BIAS FX for iPad

Ratings_1Positive Grid released BIAS FX today, an iPad app they have been teasing for the last few weeks. Invoking the name BIAS naturally got a lot of people excited, because their BIAS AMP simulator app is arguably the best amp simulator on iOS. I’m afraid a lot of people are going to be left scratching their head after paying $29.99 for this new app, however…

As soon as I heard about the new app, my immediate question was – How is this going to be different from Positive Grid’s existing multi-effects simulator app JamUp Pro? JamUp already lets you pretty seamlessly put a pedal board in front of a BIAS amp. Would BIAS FX let you pop open the virtual cases on the pedals and do a virtual Keeley mod on a virtual Tube Screamer? Would it revolutionize the sharing process? Would the sound quality be significant improved enough to warrant paying $10 more than I already paid for JamUp?

Having played with a review copy for a few days, I can tell you the answer to all of these questions is no.

BIAS FX promises “extremely intuitive operation” and unrivalled, component-level simulation with analog-like sound quality. While it’s not impossible to figure out how to add new effects and turn them on and off, there are icon-only buttons all over the interface that you have to guess what they do. If you’ve used other similar apps, you’ll figure it out on your own, but it wouldn’t have killed Positive Grid to put a few introductory slides at the beginning to help people get acclimated.

Perhaps most disappointing is that BIAS FX seems to have taken a step back in terms of integration with the BIAS AMP app. The app’s description on iTunes very explicitly states “12 classic BIAS amps, import any amp models from BIAS AMP.” Half of that is right. You can select from 12 built-in apps that are drawn from BIAS AMP and that can be edited just like BIAS amps. However, I see no way to import other BIAS amps into the BIAS FX amp slots. That’s hugely disappointing for me, because my favorite Dumble amp is not among the 12 they chose to include. Now, it is possible to plop a BIAS amp into the signal chain using Inter App Audio, but using that method does not allow you to use the dual amp setup BIAS FX is capable of.

What people will likely be most interested in, and willing to pay a premium for, is sound quality. If I was going to pay nearly $30 for another new multi-fx app, I would really expect the sound quality to blow me away. This does not. The dual amp capability is nice and certainly noticeable, but the sound, to me, does not sound radically different from JamUp. One specific example is the Acoustic Simulator. Positive Grid released an update last June that added an acoustic simulator amp that will honestly blow your mind. (If you haven’t heard it yet, check out the samples linked to from Our Review.) BIAS FX has an acoustic simulator too. You’d expect it to be at least as good, right? Nope.

And since they chose to create a new multi-fx app instead of just expanding on their already successful JamUp product, I expected somehow for there to be more choices in terms of the pedals you could choose from. There are not. By my count there are about 50 pedals available in JamUp Pro, when you include extra available as in-app purchases. At launch, BIAS FX only has about 28. My guess is they will add more, probably as in-app purchases, down the road, but right now it feels very limited.

It will be interesting to see what happens. It’s a brand new product, so there are likely some kinks to work out and Positive Grid has certainly shown they’re capable of great things in the past. For now, however, I’d hold off on buying this one. Stick with JamUp. It’s 75% off right now anyway, so it’s only $4.99.

Lessons From Guitarjamz To Improve Your Epic-ness

Ratings_4WAIT!!! Have you entered our contest? We’re giving away two GuitarJack 2 guitar interfaces worth $200 each. Check out the Contest Details for more information!

 

If you’ve spent any amount of time on YouTube looking for lessons to improve your guitar playing, it’s a safe bet you’ve come across at least a few lessons by charismatic guitar teacher Marty Schwartz. Between his guitarjamzdotcom and martyzsongs YouTube channels, he has more than 1,300 videos covering everything from basic concepts for beginners all the way up to advanced techniques. Since first hitting YouTube about five years ago, Marty’s videos have been viewed nearly half a billion times. That’s billion with a B. His easy going style and accessible approach to playing and music theory has helped countless people improve their playing and now he’s made it even easier by releasing the app Guitarjamz – Epic Guitar Lessons for iPhone and iPad. Continue reading

IK Multimedia’s Latest Guitar Interface – The iRig PRO

Ratings_4IK Multimedia was one of the first hardware and software developers to embrace the iPhone and iPad as viable music creation platforms and have, since releasing their introductory instrument interface the iRig in 2010, produced a whole family of products aimed at making it easier to create music on iOS devices. They have consistently improved upon the original iRig by creating devices that offer different input options, such as the iRig Mic and iRig Keys, and by improving upon the basic design and sound quality of the iRig by creating the the iRig HD, a truly digital interface that plugged into the Lightning connector instead of the headphone jack.

The latest member of the iRig family, the iRig PRO ($149.99), improves the guitar/instrument interface yet again, by expanding upon both the device’s input and output connections. The iRig PRO comes complete with a full complement of cables to connect to all iOS devices, MIDI controllers and your Mac or PC. Continue reading

Guitar Interface Shootout – iRig PRO vs. Ampkit Link vs. JamUp Plug

Ratings_4Not long after developers started to create apps for the iPhone and iPad, guitarists recognized the power of iOS devices for mobile music creation and an immediate demand was created for interfaces to help bridge the gap between a guitar and an iOS device. One of the first to market was the iRig from IK Multimedia, a relatively simple device that plugs into the headphone jack and essentially splits the guitar input and headphone signals much like an Apple headset with built in mic.

The basic iRig, and other similarly designed interfaces work just fine and tend to be priced between $20 and $40, so they are great for quick mobile creation. The main drawbacks of these simple devices, however, are sound quality. Because they are unpowered devices passing input and output signals past one another, there tends to be a lot of signal noise and they aren’t always capable of handling high gain input favored by some players. iOS recording devices are capable of much higher quality and interface designers responded by continually improving technology and creating a whole range of devices at different price points and with different capabilities.

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GuitarCapo+ Chord Conversions

Ratings_2GuitarCapo+ is a utility app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that aims to replace the beat up old cardboard chord conversion wheel many guitarists carry around but that never quite seem to fit inside the storage compartment in our guitar cases. It allows you to quickly see what standard chord shapes translate to when using a capo.

I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen an app like this out there before — especially with the plethora of chord chart and utility apps available for iOS. There are song sheet apps, such as OnSong, that allow you to transpose the chords for entire songs by selecting a capo position, but it’s certainly a nice tool to have as a standalone app.

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IK Multimedia Releases VocaLive App

Ratings_3When the iPad was first released, critics were quick to say that the device was great for the consumption of media but would never be a serious tool for the creation of new content. That’s changing quickly – especially when it comes to music. With more and more artists and hobbyists embracing the iPad and even the iPhone for the capture of everything from quick song sketches to full-blown productions that end up on albums.

There are a number of options for 4- and 8-track recorders and a number of guitar amp and effect modelers, most of which offer some type of recording ability. One element that has been missing, however, was the ability to add sophisticated effects to vocal performances. That’s changing now too with the introduction of VocaLive from IK Multimedia. Continue reading

Lick of the Day from Agile Partners

UPDATE: Since writing this review, Guitar World and Agile Partners have apparently parted ways and the Lick of the Day app now features material from TrueFire and JamPlay. I’ll be taking another look at the app soon to see how it’s changed

Ratings_3Agile Partners is continuing their commitment to iOS loving guitar players. This time they have partnered with Guitar World magazine to create a universal app for both the iPhone, iPod and iPad called Guitar World Lick of the Day. The app delivers a new lick every day and promises to cater to a variety of styles and skill levels.

The interface of the iPad version combines video of Guitar World and celebrity instructors with a panel showing the standard and tab music notation for each lick that scrolls in sync with the video. Users of Agile’s Tab ToolKit will also recognize the dynamic fretboard that shows finger positions that are also synchronized with the tab and video. Lefties will be happy to know that they can invert the fretboard too. Continue reading

GuitarJack vs. AmpKit LiNK – Sound Samples

There's a dramatic difference in sound quality between the GuitarJack and AmpKit LiNK iPhone interfaces.

There’s a dramatic difference in sound quality between the GuitarJack and AmpKit LiNK iPhone interfaces.

Update: Please stay tuned for the full GuitarJack review I’m working on. An astute reader pointed out that it sounds like the GuitarJack sample below might simply be missing a big chunk of the high frequencies. That may be my inexperience with the device so I need to play with it a bit more to be certain that the comparison you hear below is a fair one. Continue reading

AmpKit iPhone/iPad App & AmpKit LiNK Guitar Interface

Ratings_4Watch my in-depth review on YouTube

When it rains it pours… Several different biggies in the field of guitar gear, modeling and software have released interfaces that let you plug your guitar or bass into your iPhone or iPad. There is one in particular that really stands out from the crowd. That is the combination of AmpKit from Agile Partners, developers of the popular GuitarToolkit and TabToolkit apps, and the AmpKit LiNK interface hardware from Peavey Electronics. Continue reading