If you've graduated from "Guitar Hero" to playing an actual guitar, but you're feeling a little shy about cranking things up, the Waves iGTR ($60) let's you play over your headphones while maintaining the sonic character of playing through an amplifier.
The iGTR is about the size of a small paperback book, weighing 3 ounces and measuring 2.75 inches wide, 4.25 inches long, and a half-inch thick. A compartment on the back accepts four AAA batteries (included), and there's an optional AC adapter input on the bottom. A detachable clip is included in the box, which snaps on to the back of the iGTR and lets you walk around your house like a rock star.
All the interesting controls are located on the face of the iGTR, including three oversized knobs for amp gain, ambience effects (delay, reverb chorus), and modulation effects (tremelo, wah, and phaser). Each knob includes a three-way switch to designate what the knob controls. The control layout is intuitive and easy to manipulate, although some guitarists will balk at the limited settings.
More practical features such as volume control, headphone output, aux input and instrument input are located on the edges of the iGTR. The instrument input is a standard 1/4-inch mono jack located next to the minijack aux input on the bottom of the unit. The headphone outputs (two of them) are located on the top of the iGTR, along with a slider power switch. The inclusion of two headphone jacks is a nice detail that makes it easy to record your performance with another device (laptop, voice recorder) while still listening over the second headphone output.
For just $60, it's hard to beat the convenience and size of the iGTR for those times when you just want to put on your headphones and jam on your guitar. The amp emulation and effects aren't terribly realistic, but there are no computers to boot up, no power adapters to plug in, and no blaring speakers to annoy your neighbors or loved ones.
That said, there are better-sounding options available if you can part with some extra cash. The Line 6 PocketPod or PocketPod Express are popular and equally portable alternatives, and computer connected solutions such as the JamVOX or Native Instruments Guitar Rig Kontrol Edition, offer an exhaustive amount of settings to tweak for getting that perfect tone.
If the iGTR ever sees a version 2.0, we'd like to have a way to shut off the ever-present noise gate (there's something reassuring about a little single-coil hum). Also, an integrated basic MP3 player would be much more elegant than running your iPod through the aux input--especially if you could include an A-B loop and a time-stretching feature for zeroing in on your rock idol's guitar solos. A built-in tuner would be nice, as well.
Waves doesn't offer a rated battery life on the iGTR, but we're pleased to report that the included batteries are still going strong after several weeks of intermittent testing.