Peavey has arrived a little late to the iPhone practice amp market, but they have come up a very strong entry. AmpKit is an iOS application, compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The AmpKit Link is sold separately and is an adapter that allows you to connect your guitar and headphones up to your iOS device. Their marketing department hooked me up with a free AmpKit Link and download code and I’m very glad that they did.
I also have IK Media’s Amplitube and iRig and will give a few comparisons throughout this article.
The Link is a pretty simple device. A little bigger than the iRig, and it requires batteries, but it is still small. The cord plugs into your iPhone, and even has a narrow collar that fits the first gen iPhones. I had to modify the iRig to make it fit in my phone.
The batteries in the Link drive a circuit that virtually eliminates feedback. Peavey claims compatibility with any recording, processing, or tuning app. I tested it with a free guitar tuner, and Amplitube with great results. The Link gave Amplitube a nice boost and took care of the feedback issues at extremely high gains.
AmpKit is the star of the show though. While its graphics aren’t extremely detailed, the interface is very intuitive and it only took me a few minutes to figure the basic out.
AmpKit Lite and AmpKit + are available from the iTunes store for free, and $20 respectively. The + version includes four amps, six cabinets, two mics and ten pedals. More amps, pedals, and mics are available starting at $3 and going up to $6 or so.
The two amps that I spent the most time with were the Peavey ValveKing, and the Colonel Vintage. The Colonel is modeled after a Marshal JTM45 and sounds every bit as clean and warm as it should. The ValveKing includes both a clean and a high gain lead channel. Both channels performed as expected with the lead really cranking out the sound. It easily got uncomfortable with my headphones.
I played around with all of the pedals, but settled on a simple setup with the Noise Gate, Elevenizer and the Distortoise. They performed very well and I was surprised how hard I could push the distortion and still sound good with my headphones. For general practice I’ll probably just stick with the Noise Gate and ValveKing on the lead channel. That provided plenty of volume and a nice warm tone.
As a test I plugged in the un-powered iRig in place of the Link and was immediately punished with a lot of unwanted feedback. Turning the gain down on the amp and pedals eliminated the feedback but with a significant loss in tone and distortion. I spent some time switching back and forth between AmpKit and Amplitube with the different adapters and believe that AmpKit has a slight advantage in sound and the Link having the upper hand because of its feedback circuit.
AmpKit performed very well on my aged processor. The app launches quickly, every tap produces a quick response and I didn’t notice any latency in processing, even with five or six pedals chained together. Amplitube was a bit sluggish in the UI, but rarely showed latency with the effects.
A feature that is (so far) unique to AmpKit is the ability to record yourself. It lays down both a clean and effects track. You can then “re-amp” your track and change up the amp and effects. This lets you quickly lay down a track and worry about the pedals later. You can also import backing tracks to play along with.
A handy chromatic tuner, metronome and extensive and very useful help system round out the features.
Overall I like it, and I am hoping that a new gadget will get me to practice the guitar more.
Wired: Extremely intuitive user interface, plenty of amps and pedals, great sound, recording capability and active gain and feedback control in hardware.
Tired: The guitar jack feels a little cheap when plugging in and it requires batteries for the active feedback control.
Chuck Lawton’s Review of IK Media’s Amplitube for iOS
AmpKit Link on Amazon ($20)
AmpKit on iTunes ($20)
iRig on Amazon ($40)
Amplitube LE on iTunes ($3)