Positive Grid, the makers of the JamUp XT and JamUp Pro XT amp simulators and guitar multi-effects processors, released a new amp simulator today. Called BIAS for iPad, it’s actually more than just a basic amp simulator. The iOS app lets you dive in to the innards of every included amp model and virtually rewire them to your heart’s content. Make subtle tweaks to hot rod your favorite boutique amp, or change every single component to make your own virtual hand-wired amp.
BIAS includes 36 amp models. There are 28 guitar, four bass and four keyboard/vocal amps. The interface is extremely well organized, grouping the amps logically by music genre and sonic impact: clean, blues, twang, crunch, metal, insane, acoustic and bass. Right out of the box, the amp models sound great. Very authentic sounding, warm, natural and responsive. Until now, I’ve grown accustomed to settling for slightly less than satisfying amps, but not the case here. Honestly, these amp models are on a par with the ones in my Line 6 Pod HD 500.
Persistently arranged across the bottom of the screen are input and output level controls, as well as a noise gate and room simulator. I always turn the noise gates off in these apps, because I don’t run insanely high-gain rigs, but the room simulator is a really welcome addition here. It’s adjustable and really sweetens up the tone to make it sound all the more realistic.
That’s great, and probably worth the $19.99 price tag by itself (it’s very refreshing to have access to the complete collection for one price rather than having to make a bunch of in-app purchases), but what obviously sets BIAS apart is the ability to mix and match all the parts of the amp that combine magically to make unique tones. The app allows you to change preamp tube types and voicing, adjust bias, swap out various transformer types and change speakers and cabinets. You can even easily move the equipment being used to mic the virtual amp around the 3D space to get exactly the sound you’re after.
The in-app help system is great. Hit the customary question mark icon on any screen and helpful guides pop up to not only help you find your way around the app’s interface, but also to explain just how each component can potentially impact the tone of the rig you are creating. Very cool stuff, making the whole process very accessible, even if you’re not a gear nerd.
When you get the amp exactly the way you want it, you can hit one button and load your custom amp into Positive Grid’s JamUp app and start adding stomp boxes and effects before and after the amp and record with JamUp’s 8-track recorder. BIAS is also Inter-App Audio and Audiobus compatible, so you can also use it with Apple’s GarageBand.
I am really, really pleasantly surprised with how great this app sounds. Editing the components is a breeze and it’s easy to hear the difference every change makes. I’m sure I’ll have fun as I continue to play with it, but for right now I’m happy just playing through the preset amps. The ’67 Dumble Clean is my favorite at the moment, but there are some other great amps in the Blues category and even the Acoustic simulator amp has a really pleasing sound.
It’s also really nice being able to open the customized amps in JamUp, but I almost wish it worked the other way around. I like the room simulator so much in BIAS that I find I immediately miss it in JamUp. I believe it’s the same as one of the premium pedals available in JamUp, but I’d have to buy it and use a spot in my signal chain there just to recreate what I had already in BIAS. In short, I’d love to be able to pull a stomp box or two into BIAS and add them to the sound there rather than vice versa.
And, again, I really like having all the equipment available with just one purchase. The price they are charging seems very fair for what you get. Unfortunately, when I open the amps in JamUp, it only servers as a reminder that I don’t have all the gear offered for sale in that app. It would be nice if they offered it as a package and you were just able to unlock everything all at once.
Something else I would love to see, and I really hope Positive Grid has up there sleeve, is a cookbook of recipes for how to put together some of the most sought after amps out there. Imagine being able to piece together components to recreate your favorite guitar player’s exact rig or that of a boutique amp that just hasn’t been covered by one of these amp simulators yet. I, for one, would love to be able to replicate the sound of John Mayer’s signature Two Rock amp and cabinets.
All in all… a great addition to the amp and effects modeling apps for iOS. I definitely recommend it.
I use my iPad and iPhone so often for making music now that the idea of sitting down in front of my Mac with a guitar seems almost old fashioned. Yet… it does occasionally happen. For just that situation, Agile Partners has just released a new Mac app called SteadyTune that adds a very nice tuner for any stringed instrument right to your menu bar.
I run my iMac pretty hard, so the first question I had when Agile told me about their new tuner was how much headroom it would take up in terms of processing power. As a rule, I don’t like it when apps are always on if I don’t really need them there. However, Agile put a lot of effort into making sure SteadyTune is a super lightweight application that won’t drain your system resources. I’ve been playing with it a few days now and haven’t noticed any issues at all.
It’s beautiful too, both in terms of the way it looks and the way it performs. As you can see in the screenshot, it adds a discrete little tuning fork icon to your menu bar. Clicking on that quickly brings up a very nice looking tuning visualization. When you play a note into whatever standard sound input device you’re using (I happen to have a Blue Yeti plugged in all the time for everything from GarageBand to Skype calls), Agile’s all-new tuning algorithm displays a very stable and very accurate animation that is red when you’re out of tune and turns green when you hit the note. The line moves too, as you would expect, to show you whether you are sharp or flat.
Additionally, there are a few drop down menus inside the tuning window to let you choose between different instruments and a number of specific tunings to help you tune more accurately. If you’d like to see it in action, Agile has posted a video here - http://vimeo.com/68293923.
SteadyTune is available now for $4.99 U.S. from the Mac App Store.
It’s a great time for it too. People seem to have finally gotten over the prejudice that iPads (and even iPhones) are only useful for consuming media and not creating it. Our devices and the apps being created for them are getting more and more powerful all the time. Artists are opening up and creating whole albums, videos and supporting other supporting material using only their iOS devices. Accessory manufacturers are responding in kind.
Some of the most impressive sounding microphones I’ve heard in recent months have been ones designed specifically for recording on iOS devices. The Spark Digital from Blue Microphones is probably the best example. They’re even making what they call adaptive microphones, being billed as the modern point and shoot camera of the microphone world, that take most of the guesswork out of recording setup. Pop filters are built in, de-essing happens onboard the microphone before the signal even gets to your DAW and built in shock mounts make it so you don’t have to do anything more than plug in before you record anything from a podcast to your virtuoso guitar performance.
Stay tuned to both this site and my YouTube channel as I already have products lined up to review. I can’t wait to share with you and hope to continue to get great feedback from you as things ramp back up again.
I was very pleased today to find an update for the iOS GarageBand app that addresses several of the only complaints I had about the original app and also adds some great new features.
Perhaps the biggest news is the app is now universal and supports the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. I have absolutely loved being able to create music on my iPad with GarageBand and am looking forward to seeing how the interface translates to the smaller screen. My guess is that I’ll use the iPhone version for quick ideas and sketches and then move it over to the iPad to more serious work. Then, of course, recordings can finally be moved over to the Mac for serious polish work in the desktop version of GarageBand. Quite an amazing workflow that is now possible with all three versions.
The feature I’m probably most excited about is that they’ve added support for songs written with 3/4 and 6/8 time signatures. The original version allowed only for 4/4 timing, so that’s a huge improvement.
Other features include:
This should be interesting… Arguably the master of simulated amp and effect solutions, Line 6 has announced that they will soon release both a guitar to iPhone/iPad interface and a free app that promises to bring POD tones to iOS.
Mobile In is a digital input adaptor that claims to deliver pro-quality audio specs. Line 6 says it’s capable of up to 24-bit/48 kHz digital audio and its guitar input features 110 dB dynamic range. I haven’t played with one yet, but I do expect the quality of the sound will be quite good. Part of the reason is that, similar to the GuitarJack from Sonoma Wire Works, the Mobile In plugs into the 30-pin dock connector on the iPad or iPhone and not the headphone jack. In addition to the 1/4″ guitar jack, the Mobile In also sports a 1/8″ line in so you can feed other audio sources in as well. In addition to their app, Mobile In will also work to get your guitar signal into Apple’s own Garage Band app and, presumably, other simulation apps as well. Don’t quote me on that last part though because the only one that Line 6 mentions specifically is Garage Band.
Mobile POD will feature 64 Line 6 models of “amps, stompbox effects, speaker cabinets and more.” My guess is that the “more” probably means microphone simulations. The promotional material indicates that it comes with a number of included models, so that probably means they’ll follow the same plan as other guitar apps and give you a few basic amps and effects free with the app and then have other options available as in-app purchases. Mobile POD also features the standard tuner function and the ability to play along with your music library. No mention yet of recording capabilities like other simulator apps such as AmpKit or Amplitube.
What’s really interesting is that Line 6 says that users will be able to tap into a library of more than 10,000 presets created by artists, Line 6 and other users. Hopefully they’ve engineered a way to sift through the chaff which is undoubtably present in that 10,000 if most of them are submitted by users, but still… that’ll be a really nice resource.
Line 6 hasn’t announced when the hardware or software will be available, but they are starting to promote it on their Website and in emails, so hopefully it will be soon.
Keyboardists and producers may now rejoice because there is a new option for connecting your MIDI-capable music device to your iPhone or iPod. IK Multimedia just introduced at Summer NAMM the latest in their pro-line audio interfaces for iOS, the iRig MIDI.
Guitarists with iPhones and iPads have had it easy for a while. Interfaces like the iRig and Ampkit LiNK have allowed us to plug our guitars in and play through simulated amps in apps like Amplitube. But other musicians such as keyboardists and producers used to using drum machines and other MIDI devices to make their music have had fewer options. There are lots apps that let you create other types of music, but most of them have required you to rely on screen-based input methods. While the interfaces are sometimes quite inventive and often work well, there’s usually no comparison to using a real keyboard when you want to add that perfect piano or B3 part to your composition.
The iRig MIDI is a compact standard Core MIDI interface for iOS that IK says will allow you to connect any MIDI-compatible device to the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. That would include keyboards, drum machines, drum pads, pedal boards and more. The interface works both ways too because you can also use the iOS device to control an external MIDI device such as sound modules, Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) or lighting systems.
IK’s MIDI interface comes with a free version of SampleTank for iOS, a virtual sound workstation, but iRig MIDI is also compatible with other MIDI-capable iOS apps such as GarageBand for the iPad.
At the suggested retail price of $69.99, iRig MIDI is priced similarly to other MIDI interfaces already available. IK’s dedication to iOS music creation makes this a welcome addition to the marketplace.
Just a quick note to let you know that Apple has updated the iWork suite of apps – Pages, Keynote and Numbers – that were originally available only for the iPad. All three apps are now universal apps and will work on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch! There were a few other minor tweaks in the 1.4 versions of the apps as well, better organization of documents seems to be a big one, but the ability to work on your documents no matter which device you have is clearly the biggie.
I’m still waiting for the updates to download as I write this, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the interfaces for each app translate to the smaller screen. No matter what, the added accessibility will, I’m sure, be a welcome feature!
Reading this Website on an iPad just got a whole lot cooler thanks to a new WordPress plugin called Onswipe. You don’t have to do anything differently, but from now on when you pull up big-geek.com on an iPad you’ll be presented with a new very magazine-like layout that is optimized for a touch screen tablet. The front page is just like a magazine cover that you can swipe to reveal a grid of several of the most recent articles. Tap an article to read the full story, or swipe again to go to the next page.
If you happen to run your own WordPress site, you can download the Onswipe plugin for free either through your dashboard or by visiting www.onswipe.com.
If you experience any difficulty viewing this site on an iPad because of the new plugin, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get it corrected.
When the iPad was first released, critics were quick to say that the device was great for the consumption of media but would never be a serious tool for the creation of new content. That’s changing quickly – especially when it comes to music. With more and more artists and hobbyists embracing the iPad and even the iPhone for the capture of everything from quick song sketches to full-blown productions that end up on albums.
There are a number of options for 4- and 8-track recorders and a number of guitar amp and effect modelers, most of which offer some type of recording ability. One element that has been missing, however, was the ability to add sophisticated effects to vocal performances. That’s changing now too with the introduction of VocaLive from IK Multimedia.
VocaLive works on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and offers vocalists a suite of 12 real-time studio quality vocal effects along with a capable recorder.
Here are the details:
Five Vocal Effects
Seven Studio Effects
In addition to the real-time processing, VocaLive gives you the option to record either vocals of other instruments using the multi-track recorder. You can sing along with songs from your iTunes library and even use a Voice Cancel feature to remove existing vocals. And just like IK’s guitar app Amplitube, there are tools designed for vocalists including a metronome and vocal warm-up tools.
Audio can be recorded using either the iPhone or iPad built-in microphone or you can use a headphone mic. For higher quality sound, you might consider IK’s new iRIG MIC hardware. The condenser mic built specifically for iPhone was just released. I’ll be reviewing it here on big-geek.com soon.
VocaLive is available now in the App Store in two different versions. A free expandable version comes with the Reverb effect and you can unlock the Double effect free just for registering the app. Adding more effects costs $4.99 for each vocal effect and $2.99 for each studio effect.
The full version of VocaLive costs $19.99 and comes with everything except for the 4-track recorder, which may be added to either the full or free version for $4.99.
Apple released GarageBand for the iPad a day earlier than their initial delivery date. It’s available now in the App Store for $4.99. I’m downloading it now, so I haven’t played with it yet, but I’m looking forward to testing it out.