[Guitar/Apps] Review: Peavey AmpKit Link

AmpKit on iPad - beautiful but pricey

AmpKit on iPad - beautiful but pricey

One of the disadvantages of playing the guitar is the sheer amount of kit it requires. Kit that can start to take over a limited living space. Even with a fairly minimal electric set up, you need to find room for the guitar, a stand, an amp, probably a pedal and somewhere to store your spare strings, picks, tuner, capo and the like. In a one bedroom flat it can start to get cluttered. Wouldn’t it be great to eliminate a lot of that kit and provide a great aural experience at the same time?

But what to lose? Obviously the guitar has to stay. But the next biggest hindrance to minimalist living is that big black box in the corner of the room; the amp. At the end of the day it’s just an oversized speaker and between my hi-fi, my home theatre and my home office I’ve got enough of those around the place. If only I had some kind of portable electronic device with onboard amplification. And wouldn’t it be great if that device could replace my multi-FX pedal too? Well, with a bit of connection kit and some slightly overpriced software that – very minor – dream can come true.

The Peavey AmpKit Link is, as you might have guessed, a connection device made by respected guitar equipment manufacturer Peavey. What’s not quite so apparent is quite what the AmpKit Link actually links your guitar to. How about your iPhone or iPad? Starting to make sense now, isn’t it?

It’s not a very advanced bit of hardware for the £30 it costs. Just a cheap white plastic box with a headphone jack on one side, while the other side features an input for a guitar lead and a headphone or speaker cable output. It attaches to your iDevice via the headphone / mic socket, not via the dock connector. That means the power the AmpKit Link needs to cut feedback has to be drawn from a pair of AAA batteries (not included), rather than from the Apple device itself, a minor irritation to say the least.

AmpKit on the iPhone

AmpKit on the iPhone

Once that’s all hooked up you need to download the partner app – unsurprisingly called AmpKit. In truth there are two versions, AmpKit is free, AmpKit+ is a rather pricey £11.99. The free app has all the same functionality, it just demands that you pay for each extra virtual pedal, mic, or amp you buy in-app. The “+” version includes several of these out of the box. A word of warning though, if you plump for the free version then start buying gear, you can’t then port that stuff over to the “+” version. You can though buy the equivalent of everything in the “+” app for the same £11.99. If that’s confusing, follow this simple advice. Don’t download AmpKit+. Download AmpKit then buy the 11.99 “+” pack from the in-app Gear Store.

The app itself is rather more polished looking than the hardware. Not only is the interface smart and practical – it’s also beautiful. Each pedal and cabinet is rendered in beautiful detail, the dark theme fits beautifully both with the iPhone’s styling and the rock overtones of the app. It all works smoothly too. There are loads of presets already in place that recreate famous bands’ sounds, and it’s easy to set up and store your own. Pedals, speakers and mics can be favourited to help sorting. There are metronome and backing track features available at the tap of an icon, and at any point two taps will start recording the guitar’s output.

Brilliantly those recordings are actually saved as clean files, with any pedal or amp effects added over the top. That means you can “re-amp” your songs – and test out different effects with your pre-recorded material later on.
It’s such a complete solution it really does render your amp and FX pedals slightly pointless. The quality is great through headphones or plugged into a hi-fi. I reckon it’s really a fine match for the Roland Cube amp I rock most of the time, though purists will probably disagree.

Coupled with AmpKit’s sister app, the stunning,and Guitar Pro compatible Tab Toolkit, I now have a setup which uses my iPad to display, download and synthesise tabs on request, and my iPhone as a built in amp / FX pedal / recording studio.

It’s a great package, and one that’s well worth investing in if you find you’re limited in the space you can devote to your guitar kit. I have just two main concerns.

Firstly I wish there was a way of avoiding the AAA battery requirements of the AmpKit Link. If only it could be powered from the iDevice itself it would make things so much cleaner.

The other, more significant, worry is the price. After forking out £30 plus shipping for the Link itself, it’s a bit steep to force users into buying so many extras in-app. For £11.99 you’d think you’d be able to pick up all the bits and bobs in the Gear Store. Sadly it’ll take more than £30 to hoover up everything on offer – taking the total outlay up past the £60 mark. It’s still a bargain compared to picking up all the simualted cabinets and pedals – but for what it is it just seems slightly exploitative.

7/10

The Gear Store - where you'll be spending more than you'd hoped

The Gear Store - where you'll be spending more than you'd hoped

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Categories: Apps, Guitar

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