Over the last few years there has been an influx of home recording devices hitting the market. The affordability of computers coupled with inexpensive and opensource audio software has made it possible for even the most novice player to record high quality demos, and in some case final audio files, in his/her bedroom.
Over the past week I have had the opportunity to test out IK MultiMedia’s (the parent company of Amplitube) StealthPlug CS, a simple ¼” to USB converter which is powered by the previously mentioned industry leading amp/effect modeling software.
When I first received the StealthPlug CS, my primary question (which I’m sure many of you also have) was, “What makes this better/different than every other ¼” to USB cable I can buy at any big box retailer.” Here is what I discovered:
Easy setup! The StealthPlug CS comes with software for both PC and Mac. It takes a few minutes to install, then you plug in and you’re ready to go!
Seamless integration with Amplitube CS. The software is no doubt the biggest advantage to the StealthPlug CS over all of the competition. The interface is easy to use, sounds great, and is completely customizable. The StealthPlug CS also comes with a 50 point credit to the Custom Shop store. With effects starting as low as 3 credits, 50 points can take you very far in creating your dream rig.
Looking for jam loops? The StealthPlug CS makes it incredibly easy to create guitar and bass loops on your computer for jamming over, eliminating the need for a lesser-guitarist to play rhythms while you play face-melting solos.
Ideal for direct line recording. I A/B’d the StealthPlug CS with my modeling amp and my multi-effects processor, and for direct line recording the StealthPlug CS takes the cake. It is much quieter and more natural sounding than either of the other options. One thing I was really impressed with was the volume decay. With both my modeling amp and my effects processor, volume decay gets very choppy when quiet, and ultimately goes from low volume to silence real fast. The StealthPlug CS/Amplitube combo gives you a nice natural decay, no choppy steps as things get quiet. This was a HUGE bonus for me.
Ideal for late night jam sessions. Have kids, roommates or neighbors who don’t like hearing squealing pinch harmonics at 3 AM? No problem, turn on your computer, plug in your headphones and jam as if you’re Marshall was cranked to 11!
Impractical for live scenarios. Unfortunately, the StealthPlug CS isn’t going to replace the 500 lbs of gear you’re lugging around to each and every gig. I wouldn’t bring this up if it wasn’t touted as a feature on IK’s website and in the printed instructions that come with the StealthPlug CS. To use the StealthPlug CS live, you’ll have to use an ?” to ¼” adapter from the module to connect a standard guitar cable. You now have two cables coming off your guitar, one to your amp or P.A., the other to your computer… Yeah, it’s going to be messy. Additionally there really isn’t an easy way to enable/disable effects mid song without a mouse click (tap your fretboard with one hand, click your mouse with the other…). That being said, IK MultiMedia also offers a StealthPedal stompbox controller, which appears to be better suited for live scenarios. I haven’t had an opportunity to test it out, so do your homework if your ultimate goal is to use one of these products on stage.
Cumbersome design. Okay, now I’m just getting picky. The StealthPlug module hangs about 12” below your guitar, which really isn’t ideal for any situation. It places your volume just out of reach, and hits the side of your leg while you’re playing. I remedied this situation by stealing an elastic hair tie from my wife and attaching the StealthPlug CS to my guitar strap. A belt clip on the back of the module would have gone a long way.
Vocals anyone? Vocals? With as much as I loved the Amplitube software, it isn’t a multi-track recording platform. It allows for four guitar/bass tracks (no drums, no vocals), which is perfect for jamming, but not recording. I realized the product works with pretty much any software out there, and if you already own software or know what you want, great. If you’re the complete novice, you may be frustrated when you realize that right out of the box you won’t have a multi-tracking home recording studio.
Like any piece of gear, the StealthPlug CS has its strengths and weaknesses depending on what your ultimate goal is. If you’re looking for a clean, simple way to record guitar/bass tracks, or looking for a plethora of effects for late night jam sessions, you’re going to love it! If you’re looking for an abundance of effects for live performances, you may want to pass and look for a multi-effects processor or a modeling amp.