunch amp gave a nice punchy rhythm sound with the Les Paul Humbuckers which was hardened up with a quick adjustment of the tone controls on the guitar.

The Lead amp gave us a sound we preferred over the Crunch amp to be honest and the Metal amp really does give a nice high-gain setup which, when combined with the Overdrive pedal covered most of the Rock/Metal styles easily. However, you will probably always need to include the Noise filter as one of your four pedal choices to control feedback and hiss.

The Bass amp was actually quite a surprise and gave us a nice, warm, bass sound generally which was fairly easily shaped using the tone controls. A definite bonus.

Cabs and Mics

Each of the amp sounds is further enhanced, or shaped, by a selection of five different Cabinets along with a choice of Dynamic or Condensor microphones, which can drastically change the tone of your sound.

We found most of them useable and it is worth running through the Cabs and Mics to see how they affect your tone.

Amplitube-ipad-03_main.jpg

Pedal Effects

A few of the eleven effects pedals we really liked. The standout ones for us were Chorus, Flanger, Phazer, Delay and a lovely sounding, infinitely controllable Distortion pedal.

We were not so impressed by the Fuzz pedal (we found it hard to get anything but  a badly broken sound), which was actually a bit of a disappointment but this might be our ageing ears.

The Wah too seemed a bit gimmicky. You can adjust your Wah snap in manual mode via the accelerometer, by tipping the iPad which makes for a fun demo to friends. In practice though, we found it very difficult to hold the iPad, tip it backwards and forwards, and play a lick on our guitar, obviously not the intended use.

The Auto-Wah settings failed to impress as well, being either too harsh or not effective enough for our tastes.

We found the Octave pedal a little heavy handed too, but it was useable with some careful tweaking.

Other Key Features

Some of the other features included with AmpliTube for iPad are the adjustable Metronome, bypass Tuner and the useable-but-slightly-clunky song or backing tracks Wi-Fi import function. This last feature lets you practice by adjusting the track's volume so that you can play over the top with your AmpliTube driven sound.

We look forward to the iPad catching up with the iPhone's new 'slow-downer' function so that we might have half a chance of playing along with real guitarists playing at half speed.

There are also 36 presets, some of which are pre-populated but overwriteable, but unfortunately in this version you cannot rename the numbered squares so you will have to write down or remember what is saved to each preset (this has been changed in the iPhone version 2.0).

ipadgui04.jpg

Conclusions

We can highly recommend AmpliTube for iPad to any guitarist looking for an app written and optimised for the iPad and its relatively large touchscreen. There is no doubt in our minds that IK Multimedia have set the bar for other app developers in the guitar amp/effects arena.

The range of sounds and effects that you can achieve for less than a quarter of the cost of just one decent effects pedal is truly amazing. For just $19.99 (£11.99) for the full version you really cannot moan about the price, but if you do think that is too much (really, it is not) then you can get a FREE lite version with a reduced number of effects (Stompboxes) and just one Amp and Cabinet, with other Amps and Cabs available a la carte style via in-app purchase.

Further Info and Specs

If you have never seen or heard AmpliTube in action, the video below gives you an overview of the UI and sounds that are available. If you are still not sure we would recommend downloading the lite version and give it a proper run through, there is nothing to lose and it sold us straight away on the full version. We have listed the full specs for AmpliTube for iPad below this video.

  

The Specs

AmpliTube for iPad is available in two versions (there are three versions on the iPhone):

  • Free - includes 3 stompboxes (Delay, Noise Filter & Distortion once registered), 1 amplifier (Lead) and speaker cabinet as well as both microphones (dynamic & condenser). New stompboxes and amp/speaker cabinets can be added through in-app purchases.
  • Full - £11.99 ($19.99) - everything available via in-app purchase in the free version all in one package. So that's 11 stompboxes (delay, fuzz, distortion, overdrive, wah, envelope filter, chorus, flanger, phaser, octave, noise filter), 5 amplifier/cabinets and the two microphones

Other key features of AmpliTube for iPad include:

  • 36 preset slots
  • Built-in Tuner and Metronome
  • Import songs via wi-fi and playback for practice
  • Low-latency as good as the Mac/PC system

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.

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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).