AmpKit for iPhone is the last app in my lengthy guitar playing/recording on the iPhone review journey. Strangely enough, it’s one of the apps I first downloaded when I discovered that guitar playing and the iPhone worked so well together. So my journey has almost come full circle. And I’m glad I complete the journey here. AmpKit is one of my favourites in this field.
I should point out (and therefore I will) that AmpKit comes in a free version and the fully loaded AmpKit+ (for $19.99 USD). I have the free version that I’ve enhanced with all the in-app purchases I’ve made over time to get the sounds I’m searching for.
Getting one formality out of the way (that being “which interfaces work with this app?”), I’m able to point out one of this app’s advantages. It seems to work with heaps of them. I can say that it works with all of the interfaces I own (GuitarConnect Cable, GuitarJack, AmpKit Link and my new addition … JamUp Plug). They all work well and produce outstanding sound quality. But to be honest, of the interfaces I have, AmpKit Link works best with AmpKit. It makes sense right? It’s probably the battery powered advantage that it has. The deep metal over-driven sounds I can produce with that interface (without rupturing my ears) are outstanding.
But enough talk of sounds (for now), let’s look at the app in living greyscale!
If you focus on the main menu on the bottom of the app (first screenshot below) it appears that there’s not much to see in this app. That assumption would be a huge mistake. Let’s start on the My Setups screen and see how deep this app goes.
The My Setups screen shows a list of all the amplifier/pedal combinations you’ve put together (or collected) in your installation of AmpKit. On this screen you can scroll through your options until you find the sound you’re after and simply click on it to activate it. You can also favourite some settings by clicking the space located by the little star. This will come in handy later if you’ve collected quite a few different sounds.
You can also click the + symbol in the top-right of the app to add a new setup of your own (you’ll notice I have New Setup 10 in the screenshot below ready for editing). Finally, you can click the pencil icon to edit your saved sounds.
Clicking the pencil icon activates the edit settings. If you click on the name of your setup you’ll be able to edit its name, lock it (so the settings can’t be edited accidentally), favourite/unfavourite it, duplicate it or email it. That’s another seriously cool feature of AmpKit. You can share your presets. Stay tuned for proof of that.
Clicking the little warning icon that appears to the left of each setup in the Edit screen brings up the Delete button. I’m pretty sure you can work out what clicking that button will do to your setup. Be sure before you click.
The Presets screen is similar to the My Setups screen. It displays the presets that you have available to you in your version of AmpKit (based on your app version and any purchases you’ve made in-app). You can sort the presets by clicking the View icon in the top-right of the app. This alternates your view between alphabetical and categorised.
From the My Setups or Presets screens you can click on the setup of your choice to really get into your app and your playing/recording possibilities. Your first screen will show you your amp head, cabinet, microphone and pedal/s. Depending on the number of pedals you have in your setup, you may need to scroll to see them all. I’m not aware of an actual limit on the number of pedals you can run in AmpKit. That’s exciting and a huge potential time waster for me. I’m OK with that.
Before I show you the options you have for the amps, cabinets, microphones and pedals, I’ll quickly point out the section to the left of the On button that appears in the top-right of the app. This is the setup’s name. Clicking it brings up a screen that allows you to favourites, setups and presets in another way and from another location.
Back in the detailed view of your setup, you can click on any item to edit it or change it to something else. Let’s look at the amp head first.
There are different settings for each amp head (as each amp is different). Some amps will give you the clean channel and the lead channel like the Taos Rectifier while some will also give you the rhythm channel. The sliders will vary from one amp to another as well. Changing to another amp is as simple as clicking on the current amp’s name/picture. You’ll then see a list of amp heads at your disposal (followed by those you can purchase from the in-app store).
The same system applies to the cabinets in AmpKit. Clicking on the cabinet on the main screen takes you to a list of cabinets already available (and available for purchase through the in-app gear store).
Placed in front of the cabinet on the setup screen is the microphone that is used in the sound you’re currently using. Changing the microphone is as simple as changing the cabinet or amp head. An added feature in AmpKit is the ability to position the microphone on-axis or off-axis. It adds another level of tonal variety to your guitar playing.
Finally, you have the ability to edit the pedals in your setup. When you click on the pedal you bring up its details. Clicking its title/picture allows you to view the other pedals on offer. Just as the amp heads and cabinets were setup, you can scroll through those you’ve already purchased and those you can purchase from the in-app gear store (should you feel the need).
Another one of AmpKit’s special features—one that makes sure it stands apart from the majority of its competitors—is its ability to manipulate the pedal placement. It’s really easy to change the pedal order. It’s also easy to place a pedal after the amplifier or cabinet. That’s seriously cool.
You can also remove pedals from your chain on this screen. The levels of customisation are high and we haven’t left the top area of the app yet (from within a setup). Let’s do that … Now.
On the bottom row of AmpKit you have access to the Metronome and Tuner (which share one button and piece of pop-up real estate). To activate each feature you click its button on the left of the area that pops up. The Tuner is very accurate giving you a visual/graphical representation of your tuning as well as the displayed cents either way in your tuning.
The Metronome has its positives and its negatives for me. Let’s look at the negatives first. I don’t seem to see a tap feature allowing me to tap the tempo I’m after. I suppose that’s a negative, not negatives. I can live with that though. The positives out-weigh that singular negative.
When the Metronome is activated you can simply scroll the wheel until you get the tempo you’re after. You can also click on the displayed tempo to access the Metronome’s additional features.
The AmpKit Metronome allows you to select the sound style you get, the time signature the beat plays to and the volume it plays back at. The time signature is a very cool feature. Most apps give you a standard 4/4 beat.
Another feature accessed on the bottom row of buttons (when inside a setup) in AmpKit is the Options screen. This screen allows you to adjust the backing track that plays when you’re playing and/or recording, volume and looping of the backing track, recording prep time, multi-tasking and mode features.
The backing tracks you have to choose from consist of the tracks that come with the app and any recordings you’ve made yourself already. You can therefore create multi-track recordings from with AmpKit.
One of the key features in this area of the app is of course the recording facility. Clicking the Record button opens the recording pop-up area. When you’re ready to record, hit the square Record button and start playing your guitar.
The last button on the bottom row of this area (on the far right) is the Input button. On this screen you can view the current input details, adjust the noise & feedback filter, input & output gain and turn on/off the feedback adjustment control.
One thing I noticed was that even with the GuitarJack interface plugged in, the Hardware Input stated I was using the headphone jack. Everything worked; I was just hoping this would change to show the connection I was actually using.
Once you’ve made a recording (assuming you have), you should exit the setup screen to gain access to the main menu of the app again. From here you can access the Recordings screen and listen to your recorded masterpiece.
Your last recording is probably named Session X (where X is the last number you see in the list). To access the song you are interested in, click it. This takes you to the Session’s Details screen.
If you’d like to export the session, click the icon in the top-right corner of the app. This will take you to the Actions screen.
From here you can export the dry recording (your recording without effects applied to it) or the wet recording (the recording with the effects you were using applied to it).
If you were recording while playing over a backing track you can choose to export with the backing track or without it. Once you know what you want to export, you need to decide how you want to export. AmpKit allows you to export to Email, the clipboard or to SoundCloud.
The export to SoundCloud feature is really well put together. You can sign in to your account, add the tags you want and upload from within the app. You can also upload directly to the AmpKit Group. Very community focused. Recording and sharing is really easy in AmpKit. I’ve exported to the clipboard and seamlessly into FourTrack to build multi-layered tracks (there’s one at the end of this article).
Back in the main app, the Add Gear button allows you to purchase any missing pieces (or missing LiNKs) that you may still need.
You can also get a summary of the purchases you’ve already made. Very handy.
The last section of the AmpKit app is the Info screen. It’s broken up into the Help, News and Feedback screens. Each one jam packed with details. Just like the rest of the app really.
And there you have it. Another lengthy review for an app that allows you to play and record your guitar on the iPhone. Thanks for reading this far. If you didn’t read all the words, I hope you enjoyed the pictures (they’re below). Either way, this article is nothing without sounds. Because that’s what AmpKit is all about. Luckily for us all, it does them well (graphics and sounds). Better than I can portray with my regular guitar playing. Nonetheless, I hope you get some concept of what is possible through these two sound files.
Remediate is a track that includes four alternate layers exported from AmpKit into FourTrack by Sonoma WireWorks, The two apps work seamlessly together. Beaten is a simple riff that was recorded over one of the backing tracks that comes with AmpKit and uploaded directly to SoundCloud from within the app. AmpKit sure does know how to make life easy.
Did you happen to enjoy those sounds? Would you like to hear them in your own installation of AmpKit? Well you can if you open the following links from within the app. Enjoy!