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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!
fenderstudio
IK Multimedia Amplitube Fender Studio

Summary: Need a quick, portable way to get your guitar ideas down on track, with an incredibly easy-to-use USB interface for performing live through software models? Look no further. Amplitube Fender Studio will get you rocking in minutes!

Pros: The inclusion of Fender Studio SE, RiffWorks T4 and Amplitube X-Gear, provide you with a full-featured experience to develop and track your song ideas, and are well worth the price of admission!

Cons: None.

Amplitube Fender Studio Package:

StealthPlug Features:

  • 9’/2,5m length cable with integrated audio interface
  • 1/4” jack connector MONO IN
  • 1/8” mini-jack Headphone STEREO OUT (suitable also for Amp/Powered Speaker OUT)
  • USB 1.0/2.0 connector
  • Activity LED
  • Volume UP/DOWN buttons
  • USB bus powered
  • 16 bit A/D -D/A converter
  • 44KHz/48KHz Sampling Frequency
  • Ultra-low latency ASIO and Core Audio Drivers
  • Hi-Z direct Guitar and Bass-IN (suitable for any instrument with line out also)

Price: $99.99 (street)

Tone Bone Score: 5.0. Being constantly on the go as I am it can get frustrating having to wait all day to get a riff or song idea down. With the Amplitube Fender Studio, I can quickly hook up my axe, switch on my laptop, and get an idea down before I lose it!

I’ve been getting some pretty cool gear and software from IK Multimedia as of late, and so far, I’ve been nothing short of impressed with what I’ve evaluated. I totally dug AmpliTube Fender, and the StealthPedal blew me away with its high-fidelity signal processing. So it was with great anticipation that I’d do a review of Amplitube Fender Studio with the StealthPlug. I wasn’t disappointed in the least!

Amplitube Fender Studio: Be Anywhere, Record Your Axe Anywhere

I received AmpliTube Fender Studio with the included StealthPlug a few days ago (it’s always nice to come home to find a delivery box), immediately opened the box, plugged the StealthPlug into the USB port of my laptop, plugged my headset into the StealthPlug, fired up AmpliTube X-Gear, chose an amp, and started to play. Just as I expected, the device worked as advertised; and also as I expected, it worked with practically no latency. I immediately thought, “Man, I could gig with this…” But I’m jumping ahead… As fortune would have it, I could only spend a few minutes playing as I had to leave, so I unhooked everything and placed the StealthPlug in the pocket of my gig bag.

This morning, I loaded up my axe into my car, wanting to practice a little at lunchtime, as my work has kept me from playing regularly for the last several days. As I was driving into work, just letting my mind wander as I traveled down the freeway, out of nowhere I got a song idea. I played it over in my head for a few minutes, then anguished a bit because like many song ideas I’ve had in the past, I would have to wait until I got home to get the idea tracked; more often than not, by the time I got home, I’d lose the idea. Then I remembered that I had put the StealthPlug in my gig bag!

I immediately exited at the next exit and found a good place to park. I jumped out of the car, with laptop in hand, opened up my rear hatch, pulled my axe and the StealthPlug out of my gig bag, hooked up to my laptop, opened up GarageBand, created a new track, and hit record. I had the song idea down in less than five minutes. Sorry, I’m still working on the song, so I don’t have a clip. But the point of this is that the StealthPlug enabled me to get my song idea down soon after I got the idea. It meant that the idea didn’t get relegated to another “one that got away.”

Performance

I needn’t go into any diatribe of the StealthPlug’s fit and finish nor how it sounds. How it sounds is based upon what amp and effect models you apply in your software. But here’s one thing I did notice, and it’s a huge thing: I could barely detect any latency at all while I played through the StealthPlug, even when recording in GarageBand, which can be a real resource pig. That kind of instantaneous response is absolutely to die for! I suppose the near-zero latency of the StealthPlug probably has a lot to do with the simplicity of the signal route. It’s a USB cable, for goodness’ sake! But that bodes well for using the StealthPlug in a live situation. I’ve often wanted to use my computer in a live situation using nothing but software models for amps; especially in my church gig where controlling output volume is essential. The only thing that has kept me from doing this is latency. Even tiny amounts of latency can throw you off while you’re playing. But with the StealthPlug’s near-zero latency, I think I’m going to have to give it a go.

Funny thing, I perused the web for other reviews, and all seemed to have a much more tepid response to this wonderful piece of gear; especially with respect to latency. Mind you, I have 4 GB RAM in my Mac, so that probably has a lot to do with my lack of latency, since the computer rarely has to go to the hard drive once things are loaded.

Another thing I tried with the StealthPlug was running it from my pedal board, to see how it would react, and see how the amp models I have on my laptop would react. After tweaking some levels, I was amazed at how well it worked! Admittedly, the tone produced seemed a little thin in the highs, but a little EQ to boost the highs remedied that right quick. But there are other ways to employ the StealthPlug. Here a few ways you can use it.

Amplitube Fender Studio: It Simply KICKS ASS!

So I’ve established that I dig the StealthPlug… On a standalone basis, I’d give it a 5.0 Tone Bone score by itself because of the effect it had on my songwriting, but used within the context of the included Fender Studio software well, the whole package gets a 5.0! And it’s due to a little software package called Riffworks T4 that’s included with Fender Studio. I had heard of Riffworks by following Todd Rundgren who recorded his latest “Arena” album using the full version of this software.

Basically, Riffworks, as the name implies, is a software where you can create layered riff loops. Unlike programs like GarageBand or Ableton or the like, you construct songs in Riffworks by linking together riff loops that you can create. I won’t go into a lot of detail about it here, but I will say that it makes songwriting very very easy. For those of you familiar with digital recording, riffs are built using a “loop recording” methodology; that is, a phrase is played over and over again with a new “layer” added with each iteration of the loop. It’Add to the fact that Fender Studio and X-Gear or whatever amp plug-in you have on your computer is readily available in the software, and creating music is absolute freakin’ breeze. Here’s a clip that I recorded just a few minutes ago using Riffworks with Fender Studio:

For the rhythm part, I used ’59 Bassman model, then applied a Riffworks Filter and Shaper to it to give it that “vibey” sound. For the lead, I used driven ’57 Deluxe model. But for this, I ran my guitar into my pedalboard first, then into the StealthPlug. I only used a single pedal, and that’s my beloved Tone Freak Effects Abunai 2 to add some slightly compressed and sustaining overdrive to the signal. The result was magnificent!

Once I was done with recording in RiffWorks, I outputted the clip to a WAV file, then imported it into GarageBand, so I could add a bassline. If I had a bass handy, I could’ve done everything in RiffWorks, but alas, I can only use MIDI for now. But here’s the cool thing: The StealthPlug was my only audio interface into my computer! How incredible is that? And I just had my headphone attached to the StealthPlug, and it all worked amazingly well. Talk about having a portable studio! All I need is a couple of guitars, the StealthPlug and my laptop! Save the guitars, all I need will fit into my laptop bag. Granted, I wouldn’t have access to my pedalboard if I was on the road, but adding effect plug-ins to Amplitube if I need them is not a problem.

Overall Impressions

Amazingly enough, response to the StealthPlug has been just okay… Not sure what that’s all about. But for me, I have a recording solution wherever I go. I don’t need to bring amps, just my laptop and a couple of guitars when I want to get away for a remote songwriting adventure. And RiffWorks plus Amplitube gives me everything I need!

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

IK Multimedia Stealth Pedal

IK Multimedia Stealth Pedal

Summary: It’s official, IK Multimedia’s StealthPedal has just been released! The new StealthPedal is a lesson in packaging up familiar components to produce something totally unique. This is the first of its kind: A USB-powered guitar audio interface/software controller that you can use for recording or playing live as well as controlling any “Powered By Amplitube” software (or any MIDI-controllable software). With the StealthPedal, IK Multimedia completes the picture in providing an end-to-end computer-based guitar performance and recording solution.

Pros: Truly plug and play, it is automatically recognized by “Powered By Amplitube” software, and requires very little configuration.

Cons: None

Price: $199 Standard Bundle / $399 Deluxe Bundle

Specs:

• USB powered audio interface and pedal controller
• 2 balanced / unbalanced audio inputs (hi-Z or line level)
• 24 bit A/D and D/A conversion
• 44.1/48 kHz operation
• 2 balanced audio outputs
• Headphones output
• Volume control
• Built-in expression pedal and MIDI foot-switch
• Multiple LEDs can operate as Tuner or Level indicators with AmpliTube
• External double switch and expression pedal inputs
• Classic, rugged metal Wah-style construction
• High-quality, low-noise input stage (109dBA /104dB RMS S/N ratio)
• Control all “Powered by AmpliTube” software/plug-ins

• Control any MIDI controllable software/plug-ins

• Standard Bundle includes AmpliTube 2 Live standalone and plug-in, AmpliTube X-GEAR, Ampeg® SVX UNO standalone and plug-in, Sonoma WireWorks Riffworks™ T4, and AmpliGrooves Loops by Sonic Reality
• Deluxe Bundle: AmpliTube 2, Ampeg SVX, AmpliTube X-GEAR, Sonoma WireWorks RiffWorks t4, AmpliGrooves
• Compatible with all the most popular DAW software supporting ASIO and Core Audio drivers on PC and Mac
• Endless software expandability with AmpliTube modules

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 – I love enabling technologies that make anything that I do easier, but also add a ton of value. That can definitely be said of the new StealthPedal from IK Multimedia. A quick glance at picture of the unit, and you may think: Okay, just another pedal-style software controller. It is that, but it is also so very much more!

The StealthPedal is also an extremely easy-to-use, full-functioning analog-digital audio interface that you can use for recording or running modeling software live through your computer. And with 24-bit analog-digital, digital-analog conversion, and 44.1/48 kHz operation, you can count on the SteathPedal to produce high-fidelity sound in the studio an on the stage.

The StealthPedal looks just like a mere expression pedal from the top view. But look at the sides and the input and output jacks belie its humble appearance. On the left side of the pedal are ¼” jacks for right and left output, an 1/8” for headphones, another ¼” jack for a dual-switch external switching unit (extra), and the USB jack. On the right side of the pedal are ¼” jacks for inputs, a volume control knob, and a ¼” jack for plugging in another expression pedal. In other words, this “pedal” packs a punch and is so much more than what it appears!

Wah, wah, wah

It took me awhile to figure out that I had too early versions of X-Gear / Amplitube Fender to be automatically recognized the StealthPedal. My bad entirely. But once I had the right versions installed, adding software stomp effects and controlling them via the StealthPedal was a total breeze! The software automatically assigns the StealthPedal to control the first effect with some default behavior. For instance, with a wah effect plugin, the foot pedal is assigned to the wah effect and the switch is assigned to bypass. But you can change behavior simply by clicking the “setup” button at the top-right of the application window. It can’t get much simpler than that!

In the Studio

But before I even tried using it to control the included Amplitube software, I wanted to see how it performed as an audio interface. In this usage, I was totally blown away! Whereas other audio units such as those from DigiDesign require a software driver to operate (yes, even on the Mac), at least on the Mac, the StealthPedal follows Apple’s lead in design: Plug it in and it just works! So in a very real way the StealthPedal is aptly named as it just does what it does without you knowing how – or having to know how it works! Note that you do need a driver for Windows. But on my Mac, the process to be up and running took less than 5 minutes! That’s incredible!

Launching GarageBand, I just went into the preferences, and selected the StealthPedal as my input and output devices. I ran an unbalanced line from my mic pre-amp into the first input jack of the StealthPedal, added and setup a new track, hit record and started jamming on my guitar that was plugged into my amp. The StealthPedal worked as expected – actually a lot better than I expected because I was expecting only “okay” signal quality, considering the price point of this unit. Boy, was I wrong. The recorded signal was just as clean as my MBox 2, with no apparent shading of any kind. That put a smile on my face. And another thing that really blew me away was that lag was virtually non-existent. There was tiny bit, but nowhere in the realm of the lag that I normally get with my MBox 2. Amazing!

Then plugging my guitar directly into the StealthPedal, I fired up the Amplitube Fender plug-in, selected an amp, and started playing. This was truly the first time I could switch on track monitoring and not get thrown off from the lag!

What’s Not Obvious Is Usually Where the True Power Lays

Think about this carefully because it’s important: The real impact of the StealthPedal is not necessarily in its features, but in what it provides as a solution. As I mentioned above, the StealthPedal completes the picture for IK Multimedia to provide an end-to-end computer-based guitar performance and recording solution. I don’t say this lightly. Not only do they have totally kickass amp and effects modeling, with the StealthPedal, they now have a high-quality, high-fidelity guitar audio interface and software controller! Add to the fact that the StealthPedal requires ZERO setup to use (Mac only, sorry folks), and you’ve got a complete solution for all your computer-based guitar audio. And because the StealthPedal was built to work specifically for “Powered By Amplitube” products, you never have to worry about compatibility problems! I don’t know about you, but that’s just incredible to me. But wait there’s more!

Because it is a MIDI controller, the StealthPedal can also be used with other amp sim software via MIDI. So this just isn’t a solution for the AmpliTube user, it can be used by virtually all recording guitarists, and other musicians as well!

Overall Impressions

What can I say? I dig the StealthPedal! In the next couple of weeks, I’m going on a trip. Guess what’s coming with me? A guitar, the StealthPedal, a mic pre-amp, a mic, and a couple of cords. That’ll be enough to record any song, and besides the guitar, all that will fit into my computer bag!

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