THE BIG PICTURE
Some people still haven’t gotten the memo that Peavey creates pretty incredible technology, but maybe they’ll figure it out after using the AmpKit system, which transforms your iPhone, iPod Touch (except 1st-gen), and iPad into a sophisticated, low-latency, extensible amp and effects sim. You can download a free app with 2-channel ValveKing amp, two cabs, noise gate, overdrive, and two mics; but for $20 the AmpKit+ package provides three additional amps and eight more effects. You can buy more à la carte components; so far a total of 12 amps, 13 cabs, 16 effects, and eight positionable mics are available. Okay, maybe we didn’t get the jetpacks we were promised for the future, but turning your phone into a versatile virtual backline for your studio is pretty cool.
The AmpKit LiNK interface has a hi-Z 1/4" in, 1/8" headphone/line out, and plug that interfaces with the iThing-of-your-choice audio, thus circumventing some of the incompatibility issues with devices that interface via the data port. (AmpKit LiNK even works with the Android, although at this point, the AmpKit app doesn’t.) It requires two AAA batteries, but for a great reason: Recognizing many people will be using earbuds and high-gain amps, Peavey’s active design minimizes feedback. This alone gets two thumbs up. The software’s from Agile Partners, who already have a solid reputation for other guitar-oriented apps. They know what they’re doing.
“Intuitive” is overused, but this system is totally obvious. And it’s more than just a 21st-century Scholz Rockman, as you can record your playing to provide a backing track, or even re-amp within the app (recording automatically creates an additional dry track). You can import other backing tracks, and export to a computer; you’ll also find a metronome and tuner. Most importantly, the AmpKit system has sounds that back up the potential. The amps are smooth—warm, even—the effects are accurate, and the overall sound quality rocks as long as you don’t push levels to the point of digital internal clipping.
HITS AND MISSES
I wasn’t expecting the system to be this good, even though I’m well aware of Peavey’s high-tech expertise. I mean, c’mon, it’s a freakin’ phone. But it seems Peavey took this project really seriously instead of just jumping on the iBandwagon.
The price multiplies quickly if you want all the effects and amps, but it’s only high when compared to the ultra-low-cost world of apps; by real-world standards, the entire system and a bunch of effects are exceptionally cost-effective.
Sure, mobile guitarists will love this. But maybe this also signals a redefinition of the entry-level market. Had this been around when I was starting, I would likely have seen it as a better option than buying something like a multieffects— especially for serving as a studio processor capable of a huge variety of sounds. Just play through it: You’ll become a believer.
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