AmpliTube 2 arrives today with new effects, recording, bounce to audio, export/import, practice tools, and in-app purchase of extra stomp modules. I’ve been playing with a pre-release version for the last few days. Combined with an audio interface like IK Multimedia’s own iRig, AmpliTube 2 turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a handheld, pocket-able workstation.

But let’s step back for a moment and consider what that means. What would you want a device to do for your music if that device fit in the palm of your hand?

Last week, I raised the question of physical size, inspired by a great quote by Sasha Frere-Jones – there regarding listening, not creation, but just as apt. The message was, in short, size matters. An iPhone is not an amp. But an amp – a big box designed for the purpose of making lots of sound – is not an ideal practice tool. So, one of the clear advantages of something like AmpliTube is the ability to plug in a personal listening device and just practice, complete with effects and amp sounds, without disturbing others. AmpliTube 2 accordingly adds news practice tools, by importing sounds and allowing you to adjust speed of playback, ideal for learning tracks.

AmpliTube, coupled with a US$40 (street) iRig, lets you record and monitor simultaneously via a single 1/4″ jack input. Other accessories work, as well. Stick this next to your other gear, and you can always record and add effects to sounds as you create them.

But AmpliTube isn’t just for guitarists wanting a pocket-sized practice amp. With AmpliTube’s beefed-up recording capabilities and effects, it becomes a handheld recording sketchpad, not only for guitarists but anyone wanting to record, well, anything. That has two advantages. It’s mobile, so you can record in a practice studio without opening up a whole laptop. But more subtly, it can be a tool better-suited to sketching ideas and building the raw materials of a track than a full-blown DAW is.

Think of it this way: you’re fiddling with a synth, or playing a quick guitar line, or making sounds with a toy you got off of eBay. Sure, you could immediately open your DAW, but then you’re in the mindset of a tool designed to build finished tracks. For play and exploration, staying away from the computer, and using something scaled to your hand that you can carry anywhere, can be a big boon to performance. As we saw with Moog’s Filtatron earlier this month, having a tool that not only records audio but adds some creative effects enroute can be a whole lot of fun. Now, you can add AmpliTube to the same category.

Producers long ago discovered the advantage of the bounce: it commits you to making a sound that you can’t touch. With all that audio apps can do, that can be critical.

Many readers have complained that iPhone apps and the like win big on novelty, but don’t fit into their workflow. That means subtle additions – easy bouncing of tracks, easy syncing of files to and from a computer – are absolutely essential.

I also think feel like MusicRadar is asking the wrong questions:
Can you record a full song with AmpliTube 2 for iPhone? [MusicRadar]

My answer, personally: who cares? If we constantly compare iOS apps to their desktop counterparts, we can easily miss the point of both. To me, it’s more fair to ask, how is recording a song on an iPhone different than doing it on a computer? I hope to have some quick videos of AmpliTube and Filtatron in the next couple of weeks, but I find them terrific tools for capturing ingredients for later productions, and as companions to other mobile devices. Kudos to the blog Palm Sounds. Before the iPhone was even announced, that author appreciated the advantage of making things smaller, for creativity and practicality, appreciated that they’re not a different animal, not simply a replacement for existing tools.

AmpliTube is just one of many tools competing in this space, but with some of the potential of handhelds in mind, here’s a tour of what’s new in AmpliTube 2.

Record: A free, included one-track recorder tracks input, with or without effects, to audio. You can also add effects afterward. A paid-add-on (US$9.99/EUR7.99) will boost the recorder to multi-track functionality, as pictured here, and adds a master effects section with reverb, EQ, and compression. But there’s something nice about the simplicity of the one-track version, too.

“Re-amping” also means you could bring some raw field recordings or audio snippets and experiment with adding effects while on the go. (Better get some closed earphones if you’re doing this on your morning commute, huh?)

Bounce audio: Export recordings and mixes as WAV files or (for emailing) MP3s. That should resolve complaints about the fidelity of the output on Apple’s mobiles.

File sharing, import/export: You can import songs directly from your iTunes library, or use file sharing or wifi, making it easy to grab a song for practice later – or, for producers, perhaps as a way to sketch new ideas atop existing tracks.

…and practice features: Once you’ve imported, as you can see in the controls behind the dialog above, you can practice with the track. “SpeedTrainer” slows or speeds playback without impacting pitch.

New effects, stomps: Compressor, Reverb, Parametric EQ, Graphic EQ and Limiter are all available as in-app purchases. With all the versions, including the free ones, IK say they’ve improved the sound quality of the gear and ported DSP code from their Mac and Windows software, AmpliTube 3 and T-RackS 3. You certainly get top-grade effects, I’ll say that.

Presets/snapshots: You can now name presets. That means calling up favorite combinations is easy, particularly with AmpliTube’s grid-style preset layout, pictured here.

In-app add-ons, purchases: Taking advantage of a feature afforded them by Apple, IK now sell additional add-ons. Before that turns you off, the stock versions do include plenty of effects. What’s nice here is, you can pick out what you need. We could be looking at the future of audio software in general, though this does illustrate an ongoing complaint I hear from some users about iOS: they want to be able to mix and match effects from different vendors, just as they can on PCs with technologies like VST and ReWire. So far, that isn’t possible on iOS, though developers are investigating the issue. I have to wonder, at the same time, though, whether some of those restrictions aren’t creatively useful.

And the rest… This version also features 50 song slots for import and a setup panel with input and output controls. That adds to the existing features of AmpliTube for iOS:

  • Tuner, metronome.
  • 3 simultaneous stomp slots, plus an amp with effects, cabinet, and mic settings.
  • Low-latency playback.

There are three versions; even the free version is fairly capable. (The free version also includes add-on support, so if you just want the four-track recorder, you can even add it to the free release.)

AmpliTube: 11 stompboxes, 5 amps + cabinets, 2 microphones $19.99/€15.99.
AmpliTube LE: 5 stompboxes, 1 amp + cabinet, 2 microphones $2.99/€2.39.
AmpliTube FREE: 3 stompboxes, 1 amp + cabinet, 2 microphones, free

Additional stomps are US$2.99/EUR2.39 each.

Stay tuned for some video; let us know your impressions if this is something you use.

AmpliTube 2 for iPhone

AmpliTube iRig (which, incidentally, attaches to the audio jack, not the Dock Connector – meaning you could use this and a MIDI adapter at the same time)

  • Adrian Anders

    Needs AudioCopy/Paste even if paid add-on.

  • unfun

    Is the KP-mini now obsolete?

  • jon C

    Personally, I am really loving the iPod touch as way to get ideas down quickly. I agree with you how your mindset changes when you open your DAW. Not only does my approach change but it is easy for me NOT to record something if I have to set up mics, wait for the computer to start, create a new project, etc, etc… With the iPod it is pretty much right there and I find myself using it all the time.

    My personal favorite is Sonoma's 4-track app due to its simplicity. Brings me back to the immediacy of my cassette 4 track. There is no waveform view and I hope they never add it. I realized that I am tired of looking at recordings and I find my choices somewhat different when it is all about listening. (I even set up a template in my DAW to mimic a 4 track but workflow didn't quite work out the same.)

    That's not to say that want to give up my DAW anytime soon. iPod recoding is not all a bed of roses and recording with the earbud mics is lame for sure. But as an idea capturer I am 100% sold and thrilled.

    I'll be interested in checking out amplitube 2.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, on both the DAW and miniKP sides – I think an iPhone / iPod touch can make them more useful. Look at it this way:

    1. You've got some performance app on your mobile. Plug its audio output into the audio input of the miniKP, and you have an instant, dedicated, touchable delay, effect, whatever. There's something to be said for having a big knob to switch presets and knowing any touch gesture will do something. Then you have both things battery-powered and ready to drop into a backpack.

    2. You've assembled a bunch of audio clips. Now you need a way to assemble them into a finished track… like, you know. A DAW.

    Anything that makes you more productive in one place is also likely to make you more productive somewhere else. Consider the third scenario:

    3. You're stuck for ideas. You do nothing.

    Having interesting mobile gear, by the way, is what *convinced* me to go out and buy a miniKP, so I speak from experience. :) Next, we need a suitably tiny, awesome compact mixer to go with all these gadgets.

  • http://www.jordancolburn.com Jordan Colburn

    If this had audiocopy/paste, I would buy it without question. The biggest problem developing a real workflow for me stems from the lack of audiocopy/paste in all programs. For instance I do a lot of synth and effects work in sunvox, but have no way to get that out into sonoma fourtrack or other programs like amplitube.

  • HEXnibble

    @Peter: [blockquote]I have to wonder, at the same time, though, whether some of those restrictions aren't creatively useful.[/blockquote]

    Excellent point, Peter. There's definitely something to be said about the type of limitations that encourage you to focus on the task rather than comparing available options as well as forcing one to make decisions and commit to them instead of endlessly experimenting with possibilities.

  • unfun

    Thanks for the mind-opener Peter.

    Off to grab me a miniKP…

  • Adrian Anders

    @Jordan Colburn

    I know right. Aside from Sunvox the other Apps I would like to have audiocopy/paste in:

    Rebirth

    iDrum series

    Randgrid

    Spoke

    8bitone+

    nanoloop

    I am T-Pain (c'mon ;-)

    sfxr

    megaSynth

    gliss

  • louis

    I use the AmpliTube app a lot. I love it, there's some great sounding amps in it. I love the clean up with the springy reverb on it. I wish you could push more extreme settings on that though.

    Also, I have been using in conjunction with the NSP Breakout I purchased recently, as I had used a friends iRig previously but wasn't entirely impressed.

    http://www.newsignalprocess.com/site/

    They're tanked up and handmade. A bit more expensive than the iRig but I feel it's a lot more worth it. Sounds brill.

    Wicked breakout pedal box for iPhone, iPod or iPad :)

  • Greg

    lol @ mini-kp obsolete.

    I don't care how great the touchscreen is, that looks and sounds like a nightmare to use.

  • http://apeirophobe.wordpress.com/ grimley

    This is really cool … but be careful with the free version. I was playing with it and clicked on the tape recorder section and all of a sudden lots and lots of dialogs popped up asking me to confirm purchases of various FX and things. Still don't know if i've inadvertently bought something.

  • nucleoid

    Can anyone please tell me where to can get that beautiful iphone case with the red button from the first picture?

  • HEXnibble

    @grimley:

    Still don’t know if i’ve inadvertently bought something.

    I wouldn't worry because you would know if you did. You would get prompted to confirm any purchase with your iTunes store password anyway.

  • Littlepig

    Years ago I bought a Boss MicrBR that could do all this and more…

  • Axel

    I'm (not exactly) patiently waiting for Midi support in the iOS. I have a cheap Zoom box for all my practicing needs, but I want a recording/looping/granular madness environment on my iPod that's FOOT controlable. It's coming, I'm sure. In fact, it's almost there (Supercollider!) but it needs foot control.

  • Alex
  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @nucleoid: I think it's by Contour Designs. I picked it up at Tekserve in NY. I'm sure you can find one. I am also quite fond of it.

    @Alex: Wow, terrific. I'll have to keep an eye on that to ship.

  • Andy

    I'm most likely too old for all that stupid iPhone kiddy stuff (look, this turns you iPhone into whatever). The interesting thing is that Apple is really able to create some kind of demand for overpriced toys like that (congratulation for their marketing!) and a lot of people think that they need it. Well, you DON'T.

  • http://www.sonomawireworks.com Hayden

    Hi all,

    I'm the main developer for Sonoma's AudioCopy/Paste. I'm really glad to hear its becoming a deciding factor in whether or not people buy an app. We're about to make it even better and more accessible for developers, so I'm sure you'll see it appearing in more and more music apps. If you really like IK's product but want AudioCopy/Paste, and you have a spare 10 minutes, please tell them! I'm sure they'll listen.

  • HEXnibble

    @ Andy: Go back to bed, grandpa.

  • Andy

    @Hexnibble: LoL, I'm no grandpa. But I think that everybody should be too old for this kind of toys who are older then 16.

    I know the marketing business a bit and I have much respect for Apple. They created a hype around this iCrap rubbish so that really everybody feels to have the need to jump on the bandwagon. They nearly created a kind of constraint: either you use our playground ore you're hopelessly outdated. Software devs try to port their plugins to iCrap and start a marketing campaign for their stuff and if you're interested in electronic music you just can't escape. No matter which website you visit, no matter which mag you may read, iStuff is everywhere.

    And seriously, who needs a virtual synthesizer that has to be played using a small touch screen with just one usable small sized octave – without any feedback a real keyboard can give you. And why do you want to use a CELL PHONE to make music? Why do you WANT to use it? Would you use your microwave oven to make phone calls when this would be possible and hyped by the industry? Well, most likely – yes. ;) Because this is the way how advertising psychology works. "Guerrilla marketing" is the keyword here. C'mon guys, THINK about it. You all are victims of a very clever marketing strategy.

  • DumaisAudio

    Can you use the iRig (or NSP Breakout for that matter) with any audio program on the iPhone that allows for a line in (such as the Moog Filtatron)?

  • Axl

    @Andy:

    "And why do you want to use a CELL PHONE to make music?"

    It's not a cell phone. It's a computer. I think you've fallen victim to Apple's marketing here. ;-)

  • http://www.ikmultimedia.com Peter – IK

    @DumaisAudio – Yes you can use iRig with other apps, and people are really loving it for Filtatron specifically.

  • HEXnibble

    @Andy: Grandpa, you don't have to use a phone. The iPod touch and the iPad are not phones.

    And sorry but your attempt at painting the iOS devices' popularity as pure marketing falls flat and comes across as yet another bitter hatred from envious PC fanboys. People are using it because they are the best portable multitouch devices that currently exist.

  • Shawn Roos

    Without Audio Copy/Paste an app makes no sense to me.

    If i have to keep going back to the computer to move files around, why dont i just stay there and compose on it.

    Korg iElectribe and Amplitube would be on my iPad in a second if i could bounce tracks IN BETWEEN apps with them.

    Nanostudio, for the win.

  • mediawest

    can anyone say 'rockman'? you youngins can google it………

  • davide

    so as far as multi-track recording what's best on iphone, sonoma's fourtrack or amplitube's rec feature?

  • HEXnibble

    @davide: take a look at the Multitrack app.