IK Multimedia is one of the leading companies in digital guitar amp and pedal emulation founded in 1996. Since then they’ve continued to expand and develop, breaking all previous limits and more recently bringing their Mac/PC based software to mobile technology. In July they released the new iRig HD audio interface that is compatible with iPad, iPod, iPhone, Mac and PC. The innovative new design and handling of the device has improved vastly comparing to the original iRig, which we reviewed in 2010. iRig HD has also won the iLounge.com 2013 Best of Show award. The updated Amplitube app features everything a mobile musician needs in order to practice, teach, play live and record on the fly. If you are a mobile musician this is definitely something for you, and at a low price. Let's take a thorough look at what you get…
The new interface features a different way to connect to your device, and a different audio signal path to the previous one. On the first iRig we had a 1/4" jack input for the guitar and a 1/2" stereo output for an RCA cable or headphones as the output. With the iPhone, iPod or iPad, the previous method of connection was via the headphones jack. The new iRig HD comes with 3 different cables. A lightning cable which is the new apple powering feature for the new iDevices, a 30pin cable for the old generation iDevices and a USB cable to connect to your desktop or laptop. The interface has a light which, depending on the behaviour of the signal input, turns blue (stand-by mode), green (jack cable in and active), orange (normal signal in) and red (peaking input signal). The interface also features an input gain control to adjust the signal strength from your guitar. A major improvement is the dynamic response, which feels very much like playing through a real amp. A new feature is that the audio signal comes out from the devices headphones output or even the speaker of the device which is a lot more flexible than the previous method of using only the interface’s headphone output. It also features 24bit A/D conversion and 44.1 / 48kHz sampling rate. The flexibility and compatibility of this new hardware is a massive improvement compared to the old iRig.
Amplitube for iPad
After purchasing the iRig HD there are several options for how to use it. First we have the free Amplitube version that comes along with 1 amp & 1 cab (Lead & 4x12"A), one microphone (dynamic) and delay and noise filter pedals. On the mixer we have 1 channel strip with Volume and Pan control. By connecting the iRig HD, and upon registration, we get distortion, wharmonator and X-Flange pedals plus the Metal W & Metal150 heads free. The full version of the Amplitube app promises to every guitar player, the sound of their dreams with an infinite number of combinations of amps and pedals. Amplitube comes with 7 amp models, 6 cabinet models, 13 pedals and two microphones. Also more gear can be purchased from the IK Multimedia store at a very low cost.
Amplitube for iPad
The iRig HD can also be used with The Amplitube Fender/Slash/JimiHendrix bundles as well. Another great thing is that it can be used as an interface for Garageband or Cubasis and other DAW applications (purchased separately from Applestore). All the tests and examples for this review are done using the New iPad (Generation 4). In the app (Version 3.0.2) apart from amps, pedals and microphones we also have a drum looper and full recording 8-track studio bundle; a powerful DAW which we will look at in depth later in this review. Alongside this we have the "Tools" section which includes a built in tuner with on/off and mute buttons, a metronome with on/off, tap button working in the range 55-240bpm, 9 audio demo guitar loop samples which can be used with any desirable combination of amps and pedals. There is also the "presets" section. Amplitube Full version comes with 24 Factory presets and 124 User presets, which can be renamed and edited, making it easy to store your customized sounds. In the song section we can add a song over wi-fi, file sharing or the iTunes library. Here you have the options of looping A/B, decrease/increase the speed of the track from half up to twice as fast, track volume can be adjusted and there is also a karaoke option. You can add the track to the recorder or delete it if no longer required. The MIDI capability allows you to connect Amplitube via iRig midi (purchased separately) with any standard midi pedalboard. Finally we have the "menu" page, where your IK account lies, the IK store for any extra in-app add on purchase and app settings.
So lets have a look on the first section - "the amps". In the box you also have a free downloadable copy of Amplitube Metal for Mac/PC.
Amplitube comes with 7 amp models. The Clean amp is based on Fender black panel Deluxe Reverb, Crunch based on Vox AC30, Lead based on Marshall JCM800, Metal based on Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier, Bass based on SVT Classic Bass Head, Metal150 based on Peavey 5150 and Metal W based on Randall Warhead 300. All the heads feature full functioning controls of the original amp models. Additional amp models can be purchased individually from the IK store for £2.99 or £4.99
The Cabs & Microphones
Cabinets and microphones
Amplitube comes with a selection of 6 different cabinets and 2 microphones. We have a 1x12" based on Fender Blackpanel Deluxe Reverb cab, 2x12" based on Vox AC30 Cabinet, 4x12"A based on a Marshall Angled cabinet loaded with Greenbacks speakers, 4x12" B based on Mesa Boogie Rectifier Cabinet, 1x15" Bass cab based on Ampeg B15R and a 4x12" PV based a Peavey Cabinet. On the microphone side of things we have a Shure SM57 dynamic microphone and a Neumann U-87 Condenser microphone. The only let down with the microphones is that they are placed in a fixed position which can’t be altered like on the Mac/Pc standalone version.
On the pedal section we have a range of 13 stompboxes and the possibility of using up to 4 simultaneously. As shown in order we have a Delay, Fuzz, Distortion, Overdrive, Wah, Envelope Filter, Chorus, Flanger, Phazer, Octave, Noise Filter, X-Flanger and Wharmonator. The Wharmonator (Whammy) can be placed only in the 1st slot of the stompbox chain. Any other pedal can be placed anywhere along the chain. Additional stompboxes can be purchased from the store for either £1.99 or £2.99 each depending on the model.
The full version of the mixer has 8 channel strips with arm recording, mute, fx, solo buttons, pan and volume controls. Each channel strip has 2 send controls as well. On the master section of the mixer we have 2 independent send/return strips with 3 types of Reverb (room, hall, plate), 2 types of chorus (sine, triangle) and 3 types of delay (straight, triplet, dotted). There is input, mix, output and adjust controls, in order to control the dry and wet signal and the amount of the desired effect. We also have a 3 band EQ with Q & Frequency controls individually for treble, mid and bass and a compressor on the final stage with release, ratio, threshold and make-up controls. If you are using Amplitube free you can purchase the Premium recorder bundle as an add-on for £10.49.
The Studio Bundle
The Studio Bundle is the new innovation added to Amplitube. The studio consists of 9 tracks. The first track is a dedicated drum track to be used with the Loop drummer (free version comes with Amplitube, purchase additional packs for £2.49 or all packs for £10.49). The Loop drummer is a drum sequencer. In the Loop drummer we have 8 styles (Rock "free", Punk, Pop, Metal, Funky, Electro, Country and Blues) and in each style we have 8 loops that last for a bar each (Intro, main A, main B, variation A, variation B, fill A, fill B and Outro). There are 8 grooves to select from and a preview button that allows us to preview the selected pattern. We also have volume, mute, solo and export controls and a tap tempo button. On strips 1-8 we have audio tracks. Every track is armed individually and has the same controls as the recorder (read above). In every track we can record any audio signal. The great thing is that on each track we can have different Amplitube presets loaded. On the bottom of the studio interface we have the transport panel from which we can create a new project or go through the list of our projects. A project can be deleted, cloned, copied, played or exported to file sharing (imports to iTunes), e-mail (as .m4a file), song (imports to song player as .wav mix), ftp server or uploaded straight to a SoundCloud account. On the transport panel we also have the play, record and rewind buttons, a metronome with click sound on or off or a light blinking on the tempo and a tap tempo option. There is a Grid button that allows us to align a waveform to any 16th note of a bar when on. When off we can drag it anywhere along the project. Next to the Grid button we find the Undo and Redo buttons. By tapping on a waveform we have more editing options such as: cut, copy, normalize, split or delete a waveform or copy or delete a track. On each waveform we can adjust the length by dragging the corners of it and fade in/out options. We can loop a section and jam over it as well as punch in and out recording available. Overall it is a very friendly and simple digital recording environment, which is great for teaching and recording ideas on the go.
The IK Bundles
In the store we can find The Jimi Hendrix Bundle/Slash and Fender Bundle for £10.49 each and a VocaLive bundle for £6.99. Alongside those, a midi external control add-on can be purchased for £2.99 if you are working with external midi devices.
Overall the app and the interface makes a great and powerful tool to have, jam, practice and record with. It has great sound emulations that are extremely trimmed down to detail in order to recreate the original sound emulation. I would recommend it to anyone that is a mobile musician. The capabilities of this little device and app are great!!! And for £70-£90 having your hands on all the above, I believe it’s a very worthwhile purchase. For more information check out www.ikmultimedia.com
Here we have a few tunes exclusively recorded using iRig HD.
I hope you enjoyed reading and listening to the samples. Special thanks to Paul Kaufman from IK multimedia for his major assistance with this review. See you next time.