If you’re musically inclined, the answer is probably yes, because apps for musicians are in much shorter supply on Android than on Apple devices. Just look at what’s available to players of the country’s most popular instrument, the guitar.
On Android, you can pick through some passable tuners and scale guides. On Apple, you have apps that can breathe new life into the instrument.
For about $50, and an inexpensive hardware connector, versions of apps like AmpliTube, AmpKit and iShred Live give guitarists a mobile recording studio with nearly every traditional sound effect. And you can test more limited versions of these apps for far less money.
For hobbyists who don’t own an array of amps and effects pedals, but who would like to experiment with sound, the apps are great fun. For professionals, the apps come in handy when generating and recording new ideas while away from the studio.
Of the three, I found AmpKit+, the full version of the app, the easiest, most versatile and the best value, especially on an iPad. The app costs $20; the limited version is free.
Like the limited version of other guitar apps, iShred Live is free, with more guitar effects available à la carte within the app. The full version of AmpliTube costs $20, and a limited version is free, but unlike the others, you must buy separate versions for the iPhone and iPad.
You can try iShred Live with just an iPhone headset. The microphone picks up the guitar’s sound and plays back your song with a sound effect.
That’s especially handy for acoustic guitarists who usually can’t plug their instrument into anything. But for those with electric guitars or acoustic-electric hybrids, the best results with these apps come when you connect the guitar to the iPhone, using hardware like Griffin Technology’s GuitarConnect ($30 at GriffinTechnology.com) and IK Multimedia’s iRig ($40, at IKmultimedia.com).
AmpKit+ and AmpliTube offer a wide range of sound effects, including standards like distortion, wah and delay.
Each app has important features lacking in the other, but in general, if you want to record multitrack songs from within the app, AmpliTube is the better call, while AmpKit+ offers a nimbler environment for experimenting.
AmpKit, the free version, includes two effects pedals, one amp, two speaker cabinets and two microphones. AmpKit+ includes 13 amps, 18 effects pedals, 13 cabinets and eight microphones.
The app is nicely intuitive in most ways, but flawed in one major respect. I needed to tweak the AmpKit+ settings before the effects worked as well as they did on the other apps. Among other things, the sound effects were clipped short, and feedback was occasionally a problem.
Solving those problems was slightly frustrating, especially for someone unfamiliar with the lingo of audio engineering. But the results were worth the effort. The app makes it easy to experiment, because roughly 60 sound-effect setups appear in a list you can easily scroll. If you modify any of the setups, the original is saved in a different section. For sound-effect novices, in particular, this is a welcome feature.
AmpKit+ offers a generous mix of backing tracks, and you can load your own music into the app. But the app’s true genius is its ability to let you record and manipulate your guitar work from within the app. You can layer effects onto so-called dry guitar tracks, and if you don’t like the result, you can start fresh with the same track.
AmpliTube has fewer standard stomp boxes and a less user-friendly interface. But it has some features lacking in AmpKit+, and it offers great-sounding effects with no fussing.
AmpliTube’s free version features three stomp boxes, an amp, a speaker cabinet and two microphones. The paid version includes 11 stomp boxes, five amps and five cabinets. AmpliTube’s iPad app lets you operate four pedals at once and switch between cabinets and microphones.
The iPhone version’s tiny buttons made it harder to use — harder, even, than the iPhone versions of competing apps. I could set up finger-friendly preset buttons, but otherwise there was no way to view all of my active effects pedals on one screen.
You can add songs on AmpliTube and play along with embedded guitar tracks or add backing drum tracks, for a fee. And, as with the other apps, you can record a session. But unlike the others, AmpliTube includes an eight-track recorder, for $15, which is far more useful for professional-sounding compositions.
IShred Live, meanwhile, includes three effects in the app’s free version and another nine that can be bought for $1 or $2. Compared with its competitors, this app is a bargain. The interface was good, although not nearly as versatile as AmpKit+. Still, I liked the big buttons on the app, which made it easier to manipulate quickly during a song.
IShred’s music player lets you cut a loop from a song on your device so you can play along, but it has no play-along demo tracks within the app.
Other apps are joining the scene as well, like PocketAmp Lite (free), Amps and Cabs ($1) and RiotFX ($1).
Vocalists, keyboard players and other musicians will find similar apps that suit them. And judging from products announced at this month’s National Association of Music Merchants, a big annual show, more will soon come.
Just not many for Android phones.
Google’s free Goggles app is one of the coolest Android titles around. Take a photo of something and Google performs a search related to the words, image or bar code in question. After a recent update, Goggles offers faster bar code recognition. And the app now solves Sudoku puzzles. … Also for Android users — at least those who send ill-advised texts — is a new app, Undo SMS ($1). Itoffers a 10-second countdown before it sends, so you can stop the text. You can also override the delay.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: January 21, 2011
The App Smart column on the Personal Tech pages on Thursday, about apps for guitarists, described a feature of one such app, AmpliTube, incorrectly. It includes in its recording section a so-called re-amping feature, which allows guitarists to test the app’s different sound effects on a recorded track; it is not the case that the re-amping feature is missing.
- How to make your iPhone gently weep (theglobeandmail.com)
- Review: AmpliTube 2 For The iPhone Turns It Up To Eleven (wired.com)
- iPad AmpliTube Update Adds Features, Gear and 8-Track Recording (wired.com)
- AmpliTube Morphs into Fender-centric Rig for iOS Devices (cultofmac.com)
- Jeff P. Henderson: Get Ready Rock Stars! AmpliTube Is Now Available For The iPad (appadvice.com)
- AmpliTube Update Adds Recording Feature to IPad App (pcworld.com)
- Review: Hands-On with AmpliTube 2 (crunchgear.com)
- AmpliTube update adds guitar recording to the mix (macworld.com)
- IK Multimedia Releases AmpliTube for iPad (macstories.net)