iRig
IK Multimedia

Review: I dig the iRig

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Anybody out there remember the Rockman? It was this little personal guitar amplifier, about the size of a Sony Walkman (adding “man” to anything portable was all the rage in the 80s, you know).The Rockman let you play distorted guitar through headphones and it curiously made everything you played sound like BOSTON.

The AmpliTube iRig combo for the iPhone is kind of like the Rockman except WAY cooler. WAY, WAY, WAY cooler. We first told you about it a couple of weeks ago. I finally got my hands on one and while it’s been reviewed once or twice since that time, I thought I’d give you my view on it anyway since it ships this week – July 6 to be exact.

First lets talk about the iRig dongle. What is it? The iRig is a special connector that has an input for a 1/4 mono guitar cord as well as a headphone output jack. It showed up in the mail a few days ago and I was immediately impressed by the solidness of it. It’s still plastic, but the cable cover and coupling are pretty solid. It feels like you could pull on it pretty hard, or it could get ripped out of the iPhone many times and would not be damaged. That’s pretty much all it does; it connects the instrument to the iPhone.

AmpliTube is the amplifier modeling software that runs on the iPhone. It looks and sounds as good as you could expect for something this small and portable. The interface design is pretty great. Seeing all the stomp-boxes on your iPhone screen, complete with working LEDs and tactile knobs and controls, is a fun and natural way to conceptualize the effects. The tones they produce are pretty realistic too. Heck, just having a guitar tuner on board is a nice feature to note.

The software also lets you transfer songs to the app over wifi from any host computer on that wifi network. Once you transfer a song over, you can play along or set sections to loop. The loop triggering is pretty intuitive and works well.

Come to think of it, if I had to sum up the AmpliTube iRig combo in one word, that would be the word I would choose – intuitive. You don’t have to read one instruction manual or download a single PDF to figure out how to use AmpliTube for iPhone. Just plug  your guitar or bass in and start fiddling with it. In no time you will have some serious guitar fuzz flowing past your little eardrums.

To get a sense of how this thing works and sounds in a real situation, I recorded some of its tones and compiled them into the video below (just skip to the middle, if you want to hear the effects only and not my commentary).

Sure, a few of the buttons are a little small, but over all IK Multimedia did a pretty bang-up job with this little setup. The total price of $60ish (iRig plus full version of AmpliTube) may seem a tad steep if you are a casual or infrequent player, but if you are a songwriter or serious guitarist who is tracking little ditties all the time, I’d say this duo is worth the full price just for its small footprint. Rocking out on your back porch was never so easy my friends.

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