If you’re a guitarist like me, you may find plugging directly into a computer to be a source of frustration. Sure, I can run through my DIs or preamps (or both) and then into the signal path, but sometimes a simpler, cleaner solution is needed without firing up the racks. IK Multimedia’s new Stealth Pedal might just be the right tool for the job.
What’chya Got There?
Designed specifically for recording and playing through AmpliTube amp modeling software, this USB interface/controller packs a lot into a compact but sturdy wah style pedal. The left side of the unit features a USB input jack, three status LEDs, a 1/8” mini headphone out, a 1/4” external dual footswitch jack and a pair of balanced/unbalanced 1/4” audio outputs— Mono/Left and Right. The right side has 1/4” Hi-Z Left and Right balanced/unbalanced inputs, a Volume/Midi control knob and 1/4” Expression pedal input. Besides the basic wah style integrated expression control and associated stomp switch, it also has 24-bit A/D and D/A converters.
Included in the package are the StealthPedal, a three-meter-long USB cable, AmpliTube 2 Live, Ampeg SVX UNO, AmpliTube X-GEAR (which, according to IK Multimedia’s website, stands for eXpandable Guitar Effects and Amps Rig) Version 1.5, RiffWorks T4, a selection of AmpliGrooves loops and AmpliTube Metal. They also include hardcopy of both the user and installation manuals (and on behalf of users everywhere, thank you).
On both Mac and PC platforms (ASIO and Core Audio) you first install the AmpliTube X-GEAR and then the StealthPedal MIDI Control application. Note that PC users will need to install the system drivers. Authorization is made simple, with only a few clicks online. X-GEAR will work with a basic set of amps, cabs or stomps when no other “Powered by AmpliTube” products are installed, however installing the included software expands your palette. Note that StealthPedal will work with any MIDI controllable software, not just AmpliTube products.
Keeping it as simple as possible, my first test was just to fire the unit up and plug in my guitar. Hooking the USB cable up to the Stealth, the LED first flashed red and then settled on green, letting me know we were ready. I launched X-GEAR and then the Audio MIDI setup from the Settings tab. Selecting StealthPedal as the Input audio interface and Channel 1 as the Input channel, I set the audio out to Line and left the buffer at 256 (options are 64, 126, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096).
Next, I selected StealthPedal from the menu on the upper right of the GUI and turned it on. I noticed that all my previously installed AmpliTube products showed up in the Preset window, and I chose a ‘57 Deluxe from the Fender collection. Bam! I was playing a Deluxe through just a USB cable into my computer. The latency was totally acceptable, the converters sounded great, and the signal was seemingly as clean as you could get it. Unlike some other amp modeling solutions, the pickup choice and lower volume reacted accordingly—they actually sounded like a real amp. Cool.
Now it was time to test the pedal itself. By default (with AmpliTube software), the Stealth’s switch and pedal are assigned to the first pedal loaded onto the virtual pedal board, while the External Expression pedal (optional) is assigned to the second slot. Loading the Wah into the first slot, I simply stepped on the pedal until I heard it click, and voilà, I was in Jimmy-land. I then put a Tape Echo into pedal slot 2 and selectedTime from the dropdown Setup menu. My foot pedal now controlled the Time on the Echo—and I got some wild sounds.
Next I plugged in a set of headphones, went to the Audio MIDI setup, chose StealthPedal as the output, and was jamming through some iBuds. Doesn’t get much easier than that. (If I wanted to plug into a PA, I could have just run the left and right outputs into a console.) To adjust the master levels of the pedal, go to the Audio MIDI setup of the computer itself, and tweak the StealthPedal settings under Audio Devices. Very cool indeed.
I then installed the whole shebang on my laptop and called up GarageBand. With a few more clicks and within a few minutes, I was playing to a cool loop through a built-in GB amp, using my crappy laptop speakers. Not sonically pristine, but damn, this can be fun—and I see the big-picture potential here for live playing.
Stealth also has a few cool “behind the scenes” features up its sleeve. When plugging guitar, bass, or keyboard into the pedal, the jacks will automatically detect whether you’ve inserted an unbalanced 1/4” or balanced TRS cable. It can handle passive or active pickups, bass, keys or whatever you want to plug in. You can assign the Pedal to switch automatically to the Tuner screen when you step on the contact switch. Then you can tune using the pedal’s LEDs, where red is sharp, orange is flat and green is in tune.
For preset switching, you’ll need an optional footswitch, but by default it will do so with no additional setup. You can bank up or down between amp presets, or even assign it to turn effects on or off, such as Echo or Distortion. Options abound with this little bugger.
The Final Mojo
With all the included software, the StealthPedal clearly represents not only the best value for a USB guitar/instrument controller, but the best sounding package. The Deluxe package includes full versions of AmpliTube 2 and SVX, as well as all the standard fare.
My only gripes are that it does not work directly with Pro Tools (only with MIDI) and that it must be plugged directly into a USB slot, not a hub. But the limitations are far outweighed by the benefits and this is the place to start for anyone looking to jump into virtual guitar recording or live playing.
you want an affordable, high-quality, compact, USB instrument connection for playing MIDI controllable software, live or in the studio.
you don’t have any USB slots open on your computer, and you need to record guitars into Pro Tools.