We are excited to have our second guest post from Charlotte Daniels. Read the first one here. This time, Charlotte takes on the world where iPhones and Guitars come together.
The iPhone is a divisive beast. On the one hand, it fuels more pretentiousness than perhaps any other device in history (with the notable exception of the iPad, of course). However, there’s also no denying its capacity for technological genius, the like of which is now beginning to filter through to us guitarists. Yes, it’s now possible for us to turn the Marshalls up, strap on a Les Paul and kiss the sky…through our phones.
As the technology and power of Apple’s market leader continues to grow, more and more interfaces are becoming available, aimed at a variety of different price ranges and all designed with the aim of letting you record, practise and simply jam when all you’ve got is your axe and your phone. That’s why we’ve had a scout around and picked out what we think are the three Dons of the mobile market:
The Line 6 Mobile In. Line 6’s reputation in the world of amp simulation is second to none. This is probably a good thing, as the ‘Mobile In’ comfortably runs away with the ‘Worst Product Name Here’ award. However, taking aside the ridiculous name, the Mobile In is typical of everything you’d expect from a Line 6 product. With 32 amp models and 16 effects built in, we can’t really think of any sound you won’t be able to get close to. The only notable absence is the Marshall JCM800, although in all fairness if a 1968 Plexi is good enough for Dave Mustaine, it’s probably good enough for the likes of us.
If there’s a downside to the Mobile In, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be any capacity to record. Whilst we’re not expecting full, bells-and-whistles, Abbey Road-killing facilities, the option to just take down the odd riff before it disappears out of your brain seems like a rather obvious inclusion that a product like this should really be providing. Hmmm.
Peavey AmpKit Link. When this interface was announced, I’ll admit to drooling a tad. See, Peavey’s last foray into the amp modelling world was the rather majestic Revalver MKIII: to this day my favourite amp simulation. The prospect of having those sounds on the move was, needless to say, absurdly exciting. Fortunately, the hype (in my head) was justified: the AmpKit has some seriously cool features. For starters, it carries the Rocktron HUSH noise reduction circuit. Considering Peavey’s reputation for goblin-crushing amps of metal glory, the ability to keep things tight was a really clever addition, and makes a notable difference. You’ll get a far superior metal tone from this than from the Line 6’s Mesa simulation, for instance. There’s also the capacity for recording (the Line 6 doesn’t offer this facility), reamping and there’s also a nifty little metronome on board.
Is there a downside to all this? Well, yes. See, when you start off with the AmpKit, you’re only actually given one amp: the ValveKing. It’s by no means bad, but it’s certainly not got the ripping tone of a 3120, for instance. If you want the extra amps, you’ve got to then pay for them through the AmpKit app. Whilst there are pluses to this approach – it stops metallers having to pay for glassy cleans, for instance – it does seem a bit devious to not just supply the simulations up front. However, if you’ve got the cash to burn, it’s still hard to argue with the myriad options, and above all the quite excellent tones that can be achieved if you put the time in.
IK Multimedia iRig. Otherwise known as the clever chaps behind the superb Amplitube modelling software, IK Multimedia certainly have a chance to claim the throne here. Firstly, a big tick here for the recording facilities. The iRig offers (at an extra cost, it must be said) a full, four track recorder for those on the move. It’s essentially possible to demo whole songs using this. Hell, grab a cheap microphone and you might even be able to lay down some vocals (although I obviously couldn’t recommend such action, lest I get a parade of broken iPhones chucked at me). T
In amp terms, there are two app options that you can use. The first is the standard Amplitube mobile, which is the most appropriate choice for the more diverse guitarists. With five amp models (clean, crunch, lead, metal and bass) in addition to eleven stompbox effects, you won’t really need much more. Any metalheads, though, should probably consider the AmpKit: the Mesa simulation here is solid, but it likely won’t provide enough variation. The other app is the Amplitube Fender pack. Designed to emulate the sparkling cleans of it’s bigger brother (the Amplitube Fender VST), it’s the ideal choice for those seeking that unique tone that only vintage Leo provides. If you’re a jazz guy, it’s definitely the right option.
Overall. Fortunately, all of the above products will suit different guitarists, so the likelihood is that you’ll find one you love. Any goblin-crushing metallers should look into the AmpKit, those looking to make more substantial demos should probably consider the iRig, and those who simply want to jam and experiment with different sounds should go for the Line 6 (I refuse to call it the Mobile In). If you’ve got money to burn, though, the Amplitube’s four track facility does just sneak it.
All that technology almost makes up for Siri…
Charlotte Daniels is a freelance writer and guitar fanatic, she often uses T-Mobile prepaid phones in conjunction with her guitar