By Mike Riley on Sun, 07/11/2010
The dream of thrashing out a hot guitar lick as a rock star is as pervasive today as it ever has been before. For the Baby Boomers and Gen X'ers whose teenage years didn't have the imaginary benefit of plastic guitar controllers connected to videogame consoles, they had to learn the dream the old fashioned way - acquiring an electric guitar, an amp and the skills necessary to play the fundamental power chords. Today's younger generation are being introduced to this dream first by basic basic rhythm and colors on a Guitar Hero or Rock Band controller, but next generation games in this genre are already taking the concept to the next level by connecting an actual guitar with actual strings and frets with the ultimate goal of teaching gamers how to play a guitar. Hence a whole new generation of rock guitar gods could be coming of age.
For those aspiring teens as well as the older generation of guitar enthusiasts and even professional guitar players, Griffin Technology has partnered with Frontier Design Group to create a hardware and software interface for Apple iOS devices that allow guitarists to plug their guitar jacks into the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and have the amplification and signal distortion of various stomp boxes and other digital signal processors. Griffin supplies the first half of the equation, a relatively simple and inexpensive cable with a 1/4" jack on one end to plug into the guitar spliced to a 1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo female input jack to plug in headphones/ear buds, and a 1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo-mini jack to plug into the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch on the other end.
Frontier Design Group's iShred LIVE iOS application is a free starter program that offers three effects: a digital delay, a modulator/flanger and a noise gate and filter. Also included are a metronome with adjustable tempo, a fairly accurate chromatic tuner and a looping music player that allows music from your onboard iTunes music library to be played in the background. This last option allows players to join favorite performers as a virtual band member. However, the effects that are included with the free starter app won't let you sound like Eddie Van Halen or Angus Young just yet. For that, iShred users will have to make a few in app purchases to swap in additional effects like a fuzz pedal, dual chorus, treble booster, variable waveform tremolo and a compressor pedal. Each of these vary in price from $0.99 to $1.99, making a full compliment of a currently available effects costing $7.95.
So now for the real question at hand - how does it sound? I have played guitar for several years and have hooked my Fender Stratocaster up to several rigs ranging from inexpensive floor stomp boxes to Line6 GuitarPort computer interfaces to expensive rack-mounted DSP's. My overall impression is that the GuitarConnect Cable + iShred LIVE combination falls toward the low end of performing experience. In other words, this is not a replacement for the more expensive, more cluttered purpose-built sound equipment. As I see it, this inexpensive alternative is for those guitar players who want to practice their skills and licks in private without waking the neighborhood. While this Griffin-Frontier combination could theoretically be used as an inexpensive replacement for the purpose-built sound effects hardware carted around by gig-performing guitarists, the range of options is currently too limited for all but the most generic and obvious type of guitar effects. However, once players accept iShred LIVE for what its worth, the overall usefulness and capability of musical expression becomes obvious and more importantly... fun! It's also pretty amazing to realize that what once required a full blown recording studio with expensive electronics back in the '70's can now fit in the palm of your hand and provide nearly the same audio capabilities in a highly portable package.
In summary, the initial $29.99 investment for the cable and free starter program is a must-have for aspiring and professional guitarists alike. Compared to the cost of other iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch accessories on the market, the price is quite reasonable. And while the end result may not be equivalent to the sound generated by the gear costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars more at the local music store, the thrill of playing, the flexibility, the freedom and the expectation of more effects on the way collectively give this potent combination an enthusiastic Bill and Ted-style 'Excellent!' air guitar riff.
Product: GuitarConnect Cable
Manufacturer: - Griffin Technology
Software: iShred LIVE
Developer: Frontier Design Group
Cost: Free; additional effects can be obtained via In App purchases
Rating: 4/5 stars