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Amplitube on Android – iRig UA Review

Finally, someone has done it!  Quality digital effects are now available to the most popular (and significantly superior imho) mobile OS in the world.  That’s right, IK Multimedia has brought their extremely popular amp/effect modeling software Amplitube to Android.  As you can probably already tell, being an Android fanboy, I couldn’t be happier.  So now the real question, is it any good?

For my review I used the iRig UA, which is a universal audio interface for all Android devices using Jelly Bean (OS 4.2) and up.  My primary testing device is a 2014 Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4”.  In order to use Amplitube an IK Multimedia audio interface is required.  Most Android users will need the iRig UA.  There is a second model, the iRig HD-A, that is available for select Samsung devices.

The iRig UA is a pretty simple device, it features a ¼” input jack for your guitar or bass, a ⅛” input aux jack so you can jam along with your favorite tracks, a ⅛” output for your headphones or to connect your amp or PA (an additional ⅛” to ¼” adapter is required if using an amp or PA), the output level is controlled by a volume dial, and finally a micro USB port for connection to your Android device.  The iRig UA ships with a micro USB to micro USB cable so you’re ready to go right out of the box.  The device itself is made out of durable plastic and features a multi-colored LED light that shows you when power is on and also changes color to let you know if your input volume is too high or too low.

iRig_UA_With_Amp

To get started with Amplitube UA, you’ll need to download the free app from the Google Play Store, click here to download Amplitube UA.  Make sure to register your iRig UA with IK Multimedia, because when you do, they open up an additional Distortion Pedal in the app.

 
After several hours of playing with the iRig UA and Amplitube UA, I’m very happy with IK Multimedia’s first entrance into the world of Android.  Here are a few of my favorite features:

 
The Good:
-Killer Sound – Okay, to be fair, Amplitube isn’t going to sound as great as a room full of vintage tube amps and boutique pedals.  That being said, it is easily the best amp/effect simulation option available for Android.  The sounds and effects are very usable.  They’re perfect for a late night jam through headphones and jamming with friends when you don’t want to bring your entire rig.  Heck, I’ve already set up several presets that I’ll use for practices and small gigs.

-Latency, What? – The biggest issue with amp and effect modeling for Android has been latency.  Due to the hardware inconsistencies, it has been nearly impossible for developers to create usable audio apps.  In order to work around this, the iRig UA is literally an outboard sound card, which essentially bypasses the Android device’s internal sound card.  By doing this, IK Multimedia has been able to bring the latency to a non-discernible level, which essentially makes it no different than working with any other digital effects processor.

-So Easy a Drummer Could Use it – That’s my nice way of saying it is incredibly user friendly.  All of the amps and effects are setup with virtual knobs, making them as easy to tweak as your physical setup.  There’s virtually no learning curve when it comes to finding the perfect sound.  Additionally, you have several user presets available so you can save your settings for easy recall in the future.    When comparing Amplitube UA to the different multi-effects processors and modeling amps I’ve demoed, it has the best interface I have used, hands down.

-It’s Good and It’s Only Going To Get Better – Okay, there is a bit of speculation going on here on my part, but… if the development of Amplitube for IOS is any indicator, over the next several years we’re going to be seeing more effect, more amps, and more features.   Since its initial launch, we’ve already seen a whole pack of Fender Amps added to Amplitube UA.  I’m already waiting in anticipation for what IK Multimedia will unveil next.

The Not So Good:
-Good But Limited – While I’m excited to see future development, we don’t have it yet.  Out of the box you get 5 amps and 9 effects.  For an additional $40 you can add 15 amps and  7 effects (less than $2 each). While you can certainly get some great sounds, I’m already left wanting more.  Especially when I look at all of the options that are available for IOS.

iRig_UA_Clip

 
-Blast From The Past – I realize that Amplitube UA is the first foray into Android and is likely being ported over from an IOS version.  That being said, I wish that IK Multimedia could have brought over a newer version of Amplitube.  As of right now, there’s only a portrait version of the software, no landscape mode.  This isn’t a huge deal, but I would really prefer to have it in landscape when using my table. Like the previous point, this is likely to be remedied over time.

-And My Amp Plugs In Where? – While by no means a deal killer, instead of sporting a ⅛” headphone jack, I really wish the iRig UA had a full sized ¼” jack.  This is really just a preference, but in my home studio I have dozens of 1/4” to 1/8” adapters because they are commonly shipped with headphones, but I couldn’t find a 1/8” to 1/4” adapter so I ended up going to Radio Shack to buy one.  

-Clip, Velcro? – Once again, not a deal killer, but I really wish the iRig UA box had a belt clip or some type of bracket on the back of it.  I have my table secured to my mic stand with an iKlip Xpand, but my iRig UA has just kind of been handing in open space without a convenient place to put it.  Ultimately, I stuck some velcro on the back of it and added the other side to the iKlip Xpand. It would have been nice if the box had a clip or something on the back to better help secure it.

Final Thoughts:
If you’re looking at the iRig UA my guess is you either have a limited gear budget and are looking for lots of effects without spending too much, or you’re someone looking for a convenient way to plug in late at night or on the run.  Either way, the iRig UA + Amplitube UA is a pretty solid choice.  From both a sounds standpoint and a usability standpoint, I prefer it to basically every sub-$200 multi-effect units I have tested out.  That being said, if you’re going to purchase the iRig UA, I would allot an additional $40 and purchase the entire amp/effect catalog that is currently available.  To be perfectly honest, I haven’t purchased it yet, but based on my experience with IOS versions of Amplitube, I’m confident that you’ll be much happier with your purchase if you have more amp and effect options at your disposal.

The street price for the iRig UA is $99 and is available through most music retailers.  You can purchase it directly from IK Multimedia here.  Amplitube UA is a free amp, but as previously mentioned, plan on spending $40 to get all of the available amps and effects.  You can download the free app here.

Have you tried out the iRig UA?  If so, we’d love to hear your feedback.  Feel free to comment below or connect with me on twitter @guitarguytim

Until next time,

-“GuitarGuy” Tim

About the author

Tim Hemingway

I want to be a rockstar when I grow up, at least that is what I have been putting down as my career goal ever since I was first introduced to the Beatles at 11 or 12 years old. Shortly after my introduction to the Fab Four, I picked up an old classical guitar and started learning every Beatles song I could. It was right around that time that the nickname "GuitarGuy" Tim originated. While I don't remember the exact origin, it was basically how kids at school differentiated me from the other 4 or 5 Tims in our class. Starting in Jr. High, with an arsenal of Weezer and Green Day covers, my friends and I began "performing". Over the next 10 years I played guitar or bass in various alternative, punk and acoustic bands. Somewhere mid-way through college I realized that although I had the desire to be a rockstar, maybe I didn't have the songwriting abilities, so I moved my passion for music behind the console. I then spent several years working in a studio by day, and at night running everything from local concerts to community musicals. Without all of the boring details, my studio work eventually led me into advertising and marketing which is what I now do during the day. But when I come home at night, I still pull out my guitar and put on concerts for my kiddos (I’m raising up the next generation of Guitar Gods). I met up with the Rev while I was in grad school and was working on my thesis: Turn it up to Eleven: A Study of Guitar Hero and Rockband gamers. Why they play and how marketers can use this information. Yes, it is true. I have several academic publications about Guitar Hero. At that time in my life I had decided to pursue a career in marketing within the music industry, but the Rev had a better idea. He gave me a shot at reviewing gear, and ever since then I have been a regular here as part of the Live2playNetwork dysfunctional-family. When it comes to music, I'm a jack of all trades. While I'm not an expert at anything, in a pinch I can play guitar, bass, drums, sing, or I can mic up the drum kit, edit in Pro Tools, or solder up a new patch cable.

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