Weekend Warriors. Many of us musicians whom play music semi-professionally or rock out at home adopt this term. It’s a badge many of us wear with pride as we describe how, despite everything else going on in our lives – kids, careers and all challenges in between – still manage to play music. Finding time to rehearse or learn new music can be challenging, and if you live in an apartment, cranking your Marshall stack is probably not an option. But fear not, Weekend Warriors. The iRig for your iPhone may be the solution to a problem you didn’t know you had.
I’ve been a musician almost my entire life. I grew up learning guitar and bass from my dad who taught me the fundamentals of blues and early rock music. Fender guitars and amps were our mainstay and there’s nothing like the sound of a Telecaster ringing out crisp and clean from a Twin Reverb. Today IÂ play bass and guitar in a classically-inspired acoustic folk trio and produce and engineer music in a small project studio in Milwaukee. Because of the nature of my current group, I have a few amps and electric guitars that are collecting a bit of dust. Not only is it hard to find time to escape to the basement to use my amps and stomp boxes, it’s not exactly convenient.
But a few weeks ago, IK Multimedia offered GeekDad a chance to review a pre-production unit of their upcoming device, called the AmpliTube iRig. I jumped at the chance and I’m happy to say that this changes everything. The iRig allows you to use your iPhone (and other compatible devices such as the iPod Touch and iPad) as a mobile effects rig for your electric guitar and bass using a custom version of their award winning AmpliTube software.
The hardware component, the iRig, is a dongle that plugs in to the headphone jack of compatible iPhones. IK Multimedia’s engineers adapted the headset capability of these headphone jacks to allow for connecting electric guitars and basses to the iPhone, an impressive feat considering what they were working with. The iRig also has a headphone jack so you can listen to yourself play. It’s compact and easy to use, especially when connecting to headphones.
Both the input and the output of the iRig is controlled by the AmpliTube app. AmpliTube is a modeling environment that allows you to take a clean guitar signal and route it through any number of guitar amps, speaker cabinets, microphones and effects. Their software is used in many recording studios as it allows engineers to access a huge arsenal of equipment in software instead of having to own each real component. Each component is modeled by IK’s engineers, capturing how each device colors the guitar signal. The effect is impressive in the studio but I was unsure how well it would translate to the comparatively underpowered iPhone.
After unpacking the iRig, hooking it up and downloading the app, I connected my Fender Stratocaster and plugged in some studio headphones. The app started up and defaulted to the amp selection. Imagine my surprise when presented with a Fender-styled guitar amp complete with realistic-looking knobs, vinyl covering and a silver mesh grill. The attention to detail is most impressive, and just the tip of the iceberg. Playing my guitar didn’t just sound full and clean, it sounded like a Fender Strat plugged in to a Fender Twin Reverb! Twirling the Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, Reverb and Tremolo knobs faithfully adjusted the sound of my guitar. I could also cycle through a 1
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