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A handheld gateway to the world of home recording.

Doesn’t require a power supply or batteries. Works with any plug-in or DAW. Very simple interface.

Differences between preamp emulations are subtle.


Positive Grid Riff


It’s never been easier or less expensive to take part in the home recording experience. And Positive Grid’s newest entry into the interface market, called RIFF, exists at an impressive nexus of portability, functionality, and price. For around the cost of a decent overdrive, it’s a handheld audio interface that skips the bells and whistles for the sake of making a tool that just plain works.

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Get the meaty deets on an interface whose latency is so absurdly low that it feels like playing through hardware.

Like Cerberus of myth, Universal Audio is a three-headed beast. The company manufactures pro audio hardware, often inspired by the vintage designs of Bill Putnam—founder of the original Universal Audio company and father of the new UA’s leaders, James and Bill Jr. UA also concocts superb digital versions of classic and modern analog gear. Then there’s Apollo, a line of audio interfaces that double as plug-in hosts. These range from the flagship Apollo 16 to the small-footprint Apollo Twin, recently updated to the MkII reviewed here. (Apollo hardware/software runs on Mac OS and Windows.)

UA’s “heads” are often intertwined. UA plug-ins only run on UA hardware. And the Twin MkII’s bundled plug-in suite includes great-sounding models of the Universal Audio LA-2A and UREI 1176 compressors, and the UA 610-B preamp—which are all, to some degree, Bill Putnam Sr. designs. The MkII also comes with a Fairchild limiter model and additional long-in-the-tooth legacy plug-ins.

You don’t need to purchase additional plug-ins to make good use of Apollo. You might simply use its gorgeous mic preamps and A/D/A convertors to route audio to and from your DAW, relying on plug-ins you already own. Still, most Apollo users wind up purchasing additional software. I certainly did! I seldom fumble through a mix without my two favorites: Ampex ATR-102, a 2-track mastering deck simulation that makes everything bigger and warmer, and EMT 140, a drop-dead replica of the sweetest plate reverb ever. In a touch of old-school marketing savvy, UA also makes fully functional, two-week trial versions of all 89 UA plug-ins free.

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This virtual collection of vintage amps is a real champ.

The latest plug-in for IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube modeling software goes after a handful of iconic tweed and blackface tones from the golden era Fender amps. Included are models of tweed versions of the Deluxe, Champ, Pro, Twin, Bassman, Bandmaster, and a blackface Super Reverb. Getting up and running is rather easy: I just plugged straight into my interface, fired up AmpliTube, and away I went.

A hallmark of tweed amps is how important the guitar’s volume knob is to the equation. It can move from a glassy funk tone to old-school Stones rather quickly if set up correctly. I wore out the Layla album, so I headed straight for the ’57 Custom Champ. The immediate response and feel was there, and the reaction with the single volume knob on the Champ allowed for rather believable tones.

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This tiny stompbox recorder enables real-time riff capture and fast file sharing via Bluetooth.

TC Electronic’s Wiretap Riff Recorder might seem like an answer to a problem few have considered. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great idea. It enables the capture of ideas right in the middle of a jam—without ever breaking stride or sacrificing a magical mood or moment. And with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and a clever file management app, it facilitates fast sharing of musical ideas.

If you guessed at the intent of the Wiretap, you might think it works something like a cross between your smartphone’s audio recorder and a looper. You wouldn’t be too far off. Like a looper, you just hit the bypass switch while you’re playing and it begins recording. You can play back the recording through your amp. But the real upside comes via the downloadable app, which enables file naming, organization, and fast sharing.

There’s no limit to file length, save for the eight-hour ceiling on the unit’s memory. You can also play back recorded sections and scan through them using the simple, tape-recorder-like 3-switch array. Wiretap may seem like a solution to a problem you thought you had sorted. But few methods for capturing ideas are as easy or immediate.


Ease of Use:



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An ultra-portable, easy-to-use tool that helps you capture ideas before they’re a distant memory.

We all have moments when we want to throw our smart phone or tablet out the window. But when you’re in a more tech-appreciating mood, it’s fascinating to consider all the things these devices can do to make our lives easier. One such thing that continues to evolve is convenient and mobile recording for guitarists.

IK Multimedia’s new iRig Acoustic is a patent-pending, MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) mic pickup that easily clips to the lower rim of a soundhole. The iRig plugs into a device’s headphone/input jack, and there’s a female output jack on the in-line cable for headphones or routing to another monitor. Download IK Multimedia’s free AmpliTube Acoustic app and, voilà, you’re in business with a mobile acoustic-recording rig for under $50.

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