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This article was originally published in issue #38
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There is a part of me that would be very happy if every time I played an electric guitar it was plugged into a 1960s Plexi through a couple of 4 x 12 cabs, or a Triple Rectifier, or a Fender Twin - all set to stun. That isn’t the part of me that has to carry the amps and live with the neighbours, and sometimes it’s kind of handy to be able to just plug a guitar into a computer or tablet and go!
Meet the Vox amPlug I/O (thanks for that horrible capitalisation, folks). The amPlug I/O comes in a plastic bubble on a card, looks a bit like a toy, costs about as much as a toy, and works far better than I expected it to. It’s light (just over 60 grammes including batteries) and compact and plugs straight into your guitar with a swivel-mounted jack plug (yes, it works just fine with an S type output jack).There’s a socket to connect it to a USB port on your Windows (7 or later) or Mac (10.8 or later) computer or iOS (7 or later using the Apple USB Camera Adapter kit) with the included cable. It can be powered by a pair of AAA size batteries or by the USB bus, and functions as a USB I/O interface with a headphone socket (and level control) and a guitar tuner.
Also in the package is a card with download and registration details for JamVox III. The download site is a bit surprising, showing version 1.52 from 2009 and version 3.03 from 2013, with nothing between nor since, but stick with it because JamVoxIII is actually pretty cool. It gives you 20 amp/cab sims including a range of Vox AC15 and AC30 models, a bunch of effect pedals, lots of song-based presets, a tuner, metronome, music player with speed and pitch control, the Guitar XTraction function to cancel guitar parts in the track you’re listening to so you can work-out parts and play along easier, a recorder to record yourself playing along, a drum groove player and a “Pickup Selector” that lets you change the sound of your guitar through the sim. It all sounds pretty good, and did I mention that you can record video using your webcam, and save and download settings using JamVox-Online, and use it as plugin in your DAW.
It’s worth noting that you don’t have to use the amPlug I/O and VoxJamIII together, you’re free to use the amPlug with your amp sim or recording software of choice, and likewise the VoxJamIII package works with other interfaces. I actually had a problem with the ASIO driver for Windows (slightly confusingly, the driver in the VoxJamIII download folder is not for the amPlugI/O) but a quick call to support got me sorted in a couple of minutes – thanks for that folks.
Let’s face it, a USB interface built into a jack plug and a piece of software isn’t really likely to replace your full stage or studio rig, but as long as you can avoid leaping around too much (remember that you’re tethered with a USB cable) the amPlug IO is a great little “carry anywhere” set-up, and along with the JamVoxIII software it could be an ideal buy for a beginner who may have stretched to buy their first guitar and needs something to play through until they can afford to buy a proper amp. Pack one of these with your guitar and you can play anywhere you’ve got your computer.