REVIEW: IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube iRig

The AmpliTube iRig from IK Multimedia lets you jam to a host of amps and cabs anywhere, anytime!

IK Multimedia Production formed in 1996 by capitalizing on the explosive growth of personal computers to better enable the needs of the music industry, including consumers and professionals. Since then, the company has grown to international status with a wide range of computer based products including audio interfaces, emulators, virtual instruments, remixing tools, effects processors… the list goes on. Their latest innovation takes advantage of iPhone/iPod/iPad technology with a hardware interface and amp/FX emulator for guitar: the AmpliTube iRig.

THE SETUP

The AmpliTube iRig comes in two parts: the hardware (iRig) which allows you to connect your guitar to your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad (hereafter referred to as simply “iPod“), and the software app (AmpliTube).

The iRig is literally the size of a lipstick case with a 5″ cable extension that plugs into your iPod. A 1/8″ jack on the cable end provides headphone/amp/powered speaker output and the opposite end provides a 1/4″ instrument jack. The whole thing weighs about as much as a pack of gum.

The layout of the AmpliTube app is very cool with a richly designed graphical interface representative of the variety of pedals, amps, and mics available. Easy access icons at the top include Tools (tuner, metronome, audio demo), FX1, FX2, FX3, Amp, Song, and Add Amp/FX. Each of these choices affects what is shown in the main display. A small row at the bottom allows you to save presets and set up the app with preferences for latency, feedback, and auto sleep. A small question mark in the upper left corner accesses several pages of a graphically friendly and easy to understand help section.

ROCKIN’ THE iPOD

Plugging my LP-295 Goldtop Les Paul into the iRig, I booted up the app, clicked on Tools, and engaged the tuner – simple enough. An optional mute button allows you to quiet the output while tuning which is a nice touch if you’re playing through an amp or powered speaker. There is also a mini tuner display at the bottom of the main screen for quick access. I then clicked on Amp to dial in my amp, cabinet, and mic settings. I was using the LE version of the app (there is also a free version with fewer choices and a full feature version) which includes a lead amp, one cabinet, and a choice between a dynamic or large diaphragm condenser mic. These are represented by 3D-style graphic representations of the actual gear. Cycling through the choices is as simple as clicking on the image. After making my picks and dialing in my tone, I wailed away on some of my favorite riffs. I was damn impressed. I didn’t believe an amp/FX emulator working through something as compact as an iPod could sound this good. Granted, the sound isn’t as full as the real thing, but for what it is, it’s great. And I barely noticed any latency (delay between picking a note and hearing it after processing) at all, even with all three stomp pedals active. There’s a setting to reduce latency even further at the risk of clicks and pops, but I didn’t feel the need to make this adjustment. Even when I did, I heard a few initial clicks but then it all seemed to settle in just fine.

Next, I explored the effects pedals available to me: delay, distortion (available as a free bonus for registering the app), wah, chorus, and noise filter. The effects are great. Each is relatively basic in form but with thoughtful touches: The delay can sync to the metronome’s tempo. The distortion has an additional character control (this pedal sounds awesome with the lead amp, by the way!). The wah pedal is controllable by touch, auto, or by tilting the iPod – whoa! Perhaps the most important pedal, however, is the noise filter. Without it, the sound, even when not playing, is actually quite noisy. But engaged, the noise can be completely eliminated depending on how you set the threshold. At its minimum setting, higher frequencies are a bit muffled and definition is compromised so there is a trade off. This pedal is so important, however, that I feel it should be an additional control included with each amp, or simply implemented into the app behind the scenes, rather than as a separate pedal.

After literally spending hours just playing with the various combination of effects and tones, I downloaded a few songs over my network connection to play along with. This process was easy and downloading was fast. I spent even more time jamming with my favorite tracks – too much fun! Controls include play/stop, an interactive time-line so you can fast forward or rewind, volume, and a loop function. The only additions I wished for were a way to slow down song tempo without affecting pitch as well as a way to offset pitch for songs in lower tunings. But overall, the ability to play with imported files is fantastic.

Finally, I ran the output from the iRig into an Egnater Tweaker. It rocked! That’s all I have to say about that. I can’t wait to see the looks on the faces of my band mates when I rock our set through my iPod!

THE FINAL WRAP

Wow – what a cool offering from IK Multimedia! Overall, I’m truly impressed with this product. It’s version 1 which means it’s only going to get better, but I found little to criticize. The output should be boosted. Even when I had my iPod and AmpliTube controls for volume and gain cranked, the level was only comfortable. This is great for ear health, but I want to be able to “turn it up to 11” and dial back as I see fit. The default amp for the free and LE versions of the app are lead. Considering you get a free distortion pedal when registering, I feel the default should be the clean amp. Of course, you can buy the clean amp for an additional $5…  Sounds are a little synthetic, but as good as they are, especially considering the source… hardly a factor. Finally, I recommend getting an arm or waist band for your iPod if you want to jam while standing as the various parts and cabling are a bit tricky to manage otherwise.

PROS: Amazing take-anywhere setup. Thoughtful, attractive interface. Great features. Three affordable app choices including FREE! A wealth of additional effects, amps, and cabinets available for purchase.

CONS: Output level on the low side. Default lead amp means you’re likely going to drop another five bucks right off the bat to get the clean amp. Noise filter should be implemented into the app rather than taking up a stomp effect.

MSRP – iRig: $39.99, AmpliTube Free: $0.00, AmpliTube LE: $2.99, AmpliTube FULL: $19.99

Dan Coplan is senior staff writer at SMG. Dan is a Los Angeles based cinematographer and self-admitting guitar junkie. Email: dancoplan@sharemyguitar.com

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  • ben

    i wish i had an i phone i would defenatly buy amplitube

  • Can’t wait to try it out on the iPad!

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