Guitar Amps and Effects for iPhone, iPod, or iPad

Last Updated: 12-30-2011 There’s a growing number of iPhone apps which will take yourguitar input into the iPhone and let you add distortion, chorus, delay, amp sims, reverb, and a host of other effects. Generally I call these kinds of apps Guitar Effects or Practice Amps. Of course these apps aren’t limited to guitar, you could use any instrument, including your voice. Some let you record the signal, most let you use two or more effects at the same time. I’m going to review the top effects apps and give you some pros and cons for each. Over time these apps will grow into more feature rich tools so please support these developers by leaving reviews, giving useful honest feedback and feature requests. If you’re new to connecting up your guitar or bass to your iPhone, please first hop over to the post called “Connecting Your Guitar to Your iPhone, iPod, or iPad” if you haven’t already read it. Most of the current apps are simply practice amps, that means you can’t use them yet to record, they don’t have metronomes or simple beats, and they don’t let you save presets. Some of the newer one’s do however let you record. They are all great for just plugging in and playing into your headphones.

Digital Effects Apps

304209483 2 l1 Guitar Amps and Effects for iPhone, iPod, or iPadGuitar FX Deluxe

Guitar FX was one of the first of the guitar effects apps out there. You get echo, distortion, and chorus. The effects aren’t too bad and the latency is pretty low. Guitar FX doesn’t let you tweak the parameters of each effect, however each effect comes with 10 presets. You can mix and match these presets and then based on those save up to 4 of your own presets. I find the distortion on this app distant and not very intense but for some players they may love it. I tend to like distortion preset 1 the best. Even with the volume and gain boosted all the way this app tends to be on the quiet side when you’re plugging straight into it from guitar to iPhone. It helps here to have a DI box or preamp between your guitar and phone–personally I’d rather not have to hook up the extra hardware. This app does have recording, and you can download the recordings to your computer via an internal server. It does not however have a metronome. If you must have recording built in then this is the app to get in my opinion. App Price: $2.99 App Store: AppExplorer.com Author Site: http://trialanderrordevteam.de/iPhone/Guitar_FX.html Author Name: TrialAndErrorDevTeam Author Email: [email protected]

361421709 2 l1 Guitar Amps and Effects for iPhone, iPod, or iPadRiotFX

RiotFX has 9 different effects you can apply and customize including distortion, chorus, reverb, delay, and tone (EQ). It looks good and has a very sophisticated and compact design. I like that there is an overall Gain and Volume setting and then individual Gain and Volume settings on each effect so that you can really overdrive the app if you want and get really good volume. If you like intense metal distortion like I do, this is your app. Because you can boost your guitar signal so much this is also an app that works well with just a straight cable from the guitar to the iPhone. The latency is pretty low which means as soon as you strike the guitar string the app responds. If you start adding a few effects on top of each other the latency increases but not terribly. Latency seems to be a biggest issue with the pitch shifter, however that’s pretty typical for a pitch shifter especially when you’re using a guitar to and emulating a bass by shifting an octave lower. RiotFX also has a tempo based delay which is a pretty neat feature. For you bassist there’s also an expander which can boost your attack and help you stand out in a recording or live setting–and heck it just sounds good. Currently RiotFX does not have recording, a metronome, presets, or cut and paste into other apps such as FourTrack. However the developer tells me he’s working on these features. This app is my top pick if you don’t need to record. Once recording and a metronome is in the app you’ll be able to cut tracks with this then upload them to your DAW or copy and paste them into FourTrack, or another multitrack iPhone app and sync the track with other tracks. That will make this tool phenomenal. If you really want to record with this you can take the headphone output from your iPhone and plug it straight into your DAW input interface and in essence use this as an effects box in your input chain. You can read more about this approach in a future post. App Price: $4.99 App Store: AppExplorer.com Author Site: http://www.riotmode.com/ Author Name: Paul Stidworthy Author Email: [email protected]

Amp Simulator Apps

362544879 2 l1 Guitar Amps and Effects for iPhone, iPod, or iPadAmps & Cabs

Amps & Cabs is the cheapest app of the bunch, but also does the least in terms of it’s scope and design. Essentially what you get here is the ability to mix and match 3 amp heads with 3 speaker cabinets, giving you a combination of 9 different possible sounds. Once you find a combo you like you can further detail the tone with the low and high pots on the amp. This is a fun app to use and it looks really good with beautifully designed graphics. If you’re looking for a distinct sound then you’ll find it here. The app doesn’t have any special effects for example, reverb, distortion, delay, etc. You can overdrive the amps a little by maxing out the gain and getting some pretty respectful crunch but don’t expect overwhelming distortion. I also noticed that the cabinets have a little ambiance built into their sound, almost like you’re listening to the amp close miked or playing in front of it. As with RiotFX you won’t find recording or a metronome here either–at least not yet. Still there’s nothing else like this on the app store, and this app is worth every penny of $0.99 which is a steal for a well designed and just plain fun app. I’m really looking forward to what Ground Up Audio comes up with next. Please support them. App Price: $0.99 App Store: AppExplorer.com Author Site: http://groundupaudio.com Author Name: Scott Troyer, Lead Designer Author Email: http://groundupaudio.com/home/feedback/

Worth Mentioning

345777345 2 l1 Guitar Amps and Effects for iPhone, iPod, or iPadPRS Jam Amp

(NOTE: This App seems to have been discontinued. No loss. It sucked.)

The Paul Reed Smtih company was one of the first to market with a “complete” solution for the guitar and iPhone. Needless to say I was excited when I first heard about this one. They sell the PRS Jam Amp for $9.99 and a high priced $30 low quality guitar cable interface to go with it called Guitarbud. It can record, and has some simple effects like distortion and reverb. It also has a tuner (big deal, right). While this is a high profile app by a big brand company I’m not going to recommend it yet. Unfortunately reviews for this app are very low, and it appears this is an app that works poorly with a straight input from guitar to iPhone. Please note that due to the overall bad reviews I have not yet tested this app, so please take my appraisal with a grain of salt. If you’ve had a good experience with it let us know how it’s worked out for you below in the comments. App Price: $9.99 App Store: AppExplorer.com Author Site: http://groundupaudio.com Author Name: Paul Reed Smith Company Author Email: http://www.prscables.com/prsjamamp/support.php

Coming Soon: Reviews for TaylorEQ & PocketAmp

In Conclusion

There’s already some really great apps out there for giving you some good basic sounds. I expect these kinds of apps to grow and seriously expand. For example, keep your eye out for Ground Up Audio’s new guitar tone app “Pedals” coming out soon.

What’s Your Experience Been?

Please take a few seconds to share your experience with these apps below by leaving a quick comment–don’t worry you don’t need to register to comment. If I missed a good one please let me know! I love checking these apps out. Oh, and feel free to ask questions, I’ll reply. More ┬áin This Series:
  1. Connecting Your Guitar to Your iPhone, iPod, or iPad
  2. Do it Yourself iPhone Guitar Cables
  3. Guitar Effects and Practice Amps for iPhone, iPod, or iPad
  4. Best Misc Guitar Apps for the iPhone/iPad to Cure Your Bordom
  5. Multitrack Apps for Recording Your Guitar on the iPhone, iPod, or iPad (Coming Soon!)
  6. Getting Guitar Recordings from Your iPhone to Your Computer (DAW) (Coming Soon!)

Next Page: AmpliTube iRig Review

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About Michael Jae

Michael is a guitarist of over 18 years and has taught lessons, played in front of live audiences, and wrote and recorded his own acoustic fingerstyle albums. He’s especially fond of playing classic rock, heavy metal, classical guitar, and fingerstyle acoustic guitar in the style of Leo Kottke and John Fahey.

Comments

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Comments

  1. Hi all, so what do you think of these apps?

    Here’s another list of real time processing apps by Johnathan Wolf over at Palm Sounds. Worth a quick look: http://the-palm-sound.blogspot.com/2010/03/jonathan-wolfs-top-ten-iphone-apps-for.html

    Fretbase.com also has a list of top guitar apps, though not limited to effects. Some of these apps are pretty cool like PocketTabs: http://www.fretbase.com/blog/iphone-apps-for-guitar-players/

  2. Do any of these iPhone apps allow music to be played in the iPod app without the hassle of having to import them into the amp app?  I've already got music on my iPad and iPhone – seems stupid having to import them again.  Maybe it's just a limitation of iOS to only have 1 audio source at a time?

    • Hey Jon, good question. I hadn’t thought of that. I don’t believe any of them do this. Generally once you start the audio and then enter the guitar app the audio from the iPod cuts out. I’ve seen apps where you can trick this process by double tapping home just as the second app is opening, and what happens is the app then loads in the background as your iPod controls pop up, and when the music pauses you un pause it and continue to use the program. Now that multitasking in the iPhone OS is more flexible I’d guess more app developers may decide to do what you’ve suggested.

  3. I have the amplitube full version in combination with the iRig.
    This basically all works very good and smooth.
    And the software responds pretty good on any parameter that I change like treble, bass, gain, delay time and so on.
    However the quality of the sound is not really that good. In fact it sound not really warm, it sounds thin and 'digital'. And this is both when using a headset as well as plugging it into a mixing-console.
     
     

  4. PocketAmp is a great guitar amp and effects universal iOS app with build-in iPod music player for instant play along access to all your iTunes music! Perhaps you could include in this list?
    http://pocketlabworks.com/pocketAmp.html

    Best Regards,
    Kevin Robertson
    Lead Developer, PocketLabworks

  5. You can try a LITE version of PocketAmp released this week on the App Store!
    http://itunes.com/apps/PocketAmpGuitarAmpEffectsLITE
    Let us know how you like it and send us your feedback!
    Kevin

  6. Have you tried Amplitube? just wondered how that compares to the ones you have reviewed above?
    Cheers,
    Phil

  7. Be sure to also check out PocketGK Bass Guitar Amp app, designed with the GK sound exclusively for Bass Guitar!

  8. Also, be sure to check out this iPad app for guitar enthusiasts:
    http://www.guitarpracticepad.com
     
     

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