Combined with an ever increasing range of hardware, the iPad is becoming as popular a device on stage for musicians as traditional stomp boxes. When taking the considerable cost of owning one amplifier – never mind multiples – and a few simple pedals into account, your pocket may be thanking you for looking at using software rather than more traditional setups.
AmpKit+ is the premium version of AmpKit, coming with a small selection of amplifiers, cabs, pedals and the complete range of microphones. Even though you get a good range, you’re almost definitely going to want to purchase at least one of the packs and maybe a couple of extra pedals/amps. I added the Clean & Classic pack ($19.99) which also gave me the Effector Pack. Being a bass player, I just had to get the Trace Elliot 1215 ($5.99) and loving the Boss BD-2, I bought the Mountain blue overdrive ($2.99) as well.
In partnership with Peavey, AmpKit comes with a recommended interface – the AmpKit Link which sells for about $25. I didn’t get a chance to try the AmpKit link, instead testing the app with my trusty Alesis IO dock.
As well as the ability to empty your iTunes pockets with in-app purchases (to get most of the available gear could cost you over $100) the app also has the ability to record audio and export into other applications. There is also a trusty selection of dry recording inputs which can help you setup your sound without having to be the one to physically play the guitar.
Design & Interface
Time has been well spent designing the interface of AmpKit+. The background has a great wooden floor type look and the menus have the traditional faux leather look. Instinctive and intuitive to use, 10 minutes gets you round most of the basic functions to see what’s available.
One of the things I really like about this amp is the real time effect you can have on the graphics. When you move the faders in the setup screen, the dials actually move on the amplifiers and pedals. The latency seems to be pretty spot on – meaning that you feel like your changing settings on virtual gear and the feedback in the sound is pretty quick too. There’s nothing worse than changing a fader level then having to wait a couple of seconds to hear the effect of what you’re changing.
Setting Up Your Rig
Once you’ve spent a few cents in your new virtual pedal store, you can start to look at setting up your rig. If you want a helping hand setting up your rig, the developer has spent the time creating over 100 presets for you to use. Some of the sounds are pretty crazy, but there is a large selection that are useable – even as a starting point to tweak from.
Preview your purchases before buying to see if you like the sound.
The setup display looks pretty good too – you can see the gear you’re currently using as well as the settings on the gear. You can scroll through all of the pedals you’re using – of which there seems to be no limit. As well as changing the order in which the pedals come in the chain, you can also put the pedals post-amplifier or even post-cabinet so you can really experiment with the sounds that you’re creating.
Being a sound technician as well, one of the things that I felt they could have expanded a bit was the microphone section. I would have loved to see the amp in a 3D environment and have had the ability to move the microphone around the amplifier – maybe even change the room that the amplifier is in.
Not one to just sit around and tweak with settings, I wanted to hear what it did to my guitars. The app did not disappoint. Starting with the electric guitar it took me 10 minutes of playing away before I realised that I should be tweaking with the settings rather than just enjoying the sound that was coming out of my headphones. Starting with a number of presets and then tweaking to suit the sound I wanted, it wasn’t too hard to build up a small selection of patches that would be really helpful. The sounds had that depth that is often lacking when using software-generated distortion, a pleasant surprise.
Switching across to the bass then added yet another layer of excitement to my afternoon. Already owning a Trace Elliot amp I hit straight in with the 1215 head and managed to get pretty much the same sound that I had coming out of my amplifier on a day to day basis. The pedals do sound pretty good on the bass, though I struggled to find bass-specific pedals. A nice addition in further updates would be a ‘bass section’ given that the developers are clearly trying to grab both bassists and guitarists alike.
Lastly, the old acoustic popped its head out for a bit of a tweak with the American acoustic amplifier and a few of the tamer pedals and I was really happy with the results.
AmpKit+ has a few really nice extra additions like the ability to record and re-amp your recordings and audio extraction which makes it great for fitting in with other applications. It also has all the little bits and pieces that you would expect like a tuner and metronome.
I guess the best judge of an app of this kind is whether I’m still going to use the app or I’m going to go back to using hardware. The honest answer to that question is both. When playing live I currently use my iPad for songlist/sheet music as well as mixing my own IEM’s so even though it’s good enough to use live for the average user, it’s not that much of an improvement on the hardware to make me switch and I wouldn’t want to lose the feel of my amplifier. However, for rehearsals and personal practice, I’m going to be reaching for the iPad & dock rather than a bulky floorboard and amplifier setup.