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more... iOSGearHow-TosRecording TipsRecordingNew GearApril 2012

iPhone Recording App Roundup

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IK iRig and AmpliTube App

Ratings

Pros:
AmpliTube’s design is great and has an awesome range of amps and effects.

Cons:
iRig has fidelity, construction, and materials issues.

Tones:

Ease of Use:

Materials:

Value:

Street:
$99

Company
pocketlabworks.com

iRig is compatible with:
• iPhone 4S, 4, 3GS, and 3G
• iPod Touch 4th, 3rd, and 2nd gen.
• iPad and iPad2
AmpliTube for iPhone works on iOS 4.0 or later

AmpliTube has been a perennial favorite among software-amp aficionados since it was released for desktop systems back in 2002. It was also the first amp app for iPhone, causing a virtual stampede at the App store. In its latest iteration, AmpliTube for iPhone has only gotten better.

The design and layout of the app are superb. To begin with, you have to love the touch control in AmpliTube: You can turn every amp and effect knob up and down with your finger, or you can simply tap it and then make that knob’s adjustments on a big, LED-style vertical slider on the right of the screen—and it also displays the parameter value. To maximize real estate on the main page, each amp’s control plate is laid out so you only see a few knobs at a time, and you simply slide the front plate over to reveal the others—a very smart touch. The pedals look fantastic and show up big and elegant on the screen.

The optional AmpliTube Fender for iPhone comes with five Fender-licensed amp models, including the Pro Junior, ’65 Deluxe Reverb, and ’59 Bassman, along with cool pedals like the legendary Fender Blender, which makes the whole line worth exploring. It’s the details that count on the AmpliTube—the mini tuner that’s always conveniently in the lower right corner of the screen, the savvy BPM Sync switch on the delay, phaser, and flanger pedals, and the way cabinet and mic options are embedded in the amp profile for one-page tweaking.

The sonic characteristics don’t disappoint either: The way the overdrive effect responds to increases in drive feels very much like a real Tube Screamer, and the delay pedal regenerates with authentically dirty analog glory. Add the built-in 4-track recorder (with cute cassette graphic) and a Master output effects section with compression, 3-band EQ, and master reverb (both are additional purchases you can make from within the app), and you have a creative, hip, and well-honed app that’s clearly indicative of how much experience IK has in this arena.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the iRig interface, which is too costly, even at $39.99, given that its converters are passable at best. It fails to take advantage of the iPhone and iPad’s data-bearing 30-pin dock, it’s noisy, and it’s built out of materials that might not last a week on the road with a working guitarist. Just as frustrating, the iRig is the only interface that IK supports to work with AmpliTube. As someone who knows how full-frequency Amplitube sounds on a Mac desktop system with decent monitors, I find this pretty frustrating.

If IK is not going to take greater pains to play up the strengths of its own apps, why not let users decide for themselves if they want to spend a little more for an Apogee Jam or a Sonoma Wire Works GuitarJack, which at least boast converters and I/O worthy of all the R&D that’s makes AmpliTube so good.

PocketLabWorks iRiffRort and Pocketamp App

Ratings

Pros:
smart, simple, functional app. solid, appealing tones with easy editing capabilities.

Cons:
all-in-one, cable-based interface design. Plastic housing for dock. Poor headphone response.

Tones:

Ease of Use:

Materials:

Value:

Street:
$39.99

Company
ikmultimedia.com

iRiffPort is compatible with:
• iPhone 4S and 4
• iPod Touch 4th gen.
• iPad and iPad2
PocketAmp works on iOS 4.3 or later

The PocketLabWorks iRiffPort is a 6' instrument cable with a 30-pin dock connector and 1/8" stereo line output on one end, and a 1/4" guitar jack and 1/8" headphone jack on the other. Given how prone guitar cables are to shorting out, this all-in-one approach is a convenience that has some potentially significant drawbacks—if the cable goes, your whole device goes. Happily, the 1/4" jack end is of a slightly more rugged composite plastic. [PocketLabWorks replies: “The curved shape of the dock housing makes it very strong. It requires a significant and strategically placed hit with a hammer to break.”]

The cool part is that the stereo linelevel output enables you to send a hot signal to external gear, such as your project- studio audio I/O. That means you can use your iPhone with PocketLabWorks’ excellent PocketAmp app as a front-end amp and effects simulator for proper computer-based recordings. A cool prospect indeed. Unfortunately, we were disappointed with the rather thin and reedy sound out of the headphone jack.

Any reservations about the iRiffPort are offset by the super-solid PocketAmp, which sounds great and takes a simple design approach: If you hadn’t noticed, iPhones are freakin’ small, but thankfully PocketAmp compensates by making the onscreen knobs and sliders meaty, and keeping the options down to what you really need. Amp choices include Clean, Blues, Rock, and Metal. The “Echo” section (actually delay and reverb) includes controls for delay time, feedback, echo mix, room size and reverb mix. The Effects page includes chorus, flanger, rotary speaker, and tremolo, with parameter controls for rate, depth, width, noise gate (always welcome), and attack. The cabinet-selection page includes the Fender-style Silverface and Tweed 1959, the Marshall-based Classic 1960 cab, and the Mesa-like Metal Signature.

Bass players fond of Gallien-Krueger amps and cabs will want to investigate PocketGK, which boasts the same simple, to-the-point interface and fine sound as its namesake amps.

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