Quick Pick: Waves iGTR

Portable guitar multi-effects processor
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The Waves iGTR is an extremely compact guitar processor for on-the-go practice and jamming.

The pocket-size guitar processor is hardly a new idea; quite a few gizmos offer layers of effects with diverse levels of programmability and connectivity. Some can even record audio, loop, and change tempo. These small gadgets can be very handy in this era of mobile music making, and besides, most guitarists love small, handy gadgets.

With its iGTR ($79.99), Waves has taken the guitar-processor-and-interface concept and put it in a very small footprint: the device is housed in an attractive black plastic case that is roughly the size of an iPod. It is powered by four AAA penlight batteries (included) or by a 6 to 9 VDC external power supply (not included). A black plastic clip lets you attach the iGTR to a guitar strap or belt, which is handy because the lightweight unit can get tossed around, even when you just move the guitar cable slightly.

PORTS OF CALL

I plugged my Brian Moore iGuitar 8.1.3 into the unbalanced ¼-inch guitar input on the bottom of the iGTR. An ⅛-inch stereo auxiliary input and 50 cm (approximately 19.7-inch) cable with ⅛-inch plugs accepts the output of an MP3 player or other sound source so you can play along with recordings. You can also feed the output of another iGTR to the aux input, allowing you to jam with a friend. A level slider for the aux input is provided on the right side of the unit.

The top of the device hosts two ⅛-inch headphone/line-out jacks, so you can monitor on headphones or powered speakers and use the second output to feed a recording device, a guitar amp, or another iGTR. I would have preferred a ¼-inch output, but given the size of the unit, the ⅛-inch jack is a reasonable choice. The power switch sits next to the two output jacks, and when you power up the iGTR, the letter i in the stenciled iGTR logo turns bright red. A single slider controls the level of both outputs.

THREE AMIGOS

The iGTR incorporates three dedicated processors, one for Effects, one for Amplifier (models), and one for Ambience. In each of these categories, a slider selects one of three effects and a dial adjusts a preset parameter. Which parameter the dial controls depends on the effect. For example, in the Ambience category, if you select the reverb or chorus, you can control only the amount. When you select the delay, the dial adjusts delay time. (It would be nice to adjust the delay amount as well.) When any parameter dial is turned all the way to the left, that effect is bypassed.

In the Effects section you get wah, tremolo, and phaser, each of which sounds terrific. I particularly liked the wah, which is an envelope-controlled filter. With a quick tweak of the dial to adjust the sensitivity, I easily found the sweet spot for my playing touch and was able to create some very expressive sounds. An equally attractive tremolo brought out the Pop Staples vibe, especially when I added a touch of drive. The phaser reminded me of a cleaner, quieter version of my old MXR Phase 90.

The Amplifier section offers a choice of warm, normal, or bright amp models, and that's about it. Waves does not claim to be modeling specific guitar amps, but the models sound good, particularly at clean or mildly overdriven settings. For all three amp models, the parameter dial adjusts amp drive.

The one big sonic fly in the ointment is the iGTR reverb in the Ambience section. With its cheap-sounding, tremulous reflections, it sounds like a delay unit that has been inexpertly repurposed as a pseudoreverb. In light of the fine reputation Waves has earned with its reverb plug-ins — especially its revered Renaissance — this reverb is very disappointing. As for the other two effects in this section, the chorus sounds rich and warm. The delay sounds fine but its usefulness is limited; as noted, the only parameter is delay time, and it cannot be synchronized.

BEDROOM BUDDY

Overall, the iGTR is a nice, relatively inexpensive practice tool. I wouldn't use it as a performing or recording device because of its limited feature set and lackluster reverb. Competing products for that application cost only $100 more, and they are equally portable and offer programmable memory, considerably more simultaneous effects, ¼-inch I/O, USB connectivity, a display, and superior reverb. So unless your budget is extremely tight, look elsewhere for gigging and recording effects.

But based on the images on Waves' iGTR Web page, it appears that the iGTR is geared toward young guitarists who mostly want to have fun. Certainly, the instant gratification derived from simplified tweaking options is undeniable. And as a practice tool, it strikes a decent balance between portability and pragmatism, with a retail price that is less than half that of its closest practice-amp competitors. If you're the parent of a budding guitarist, your kid will probably get a bigger kick out of the iGTR than you will.

Value (1 through 5): 3
Waves
waves.com