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Review: Hands-On with AmpliTube 2 for iPhone

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IK Multimedia released an update to their AmpliTube iOS app today in the iTunes App Store. We reviewed the first version of the app and its necessary iRig hardware dongle back in July. It’s a worthy and early entrant into the emerging arena for native app-based recording on touch-enabled mobile devices. Version 2 of this iOS app is a free upgrade for previous installs and offers a plethora of new features and functionality. However, not every new component is free in the upgrade. See below for the details on which ones require an additional in-app purchase. New features include:

  • New 4-track recorder with insert effects and 3 master effects (not free)
  • 5 new pedals/effects (not free)
  • New speedtrainer for slowing down/speeding up backing tracks (free)
  • Greatly improved sound with DSP now derived from desktop versions (free)
  • Now backing tracks are imported directly from iTunes on iPhone/iPod (free)
  • New recording export using iTunes shared folders on your computer (free)
  • New recording sending by email (free)
  • New preset naming (free)

After demoing AmpliTube 2, a couple of the new capabilities stood out to me. They are worth mentioning and are listed below, but first a video:

NEW FEATURES

4-Track
Throw out your old Fostex 4-track cassette recorder because this bad boy will do the same things except sans the tape hiss. Well, unless you are into that kind of thing (which actually a lot of lo-fi enthusiasts are, so maybe you shouldn’t throw it out just yet). AmpliTube 2 fulfills my fantasy of multi-tracking guitar riffs on an iPhone or iPad. Previously, I relied on Sonoma Wireworks’ awesome little 4-track app, but getting good guitar sounds into it was more challenging. This app makes it easy on you, for sure. Complete with an ironic and realistic looking cassette tape motif for scrubbing back and forth through songs, the interface is effective and familiar. Here are some details about this new addition to the software:

  • 4 tracks with solo, mute, volume, pan, send, bounce, import and export controls
  • Track bounce feature expands the available tracks for recording
  • Insert FX allows to use the entire AmpliTube chain of effects (3 stompbox effects + amp) on any of the tracks, live or imported
  • Master effects section with reverb (send FX per channel), parametric EQ and compressor (master channel FX)
  • Tracks can be imported directly from the song play along section
  • Built-in device mic can also be used in addition to the iRig dongle for recording input
  • Mix-down can be exported directly in the song play along section (single track free update – multitrack with master effects available as in-app purchase $9.99)

It’s going to cost you and extra 10 bucks to upgrade the default single track recorder to 4 tracks, but honestly, I would say it is the must-have component if you are going to get this app. If I had to choose between extra pedals or the 4-Track, because of budget, I would skip the new pedals.

5 New Pedals
Compressor, Graphic EQ, Parametric EQ, Reverb and a Limiter are now available in the app (for individual purchase – $2.99 a piece).

Import/Export Enhancements
IK Multimedia have expanded the ease with which you can import and export tracks in and out of the app. The WiFi import, via local IP address/port, still exists but you can also now sync via file sharing with iTunes and even assign whole songs to individual tracks in the 4 track recorder. This is a nice touch. Export is available via file sharing as well, or just email your magna opera to yourself or your bandmates.

Greatly Improved Sound
AmpliTube for iPhone uses several DSP parts directly derived from IK’s desktop software AmpliTube 3. Sound quality has apparently been dramatically improved. I didn’t really research this much but IK Multimedia provided this link for comparing the sound with an un-named competitor.

Speedtrainer
Any tracks loaded into the “Song” section of the app have the ability to be slowed to half their tempo without changing the pitch. This makes it easier to practice complex riffs. It works decently enough, however there is some distortion during the resampling.

The Bottom Line
AmpliTube 2 is as intuitive as the previous version and this demonstrates great planning on the part of IK Multimedia. It really is a beautiful app. I look forward to trying out the updated iPad version, when it becomes available, because surely the extra screen real estate will make the experience even better. Actually, I kind of liked running the iPhone version at 2x on an iPad. The larger knobs and switches, while ever-so-slightly pixelated from scaling up, were easier to use since they felt closer to the actual size of the real-life hardware controls they represent. Either way, I think AmpliTube 2 will serve well even the most hardened UI critics while at the same time affording musicians a sweet app to capture their creative best. It worked pretty well for me.

If you’re seriously looking for a portable consumer guitar app to run on your iOS device and can swing the price, I’d say get the full version plus the 4-Track. If I’m doing the math correctly, that means a brand new user would pay $19.99 for the full app + $9.99 for the 4-Track + $39.99 (for the iRig dongle). That’s 70 bucks or so. But, when you compare that to the fact that many stand-alone consumer digital 4-Track recorders are going for $199 or more it seems like a good deal to me (if you’ve already made the investment in an iPhone or iPad that is). Plus you get all the guitar/bass amp models.

Pricing for new purchases of the app in all three versions (Full, LE, Free) are the same as they were in the last release. Limited upgrades are free.

  • AmpliTube: 11 stompboxes, 5 amps + cabinets, 2 microphones $19.99/€15.99.
  • AmpliTube LE: 5 stompboxes, 1 amp + cabinet, 2 microphones $2.99/€2.39.
  • AmpliTube FREE: 3 stompboxes, 1 amp + cabinet, 2 microphones, FREE

Additional info at http://www.ikmultimedia.com/amplitubeiphone/features/

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