Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch have already proven themselves as , with apps that cover everything from chord dictionaries, to high-end string tuners. The AmpliTube iRig from IK Multimedia aims to further cement the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad as an indispensable part of every guitarist's kit, transforming these devices into virtual practice amps.
What it is
The AmpliTube iRig is a two-part system, consisting of a free app and a reasonably priced $39 headphone jack adapter. While the app is clearly the most sophisticated part of the system, the adapter solves the foremost practical concern of how to connect your guitar to your iPhone, as well as your headphones.
There are no adjustments to be made on the adapter--only a 1/4-inch instrument cable input, a minijack headphone output, and a connected 3-inch cable that runs to the headphone jack on your device. All input gain control is made on the instrument itself, or within the app, and all headphone volume is controlled using the rocker switch on your iPhone, iPod, or iPad. We wish the iRig hardware included some sort of integrated preamp to even out the differences between guitars with active or passive electronics, but for $39, we'll make do.
With the iRig headphone adapter handling all the input and output concerns, all the really juicy features are found within the app. A tabbed menu across the top of the app jumps you among a tools page (tuner, metronome), three separately assignable effects, virtual amplifier options, a playlist for songs you've added, and a storefront for purchasing additional effects.
Just like IK Multimedia's AmpliTube PC software, each of the effect and amp configuration pages are present using realistic graphic representations of the hardware being emulated. When you load up a flanger effect stompbox, it looks just like a miniature stompbox, complete with knobs, switches, LEDs, and little cable jacks. Similarly, the selection of virtual amps is visually distinguishable as Fender or Marshall, even though they don't explicitly bear the brand name. With each amp, people can select among various speaker cabinet types, change between microphones (condenser/dynamic), and adjust amp settings such as gain, EQ, presence, reverb, and tremolo.
There are nine presets included with iRig, accessible from the bottom-left corner of the app, which combine effect and amp settings for common tones (clean, distortion, overdrive). These nine presets can be overwritten with your own custom configurations, and there are spaces for up to 36 custom presets. Presets are easy to create with a simple press and hold, but they're only labeled numerically with no way to add any kind of useful text to distinguish one preset from another.
If you're ever confused over a particular feature of the iRig app, a help guide is accessible by tapping the question mark icon in the top-left corner. In addition, a setup button at the bottom of the screen offers control over playback latency (the delay between when you hit a note, and when you hear it), feedback management, and an Auto Sleep option that allows the app to go to sleep when not in use. Latency can be switched between Low and Ultra Low, with the latter option squeezing the processing buffer for tighter response time. On our third-generation iPod Touch running iOS 4, we noticed no discernible latency with either setting; however, the slower processor of the second-generation iPod Touch or iPhone 3G may require some latency adjustment. The feedback setting is used to prevent any of the effect or amplifier emulations from distorting to the point of feedback, thus preventing you from sounding like Jimi Hendrix, and probably saving some of your hearing.
The AmpliTube iRig offers good sound for its price, and offers a staggering amount of flexibility. If you're a guitarist who already owns an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, spending $39 to turn it into a high-tech practice amp seems like a no-brainer. The closest solution that rivals it is the $79 Line6 Pocket POD Express, a standalone product with no integrated music player, tuner, or metronome.