Amp ONE transforms your iPad into a high quality guitar tube preamp / guitar cabinet with a set of the most important effects for making music in real-time. Just plug your guitar and headphones / stereo and rock out!
Last week I posted about an update to Amp ONE and mentioned I'd never noticed it before. The reviews in the App Store were good and readers Jeff and Slim chimed in positively. So I promised to check it out properly and I'm happy to report that I'm glad I did!
I have spent a lot of time with my favorite Amp simulator Bias by Positive Grid. It's great. It's fun it sounds good ... but it offers and needs a lot of tweaking. Additionally guitar effects aren't part of the Bias app, you have to purchase JamUp or JamUp Pro and open your Bias creations in there to take advantage of delays, chorus, reverb and so on. It's a very slick and graphically rich process but after arriving at a satisfying result I'm usually done... the coffee is drunk, a child is crying, the car won't start, the lawn has grown.... so actual guitar playing doesn't happen. And I'm terrible at saving my work. In a week all that fiddling will be lost to me in a morass of user- presets named 'untitled 1 ', Untitled 3' , 'test b' and so on. If I saved anything at all.
So when I installed Amp One I was pleasantly surprised ... no excited ... by how quickly this app rewarded me with some amazingly usable tones!!!!
Alright, there was a five minute pause where I couldn't get a sound at all .... after checking all my cables, my guitar interface ( an Apogee One ), sound from another App... I discovered Amp ONE has a master On/Off toggle at the top right of the UI next to the Preferences gear icon. First criticism .... yes it's user error but a little label please?
Once I got Amp ONE turned on ( OK stop laughing. Is there a guitarist out there who hasn't stood listening to the ringing in their ears wondering why the noise won't come out? ) it just sounded great. My guitar is an old '70's Strat, beaten up, very uncollectible, retrofitted with some Pickups from a guy in Australia named Chris Kinman. As an aside these things will take any Strat style guitar and raise it up where is has no right to belong. The sound of Amp ONE was full, the distortion tight, there was a definite response to playing style and I was impressed.
Now, in terms of real amps I have been at various times, a long term owner of Marshall ( head plus cabinet style ) , Fender, Peavey and Roland amps ( all combo style ). So I have at least a notion of how the Fender and Marshall models on offer here stack up (Get it? I did that on purpose you know.... ). The Marshall felt good. I wanted to tweak it straight away, but some care with input levels, gain balancing and some EQ improved it quickly. I then went to the Fender Model which if truth be told, is where my sonic preferences live! Initially it was a bit crunchy for my taste ... but instantly recognizable as a Fender tone ... and lowering the gain and raising the output cleaned things up admirably and gave my rhythm playing that shimmering, brightness I love.
Switching between the other five models was similarly impressive ... particularly the E530 ( an Engl 530 Tube Guitar Preamp ... I had to Google it... ). Although the default setting was fairly high gain I felt this one just shined with effortless shimmer and harmonic interplay when cleaned-up with some lower gain and a bit of tweaking with the EQ controls.
About those controls. Each amp model reflects controls available on the real amp (I guess). So some parameters change between model selections ( eg Channel configuration lead, bright, rhythm, etc ). Tone controls are fairly standard, Bass, Middle, Treble usually and they do their job. Besides the Amp controls there are Cabinet adjustments, a Noise Gate and some effects: a chorus, a delay and a reverb. Boom. Done. What is nice is that they are almost all visible in one window on my iPad. It's not that pretty, but when I've got a guitar plugged in and I'm trying to play and listen, the minimal graphic design is perfect. It's fast and intuitive. I'm a guitar player, I like that.
Turns out the Cabinet controls are the most critical IMO. Turning the Cabinet off gets ugly fast, but the adjustments make a massive change to the overall sound for each amp model. More than in other apps. The Absorption in particular can totally kill the life of your tone... so watch out it doesn't accidentally get turned up! The noise gate works well, the Chorus is really nice and the Reverb is very spacious and flattering to guitar sounds. Better than most. I think the Delay needs work ... I especially dislike the ping pong stereo panning of the echoes...ew.
I found a couple of bugs ... turning down the 'Reverb at 0' kicks in super high Gain somewhere in the chain ... but nothing to bring the show down. After playing with Amp ONE for an extended period I returned to Bias. On balance I felt Bias had a slightly better low end. More solid, or round, a feeling more than a hearing. But it definitely requires more fiddling, adjustment, window switching and thinking than Amp ONE.
Amp ONE plays well in an AudioBus chain and recordings I made sounded great. No Inter App Audio (IAA) support yet, I've read it's hard to do, but maybe it will come.
On the whole Amp ONE at $9.99 is a deal. If you were tossing up between the combination of Bias/JamUp and Amp ONE at non-discount prices I'd go for Amp ONE. If you like to just plug in and play, I'd go for Amp ONE. Hell I might just go for Amp ONE most of the time.
Or get them both ... or all the Amp sims out there. Combined they wouldn't cover the tax on an actual Fender Twin or Marshall Stack. We truly live in the days of wonders!