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This article was originally published in issue #12
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Following iGuitar's issue 11 review of IK Multimedia's AmpliTube Slash app, Tom Quayle turns his steely gaze on the company's innovative iRig Stomp. So, just how much tone can you get from a phone?
If you own an iOS device such as an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad then this is a very interesting time to be a guitar player. With a mass of companies producing apps for musicians of all types you might be wondering if there was a way to incorporate some of these new sounds within your existing set-up. IK Multimedia has produced one such solution in the form of their iRig Stomp - a traditional looking stomp box style interface that plugs into the microphone input on your iOS device and can be added to your pedal board in the usual manner.
The unit features a very solid, yet lightweight, aluminium body, housing a guitar input jack, stereo output jacks (or a mono jack for guitar amp connections), output to your iOS device (lead included) and a headphone socket for use on the move. On the front of the pedal you'll find an input dial allowing you to alter the battery powered, active input signal to match your guitar and a bypass switch. This is not a true bypass circuit, so bear in mind that your signal will still be running through the pedal whilst it is in bypass mode. IK Multimedia includes the free version of its AmpliTube iOS amp modeller and this can be upgraded to the full version for a modest price from the app store. By utilising the microphone input socket on your iOS device, IK Multimedia has ensured maximum compatibility with apps and the active battery powered output circuitry increases headroom and minimises the feedback and crosstalk associated with this kind of interface.
The iRig stomp can be utilised in a number of different ways and whilst it is designed for use with IK's AmpliTube app, it can be used with others depending on what you want to achieve. The most obvious use would be within a pedal board set-up, or as a standalone pedal, plugging the output into an existing guitar amp and utilising the amp models and effects within AmpliTube. But herein lies the first problem with the iRig Stomp - and it's not really the fault of the device itself but the software it depends upon. Due to the limitations of the iOS hardware and the inherent low cost of the apps, the sounds and software are underwhelming to say the least. If you're running into a guitar amp you need to be aware that, at present, there is no way of by-passing the cabinet simulations in any of the existing amp modeller apps. This means that, unless you're prepared to put up with the very weird sound of a modelled cab running through your actual cab, you might as well forget the amp modelling capabilities of these apps.
You can use just the effects though, and these work adequately but I'm afraid they don't match the quality of the better pedals on the market and tend to really suck your tone. Things improve when running the iRig Stomp into a PA or DAW soundcard, however, where the amp models become much more useful - but you'll need to temper your expectations as iOS amp modelling apps are nowhere near the quality of their more expensive PC, Mac or hardware equivalents. There just isn't the processing power on tap to do the job.
If you are going to incorporate the iRig Stomp into your set-up (which is the point after all) there is one other very important consideration. Unlike some of the other devices we've reviewed in past issues, the iRig Stomp requires your very expensive iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to be plugged in at all times. That means you're going to have to find somewhere safe to place your precious device near your pedal board: something that would make me VERY nervous during gigs or rehearsals! Where the iRig Stomp works very effectively though, is as a portable interface for one of the many iOS multi-track recording apps, although IK Multimedia already makes an even smaller and cheaper device for this purpose.
There really isn't anything wrong with the iRig Stomp as such - it's a well-made product at a good price and the concept is a good one. Its problems are really associated with the platform for which it is designed and the idea that you might want to incorporate iOS apps into your existing rig. Guitar players are very picky about their tone and to my mind there are much better sounding alternatives out there that won't put at physical risk your beloved iPad/Phone/Pod. As iOS hardware gets more powerful and the apps improve, I'll be the first in line for this kind of product but for now I fear it just doesn't sound good enough to be part of a live or rehearsal rig.