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Entries in Peavey (3)

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.

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.