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This article was originally published in issue #11
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Apple's iOS goes where even some amp makers fear to tread with IK Multimedia's AmpliTube Slash App. But, Tom Quayle asks, can you really get cranked Marshall tones from an iPhone?
The original Amplitube app has been out for quite a while now for iOS devices, becoming the standard by which all other modellers on the platform are judged. Amplitube offers a lot of flexibility and models along with a multitude of effect models and even a multi-track recording environment. Product designers, IK Multimedia, have now teamed up with Rock legend, Slash, to produce the first artist package for Amplitube, modelling his signature Marshall amps and effects chain allowing you to achieve Rock god tone within a mobile operating system. But does it work? Well, yes in the main. Let's check out what's on offer in the package.
The first thing you'll find upon opening the app is the large and very attractive amp section filling the bottom half of the screen. (The iPad and iPhone/iPod versions differ slightly in their interfaces but are essentially the same in operation - for this review we'll be dealing with the iPad version). Two amp models are on offer, the original JCM Slash Edition Silver Jubilee 2555SL plus the newer AFD 100 and are displayed in photo-realistic glory with all of the original controls available. A single Marshall 1960 4x12 cab is included (can you imagine Slash using anything else?) plus five effects in the form of a noise gate, Octo Blue octave pedal, booster, X-Chorus and /Delay pedal. A free Distortion Wah can also be downloaded once you register the app. The effects are also represented in great detail allowing four effects to be arranged simultaneously in any order, resulting in a very impressive interface indeed.
All amp and effect parameters are edited using the controls directly on each pedal/amp thanks to the touch screen technology, making editing a breeze and essentially exactly the same as controlling the real thing.
A series of pre-sets get you started, with favourites and user pre-sets available too for storing your own sounds. An onboard tuner and metronome make for a great practice tool and a series of audio demos are built in to demo the sounds. Songs can be loaded into a dedicated player, allowing the user to alter the speed, create looped sections and remove vocals/lead guitar. Full MIDI functionality is built-in, allowing the user to control all elements of the app via a MIDI controller. The icing on the cake comes in the form of an extensive 8-track recording suite complete with master effects such as EQ, reverbs, delays and choruses. This, in a growing trend for apps, must be purchased from within the app and is pretty expensive, so must be factored into the original cost if it's something you'll require. A single track version is included as standard however.
In use the tones are pretty authentic considering the processing power on offer from mobile devices. We're not dealing with high-end audio computers here so your expectations need to be reigned-in accordingly but I was pretty impressed all the same. The amp models responded to playing well and gave the impression of a cranked Marshall overdriven tone faithfully. The tones are quite grainy though and I'd suggest they are more of a practice aid rather than a serious tone tool (for which you may want to try the PC/MAC version of the same software). The effects sound good and, combined with the amp models, do offer pretty good representations of classic Slash tones with presets designed to model specific songs, allowing you to easily hone in on sounds that are appropriate for your favourite riffs. The app will also work with the 30-pin connector allowing you to use high quality iOS or class compliant audio interfaces for much better sound quality. Recordings can be exported via email, soundcloud, ftp or file sharing so you can get your version of Sweet Child o Mine out to the masses!
Overall, this is an impressive package that sounds as authentic as you can get given the limitations of the hardware. I'm marking it down due to the expensive in-app purchases required to get full functionality, but other than that, for the Slash fan it's a no-brainer. For everyone else this makes for a useful practice tool with higher gain modelled sounds at a reasonable price, providing you don't need the 8-track recording functionality.