By Nate Adcock on Fri, 11/29/2013
Several of us blogger musician types have raved about IK Multimedia gear over the years, and with good reason (see Mike Riley's recent reviews here.) Early this year at CES, I was able to get an up close and personal preview of the latest music creation gadgets, but only recently was able to check out the production versions of IK's iRig Pro and Blueboard. If you are wondering what in the world to get your favorite musician this holiday (with a Mac, iPad, or iPhone), look no further. You can check out the rocking guitar demo above for a taste!
If you don't know from IK Multimedia, you can get an idea from our CES post, or go to their website above. They have a variety of musician-enabling accessories and apps that can turn your device into a mini music-processing studio. They recently sent me a Blueboard and iRig Pro to check out and demo, which I had a blast with! If you are or know a guitarist with an iPad or iPhone, you will love these gadgets!
The Blueboard is a BT-enabled foot stomp panel which will allow control of the virtual pedal/amp arrays featured in their free guitar app called AmpliTube (free and paid versions available). The iRig PRO is a universal MIDI signal processing interface that passes audio from your electric guitar into your iOS device so that the IK music apps can do their magic. Output from iPad or iPhone can be pushed out of the audio jack to an external speaker or to headphones. Though I used the IK apps, many MIDI compatible devices or apps works with iRig and Blueboard.
In my case, I installed the required apps, connected my Fender Deluxe Strat to the iRig PRO (standard 3/4" male-to-male audio cable required and not included). I then connected the included MIDI-to-Thunderbolt cable from iRig Pro to my iPad mini, then used a 3.5mm male-to-male audio cable to run output from the iPad's audio jack to my little Roland Microcube practice amp. I wanted to hear the signal quality coming though from the iRig/mini, so I set the amp to disable all effects and a clean setting, but it turns out the amp passes raw signal through from source anyway. If you have an older 30-pin device (or want to use a Mac), the iRig PRO comes with appropriate adapter cables for that. A manual control knob on the front allows you to easily adjust gain, but otherwise connect your guitar to one end and the other to your device, and (with headphones) you are ready to rock!
I had some minor setup issues when I first loaded up the free AmpliTube app, which you should install if you want to filter and control effects with Blueboard (I also tested another free MIDI guitar app and it worked fine). You should also download and install the free Blueboard app to pair up (over Bluetooth) the pedal board. The main AmpliTube app wouldn't play any output until I reset my device (so don't forget to do that).
The Blueboard app is easy to configure and customize. The board/app comes already configured with the four standard foot buttons (ABCD) used as input 1-4, but the app will let you customize or program custom controls for whatever MIDI device you are working with, and also includes external 3/4" ports to accommodate say a wah pedal. In my case, I left the basic 1-4 array configured. Once paired, you can then use AmpliTube to configure and select your custom pedal and amp configurations using the stomp box.
The AmpliTube for iPad app is a music app with capabilities that rival GarageBand, and though the app has the hated in-app purchases (e.g, several items at the nose-bleed price of $4.99), WOW is it good! AmpliTube lets you process and filter guitar sounds, add pedal effects, swap out different amp models, add drums, loop tracks, and much more. The free app includes 2 basic pedals (noise filter, and delay), but the iRig Pro enables more (Flanger, etc.), and many more can be purchased through IAPs.
AmpliTube also lets you record and sample tracks, practice and tune up with metronome/tuner, and even share tracks. The app fully integrates both Blueboard and iRig, letting you set and assign custom pedal and sound configurations to your main amp screen. It really is well-done and easy to to use, and worked perfectly for me (once I reset the iPad).
- Easy and cool way to use iPad or iPhone as a signal processor
- Staggering array of sound manipulation effects and features
- Pricey iAPs and upgrades
IK makes innovative products that work well, and I enjoy immensely. I have a one minor complaint: The Blueboard plastic construction seems a little lightweight for extended or strenuous live sessions. however both iRig and Blueboard are great practice and impromptu recording tools that work well with iPad, and should make any musician on your list happy this Christmas. Grab either at the links above.