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. A rep from Agile Partners concedes that the AmpKit LiNK may have a higher noise floor because it’s running through the headphone jack and not the 30-pin connector, but feels that the difference may not be that drastic if some app settings are adjusted. However… what you hear below still stands as a direct comparison simply unplugging one device and plugging in the other without changing any app settings. More to come…

I will publish a full video review soon, but I recorded a head-to-head comparison in sound quality between the GuitarJack from Sonoma Wireworks and Peavey’s AmpKit LiNK that I suspect you’ll want to hear.

Up to this point, I have only compared the AmpKit LiNK with IK Multimedia’s iRig. In that comparison the AmpKit LiNK is the clear winner. In fact, I was so happy with the sound I was getting from Peavey’s connector that I wasn’t even terribly excited to test out the GuitarJack. I couldn’t imagine who would pay $199 for an interface device when you could get perfectly acceptable sound from one that only costs $40. Well, have a listen to the clips below and you might think twice like me. You’re probably going to want to listen to these with headphones, unless you have a really good sound system on your computer.

Both clips were recorded using identical gear and settings, except for the iPhone interface devices, of course:

Guitar: American Vintage Telecaster on the neck pickup
iPhone App: Agile Partners’ AmpKit using the basic Peavey ValveKing amplifier with a 1×12 cabinet and Germann 87 off-axis microphone

What should jump out at you is that, while the AmpKit sample may sound a little louder, it comes at the price of including a lot of background hiss and a relatively harsh sounding guitar tone. Contrast that with the GuitarJack sample and you’ll hear a much deeper, more resonant guitar tone that isn’t competing at all with the background hiss present in the AmpKit sample. Remember… this is the neck pickup on a Tele, so you would expect a nice mellow single coil tone when playing through a quality amp.

As I stated earlier, I will soon be posting a full review of the GuitarJack and will likely include a shoot out covering the iRig, AmpKit LiNK and Guitarjack, since they appear to be the top contenders in the guitar interface market. Some quick observations about the GuitarJack however…

  • The first thing I noticed is that, unlike the AmpKit LiNK, I ::had:: to put the iPhone into Airplane mode while working with the GuitarJack. Without turning off the radio signals, there was a lot of noise in the signal.
  • Second is that, as good as the sound quality is with the GuitarJack, unless you’d be satisfied with the fact that the device will not work with the iPhone 4 or iPad, I’d probably recommend holding out for the GuitarJack Model 2 that should be released within the next few months and will be compatible with the newer devices. Sonoma will be offering a trade-in/discount program once the new model is released, but for people like me that have already upgraded to an iPhone 4 it’s going to be a hard sell. I had to borrow my wife’s 3GS to test out the Model 1. And, yes… although the official information from Sonoma only lists iPod compatibility, the GuitarJack definitely works with both the 3G and 3GS iPhones. The phone needs to be put in Airplane mode for best sound quality though.

Will the $160 price difference be worth it to get a cleaner tone from an iPhone interface? That probably depends on how much of a purist you are and how serious you are about iPhone/iPad music recording. Listen to the samples though and I’m sure you’ll hear there is a clear difference.