So Many Sounds
After firing up the App Store and installing the Nexus app, which took about two minutes, I was ready to go. To hear what the models sounded like without the aid of an amp I plugged the mono output of the iPB into my Creation Audio Labs MW1 Studio tool (my go-to direct box/reamper) and auditioned the sound through Pro Tools on my studio monitors. There are 100 presets to choose from (banks 1-20, switches 1-5 for each bank) so there was plenty to check out. With each preset you get a single amp and cab with five pedals customized for that particular preset. Although the models are not labeled with the exact name of the amp the model emulates, it’s obvious enough what each one is.

The amp models all exhibit resemblances to their inspirations. But for the most part, the higher the gain, the grainer the tone. The cleaner amps fared better in terms of note clarity but in general, the models are less full-bodied than the sound of a real amp—at least through monitors. Plugging into an amp warmed up the sound up considerably and really made the iPB-10 tones more believable.

Editing the presets by changing out the amp and cabinet was a blast. A touch of the screen revealed the amp choices and touching the amp immediately replaced the old one with the new. The same went for the cabinets and because changes are immediately audible, it’s easy to compare and select the right one for a given musical setting. The speaker cabinets do not offer a choice of microphones or microphone placement, so what you hear is what you get for a given amp sound. The pedals fared better in terms of accuracy. The Whammy pedal, for instance, was remarkably close in to my own Whammy pedal. Choruses were all fairly lush as were other modulation effects like phasers and tremolo. The overdrive/gain/distortion pedals were mostly effective but could tend toward harsh in high gain situations.

Plugged into an amp, I decided to try out the effects pedals only, and it’s in this setting that you get a feel for the benefits of adding a programmable pedalboard. For starters, there’s no tangle of cabling. And for the traveling musician that doesn’t want to lug pedals this is a less cumbersome alternative. I wouldn’t say the pedals fared as well as their hardware counterparts in the amped environment. But the sheer number available and the ability to store them as presets and arrange them in any order is very handy. With 87 pedals available there are certainly enough options to create a huge number of effects tones.

The iPad interface puts a lot of bonus functionality at your fingertips. A very good built-in help system is available at the touch of an icon, as is a tuner and a volume/settings page. The tuner is adequate but I would have liked to see it a little more refined—there were several times I didn’t feel the guitar was truly in tune.

The MyTones page enabled me to build presets very easily and arrange the pedals in any order to make the best use of the signal chain. The flexibility in software is a definite plus, especially for somebody in a cover band who needs to call up a new sound for each song.

The Verdict
While I’m a tone purist, I’m also a realist. And while the iPB-10 may not replace your Tweed Deluxe and vintage Fuzz Face in the studio, if you’re a traveling guitarist or a bar band trying to cover a lot of stylistic range, the iPB-10 and a good clean amp might be all you need. You can also easily plug direct into the PA and play a gig with minimal fuss.

Given the improvements in affordable modeling technology, it’s easy to see this type of system becoming more and more popular and accessible. It’s super efficient, self-contained and simple to work with. Given that, it’s easy to see how the iPB-10 could become a go-to solution for guitarists for years to come.
Buy if...
you own an iPad and like the convenience of an all-in-one amp/pedal system.
Skip if...
you’re a purist that needs authentic tube amp goodness.

Street $499 - DigiTech -