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GuitarJack review: GuitarJack

GuitarJack

Donald Bell Senior Editor / How To
Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.
Donald Bell
3 min read

7.0

GuitarJack

The Good

The GuitarJack adapter is one of the best-sounding methods we've tested for directly recording guitar and other instruments, using an iPhone or iPod Touch. It's built like a tank and works seamlessly with some of the best iOS recording apps.

The Bad

GuitarJack will not work with the iPhone 4, fourth-generation iPod Touch, or iPad, and it costs nearly as much as a standalone audio recorder.

The Bottom Line

If you're hell-bent on transforming your older iPhone or iPod Touch into a professional-quality portable multitrack audio recorder, the GuitarJack is the best in class, with a price to match.

Recording with your iPhone's built-in microphone is a quick and easy way for musicians to sketch out song ideas. To take the iPhone's audio-recording capabilities to the next level, you'll need to drop some money on a quality recording app, and some kind of adapter for connecting instruments or mixers.

Fortunately, the folks at Sonoma Wire Works have created the best solution we've seen yet. The GuitarJack ($199) plugs into the dock connection of your iPhone or iPod Touch (though the latest iPhone and iPod models aren't supported) and bestows them with a 1/4-inch instrument input, stereo line input, and headphone output.

Unlike some of the guitar-specific or mic-specific accessories we've tested in the past (such as Mikey or AmpliTube iRig), GuitarJack distinguishes itself with a uniquely durable aluminum construction and a Switchcraft instrument jack made from a nickel-plated brass.

The left side of the GuitarJack includes a headphone output and stereo minijack input that can be adjusted to accept hi-z or low-z impedance for use with microphones or line level input. A metal emblem for Sonoma Wire Works is also here, but offers no function beyond looking pretty. A 1/4-inch input is located on the opposite edge; it can also be adjusted for high or low gain input. As the name implies, this input is intended primarily for use with guitar, but can also be adjusted for use with keyboards or microphones.

Software
The GuitarJack can be used with just about any recording application, but a few apps (such as FourTrack and Recorder) include specific settings for fine-tuning the hardware. By opening the GuitarJack setting within the FourTrack recording app, you'll find tabs and sliders for defining how the hardware handles incoming audio. The tabs cover recording using the 1/8-inch stereo input, 1/4-inch instrument/mic input, or both simultaneously. Sliders control input gain, and buttons are available to configure the incoming signal impedance, or set a gain pad.

Methods for saving and exporting recordings off your iPhone or iPod will vary from app to app. In the case of FourTrack, transferring recordings back to a Mac or PC requires a cumbersome method of wirelessly transferring files over a local Internet connection through a Web browser. It was a sobering reminder that the iPhone's creators had intended their device to be a smartphone--not a mobile-recording studio.

Performance
We gave the GuitarJack a test-drive using Sonoma Wire Works' outstanding FourTrack app ($9.99), a pair of Ultrasone HFI-2200 headphones for monitoring, a guitar cable, and a Hallmark 60 Custom electric guitar.
Sonoma Wire Works GuitarJack demo Listen now:
The preceding recording was whipped together in just a few minutes, so forgive the wandering tempo and sloppy playing. It's a rendition of "House of the Rising Sun," using two separately dubbed tracks for rhythm and lead guitar.

Final thoughts
The GuitarJack is a well-made product, but it isn't for everyone. If you're looking for a powerful, portable, future-proof mobile audio recorder, a standalone product like the Zoom H4n is the way to go. But if you happen to be in that slim percentage of people who are committed to their older iPhone or iPod Touch, and need a way to capture studio-quality direct recordings from your guitar, the GuitarJack is a one-of-a-kind solution that delivers on its promises.

7.0

GuitarJack

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7