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Entries in modelling (4)

JamUp Pro and JamUp Plug Review

With a few well established guitar effects apps such as AmpliTube and Ampkit already on the iOS scene, it might seem a bit overambitious to launch a new guitar effects app. Any new app would have to set itself apart and offer something the existing players do not.

So what does new effects app JamUp Pro from developer Positive Grid, offer?

Here's what Positive Grid's website has to say:

Up until now, the tone experience on iOS hasn’t really developed to give the full dimension and response of a mic’d up rig, and other solutions haven’t really provided the amazing user experience that guitar players should have on their iPad or iPhone. We decided to take this challenge head on to ensure JamUp truly re-creates the experience of playing through the most coveted guitar amps, and in some cases, way more fun.

Positive Grid's aim in developing the JamUp app (available in Lite and Pro versions) was to improve on current apps sonically. Really, although it's nice to have dials that go up to 11 and a lovely UI, in the end for guitarists it's all about their 'sound'

So, how does JamUp sound?

JamUp sounds great! We especially noticed a crispness on the more ramped up, distorted setups which was a very welcome find.

If you get the settings right (we had to pare back the humbuckers on our Epi Les Paul) the clean sounds are clear and resonant, sharp when they need to be and mellow with plenty of well rounded low end when dialled in.

Hybrid MESH Amp Modelling

This great sound comes from acute attention to detail in the amp modelling. In fact, Positive Grid have a whole page dedicated to describing the detail and parameters considered in their sound modelling.

Here's a little bit of what they have to say:

From the high level preamp and poweramp distortion, tone stack design, to the low level bright capacitor, blocking filter, cathode cap, power amp sag, and cabinet impedance interaction. We developed a unique MESH modeling technology, not only to capture the exact nuances of each amplifier in its killer setting, but also incorporated the dynamic performance of each model.

We could do no better than this demo video from Positive Grid's YouTube channel. Take a minute, grab a pair of headphones and listen to these sample run-throughs for a good range of sound demonstrations:

Jammin'

Both the AmpliTube and AmpKit apps have a jam function, as well as some other amp adds. So while this feature is not unique to JamUp we like the straightforward interface they use and the slightly beaten up, vintage UI is both clear and welcoming.

It's really easy to enter the Jam screen, load a song, set the tempo (0.5 for us usually), pitch and backing track volume and away you go. You can be jamming away sooner than it takes to read that last sentence out loud.

This is a brilliant tool to learn new songs and work out those riffs and solos that fox you when you hear them at normal speed.

Vintage Tuner

The chromatic tuner continues the easy to use, vintage styling. It combines a lovely looking note wheel interface that helps you quickly identify the note you're playing, with a more accurate colour coded meter that helps you to fine tune your guitar.

It works well in practice and seems to be as accurate as any other iPad tuner we have used.

Special FX

The effects chain in JamUp really impressed us because it is simple to access, simple to use and easy to change or modify the signal path. The drag and drop approach to adding and moving effects in the signal chain is the least complicated approach we've seen so far and works very well.

This all adds up to an effects interface that, while not as visually polished as AmpliTube for instance, offers a straightforward, accessible level of interaction that novices and more experienced players will appreciate.

We were also impressed with the quality of these effects pedals. They all performed as we expected them to, and some, like the Chorus, Flanger and Tremolo sounded cleaner and more authentic than other guitar effects apps we have tried.

Here's another video from Positive Grid, this time demonstrating the various effects found in JamUp Pro:

Sound-on-Sound Phrase Sampler

This one-man-band sampler and overdub feature is fantastic for working out song ideas, recording solo riffs over a rythm track or just trying out sounds. It works a lot like the recording / overdub function in the synth app Animoog if you have used it, but you can adjust the recording length here in JamUp Pro.

It would be nice if there was an undo available instead of the 'clear all' function for when you mess up an overdub, but it is still a useful and potentially powerful tool to have built-in.

Check out the video below for an idea of what can be done with this Sampler feature in the right hands (not ours!):

The Specs

Whilst we have mentioned areas above of the JamUp Pro app that stand out to us particularly, there is more to the app. Here is a full spec list:

  • 6 multi-stage hybrid amp models
  • 6 matched convolution speaker emulation
  • 14 studio-grade stomp box, racks and processors
  • Supports up to 7 amp/effect simultaneously
  • drag and drop signal path
  • Sound-on-Sound phrase sampler
  • iTunes Jam Player with loop, speed and pitch control
  • Built-in chromatic tuner, metronome and 16 user presets
  • Compatible with JamUp Plug, and most other adaptors, see the full list

Effects (JamUp Pro)

  • Dunlop Fuzz Face
  • Ibanez Tube Screamer
  • Boss OD-2 Turbo Overdrive
  • Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble
  • Custom Flanger
  • Mad Professor Mellow Yellow Tremolo
  • MXR Phase 100
  • Maestro Echoplex EP-2 Tape Delay
  • Boss DD-7 Digital Delay
  • Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb
  • Fender Spring Reverb Unit
  • MXR M-102 Dyna Comp Compressor
  • Boss NF-1 Noise Gate
  • Custom 4-band EQ

The Complete Package - JamUp Plug

The JamUp Plug shown here with iPhone 4

In addition to the JamUp software, Positive grid have followed a similar pattern to IK Multimedia and Agile Partners/Peavy in releasing hardware to go with their app. The JamUp Plug is a little different though and we think it is a good thing.

Why this is a good thing

Although we love using both of them, what really annoys us about both the iRig and AmpKit LiNK is the trailing cable design they use.

This dangles off of your iPad/iPhone limply and then has the guitar and headphone cables connected to that, which has caused us to inadvertently pull the iPad forward off its stand, not to mention the tangling problem.

Addressing this issue, the JamUp Plug fits directly in to the headphone/mic socket on top of your iPad, sitting flush against it, meaning less trailing cables to worry about.

This helps guide the guitar cable and your headphone cable down the edge of your iPad, as you can see above, and reduces cable tangle and clutter. In our opinion this is a big plus for the JamUp Plug.

Construction

The JamUp Plug is cheaper than most of its competitors at $19.99 from Amazon.com, but the construction feels a bit 'plasticky', especially the 1/4" instrument cable input which doesn't have the usual metal ring and guide channel, so we are not sure how this will hold up over time.

Having said that, we didn't experience any problems at all with the unit we reviewed so there is no reason to expect problems, we are just comparing the JamUp Plug with it's more robust looking fellow guitar interfaces.

You don't have to use the JamUp Plug with the JamUp app, but its price and lack of dangling cables would certainly recommend it.

The website states that JamUp App also supports most available iOS guitar adaptors:

  • Positive Grid JamUp Plug
  • Apogee JAM
  • Alesis IO Dock
  • IK Multimedia iRig
  • Peavey AmpKit Link
  • PocketLabWorks iRiffPort

Final Thoughts

If you are after an easily accessible, authentic sounding and feature packed guitar effects app with that vintage vibe, JamUp Pro is just your thing. We like using it a lot and at the moment it is our main guitar amp modelling app.

If you're not sure, there is a free version JamUp Lite available in the App Store which has just 1 Amp and 4 effects but a fully functional sound-on-sound sampler, jam player and tuner. You will easily get a feel for the app by trying out the Lite version.

This review was based on the JamUp Pro app, which is available for $19.99 in the App Store and gives you full access to every amp and effect available without the contentious in-app purchases. 

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?

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).

3D Modelling Gets iPad Social

 

3D modelling evangelists and software developers 3DVIA have recently released an iPad version of their 3D model viewer, 3DVIA Mobile HD. An iPhone/iPod Touch version has been available for a year now, but the new version takes advantage of the iPad's larger screen real estate to allow panning, zooming and up close inspection using the multi-touch interface.

There are over 20,000 community provided 3D models on the site for you to play with and use in your projects and, once you have created a free account, you can search through and access all of these on your iPad. Using the Collage functionality, models can be placed on to existing images in your iPad's library, useful for things like room layouts, garden design, shop fitting previews, etc.

Anything you create in 3DVIA Mobile HD can be shared on Facebook too.

There are very few 3D Modelling apps available for the iPad so we thought this was a good solution, backed up by a massive online community and sharing resource to make a great tool for anyone, professionals or students, working in the 3D modelling arena.

´╗┐Normally $4.99, 3DVIA Mobile HD is being offered at the introductory price of $1.99 (£1.19) for a 'limited time' on the app store.

As always let us know if you use 3DVIA Mobile HD and what you think of it in the comments below.