I might just have my new favourite toy. I’m lucky enough to have been lent a pair of VOX amPhones to play with and I’ve been indulging in some of my wildest axe-wielding fantasies over the past couple of days.
If you’re a guitarist or bass player and live with people who don’t share your passion for crunchy riffs, power cords and general shredding you’ll appreciate the amPhones, which are very literally plug and play. Just pop the lead into your guitar and rock out. It’s as simple as three chords and the truth.
For the uninitiated, VOX are an iconic brand of amplifiers that were the backbone of stars of the swinging sixties such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (whatever happened to those guys?). With so many rappers and bands getting into the headphone game it’s good to see other companies getting into the mix.
The Vox amPhones come in four varieties, each recreating the iconic sound, design and characteristics of the brand’s best-known amps – the classic AC30, Lead, Bass and Twin. I’ve been playing with the Twin.
The headphones have built-in micro versions of these classic amps, including unique Valve Reactor technology, and have been specially manufactured by Audio-Technica. This is all powered by two AAA batteries which are provided.
All the controls are little dials on the earpiece so you can adjust volume, tone, gain and even toggle effects. Sadly it’s impossible to see what you’re adjusting and in the heat of a solo it’s easy to get confused as all the dial feel the same. I’m sure you’ll learn (and it’s also pretty obvious what’s changing from the sound) but it would be nice if you can tell from touch alone – maybe by using slightly different sized dials. But it’s a small grumble.
The standard sound from the headphones is already pretty good and one of the dials provides reverb, chorus and delay effects. These sound great, although it would be nice to be able to tweak them a little more. Then again … these are a pair of headphones and it’s a testament to how good they sound that you want to modify the sound even more. There’s an aux input in case you want to play along to one of your favourite jams. And we you turn the amp off you can just use the amPhones as regular headphones – which sounds great and are pretty comfortable.
I you love guitar and lack space these are a great buy. Out now for £119. For more details on purchasing head to Vox
IK Multimedia’s iRig STOMP is the first stompbox-style guitar and bass interface for iPhone/iPad. If you are unfamilar with stompboxes they are small pedals used by guitarists and bassists to control their effects without tying up their hands – useful for songs that have that Pixies style quiet-quiet-LOUD dynamic. The iRig STOMP fits in snugly with your exisiting set up allowing analogue and digital music to live side by side.
As you’d expect iRig STOMP is about the size of a standard compact pedal. The iRig STOMP’s device jack routes a signal to your iOS device and returns the signal to the main output or headphone jacks. There’s a giant gain knob to set your input signal to its optimum level plus a bypass switch to completely bypass the signal processing like a regular stompbox pedal.
The Flexible Signal Routing of the iRig STOMP lets you to use it (i) with a guitar amp as your effects signal chain and tone shaping front end; (ii) inline with your other stompboxes; or (iii) with headphones to preserve the sanity of those around you.
It’s interesting to see how manufacturers such as IK multimedia have built a whole platform on top of iOS – the iRig family of instruments now includes microphones, DJ mixers, guitar interfaces and a range of software to accompany it including AmpliTube, AmpliTube Fender or AmpliTube Slash.
We took out annual pilgrimage up to the Birmingham NEC to visit the Gadget Show Live 2012. As usual there was a weird and wonderful range of gadgets on display, but various things stood out.
IK Multimedia iRig Mic Cast Released on the first day of the Gadget Show Live, the IK Multimedia iRig Mic Cast is the latest step in IK Multimedia’s plan to plug almost everything into your iPhone. Small and lightweight, the Podcast Mic uses the 3.5 mm headphone jack (rather than the 30-pin connector) and features a monitoring output port and the ability to easily toggle between high and low levels when recording. http://www.ikmultimedia.com/irigmiccast/features/
Antares Autotune Guitar When my father was teaching me to play guitar he had the annoying habit of always, always insisting I tune my guitar before playing (as well as the annoying habit of insisting his band had already covered practically every style of music already in the 70s). Anyway, I can set his mind to rest with the Antares Auto-tune guitar. The pretty amazing onboard DSP will automatically tune your guitar for you, keep it in tune and maintain perfect intonation. It uses some very smart technology so you can switch between tunings on the fly. For more info head to http://guitar.auto-tune.com/
Bamboo Stylus duo Wacom launched a Bamboo Stylus duo for the iPad and Android tablets that combines one of the best capacitive pen tips I’ve used with a premium ball-point ink pen at the opposite end for use on old-fashioned paper. http://www.wacom.eu/index2.asp?pid=9221&spid=2&lang=en
Griffin Helo TC Assault We also popped by Griffin for some old fashioned RC helicopter fun with the Helo TC Assault, a fantasic iPhone controlled helicopter, with built-in soft missiles that you can launch across the office or living room. Check out some footage here.
Every other day new and exciting things that I can jam either in or on my iPad are released, making the device even more crazysexycool. Or to a cynic, functionality that Apple stripped out of the device is slowly and carefully restored by the hard work of third-party manufactures.
One such manufacturer is Griffin Technology Inc., who have released their latest and greatest additions to the “an iPad is a real computer camp” – the StompBox for iPad and Mic Stand Mount for iPad.
The StompBox multi-function foot controller, which integrates with the iShred LIVE app (and possibly others, we’ll find out when we test one) to give create an iPad-ready pedalboard, whilst the Mic Stand Mount is exactly what you think it is.
Griffin’s StompBox is a professional-quality pedalboard for iPad. The assignable foot switches and a 1/4″ expression pedal input, enable musicians to use their compatible iOS device (and it’s mind-bending to think that you really can run a lot of this on a phone) as a portable, programmable effects board and practice rig, recreating the experience of an actual pedalboard (where in case you didn’t know, you can switch effects with your feet, without taking your hands off the instrument).
The StompBox connects to a compatible iPad or other iOS device with a 1 metre, heavy-duty dock connector cable, and gives the user four rugged, professional quality, stomp-ready foot switches. The switches can be assigned through iShred LIVE to control different effects and pre-sets within the App. The StompBox can also control the tuner, metronome and various playback controls. An industry-standard 1/4″ input allows players to connect variable input effects like volume, expression, or wah-wah pedals, allowing more specific on-the-fly manipulation of effects and settings within iShred LIVE.
Always wanted to be in a band but had nowhere to store your chunky guitar or gargantuan drum-kit? Well now you can strum away to your heart’s content – or beat away, if drumming is your thing – on paper-thin electronic instruments.
Okay, maybe they’re not quite authentic enough to actually start a band with, but they’re more than suited to a quick play around in your house when your partner’s not around.
WowWee have released their range of Paper Jamz guitars – as well as drums and guitar amplifiers – that promise musical inspiration at the flick of a wrist. The main draw are the guitars, retailing at £24.99, which make authentic guitar noise when strummed. There’s a whole host of functions here, letting you freestyle and also play along with three pre-loaded rock anthems, including the likes of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’.
These things are tiny – as little as 3mm in bulk – but are shaped just like the real thing, letting you play on a Gibson Flying V or a Fender Strat without having to shell out hundreds of pounds.
But not only can you axe-grind, you can also tub thump. Also priced at £24.99, the Paper Jamz drum-kit is a ten-piece percussive playground that also lets you play along to tracks or solo like Animal. It’s perfect for rocking out on the kitchen table, but its status as a glorified iPhone app shouldn’t be underestimated.
It, of course, is nothing like playing the real thing, so you can only imagine the shelf-life of these lightweight instruments are rather limited. It lacks the challenge and longevity of games-based miniature-guitars like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, so, whilst being a perfect for a quick Sunday afternoon jam, this Paper Jamz range of electronic instruments will probably be left to gather dust. Perhaps investing in the real thing is the best idea.