Jun 26 2011

Review: Amplitube Fender for iPad

by Josh

Practice time has been very scarce for me since the arrival of my new daughter, but I have gotten the chance to spend a little quality time with Amplitube Fender for the iPad.

For those unfamiliar with IK Multimedia’s offerings, this software is available on the iPad for use with their iRig adapter.  This allows you to connect your guitar to your iPad and rock out in a variety of different ways.  This software is Fender branded and contains a bumper crop of amps, pedals, and presets that showcase that signature Fender sound.  My Fender strat is in Illinois for a few internal repairs, so my test setup was not end-to-end Fender… the guitar I am playing right now is my Gibson Custom ’59 VOS Goldtop.

The amp models that you get with this application are an interesting bunch: Twin Reverb, Super Sonic, Pro Junior, ’59 Bassman, and the Deluxe Reverb.  As one might imagine, you get a broad range of different sounds from these amps.  I found myself partial to the Twin Reverb and the Deluxe Reverb, which is like to please my co-contributor John (who is a player/lover of all things Fender).  I threw a few power chords through the Pro Junior and the Super Sonic and they are not without their charm, but I like the cleaner channels of the Reverb amps.

The software also comes with some Fender-specific pedals: Blender, Phaser, Overdrive, Tape Echo, Compressor, and Noise Filter.  I don’t have much experience with these pedals, but I can tell you that I got some cool and interesting sounds playing with the Phaser and Blender together.  I was acquainted with these pedals most directly by use of the pre-sets that IK Multimedia graciously provided us neophytes, and I LOVE the TwinBlues setting which takes the Tone Boost option on the Fender Blender and marries it with the Twin Reverb amp.  A few little blues licks through this and I am hooked.

I did discover a little intricacy that really helped my enjoyment of the software: the Setup provides Input and Output levels that you can adjust to control your signal, but I was always frustrated that I was having difficulty making out the difference as I changed these settings.  I bumped the volume switch by mistake and discovered that my headphone volume was only on 25%, what a rookie mistake!  After feeling like a bonehead for a few minutes then cranking it up to 75% I was having a lot more fun.

So is Amplitube Fender worth the money?  If you like Fender stuff, then absolutely.  Personally, I think it’s worth it just for the amp models alone.  I hope that IK Multimedia continues in this vein for some time, releasing manufacturer specific versions that add new amp models and proprietary pedals to their universe.  It helps those of us that aren’t sure what amps we like, and don’t want to subject ourselves to the disdainful looks of the people at the local Guitar Center as you clumsily plunk out three chords to test our their floor models.  It also helps those of us new to pedal/amp combinations to explore without having to borrow gear from others or drop a lot of money on gear we might not like.

You can check out our review of the original Amplitube for iPad if you’re interested in other offerings by IK Multimedia.


Jan 31 2011

Review: iRig / Amplitube for iPad

by Josh

I had the good fortune of receiving IK Multimedia‘s iRig for Christmas, and I quickly purchased Amplitube for iPad to use along with it.  I’d like to unpack for you not another boring set of specifics on what you get for the price, but I’d like to explain my initial experiences with this product as a relative newcomer to the world of the electric guitar.

What you get

The Amplitube software comes in a free version and a paid version.  I didn’t screw around with the free version at all, so I’m going to focus purely on the full version.  You get eleven stomp-boxes (plus five more you can purchase in-app), five amps, five cabinets, and two microphones to play with.  Many of my early sessions with Amplitube consisted of playing around with a variety of these effects, learning how they sound together and how the controls operate.

I would go into further details here, but I’d rather spend this review talking about my experiences.  If you are interested in further details about what is included, you can find out more here.

First Experiences

I had to really explore the application, because while I own two electric guitars I have very little in the way of real gear.  I hadn’t experienced many of the pedals options that I now had at my fingertips, so much of my early exploration took the form of loading up different stomp-boxes, chaining them together, and then seeing what kind of sound came out.

Because I am not an experienced electric guitar player, these first steps into the Amplitube world can more accurately be described as experimentation.  In the real world, I have only one amp and a single pedal to compare to this myriad of stomp-boxes, amps, cabinets, and microphones.  It was like being a kid in a rock ‘n roll candy store!

This lack of experience on my part was also the source of some problems as well.  Because I was unfamiliar with some of the amp models, I had encountered what I thought to be a sound processing problem.  I had thought initially that the Crunch amp setting was modeling high gain strangely.  Some friends helped me to identify the famous amps that each of these models were aiming to replicate and I was able to test with one of their amps to confirm that yes, the sound matched quite well with the “real” amp.

Another contributing factor to this issue was the input levels.  It turns out that the output level of each guitar varies, and my Gibson Les Paul is significantly louder in output than the Klein pickups in my Fender Stratocaster.  It just took some toggling of the Input Level setting to fix things right up.  The IK Multimedia support team was very helpful in resolving this issue, and were friendly and helpful when tolerating my unskilled questions about their product.

The fun begins!

After these issues were resolved, I got the chance to put the application through its paces as much as my limited skills could.  I must admit, it was $20 worth of fun just messing around with different pedal combinations. I also found the Tools (specifically the tuner) extremely helpful and well-executed.

The most surprising discovery was made when I decided to spend a little time with the Metal amp.  I don’t own a single metal album, nor do I particularly like the genre.  Nonetheless, after cranking up the Metal amp and hitting a few power chords I felt like a fledgling rock star!  Now I’ve been learning a few metal licks and riffs thanks entirely to this application.

In fact, I was so happy with it that I recorded a bit of it on the single track recorder and sent it to my cousin with the title “Look what I can do!”  It was the first time I have ever recorded myself playing the guitar at all, aside from a crappy YouTube attempt or two.  There’s an option available for upgrading to an 8-track recorder, which I plan to do in the near future.

Thanks to all this fun, my wife made a snide comment about the stupid grin that I had on my face which has to count for something.

Conclusion

Moments of musical discovery like this are a treasure, and to think they came at such an inexpensive price is truly amazing.  If you have an iPad and a guitar, these products are a must-have.  Amplitube is a great value for the beginning guitarist –  for the price of a single pedal, you get a versatile audio rig of 11 pedals (and 5 amps, and 5 cabinets, and two microphones) with the option to expand even more via in-app purchases.  Even if you don’t know what they all do, I think that makes a pretty strong “value for your dollar” argument.

I still haven’t explored everything there is to know about the application.  I intend to learn more about the recording features of the application by giving some of my SongInspire backing tracks a try.  I might even recruit a skilled guitarist and record something to post for all of you to enjoy!

Based on some recent marketing material, it appears that they are planning specialized applications to bring several big-name brands (Fender, Orange, and others) and their sound models to the iRig/iPad interface.  As someone who likes to “try before you buy”, this is a very exciting development that will help me hone in the sound that I really like as I grow my skills.  I can’t wait to get my hands on this and future iterations of these products, or any other tricks that the iRig might be able to provide.

Keep an eye here for more information soon.