Guitar amplifiers have been going through an identity crisis lately. For years, one amp with a good sound was all fine and dandy, but then digital technology figured out how to capture and cram the sounds of many amps into one program--and who doesn’t like choice? Now the realm of digital amp emulation comes to Apple’s handhelds with AmpliTube, aided and abetted by the iRig adapter (www.amplitube.com/iRig), and the results are rocktacular.
AmpliTube for iPhone is a collection of five virtual amplifiers, clearly based on (but not licensed versions of) classic tones by Marshall, Fender, and Mesa/Boogie. Each amp suits a different tonal purpose--clean, crunch, lead, metal, or bass--and offers your choice of cabinets and microphones to tailor the sound. You also get a collection of 10 stompbox-style effects, including specialized units like an octave pedal and an envelope filter. As on real stompboxes and amps, the controls are clearly labeled and easily tweaked: Tap the knob and adjust the volume or intensity by sliding your finger up or down. AmpliTube offers a surprising amount of tonal versatility; it’s easy to save presets along the way. Most impressively, whereas PRS Jam Amp featured noticeable latency, AmpliTube passed our signal along with almost no lag, and even has a setting for even less latency at the cost of fidelity. The best praise we can offer is that we quickly forgot we were playing guitar through a phone.
AmpliTube offers several cabinet options, from a humble 1x12 combo to a slanted 4x12 half-stack.
The $39.99 iRig interface adapter is the way to connect your beloved real-world guitar to that virtual amp farm. Plug your quarter-inch guitar cable and headphones into the iRig, then plug the iRig into your iPhone or iPod touch, and you’ll be pickin’ and grinnin’ in a few seconds. Other cables will let you connect a guitar to your iPhone directly, but the signal coming through the iRig is noticeably cleaner and quieter than the $29.99 PRS Guitarbud cable (prscables.com), and it’s worth the extra $10.
While the AmpliTube iRig combo does more than we expected, the system doesn’t do everything we’d hoped. You can upload MP3s to jam along with, but you still can’t access iTunes directly, so the fact that the Songs icon is an iPod is a naughty tease. Also, you can’t slow the songs down in the player, but you can loop a phrase to drill your skills. Oh, and the iRig only comes with the limited Free version of AmpliTube; the Full edition runs an extra $19.99, or you can use the $2.99 LE edition and add effects and amps à la carte for $2.99 to $4.99 a pop.
But you know what? It’s worth the money. You can get battery-operated headphone amps for around the same cash, minus effects and with just one (usually poor) amp sound. The iRig gets you rocking in higher fidelity and in total privacy, and AmpliTube lets you go crazy with customization.
We haven’t seen anything else this feature-rich. AmpliTube is like a private playground for guitar geeks, and the iRig is the key that opens it.
COMPANY: IK Multimedia
PRICE: $39.99 for iRig and AmpliTube Free; $19.99 for AmpliTube Full; $2.99 for AmpliTube LE plus $4.99 for each additional amp and $2.99 for each additional effect
REQUIREMENTS: iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad
Wide tonal flexibility. No perceptible latency. iRig is the best guitar interface we’ve tried.
Processor-intensive real-time amp emulation makes it a battery drainer. The full software should have been bundled with the iRig.