The Two Path Philosophy

TL;DR A guitar player needs to think about two paths. One going to a guitar amp, with speaker emulation off, the other going to a PA system, with speaker emulation on. What are some ways to deal with it?

Generally, a guitar player, on stage, has two primary signal paths to worry about;

  1.  The personal monitor path. Traditionally, the guitarists guitar rig, through a guitar amp, the very essence of “your sound”. What you will generally hear onstage at a smaller show, which you can turn up or move closer to to hear more of yourself. At a bigger show, this may be a feed taken in one form or another from your personal rig
  2. The Front Of House path. What the audience hears. At a small enough show, they may only be hearing your actual amp from #1 directly. At a larger show, the audience will mostly be hearing the PA system, which you will feed to the soundman either by micing your amp or various line output schemes.

#1 is usually, or traditionally a guitar amplifier of some kind. These tend to be narrow frequency range speakers, a number of 12″ speakers the vast majority of the time. For modelling systems like the Firehawk, the Axe FX, BIAS, The REAPER Live Pedalboard project, Headrush, all manner of old Digitech units, Boss, etc, you would feed this type of amplifier a full range signal, unmodified by any sort of speaker emulation, as the 12″ speaker in this rig will be doing all the speaker emulation the old fashioned way.

#2 Is where we usually get into trouble. In the dinosaur era, and still done by some Luddites today (or when a company makes an EXTREMELY boneheaded engineering mistake, like in the case of the Line 6 Amplifi 150, where they don’t stick a line output on a modelling amp), is to mic this rig and send the signal to the PA system. In modern times, we would normally take an “emulated output” from the rig and send that to the PA. This line output would necessarily need a speaker emulation of some sort, or you will just end up with a gross, fizzy mess.

Combo Amps compatible with The Two Path Philosophy on their own

Blackstar TVP 260 (can also function as a powered FRFR)

Fender Mustang III v2 – sort of

Pedalboards compatible with The Two Path Philosophy on their own

Line 6 HD500X – Seems to be able to do this by using a dual amp path. You’d give up a bit of DSP, but certainly looks doable

Line 6 Helix/Helix LT – This unit seems to be designed with this particular setup in mind, and actually seems to offer a few different ways to skin this cat

Standalone software compatible with The Two Path Philosophy

Tonestack (iOS) – Not exactly seemingly designed with this in mind, but there are ways to trick it into working

Bias FX (iPad, Windows, OSX[I think]) – With its dual path you can work it, though you will be giving up some abilities

Revalver (Windows, OSX) – Very complete way of dealing with this issue, additionally, being able to host 3rd party VST’s

TH3 – (Windows, OSX) Can do this with its dual path settings, though switching time will be severely compromised

Plugins compatible with The Two Path Philosophy

To be fair to plugins, once you get them in your favorite VST loader, there will be myriad ways to make this work, below describes only how they can do on their own. For the cost of a bit of CPU resources, you could run these in any series or parallel configuration and the sky’s the limit, hence the desire to create The REAPER Live Pedalboard Project

Bias FX (Windows, OSX[I think]) – With its dual path you can work it, though you will be giving up some abilities

Revalver (Windows, OSX) – Very complete way of dealing with this issue, additionally, being able to host 3rd party VST’s

TH3 – (Windows, OSX) Can do this with its dual path settings, though switching time will be severely compromised

Line 6 Firehawk FX Review

As usual, I start with the caveat, that I happily acknowledge that the Marketing Machine already has piles of reviews out there that tell you the things they want you to hear. They usually don’t tell you the things you actually need to know. My experience in the industry has shown time and again where so many “reviews” are tied to paid ads, or in the worst cases, actually paid for. I’ll try and give you, the rest of the story.

I really don’t think, as usual, that I need to repeat all the descriptions and explanations given by all the existing glowing reviews out there, so if you find that I’m missing lots of key points, know that they are available in many other sources. Again, I will try and focus on things that the average guitar player will need to know about using this thing on stage. Things like variax ports or whatever, you can read about elsewhere.

Right off the bat, for the TL;DR, I have to say that you need to be 100% aware, no matter what else is said, that this unit CANNOT, on its own, be used for live use in the way that most would assume (going to a guitar amp onstage for monitoring and to the PA system simultaneously while carrying the proper signals). Again, this is NOT a dual path unit. There are some potential workarounds, but if this was your goal, you can stop reading, in its current form, it cannot do this.

So what is this thing? A multiFX pedalboard for guitars, offering the usual pile of presets and bank switching. Plug your guitar in, send the outputs to your amp or PA or recording system

Firehawk FX has an onboard expression pedal and a port for another expression pedal, a USB port, two 1/4″ outs, two XLRm outs, Stereo headphone outs on 1/4″, and a stereo FX Loop (that, through software, can be moved to different places in the signal chain!)

There is a top panel feature here that I think bears worthy of special mention, as its absence in so many other devices leads to no end of usage problems – an actual output volume knob! Yes, it seems like a basic feature, and those who are used to my normal posts in the field of studio engineering will be like “well duh”…but I kid you not, this is rare enough an inclusion that I really must praise and thank Line 6 for adding it (often, even their, other devices don’t have this). This volume can be pushed to change the volume of the guitar path vs the aux path and can be pushed to a third state which modifies “Channel Volume”

The onboard expression pedal can be assigned to wahs, volume, whammy (and this works rather well, an effect that often fails on other devices in the Firehawk’s class), and feels like it tracks very well to me. However, it is EXTREMELY hard to switch….Maybe not as hard as the Pod XT Live, but I don’t think most people will be able to engage this while sitting down. I’m looking into mods for this problem ASAP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update: Gluing a little washer to the top of the switch made this nice and comfortable and easy to switch. Be sure to calibrate your expression pedal after doing this!

Here’s a video another Firehawk FX user made to deal with the problem

How does it sound?

The sounds, in general, sound great to me. I was quickly able to find amps, cabs, and fx that I wanted, and really didn’t feel like I was missing anything basic, in terms of individual FX (except, holy mother of a sonless goat, EQ!!! EQ, I kid you not!), though as a system, there definitely felt like some missing FX or functions.

I read a lot about how much people hated the cabinets, but once I was able to hook up to some analyzers for some apples to apples comparisons, I found the cabinets very decent indeed, and wouldn’t even want to bother with impulses, except for a GLARING set of MAJOR usability problems caused by the cabinet location being tied to the amplifier effect block. Getting to these comparisons was difficult, as the actual USB interface is not the fully featured setup in the POD units I have tried or the Line 6 standalone audio interfaces, but the crappy one that the Amplifi uses. It is reasonably fast, I’ll see if I can get some numbers for my Round Trip Latency Roundup

 

 

 

 

 

Firehawk FX’s Vintage 30 cab vs my Celestion V30 impulse. The speaker cabinet sounds on this unit will definitely NOT be the thing holding you back

Once plugged into an FRFR system (I tried the Blackstar TVP260, my recording interface setup and an Alto TS-210, and various other amps, including Mustang 3v2, SWR Workingman, and Amplif 150), and I know how many Line 6 tone haters there are out there, but for me at least, it sounds BEAUTIFUL. Using two computers, a loop and some analyzer programs, I was quickly able to get a distortion sound similar to my favorite custom Bias 5150/V30 combo and really, really wonderful clean sounds. Really. Extremely impressed and overjoyed. I know there’s tons of people who hate these sounds, but whatever. I couldn’t be happier with these tones (unless I had to use them onstage in real life, but that’s not the sounds’ fault, its the functionality)

Some problem areas are that the EQ is in a fixed position and cannot be placed between the amp and cabinet, nor in front of the amp. There is no other true EQ FX block available (though there is a fixed boost and tone effect that may be able to do what you want). This is kind of sad, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t get perfectly good sounds out of it anyway. The fixed compressor is post amplifier, which can be extremely problematic, as its gain can only go UP from unity, precluding its use as a channel volume (more on this later), but there are other compressors available, though I’m not sure if a single one of them has a threshold control (come on!). The wah is in a fixed position which may or may not bother people…It was kind of a bummer in front of the tube screamer, but given the plethora of wah choices, you could still get some cool sounds out of it.

The Harmonizer:

I love harmonizers. They do an amazing job of exposing the strengths and weaknesses of a design, and can really show off a coders chops. By their very nature they can take a lot of processing time, CPU use, or both. In testing of plugins and processes, we often think of these as “latency generators”. If a developer messes up signal path considerations, harmonizers make them stand out like a sore thumb.

When I say “harmonizer” I don’t refer to what the Marketing Machine calls harmonizers, I call those “chromatic pitch shifters”. To me a harmonizer asks for an interval and a key, and keeps those notes in the legal range of the key you specify.

Ideally, a harmonizer will receive its pitch detector from the guitar’s input. Often this will be filtered for more accurate detection. The harmonizer’s actual audio input will be whatever the regular chain presents to it and it will apply its magic based on the value the pitch detector reads. A lot like sidechaining a bass guitar compressor from a kick drum input on the detector. Often, one of the best sounding ways to do this is to split the signal at the harmonizer before any amplifier so that the dry input goes to one  amplifier and the pitch shifted output goes to another amplifier. If the shift is done after the amp (and worse if the detection is done after the amp), all of the artefacts generated by the amp will be shifted as well, resulting in “chipmunk-ization”, really goofy high frequency sounds akin to the “space monkeys” problem with early mp3 CODECs.

The Firehawk feature the Smart Harmony block, similar (not sure if its exactly the same or not) to the HD500X and the Helix. This is a true harmonizer, asking for both interval and key. Due to the Firehawk’s single path nature, the Harmonizer has to go AFTER the amplifier (you could put it before the amp, but then you’d just end up with a muddy chord, as both the original and the harmonized note would go into it at the same time). However, this works way better than you might expect! Tracking is excellent! Of course the nasty upshifted artefacts from the amplifier will be there, and honestly, don’t play very nice with that same area from the original pitch’s amplifier output signal.

The way this is normally dealt with, is to put the harmonizer between the amplifier output and the cabinet input, as the cabinet’s natural low pass filtering effect will deal nicely with a lot of this….not as good as putting the harmonizer before the amp, but still pretty good

Unfortunately, effects blocks cannot be placed between the amplifier and speaker cabinet blocks in the Firehawk. As bad as this is for the harmonizer, it leads to far worse usability problems for a product claimed by so many Marketing Machine “reviews” as being meant for live use. No matter, another way to deal with this is an EQ placed after the harmonizer. This leads to a very unfortunate dulling effect, but a harmonizer patch is by definition pretty effected anyway, so often it will be ok.

Unfortunately, yet again, the EQ block cannot be moved. Its position is after the Amplifier/Cabinet block. As far as I can tell there is no other EQ block on the Firehawk. No I’m not kidding, you have been warned.

You really have a few choices left, none of them very good: You can turn down the highs before the harmonizer. The amplifier has an EQ. The EQ can be low passed. This really results in a weirdly dull sound, but can be ok-ish. Sort of. I have had some OK usage by using the HD Hall Reverb and turning everything to 0%, setting the mix to 100% and then turning the tone control down till its happy.

As bad as this layout design is, I still was able to get a decent harmony, certainly far better than modelling pedalboards of the 1990’s (yeah, 20 years….I don’t know whether to rejoice or cry, but in actuality the price of this thing, around 400 bucks, in today’s dollars, is far, far, far less comparatively, than the 300-500 dollar devices of its type when gas was a dollar a gallon and 500 bucks could buy you a clapped out, beater muscle car. In all honesty, it tracks better, faster and with less artifacts than our old Eventide H3000’s did (yeah I said it).

There is a potential solution, though it will add to complexity and drastically decrease portability, I’ll put a bit more about this below

Dual Path Problems and Output Modes Joke:

I don’t want to go into this much here, as it would be preaching to the choir, but for clarity’s sake: Generally, a guitar player, on stage, has two primary signal paths to worry about;

  1.  The personal monitor path. Traditionally, the guitarists guitar rig, through a guitar amp, the very essence of “my sound”. What you will generally hear onstage at a smaller show, which you can turn up or move closer to to hear more of yourself. At a bigger show, this may be a feed taken in one form or another from your personal rig
  2. The Front Of House path. What the audience hears. At a small enough show, they may only be hearing your actual amp from #1 directly. At a larger show, the audience will mostly be hearing the PA system, which you will feed to the soundman either by micing your amp or various line output schemes.

#1 is usually, or traditionally a guitar amplifier of some kind. These tend to be narrow frequency range speakers, a number of 12″ speakers the vast majority of the time. For modelling systems like the Firehawk, the Axe FX, BIAS, The REAPER Live Pedalboard project, Headrush, all manner of old Digitech units, Boss, etc, you would feed this type of amplifier a full range signal, unmodified by any sort of speaker emulation, as the 12″ speaker in this rig will be doing all the speaker emulation the old fashioned way.

#2 Is where we usually get into trouble. In the dinosaur era, and still done by some Luddites today (or when a company makes an EXTREMELY boneheaded engineering mistake, like in the case of the Line 6 Amplifi 150, where they don’t stick a line output on a modelling amp), is to mic this rig and send the signal to the PA system. In modern times, we would normally take an “emulated output” from the rig and send that to the PA. This line output would necessarily need a speaker emulation of some sort, or you will just end up with a gross, fizzy mess.

TL;DR A guitar player needs to think about two paths. One going to a guitar amp, with speaker emulation off, the other going to a PA system, with speaker emulation on.

Back to the Firehawk. Unlike most properly targeted devices of this type, you can only pick one of these. But it gets weirder.

Unlike most IMproperly targeted devices of this sort, the speaker emulation, if present in a particular Firehawk patch, is ALWAYS present in the Firehawk’s outputs.

With most devices of this sort, you have an “amp output mode” which bypasses the speaker emulation and a “recording emulation mode” (or some similar name) with the speaker emulation on.

The Firehawk has these modes, in name at least, but both contain the speaker emulation. Seriously.

You can’t just compromise, hit the amp switch, and have all the cabinets off so you can plug into a guitar amp. You would have to duplicate any patch you want to use and chose “no cab” in each of them. Or deal with a crappy signal in your onstage monitoring with the speaker emulation on, or far, far, far worse, use the emulation off and torture the hell out of your audience.

To be clear, unlike with most modellers, you CANNOT simply switch modes from line to amp and expect the signal your guitar amp would want. Either mode WILL ALWAYS run through the cabinet emulator, if you have a cabinet emulator on that patch

Ideally, you would be running this thing into an FRFR speaker and bypass the entire issue, and revel in the glorious and beautiful sounds that the Firehawk is capable of. In the real world though, most people are going to have combos, and the normal use of this thing would be to plug into the FX return of that combo. If you are really lucky, speaker emulation will follow the FX return in that amp’s signal path and everyone will live happily ever after.

I have an alternate solution, possibly. You could stick an impulse response loader of some sort into the FX loop. The pre impulse signal could be fed to a regular guitar amp and the post impulse signal could be fed to the PA. Of course, you are taking an extra set of A/D D/A hits here, but its probably worth it.

One option looks to be the Mooer Radar pedal. http://www.mooeraudio.com/?product/201709227917.html

This device claims to let you load your own impulses.

There are other options available, including running impulses in your iPad. Not that I’m necessarily advocating this as it may adversely affect reliability, latency, convenience, etc.

I’m not 100% sure how the FX loop works in the Friehawk, like if its true stereo, or if it mutes the send when the loop is off, so I’m not 100% sure how exactly I would wire this, but it should certainly be doable. The movable and switchable FX loop in the Firehawk is actually a wonderful thing. Kudos line 6!

Per preset/channel/patch volume woes:

There is no master patch volume. Again, there is NO MASTER PATCH VOLUME SETTING

Not that this is the only device/app/plugin with this problem, but it is a nasty issue to contend with.

There is what Line 6 calls a “Channel Volume”. This happens in the Amplifier block. As mentioned above, the unmovable compressor block (as distinguished from the movable drive/dynamics block) isn’t movable, so any change you make to “Channel Volume” will effectively change the effect of your compressor threshold. Worse, the unmovable compressor block only has positive gain, so can’t be turned down to make up for a volume boost at the “Channel Volume” control.

The editor:

My actual first meeting with the Firehawk was a few years ago, attempting to program a friend’s Firehawk 1500. At the time, the editor had so many connectivity problems, requiring constantly retyping username and password information, it just became a frustrating joke of a mess and soon the unit went back to sweetwater for good.

If you are used to VST’s or most multiFX units from the 1990’s and beyond, the editor is pretty bad. No direct entry (not that they are the only ones guilty of this, but come on, NO DIRECT ENTRY??? ), no fine tune….yeah, you have been warned, NO FINE TUNE, no Mac or Windows editor, you are on bluetooth for this, good luck!

Connection to be fair, is much better than it was two years ago. It often connects. Not often enough or fast enough, to trust at a real show, so make sure your programming is done ahead of time. Once it connects it usually stays connected.

The steps required to do basic tasks, like moving a preset can feel pretty silly, and its habit of making duplicates if you aren’t careful can be infuriating. If you are used to professional rack devices or VST’s, you are in for some pain, but if you are used to iOS apps, its kind of par for the course.

There is some ability to edit on the unit itself, and it actually offers fine tuning this way, but you can’t edit on the unit without first disconnecting from the bluetooth editor. No I’m not kidding.

As a USB Audio Interface:

Like many, most or possibly all of these devices, the Firehawk features a USB interface both to, and from the computer, with real ASIO drivers. Line 6 has been doing USB ASIO for a LONG time. They may not be the fastest, but they are relatively stable compared to the rest of the field. I don’t have round trip latency numbers yet, but I plan on updating that ASAP, possibly today, so check back here if you are interested.

Round trip latency for the Firehawk comes in at a horrific 15.442 miliseconds at 64 samples. No I’m not joking….seriously

At 128 samples, the Firehawk FX comes in at a ridiculous 24.33 miliseconds! Compare that to the Pod XT Live, which I believe was made in 2009, which does 128 samples at 17.893 miliseconds.

Unfortunately, unlike a lot of the other Line 6 drivers, such as any of the interface only devices, or the Pod XT Live, there is no way in the drivers to select the uneffected direct input. If you are planning on recording through this unit, you could turn off all of the fx blocks to get a DI in, but then you’d lose that particular sound for monitoring.

Worse yet, again unlike the interface only devices and again unlike the Pod XT Live, you CANNOT break the connection from the front panel input to the output jacks of the Firehawk through the drivers if you want any signal to reach the computer. Similar to the seemingly same driver used in the Amplifi 150, you are stuck with the amp and fx sounds at the outputs. You can return sounds from the computer in parallel (and there may be some great uses for this) but the original sound will always be there.

If you were planning on using the Firehawk as the interface and pedalboard for a computer based guitar rack setup, forget it.

In Conclusion:

This unit sounds fantastic to my ears. It really wasn’t hard to get sounds I was genuinely thrilled with. Its lack of a true dual path, its crappy editor definitely limit its usefulness, but given an FRFR setup, and sensible thought to programming before a gig, this can be an amazing unit.

Be sure you are 100% aware of the actual issues with the Firehawk FX (and not just the glowing “reviews” from the Marketing Machine) and if it still makes sense to you, I think you will find that you paid a LOT LOT LOT less for this thing than you really should have. An amazing value for those who it fits.

Pros:

Sounds great! (to me at least, FU Glenn)

Lots of tonal possibilities

Wah

REAL key based Harmonizer

USB interface with ASIO drivers (some SERIOUS limitations on its functionality, but decently quick for sure)

Decently fast preset switching (when it isn’t bugged out or connected to the editor)

Both 1/4″ and XLR outs

REAL master volume control

Cons:

EXTREMELY poor documentation, including all of the very basics. Expect to do a lot of Googling if you want specific answers about basic functions

No dual mode for onstage use – If you have cabinet emulation on, it WILL end up both in the amp path and the PA path

Editor is smartphone/tablet only – lots of connection issues, no fine tuning, very convoluted steps to do simple, basic processes

Cabinet is tied to amp, no way to place FX between amp and cabinet

Fixed signal flow for some elements. Some elements are freely movable, some are partially movable and cannot move to logical places in the routing, some can’t move at all and are placed in the path right where you would really not like to have them

No auto engage for the wah

Wah/Volume switch is extremely hard to engage, probably impossible for most people to engage when sitting

No per preset volume – there is one named “channel volume”, but as this happens in the signal chain before the unmovable compressor and other possible nonlinear elements, you can’t always use this for setting the preset or patch volume

Very un-intuitive and limited editing from the unit itself

Speaker Cabinets, if present on the preset, are on and will show up at all outputs no matter what the output mode

Line 6 Amplifi 150 Review

As usual, I start with the caveat, that I happily acknowledge that the Marketing Machine already has piles of reviews out there that tell you the things they want you to hear. They usually don’t tell you the things you actually need to know. My experience in the industry has shown time and again where so many “reviews” are tied to paid ads, or in the worst cases, actually paid for. I’ll try and give you, the rest of the story.

I really don’t think, as usual, that I need to repeat all the descriptions and explanations given by all the existing glowing reviews out there, so if you find that I’m missing lots of key points, know that they are available in many other sources.

In this particular case, the Marketing Machine did you, the consumer a HORRIBLE wrong, by almost unanimously neglecting to point out some key, showstopping problems, especially in light of how they described it as to directly quote one particularly egregiously inept review “fine gigging amp”

What is it?

On the surface, it appears to be a powered FRFR cabinet (but not really…more later), with bluetooth connectivity and Line 6 Amps and FX built in, claiming 150 watts, in a very manageable package

How does it sound?

Initially, Horrible. Muddy, gross, nasty. No matter how much you may hate Line 6 products (FU Glenn), this is nothing like any of the rest of them. It is the proverbial wet blanket.

Upon further testing and forum searches, it turns out that the path from the guitar input to the speaker outs, does not use the FRFR system, just the 12″ speaker. This means all those included tones, and any tones you make on similar devices, are running a model of a 12″ speaker cabinet, THROUGH an actual 12″ speaker. If you’ve ever accidentally left a modeler in recording output mode when plugged into a 12″ speaker, you know what I’m talking about.

Turning off the speaker cabinet emulations makes this thing sound like a pretty decent amp, similar to a Spider. The cleans don’t get the benefit of a full FRFR, so they still sound like a wet blanket, or maybe you could call it “vintage jazz clean”. It has lots of really good effects, though not really any way to control them without buying a Line 6 FBV

The only way to use this as an FRFR is to plug into the 1/8″ Aux input on the back. The Aux is at an EXTREMELY low volume, so if you were planning on using this as an FRFR for your modelling pedal or computer, you may be in for some serious grief. The unreliability and necessarily adapted nature of the 1/8″ connector makes this a hassle anyway.

Makes you wonder how all these “reviews” missed this, but it gets WAY worse.

There is no line out on this thing. Good job reviewers! What a “fine gigging amp”.

I need to say this again so you have been thoroughly warned.

THERE IS NO LINE OUT

There is a headphone out, but plugging into it mutes the speakers.

This means that the beautiful amp and FX models have no way to be shown in any real part of their glory, as there is no real way to send them to the FRFR system.

But hey, you get a whopping four different tones you can select from the top panel.

The editor:

If you are used to VST’s or most multiFX units from the 1990’s and beyond, the editor is pretty bad. No direct entry (not that they are the only ones guilty of this, but come on, NO DIRECT ENTRY??? ), no fine tune….yeah, you have been warned, NO FINE TUNE, no Mac or Windows editor, you are on bluetooth for this, good luck!

It often connects. Not often enough or fast enough, to trust at a real show, so make sure your programming is done ahead of time. Once it connects it often stays connected.

The steps required to do basic tasks, like moving a preset can feel pretty silly, and its habit of making duplicates if you aren’t careful can be infuriating. If you are used to professional rack devices or VST’s, you are in for some pain, but if you are used to iOS apps, its kind of par for the course.

There no real ability to edit on the unit itself, just some basic amp controls

As a USB Audio Interface:

Like many, most or possibly all of these devices, the Amplifi 150 features a USB interface both to, and from the computer, with real ASIO drivers. Line 6 has been doing USB ASIO for a LONG time. They may not be the fastest, but they are relatively stable compared to the rest of the field.

I’m betting it shares the same driver as the Firehawk FX

Round trip latency for the Firehawk comes in at a horrific 15.442 miliseconds at 64 samples. No I’m not joking….seriously

At 128 samples, the Firehawk FX comes in at a ridiculous 24.33 miliseconds! Compare that to the Pod XT Live, which I believe was made in 2009, which does 128 samples at 17.893 miliseconds.

Unfortunately, unlike a lot of the other Line 6 drivers, such as any of the interface only devices, or the Pod XT Live, there is no way in the drivers to select the uneffected direct input. If you are planning on recording through this unit, you could turn off all of the fx blocks to get a DI in, but then you’d lose that particular sound for monitoring.

Worse yet, again unlike the interface only devices and again unlike the Pod XT Live, you CANNOTbreak the connection from the front panel input to the speakers of the Amplifi through the drivers if you want any signal to reach the computer. You are stuck with the amp and fx sounds at the outputs. You can return sounds from the computer in parallel (and there may be some great uses for this) but the original sound will always be there.

If you were planning on using the Amplifi as the interface and stage amplifier for a computer based guitar rack setup, forget it.

In Use:

THERE IS NO LINE OUT

In Conclusion:

This could have been a revolutionary, groundbreaking device. Given a Line out, better drivers, and access to the FRFR system, this could have been a modeller’s paradise, seriously.

What really, really kills me about these horrid Marketing Machine “reviews” is that they encourage companies to keep making boneheaded mistakes. The truth hurts, but the truth can set you free. Without enabling from mercenary “reviewers”, Line 6 would have had to go back to the drawing board and give us what this thing really could have been.

It does make an excellent bluetooth music player for your iPad, but there are much smaller and cheaper devices to do this.

I wouldn’t buy this thing unless there are some really specific things it does that you want. Without a Line out, this thing is either a home jamming device or a doorstop.

THERE IS NO LINE OUT

Pros:

Good sounding amp models and FX

It can make your guitar louder

Four potentially drastically different sounds at the touch of a button

Cons:

No FX Loop

THERE IS NO LINE OUT

Only real FRFR is on 1/8″

No Physical MIDI inputs for control

Extremely limited hardware control (though the iPad editor is usable, if extremely unreliable)

The REAPER Live Pedalboard Project!

Some of you are aware that a few users here and at the REAPER forum and various Facebook groups have been hard at work creating the framework needed to give ridiculous amounts of control over switching, timing, reliability, convenience and utility itself between MIDI inputs and BiasFX for live use.

If you aren’t into extremely tweaky micro-management and aren’t a control freak with a Napoleon complex, stop reading this and go buy Gig Performer at https://www.gigperformer.com/ Gig Performer can do most of this really easily, with way less hassle on your end. For all I know it could actually do ALL of this, but I wasn’t able to get it there.

None of this would be remotely possible without the hard work of Michael Schell, mpl and Daniel Perry

So here we go. I will link the projects as we create them and hopefully edit and update any major changes so things will always work (hopefully)

First of all, you’ll need REAPER
https://www.reaper.fm/download.php

Then you’ll need to either grab tons of scripts and new plugs we made, or just import the preferences (the much easier thing to do). Simply grab this file, then in REAPER options/preferences/General/Import Configuration
https://www.dropbox.com/s/28d5gm5a3vvj7b4/reaper conifg.ReaperConfigZip?dl=0

Most of this also depends on SWS Live configs to handle various actions
http://www.sws-extension.org/

Depending on your MIDI pedalboard setup, you may have some hoops to jump through.

Piz MIDI plugins can remap whatever you want to do https://www.thepiz.org/plugins/

Included in the sample project files below are SWS PC to CC JSFX plugins, so that you can turn your PC commands into the CC commands SWS Live wants.

Here is a pic of how I have my pedalboard programmed so that I can avoid all of that

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have a Behringer FCB1010 and FCB1010 Manager (https://mountainutilities.eu/fcb1010), you could just download my FCB 1010 files

https://www.dropbox.com/s/i7zzx0ba5b9nz2a/3-2-2018%20adding%20MIDI%20CC%20table.syx?dl=0

 

Sample Project #1

First Sample project is a simple 5 patch file with no crossfading and no spillover tracks. It has a wah that auto engages, switching to a new patch will automatically bypass the wah

In addition to the five patches, there is a tap tempo function and a tuner function which will pop the tuner up and mute the output
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ao5523qwekuu01k/BASIC Live Configs bias test 5 patches.rpp?dl=0

IMPORTANT! Do not save this project with a Bias FX GUI open and showing. Close the FX tabs first. There’s a potential bug that can happen if it loads an open Bias FX GUI on project startup

Some things to note on this project file:

  • This is the most basic type of project showing a proof of concept
  • Mute fade time can be set in preferences to shorten the switching time, and also the “tiny fade” in Live configs can be set shorter or longer. I tried to get a good medium between switching time and any clicks or pops
  • Again this is EXTREMELY basic, using Live Configs own routing and switching system. A much more complex crossfading plugin and script system has been made if you really hate the dropouts here
  • You can easily make a spillover track having delays and reverbs that will smooth the switching and let the tails play out even though the input is cut off

If people find this helpful or interesting, I’ll upload some much more complex files

Sample project #2.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/28d5gm5a3vvj7b4/reaper conifg.ReaperConfigZip?dl=0

This one uses the MIDI Fade FX plugin created by Michael Schnell.

The actions in SWS Live Configs have been replaced by custom macros to mute track groups, reset the wah and activate MIDI Fade X

MIDI Fade X allows crossfading between the patches. You can go into each channel’s FX window and modify them to taste.

This is a MUCH more complicated setup to set up, but if you want glitch free, dropout free, near instant switching, this is a way to achieve it

Project #3. Spillover

https://www.dropbox.com/s/u0q95wqiy0b2uyo/MFX Live Configs bias test 5 patches with spillover.rpp?dl=0

Now here’s where things can get really interesting. By running parallel paths, you can send to tracks which never mute, allowing “spillover effects” when patches are changed.

In this case, there is a delay and reverb which, while it can have its receive cut off, will still send to the master. Say you have a Chord on the the Clean +FX tracks playing. The delay will keep going, playing clean, even though you switch over to your distorted track.

Lots and lots of different ways to do this

In this case, I have turned the send to master off on the tracks I want to send to spillover. In other cases, you may want to have both sending to master.

Again, lots of ways to skin this cat

8 mic pre + ADAT interfaces March 2018

Caveat: None of this is gospel! I may have made some mistakes, so please double check my findings before you drain your piggy bank!

I was aghast at how little I knew of the multichannel interface market of the last few years. I guess its time to catch up. I’ll be looking at 8 channel plus ADAT I/O interfaces running USB

Not so long ago, this was a no brainer. With some rare exceptions, the interface was MOTU or RME, usually firewire, but the odd USB2 interface claimed speeds fast enough (though I didn’t do much testing of those) and a few PCI units still holding on. 8 channel mic pre’s with ADAT outs were plentiful, and at least that still seems like the case

For this post, I’ll be looking at USB solutions. I know from recent experience, that some of these are pretty finnicky with some USB 3 drivers, and require BIOS to be switched back to USB 2, and I’ll try and note that if I can. I still don’t have any real round trip latency numbers on the behringer devices that have taken even the pro world by storm over the last few years and I don’t even know if they have actual ASIO drivers (spare me the ASIO 4 All stuff please). I’m not interested in the mostly vaporware thunderbolt interfaces for this, nor would want to hang my hat on firewire still being a thing in most newer desktops never mind laptops. Ethernet audio looks very, very interesting to me, and I’d love a lot more education about it coming my way. From a talk with a few manufacturers, it doesn’t seem to me like its as viable an option as I’d like, but I doubt I need to worry about that for long, but for now, USB

There are TONS more of these (MOTU alone has a bewildering array) but I want to limit these to units that have at least eight actual mic preamps on them. I hate to cut these off because there are quite a lot that you could make work, but I want this list to at least pretend to be manageable. Kind of freaking out that I’m not seeing an RME entry on here. I am looking into the RME OctaMic XTC, which seems to fall in this category, but is listed under their mic preamps instead of their USB interfaces. Waiting on some info from RME.

The Contenders

Antelope Audio

This company makes a lot of what I consider in Don’t Get Jacked, as highly dubious claims about clocking, and will sell you incredibly expensive clocks if you’d like. That said, these interfaces have a lot of interesting features which may or may not be useful to you. In general, if you are in the 8 mic pre+ADAT market, you will probably find another interface that not only is far far cheaper, but will likely suit your needs better than any of these (if you need MIDI for example). Additionally, I have no idea what these drivers are like. With the hype surrounding these products coupled with the lack of substantive information about them, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t have another Apogee interface situation on our hands. In short, if you are a believer in word clock magic, you’ll probably want to save the frustration and buy one of these, as you will eventually do it anyway, but if you are a member of the reality based community, you might want to look elsewhere.

Behringer

Its always a toss up with Behringer stuff. Some of it is an unreal value, at any cost, easily besting rivals at ten times the price, and often boasting features even its more expensive competitors can’t match. Seemingly just as often, they offer crap that isn’t tempered even by the amount you “save”. I don’t know how well the current drivers for the models listed work, but I am trying to find out.

Focusrite

For a breath of fresh air, here is a company, that although they certainly have a hugely pedigreed name, not only are they not afraid to be completely upfront with information, but they also have many products in the “value” category, well tailored to this particular market. Aside from a dicey <ahem> start with DICE-II drivers in their firewire interfaces, Focusrite’s USB drivers, while not the fastest on the market are quite mature and stable at this point. They have done a good job of communicating with the community, and enter the dreaded forums when need be. While nobody is beyond reproach, Focusrite certainly earn my trust as a trustworthy company.

MOTU

When it comes to absolute speed and stability, MOTU and RME are the two horses in a two horse race, with the rest of the field trailing behind in various positions. As we move on away from firewire, it is a scary ride to watch these guys try and get the same I/O count over USB. I installed an 896mk3 Hybrid in a broadcast station, where it ran 24/7 on air for more than 3 years, and when it finally croaked, MOTU was only too happy to honor the warranty. The new 8pre USB is the successor to the firewire 8pre I had installed in dozens of studios and reccomended to many hundreds more. Unfortunately, you may not necessarily find what you want, features wise, among these particular models, but if they do fit your needs, these are a great way to go!

Presonus

Presonus and Focusrite seem to be locked in a deathmatch, with the winner being us, the consumers. These two continue to offer features aimed right at the 16 input market and in a nonstop game of one-upmanship, drop product after product screaming our names. If you need the Full Monte (DI’s, MIDI, wordclock and ADAT), chances are these guys have what you are looking for, and you’ll just watch the current offers, sales and specials to pick between. Like Focusrite, Presonus had a disastrous run with DICE-II early on (as did so many other companies), but also like Focusrite, their USB drivers are now stable and mature.

Steinberg 

The company that brought you Cubase and Wavelab! And much more importantly for everyone, ASIO and VST. When Steinberg brought Nuendo to market, it was the first time many of us had heard of RME. The early Steinberg branded RME gear really brought about a shift in what we could expect in terms of quality, reliability and support. I’ve had legendary forum flame wars with RME, but only because I knew what they were capable of and always respected them, no matter how heated it got. Steinberg seems to have teamed up with other hardware manufacturers since then, and I have no idea who’s making the UR824, but I hear a lot of praise for it in the forums. I’ll be investigating this one as time goes on.

TASCAM

I’ve been hands on with this one, though it was sketchy. Could have just been the guy’s laptop setup. This one is pretty full featured, with Word clock in and out, midi and DI’s. Not too sure how well the drivers work.

Zoom UAC-8

This company seems to be hit or miss when it comes to guitar processors and recording systems, but they are always willing to jump in with both feet when a market presents itself. I don’t know firsthand how their UAC-8 performs, but it certainly has the right feature set for many of the potential users. I’ll see what I can dig up.

 

 

 

 

Floyd Rose Saddles

1000 series seven string

These are Korean Floyds with steel parts, they are afaik available only on OEMs

The saddle numbering system is confusing

3 dots 10.06mm. Has “3” printed on underside of intonation area, and “2” printed on underside of lock block

Another has 3 dots 10.06mm. But this one has “1” printed on a different part of the underside of intonation area, and “3” printed on underside of lock block

Another has 3 dots 10.06mm. But this one has “1” printed on underside of intonation area, and also “1” printed on underside of lock block

2 dots 9.6mm. Has “1” printed on underside of intonation area, and “3” printed on underside of lock block

Another 2 dots 9.6mm. Has “1” printed on underside of intonation area, but another “1” printed on underside of lock block

1 dot 9mm. Has “1” printed on underside of intonation area, and “4” printed on underside of lock block

Another 1 dot 9mm. Has “2” printed on underside of intonation area, and “3” printed on underside of lock block

 

As far as I can tell, this means that one dot would be for the low b and high e. Two dots for low e and high b. Three dots for a, d and g

How to make a: Wireless, Battery Powered Behringer FCB 1010

TLDR Go Straight to the How To

 


Notice anything missing? Those pesky wires!

In an effort to greatly expand the power of my 1 wire FRFR setup (and so that I could control REAPER on windows), I wanted a bigger pedalboard, but I wanted to keep it wire free. That meant some sort of wireless and some sort of battery power, and in the case of the batteries, I wanted to make sure it was both rechargeable AND had more than enough capacity to make it through a show.

The iRig Blueboard that I was using with the iPad wasn’t listed as Windows compatible (though, as you’ll see below,that’s not 100% of the story. It certainly didn’t have as many switches as I wanted, but it certainly fit the wireless and battery powered part.

There were a few choices that looked cool to me, the battery powered MIDI Mongoose from Tech21, though it didn’t have many switches either. Roland FC200 had lots of switches and built in expression pedals,and was battery powered, but long out of production and hard for me to find, the newer FC300 had lost a lot of switches and was quite expensive.

The choice looked better and better to be the ubiquitous Behringer FCB 1010. It was neither wireless, nor battery powered, but it was cheap, available everywhere and had lots of switches and two expression pedals

So first I had to battery power this thing. There were a few articles out there showing that for the most part, it only required 5vdc, but it had problems when running from a powerbank. I saw lots of articles on how to add a regular adapter, and Eureka’s mod page showed that ac or dc would power it from 5-12 volts. A lot of the mod pages showed applying power right at the regulator, either input or output side, but that felt sketchy to me, especially if the power was over 5volts.

Most of the literature I could find showed 10v coming out of the transformer and 5v coming out of the regulator, so I figured my best bet was 9v. Which also hinted at why the Rolands used 6 double A’s. A regular 9v battery doesn’t have much capacity, but 6 AA’s sounded like a pain in the ass to keep recharged. I asked around, and got a lot of advice on the REAPER forum. I eventually stumbled upon the Joyo JMP-01 and picked it up from cheaperpedals on Reverb for 70 bucks.

This little guy claims 6600mAh, and at the dimension I was most worried about, was around 3 inches. I figured I’d velcro it to the pedal board and install a DC jack to plug it in.

There were lots of other good looking and way cheaper battery banks out there, but shipping them to Hawaii is EXTREMELY difficult.

Update: I received a Kuncan 5v to 9v USB adapter cable thing and it worked fine with a regular USB powerbank, so there is another, cheap way to go, you could probably find a way to mount everything inside and do some nice pretty, hidden charging. Just need to find a way to view the charge indicator if it has one. Here’s the one I used. https://www.amazon.com/KUNCAN-Converter-Step-Voltage-2-1mm/dp/B01ID90E3C

Here’s a test of it

 

Success!!! Powering from a get it anywhere usb power bank!

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The wireless on the other hand…youch.

Panda seems to have probably the best bet for me with their MIDI Beam. This says to be windows compatible, and would be trivial to power with the Joyo alongside the pedalboard. Unfortunately, its also over 200 bucks.

I went with the Yamaha MD BT-01

I’m not really sure I need the bidirectionality, but it doesn’t need its own batteries and its cheap

On the downside, it is listed as not Windows compatible. But I figured, if all else fails, I can bug Justin Frankel till he figures something out. Windows now supports Bluetooth LE, so its gotta at least talk to this thing, let’s try it!

Since my computer didn’t have bluetooth, I ordered a Pluggable Bluetooth adapter

Update: today I got a CME WIDI Bud. It shows up as a MIDI port in REAPER, and the lack of latency is INCREDIBLE! This is probably the best way to go so far.

Testing the Widi Bud:

@positivegrid widi bud making it happen faster and better!

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As soon as all the junk arrived, I started drilling holes in the pedalboard. First was to drill two holes under the expression pedals to that I could put in toe switches for activating wahs and things, since unlike Tonestack and AXE FX-II, the wahs I was looking at in VST could not auto engage. I wired these switches into switches 9 and 10 on the pedalboard, bummed that I was losing two pedals, but I figured it was a necessary evil.

However, thru parameter modulation in REAPER, I was able to kludge togther a sort of auto engage, so I ended up removing this mod….but PLEASE

PLEASE see this thread,

If you can make this particular JSFX, we would be most appreciative!!!

Basically, this would send a switching value when given an input from the same CC controlling the wah, in order to turn the wah on and off upon being moved off of rest

my psuedocode, sort of:

Sliders:
inCC // the cc# you want as a control
outCC // the cc# you want to send the output date to
threshold //checks the level of inCC. If inCC <=10 then outCC sends 0 to the cc# specified in outCC.
//IF inCC > 10 then outCC sends 127 to the cc# specified in outCC.

Sorry for the digression, but I think this would be a GREAT enhancement to MIDI control in REAPER

Update, this JSFX has been made! And then some. There was a ton of programming to do to get the very very most out of this system inside REAPER, which will probably be another article, but more on that later: Thanks to Michael Schnell and mpl!

https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=202857

 

Next I drilled a hole for the power jack and ran a wire from it to the input side of the regulator. I plugged the Joyo in, saw it flash a few times then turn off. Looking closer I realized that the Joyo was + on the outisde, – on the inside. Whoops, I had it backwards! Hopefully I didn’t fry anything!!! I reversed the jack wiring and tried it again. The Joyo flashed a few times then turned off. Bummer.

I plugged a 9vDC adapter in, just in case, and the pedalboard turned on for a bit! When I hit a pedal, it turned back off. It seemed quite intermittent, but sometimes it would fire up and sometimes not. Not looking good.

I plugged the regular A/C cable in to see if at least that worked, and joy of joys, it turned on and worked fine!

So I turned it off and plugged the 9v back in, but no lights :(, So of course you know what I did next, flip the main unit switch.

Whoops, now nothing would turn it on. Turns out there was a fuse at the mains input, and sure enough it was blown. Also sure enough, this being Hawaii, all the shops are closed early, and the chances of anyone having the required 3/4″ 100mA fuse were nill.

So in for a penny, in for a pound, if this thing was fried, I was going to fry it further. I tried a 12vDC adapter, and lo and behold, it worked perfectly! And then when I tried the 9v adadpter, that worked too…here I am thinking maybe it has to charge up some capacitors.

By morning time, I went to all the shops, unable to find a suitable fuse. I started yanking apart gear around the school and found a 500mA 3/4″ fuse in a dead computer, stuck it in, and was overjoyed to see that the FCB 1010 still worked on the mains!

In order to foolproof the pedalboard from my fool self, I decided to put in a DPDT on/off/on switch so you could chose between mains power and adapter/battery. When I went to test the switch, set it to A/C mains, worked fine. Stuck the 9v adapter in, no go…wait what? Tried the 12volt again and it worked…I questioned whether the switch was eating power, or if something was shorted, so I took the pedalboard apart, for probably the 20th time.

And then it hit me. What if the insulated DC jacks I ordered weren’t actually insulated? I pulled out my multimeter and checked continuitiy between the jack and the pedalboard’s case…

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!

Aha!!! I took some old little rubber feet, drilled them out, put liquid tape all over the jack, and hot gluegunned the jack inside the LRF and then gluegunned the LRF to the pedalboard.

12volt worked

9volt worked

Joyo worked!!!

I got on the computer and ordered some new fuses and some (hopefully for real this time) insulated power jacks from….not sure if I’ll get blacklisted for using the words, so, from here

Hopefully they work, I will update once I find out.

Update, I got the new insulated Jacks in and they are BEAUTIFUL!

I figure I will just velcro the Joyo to the pedalboard someplace, or maybe hot glue it, but when I get the new jack in, I may try and mount it inside the pedalboard. Some of you smarty pants out there may find a better battery pack that you can stick inside, wire the charging port to a jack on the outside of the pedalboard, and maybe drill a hole for its power switch and battery charge indicator lights. That would be way better, but I’m happy with this as it is.

I haven’t been able to determine how long the charge lasts. I had it on with the wireless for about 3 hours while I was programming the pedalboard and REAPER and SWS Live Configs (and oh boy will that be another, long and painful article) and the light was still green. I had it on and off for a total of about two hours today and its still green, I guess I’ll just leave it on overnight and see what happens. If I could find a switch to turn off the pretty much useless LED’s on the pedalboard, I bet it would last way longer.

Now onto the wireless.

I installed the Pluggable bluetooth drivers, no problems there.

I stuck the wireless MIDI jacks into the pedalboard, flipped the pedalboard on and got a flashing “8.8” on the FCB’s LED display. Looking it up I found a but about that on the Uno page, which said to hit any pedal and then ignore it. But of course, I tried powering up the board without the MIDI out connected and lo and behold, no flash, plugged the MIDI out in and all was still good.

Not sure if that will end up blowing up the MD-BT01, so, do that at your own risk. Yamaha says to plug them in before powering up the pedalboard FWIW

In windows settings, I went to “Add new Device”, chose Bluetooth, and saw the wireless show up so I paired them. All good there.

Opened REAPER, went to MIDI devices and….

nothing.

After some googling I saw mention of something called MIDIBerry in the windows app store for free

MIDIBerry

I installed it and it saw the wireless, I hit monitor, moved some pedals and YAY!!!! Numbers came flashing by!

Opened REAPER, went to MIDI devices and….

nothing.

BARF!!!

More Googling and I found a virtual midi driver(I think) called loopMIDI

I installed it, opened up MIDIBerry and was able to select the loopMIDI port thing

Opened REAPER, went to MIDI devices and….

SUCCESS!!!

REAPER sees it, lets me control it and, hell yeah, wireless, battery powered MIDI!!!! Ten switches and two expression pedals! YAY!

MIDI latency seems to vary, sometimes it seems to be nonexistent, sometimes its horrible. Sometimes, if MIDIBerry isnt focused, you lose MIDI. If MIDIBerry is minimized, you lose MIDI. If you turn monitoring off in MIDIBerry, sometimes you lose MIDI

I think we would be WAY better off if we had native Bluetooth LE support inside REAPER. and I’m betting it would be even better than others since Justin or Schwa would likely be doing it. AFAIK, Sonar, even on its last legs, has added this, so I think its doable.

Please, I implore you, do one or both of the following

1: Add your voice to the Bluetooth over MIDI Support in REAPER thread at the REAPER forum

2: Ask Justin for Bluetooth MIDI support in REAPER at AskJF

I may also later give the Panda MIDI Beam a try, we shall see.

Update, picked up the CME WIDI Bud and it is easy as pie now! REAPER sees it as a MIDI port, and the latency is nonexistent to me, same as plugging in a midi cable.

 

And now, after that excessive windbaggery and verbiage,

The How To

Again, ALL of the below is AT YOUR OWN RISK

Step 1: Take out the screws inside the red circles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: Once you get the cover off, you might want to take out the screw in the green circle. Be sure to wtach that you don’t drop the nut or the washers someplace you can’t find them, or where they might short things out

Step 3: Cut the two yellow wires inside the red circle. Cut somewhere way in the middle so you have room to work, you will likely need to add some length to these wires

 

 

 

 

Step 4: Drill a hole someplace smart and get ready to stick a DPDT switch in the hole.

Step 5: Wire the two yellow wires coming from the transformer side to two of the outside pins of the DPDT switch

Step 6: Wire the two yellow wires going to the PC board to the two center pins of the DPDT switch

Step 7: Drill a hole for the power jack someplace smart in the FCB’s case.

Step 8: Be DAMNED SURE to find a way to make sure the power jack is NOT shorting to the case or internally. Check with your multimeter

Step 9: Be DAMNED SURE to find a way to make sure the power jack is NOT shorting to the case or internally. Check with your multimeter

Step 10: Wire the two terminals of the power jack to the two outside pins of the DPDT switch, opposite from the pins you wired the transformer output to

 

 

 

 

Step 11: Use a magnet or compressed air to get rid of any shrapnel from the drilling process, being very careful to get rid of any metal that could short out any of the internals

Step 12: Screw in and secure the DPDT switch. Make sure it is well insulated from having any of the terminals touching anything. I suggest aligning the switch so that when you select AC Mains power, the switch lever points at the mains cable, and when you choose battery power, the lever points to the power jack

Step 13: Screw in and secure the power jack

Step 14: Be DAMNED SURE to find a way to make sure the power jack is NOT shorting to the case or internally. Check with your multimeter

Step 15: Switch to mains power, flip it on and see if it works

Step 16: Switch your DPDT switch to the center position, I suggest for now, unplugging the AC Mains cable as well

Step 17: Plug your battery in and switch the DPDT to battery power. Check if it works

Step 18: Figure a way to secure your battery to the unit, and definitely let me know if you come up with something clever!

Congratulation! No more A/C cable when you don’t feel like plugging one in!

Now onto the wireless

Step 19: Plug in your Wireless jacks, making sure to mind the arrows printed on the jacks to go to the correct jacks on the pedalboard. I am going to use some different colored nail polish or paint to make this more obvious for mine

Step 20: Download and install loopMIDI from here

Step 21: Open loopMIDI, go to the setup tab and click the plus button at the bottom so that you see a MIDI port

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 21: Download and install MIDIBerry from here

Step 22: Go to windows settings and pair your MIDI wireless in Bluetooth

Step 23: Open MIDIBerry, for input click on the wireless, for output, click on the loopMIDI port, which will be named “MIDI” whatever random number it assigned in the loopMIDI window

Step 24: Click your wireless in the input window again, turn monitoring on and move your pedal to confirm you are receiving MIDI

Step 20-24 updated: Get a Widi Bud from CME, install the Widi Plus program from CME, run it and pair your Wireless adapter, close Widi Plus

Step 25: Open REAPER, go to Preferences then MIDI Devices, right click on “loopMIDI Port” in the input device window and enable it (enabled or control only or enabled + control depending on what you are doing with it), hit apply and then OK

Step 26: Assign MIDI to stuff in REAPER and try it out! Congratulations, you got wireless MIDI in REAPER!

Step 27: Add your voice to the Bluetooth over MIDI Support in REAPER thread at the REAPER forum

Step 28: Ask Justin for Bluetooth MIDI support in REAPER at AskJF

Step 29: See if you or someone else can make a JSFX for auto engage, see this thread for details

iOS FRFR One Cable Setup!

The ONE Cable Setup
Here is my setup for convenience in that the only cable I actually have to plug in at a show is a single power cable! Everything that can be is wireless and battery powered.
 
The very basic building blocks here are an iPad, an FRFR wedge (in this case, an Alto TS210), and the IK Multimedia iRig Blueboard pedalboard and an expression pedal plugged into the Blueboard
 
The iPad is held in place with a scissor tablet holder, really adjustable and nice, but I’m open to other ideas.
 
The audio interface (in this case a Sonoma Wireworks StudioJack Mini) and wireless receiver (Line6 G30) are velcro’d to the speaker. This will most definitely void your warranty, and there are other ways to do it, but in my case, I drilled a hole in the speaker cabinet and soldered a powerstrip to the A/C input of the speaker. Note that the A/C input is unswitched, which is why I opted for a switched power strip here. I hot glued the power strip to the cabinet.
 
 
Wrap up and zip tie the power adapter cables between the power strip and the devices
 
Add a Direct Box and hot glue it to the back (I also tried to take apart this speaker’s electronics and just put the direct box’s guts into the spare jack to clean it up further, but there were a lot of surface mount parts, so I thought better of it)
 
You definitely DO NOT want a soundman stupid enough to try and mic up an FRFR to try and mic up YOUR FRFR, the Direct Box helps avoid that silliness
 
In my case, the stereo TRS out of the Audio Interface goes to the Speaker input and the DI input.
 
Add some right angle plugs if need be to really clean things up!
 
All that’s left is to plug in the IEC cord

Choosing an iOS Guitar Interface

Want to plug your guitar into an iPad so you can carry around a giant pedalboard in your pocket virtually? You’ll need an interface of some sort. When I started this journey, I thought I had done my due diligence, as I thought that this stuff was at least on par with the hobby level electronics for the desktop.

Most of it isn’t.

The community doesn’t expect it to be and the manufacturers don’t for the most part seem to care about real world performance. I am going to try to make the guide I wish I had when I started this, and hopefully it will help you avoid mistakes and pitfalls I fell prey to. I thought I had read all the necessary “reviews” when I started this, as there were even web pages devoted to this subject. Some of them were obvious nonsense, but some seemed well intentioned. I made too many assumptions that these sites would have screamed from the hills if the very basics were broken, but I was wrong. Really wrong. I intend for this to be actually useful to using the devices for their intended purposes.

I will add devices as I receive units to test. For manufacturers, most of you already know from our time together on desktop devices that I will most happily accept products for review, and in that case, I will submit my findings to you before posting so you have a chance to comment or set me straight on any issues I have, but as always, I WILL report the truth as I see it. I welcome your participation, but I want to reiterate the risk you are taking that I may give your product a bad review.

TL;DR – here we go.

I tried to get a really good look at these things to see basically what sorts of ins and outs they have…Even pictures are a bit difficult to track down sometimes, and most of the questions you would think to ask when looking for this sort of thing aren’t really available. Contacting the manufacturers was sometimes helpful in clarifying things.

Apogee

Apogee’s Jam line of products seem like they would have been cool back before the lightning audio days. As far as I can tell, they don’t have any actual outputs, instead relying on the mobile device to provide the audio output. I think this is a non starter for our purposes, and won’t be saying any more about these as far as I know.

Verdict: No thanks

 

 

 

ONE/ Duet/ Quartet

Apogee is an enigma, they were really early to jump into the digital game, when there were still significant (and actually audible) problems with digital recording. We got their early filters for our Mitsubishi ProDigi format machines and it was a difference we could not only measure, but made a big difference in typical day to day stuff like setting compressor thresholds. That bit of splat, that I think George Massenburg assured us was group delay, made compressors for instance react to a different level than the one we apparently heard. Technobabble aside, it was a huge improvement. Later we would go on to get their analog to digital converters to replace the front end of the early tape based digital machines like our Sony PCM3348’s and later as front ends to the Modular Digital Multitracks (ADATs and DA-88’s for instance). They took a lot of first steps and really worked out how ADCs and DACs would work in a multitrack environment.

And then the computers came. The MDM style products still made great converters for the budding multichannel audio interface market, but Apogee decided to make their own. Way early to the digital party, and way late to the interface party, Apogee priced about on par with their name and reputation (the same way Focusrite did, although Focusrite having already established varying lines for varying budgets in the pre computer days, did the same on the DAW side as well), but their drivers and implementation were nowhere near as mature as even the “budget” companies’ offerings. As a predictable result, sending products to market before many of those who needed to be in the loop had a chance to test them, Apogee released some sound cards (and yeah, I will happily use that term interchangeably with “audio interface”, sue me) that absolutely tanked. Apogee was bit hard coming up short against the ASIO wall, and on this market, they never really seemed to recover and went off to hide in the Mac world.

Lucky for us! That means that some of the more desktop style I/O’s are available for iOS, where there is less chance of incompatible hardware, making it a lot easier to build for, and no pesky ASIO

Like the similar Presonus and Focusrite models, the Apogee Duet and Quartet are dual use dektop and mobile. Unlike those however, they are Mac side only and not Windows (I did see some press announcement that finally, Apogee have joined the 21st century and as of November, should have some Windows drivers, not holding my breath and given Apogee’s track record, would wait about 6 months of ASIO success before really being able to recommend these for that use).

As a harbinger of things to come, the ONE makes the untrue claim right out of the gate, and I quote from the website “The only interface that charges iOS devices while in use and can also be battery powered.” Sorry, there are other interfaces that can meet both requirements (and ones that don’t NEED to be battery powered as well). On the other hand, this is certainly a contender. Stereo ins on a breakout box, 1/8″ headphone out, a bit of metering, power input and also doubles as a USB interface for Mac desktop, and maybe someday, Windows…more on that below.

The Duet has two inputs and four outputs, which could possibly, through some tricky use of Audiobus or other routing solutions, help to deal with some of the routing issues in our existing iOS guitar software. It also has MIDI over USB. It also claims desktop level +20dBu outputs! Yowza! I have read that it offers pass thru charging to the iDevice as well. Which also brings up the point that this device needs a power supply to work with the mobile gear. Something I don’t see mentioned enough is its handy, multifunction knob for setting in and out levels. Very large, clear and seems to be made in a way that you don’t need to duct tape the knobs in place like some of the other devices…cool! Like the iRig pro, the inputs are Neutrik style Combo connectors, nice! The Duet also has some seriously serious looking metering.

The Quartet ups the ante on the Duet offering 4 Combos in and 6 1/4″ out….All separate, REAL connectors, VERY nice! Again serious metering here as well. Something else I don’t think I’ve seen on any other of these devices: 8 ins and outs over ADAT! This brings the Quartet up to the level of the type of product you can find on Craigslist of 50 dollar desktop interfaces, but on the mobile platform. Something comfortable, something familiar! Like a beacon in a storm almost.

The Verdict: These three devices offer some cool features, some with unique features, but they have their issues as well. The ONE and the Duet have their I/O on breakout boxes, adding to the unreliability (but then again, potentially fixable in ways the internal connectors of other devices may not be), not sure the availability of replacement cables, and this could lessen their perceived portability and add a tiny bit of complexity. Is it worth it? Up to you. Cutting down on the portability as well are the power requirements. The ONE seems to need batteries like the iRig Pro series, again, this may or may not be an issue to you. The Duet and Quartet have the same pluses and minuses as the other desktop style interfaces reviewed here, with the extreme disadvantage that the others have stable, mature ASIO drivers for Windows, while at this time these devices are Mac only on the desktop side. Entire forums have been shut down arguing over converter quality between Apogee Lavry, Mytek and all the budget converters, so I won’t really go into that here although, I would be willing to do one of my notorious bets that you won’t be able to pick the apogee in an ABX over the Presonus or Focusrite. I would happily put up some gear for that challenge. Because of this, for the cost of the Apogee, I would buy two of the arguably more functional desktop style interfaces from Presonus or Focusrite and have some money left over for a Blueboard or BT-4, before I bought one of these two units. The ONE may be more of a contender if you don’t mind the power requirements and the breakout cables VS the comparable iRig stuff

Behringer

iS202

This device is a docking style interface with a really comprehensive looking set of inputs and outputs. It also seems to have pass through charging. Unfortunately, I think it is only for older devices. It was unclear to me if there is a lightning connector version.

Verdict: Probably pretty cool in its day, and probably still cool for the devices it supports, but without lightning support, this feels like an evolutionary dead end.

 Focusrite

iTrack One Pre/ iTrack Pocket


These two lightning devices, like the Apogee Jam series, don’t seem to have any outputs of their own. They are probably great for older devices, but I wouldn’t be too interested in them for stage duty.

iTrack Dock

Now we’re talking! Lightning connector, real, separate 1/4″ outputs, and separate physical gain controls where you need them. Microphone inputs, should you need them, USB MIDI of some sort and a claimed +10dBu out! Yes!

You give up a little in the way of convenience and portability in that you need to supply A/C to the Dock’s power supply, but on the plus side, this guy has pass thru power and charges your iPad while its docked!

I need to give one of these a real test and see if that need for a power supply is really any issue in real use.

iTrack Solo

This is a bit of a different beast, as it is also a Mac/Windows USB audio interfaces, as well as an iOS interface. With Focusrite, this means pretty mature, reliable, and confidence building ASIO drivers. Quite cool to be able to use the same device for your “real” DAW and your iGuitar duties.

While this device does have separate left right outputs, they are on [YUK!] RCA jacks. There also is a stereo Headphone out, thankfully on 1/4″.

If you are using this with an iPad, as with the iTrack Dock, you’ll need to power it. In this case it has a USB port for charging, might be able to use one of those portable power brick battery things. Unfortunately, if I am reading the manual correctly, this device will not pass through the power and charge your iPad.

Verdict: For my money, the iTrack Dock seems to be the best way to go from the Focusrite offerings. I’m swimming in multichannel ASIO audio interfaces, so the dual nature of the Solo isn’t really a seller for me, but for others it well could be. Pass thru power, a plethora of 1/4″ outputs, and pass thru charging tilt the scales way in the favor of the Dock

Griffin

GuitarConnect Cable

If you have to, I guess….Analog connection through your iDevice’s headphone jack, so no lighting only newer devices. You’d probably be better off with one of the analog iRigs.

GuitarConnect Pro

Like the Apogee stuff, there doesn’t seem to be any outputs on this thing, but it looks like it works with lightning, USB and 30 pin devices. I guess if you have an older device, this could be OK…Its not much cheaper than an iRig HD though, which seems (still working through an iRig issue with IK’s tech support) to be much better on paper, and definitely has some outputs. I wouldn’t recommend this product.

StudioConnect

Seems to be 30 pin only, what a bummer, as it has a full set of ins and outs including MIDI. According to an article at Premier Guitar, there’s supposed to be a lightning version of this, but that was 2013, and I see nothing about it at Griffin’s website

IK Multimedia

iRig 2

A newer incarnation of the device that seems to have started it all. Chances are the whole reason you are looking at any of this, comes from IK Multimedia’s early work. I was blown away back in the day at a NAMM show watching people walking around with an entire guitar amp and FX system on their phones! That was the kind of future tech that you could respond to the ever present question “come on man, where’s my flying car already?”. Unfortunately, for some reason, not all that much has changed since then for IK’s software, which had once led the pack, and still a KILLER contender on the desktop, just isn’t much on the iPad. If you are looking for Amplitube on the iDevices, look at Tonestack, it has its own issues and shortcomings, but its as close to Amplitube VST as you are going to get on the iOS system.

Still, IK are the pioneers and we have a lot to thank them for in the mobile world.

The iRig 2 is the newest incarnation of their original devices, utilizing the headphone/mic jack on the older iThings as the I/O. This makes things a little iffy with noise and especially, feedback issues. Some software will allow an anti-feedback mode to use with this style of interface, but that makes it mono, killing the ability to run The One True Path (a signal with no cab sim for the guitar amp and a signal with a cabinet simulator on for the PA system).

This particular unit has a 1/4″ output (but it is summed to mono as far as I can tell) and a stereo 1/8″ headphone out.

For historical reasons, I figured this unit needed to be on the list, as it is the modern presentation of a legacy, but unless you have an older device that can’t do lightning, I would definitely avoid this model.

iRig HD 2

Here we are with a modern, lightning interface from IK Multimedia. Personally, I feel this unit sounds MILES above the iRig 2, especially up high in the treble department. To me, the difference was stunning. And that is nothing compared to the noise and lack of feedback problems! Perfect, right?

Well, maybe, or maybe not so much.

I started getting horrendous noises and distortions when clicking on menus or sometimes, even at random. Initially, in communication with IK’s tech support, they sure made it seem like they hadn’t seen this problem before, but it wasn’t too long before I found forum posts explaining it and the problems, and finally, at the end IK spilled the beans. This device shouldn’t be used with the older devices, as something broke in OS 10 or so….Not IK’s fault, and the prevailing wisdom is that Apple is aware of this problem, but probably won’t be fixing it…Indeed, it has gone on so long that the time for fixing was a few generations ago, so that’s probably true.

http://cgi.ikmultimedia.com/ikforum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=12867

Still, there should be a BIG FAT warning in giant letters at IK’s site warning of incompatibilities with this model and older devices. I believe it behooves any manufacturer to think of their customers this way. IK didn’t so I will

DO NOT BUY THIS DEVICE FOR OLDER MODELS!!! NO!

You’re welcome, IK Multimedia.

Back to the device itself, it has a 1/4″ output, though it also seems summed to mono, and an 1/8″ stereo headphone out.

But the levels? Hmmm…Well, that has been quite a struggle!

Low Output on iOS guitar interfaces

I have played tech support ping pong with IK for quite a while over this, and picked up another unit on Craigslist that had the same issues, so I am not convinced this device has the drive to put out a sensible level that your guitar amp wants. As far as I have been able to test, the level, at its very maximum, with the input and output gains driven to full distortion, is a full 12 dB less than the guitar that went into it. This is NOT the level your guitar amp wants to see.

The verdict: This unit sounds great, and has some cool features, but due to its level issues, I would NOT recommend it. If IK wants to send me a third one, I’ll try it again, but as of this writing, I have to give a big, fat, no thanks to this device.

iRig Pro I/O / iRig Pro Duo

iRig Pro I/O

 

iRig Pro Duo

The Pro I/O was originally the unit I was going to get when I started all this, as it came in a box with the iRig Blueboard, a wireless MIDI controller that looked so cool that it was really the reason for trying all of this in the first place. However, as it didn’t have a 1/4″ out, I figured it wasn’t for me…If only I knew then what I know now!

I know I can sound like a stuck record, but the lack of basic documentation in the iOS world compared to what we are used to on the desktop, really knocks people down dead end and costly paths. A lot of why I’m writing this is to help the next guy down this road avoid as much of the nonsense and non starters as possible.

Now, these two units have some cool stuff! MIDI I/O, Mic inputs, and possible pass through charging. I say possible, as it requires their special adapter, not sure if your local electronics store will have an extra one of those in a pinch.

These things do, for some reason require power, in the form of batteries, or that adapter. I tried hard to find out if the power was only necessary if you were planning on phantom powering things, but couldn’t find an answer. I’m going to assume you need to stick batteries in these things in order to work. I had earlier been led to believe that lightning power wasn’t enough to reach acceptable output levels, hence the trouble with the iRig HD 2, and that’s why you’d need the batteries on this, but as shown below, Sonoma Wire Works claims desktop interface output levels on their lightning powered units. We shall see.

The Duo looks extra smart, as it has two actual 1/4″ outputs…and I’m going to assume they aren’t just mono summed mirrors of each other (yes I know, assuming ANYTHING on iOS is folly, but still…Not making these stereo would be as dumb as Line 6 not putting a line output on the Amplifi 150)

The iRig Pro I/O sadly, has no 1/4″ outputs, but does have the same 1/8″ stereo output as the Duo.

I haven’t tried either of these yet, but likely will. If IK or anyone else wants to send them to me, I’ll be glad to give them a run.

The verdict: These need power of some sort, either batteries or their special adapter. If this doesn’t deter you (and assuming the output levels are decent, which I have no real reason to believe at the moment), these are probably a cool choice.

STOP THE PRESSES!!!!

iRig Stomp I/O

Just announced at NAMM 2018, this guy looks seriously targeted for the exact problems a lot of us want solved. I’ve had some un-nice things to say about some of the IK stuff here, but this really looks like they hit one out of the park. I’ll have a lot more to say once I have one in my hands

Four footswitches, an expression pedal, sensible I/O, an iPad holder….smart stuff IK!

Line6

Sonic Port/Sonic Port VX

Ahh Line 6, another pioneering company. My first brush with them was doing a Rob Halford album in the 90’s and we had received two of those crazy little POD beans to use on the session. Shrapnel’s Derek Taylor proceeded to wail 4 thousand notes per second all over these things, and it was a really really fast and easy way to get song ideas down before anyone could forget them.

Line 6 is really forward thinking and usually has a whole bunch of new ideas every time you run into them. They revolutionized a lot of ways of dealing with sound and especially controlling those sounds.

However, they often do really dumb things, like not putting a line out on the Amplifi 150…Not sure if I’ll ever let them live that down…and it worries me that in an already sketchy environment, they might have messed up on their iOS interfaces. But maybe not, I don’t know as of yet.

The Sonicport looks good, lightning interface, no batteries needed, no gain controls (not sure if that’s good or bad, but after using duct tape to hold my position on the iRig 2’s gain control, could be a good thing), a stereo output on 1/4″ TRS and a headphone output on 1/8″.

I read a lot on forums about low output gain, but I haven’t seen any actual numbers to back that up (hint hint….come on, manufacturers and forum posters alike, its really not that hard to at least give some relative numbers! Plug your guitar into a DI in your DAW, look at the levels, then plug the interface out into that same DI, plug your guitar into the interface and see what you get!)

There is also a Sonic Port VX version that adds a microphone (!) and some sort of pass through charging, though I couldn’t find much info on this last feature.

The Verdict: This could really be a great device! I thought I would have one by now, but no luck, if anyone wants to send me one, I will gladly put it through its paces! Line 6, if you are listening, send me one of these, and please, for the love of The Flying Spaghetti Monster, put a $%#^#^$^ line out on the Amplifi 150!

Melo Audio

Tone Shifter 3/ Tone Shifter 3s

Apparently audio I/O and MIDI switches, could be very cool, but I have an extremely hard time finding info on it.

This interface seemed to have a kickstarter fund attached to it, but information is scarce for me. The website doesn’t seem to load, but it looks good features wise.

Multiple attempts to contact the manufacturer on social media, websites and kickstarter have failed, so until I hear more, as cool as this thing looks, I have no idea how to try one.

Presonus

Audiobox iOne/ Audiobox iTwo

I love it when a manufacturer puts up clear pictures of all the gozintas and gozoutas of a device! Makes things much easier to judge at a glance and understand the claims made in the ads.

Similar to the Focusrite iTrack Solo, and isn’t it always what you would expect, these two guys always vying for the same niche of the same markets, one with the weight of their historical name and the other with sheer pluck and resourcefulness (Presonus I forgive you for ever using the dreaded DICE II chipset on some of your firewire interfaces, as Focusrite did the exact same %^&$& thing!)

Unlike the iTrack Solo however, this unit has actual 1/4″ outs! Yes, thank you! Claiming a +10 dBU output, and also, like the iTrack Solo, can work as a computer audio interface (hopefully with Presonus’ decent ASIO drivers).

The iOne requires power over USB and can pass thru charge your iDevice.

The Verdict: If more of a desktop style is OK for you, this unit should be more than great. Not quite as portable as the lightning powered units.

Sonoma Wire Works

I haven’t tried either of these yet, but they look very promising!

Update: In the initial testing stages of the StudioJack Mini, see below

GuitarJack Stage

This looks to be quite a serious piece of gear! MIDI pedals, MIDI knobs, plenty of I/O and an expression pedal input!

Pass thru charging! And without any sort of special adapter apparently.

Separate left and right 1/4″ Line outs

1/4″ Stereo headphone out

This is another device that is able to be used as an audio interface for the desktop, and ASIO drivers for it are available.

Like a few other devices in this roundup, the GuitarJack Stage also has a mic input, I don’t bring this up much as its not so relevant to the specific use I intend for them, but know that its there, and even has its own, actual, real, physical, knob to control gain.

I even read a few different reviews and forum posts that said this unit could work alongside IK Multimedia’s BlueBoard bluetooth MIDI controller, who’s achilles heel has been the inability to add more switches to it. I need to test this claim still.

Claims:

  • Maximum output level (into 32 Ohms): 1.09 Vrms (34 mW) [my calculations say 2.97 dBu]
  • Maximum output level (into 10 kOhms): 1.00 Vrms (+2.2 dBu)

Not sure why this claim is so much lower than the StudioJack Mini below. I have asked the manufacturer, awaiting response.

Really good sign, in less than a day, Sonoma Wire Works explained why the numbers should be as claimed. I will never stop believing that a big part of REAPER’s success is that we would do everything in our power to help the users, even if it meant driving the old:

’99 TJ REAPER Mobile

across the country! A responsive developer like this is a very good sign indeed.

Erik Klerk’s GuitarJack Stage setup. Note the, apparently, Radial DI for the PA output. Sonoma Wire Works definitely recommends NOT putting phantom power into this thing, and anyway, you need to get the levels sensible as the outputs are line level, and unlike so many of the other devices, are claimed to be capable of desktop interface levels of output gain. Note also the expression pedal input, the REALLY long cable from the GuitarJackStage to the iPad, and what seems to be BIAS FX

StudioJack Mini

Pass thru charging!

Stereo 1/4″ output

Like the GuitarJack Stage, this unit can also function as an audio interface for the desktop and has ASIO drivers.

Claims (now verified!)

  • Maximum output level (into 32 Ohms): 1.09 Vrms (34 mW) [my calculations say 2.97 dBu]
  • Maximum output level (into 10 kOhms): 1.73 Vrms (+7.0 dBu)

“The Vrms specs on our site are accurate, but I did some fresh Vpp measurements so you can compare. I got out my Fluke 289 multimeter, a Telecaster, and the StudioJack Mini plugged into an iPhone 6, no external power. Using the the Peak voltage measurement feature on the Fluke, the output of a solid strum across the open strings with the Bridge pickup on the Tele is ~2.5Vpp (it’s got some pretty hot pickups:) Plugging the Tele into the StudioJack Mini and setting the input level to just before the LED turns red (about halfway on the input knob), GuitarTone app running on iPhone, but with all the amps and effects bypassed, so basically just a pass through, with a similar strum yields a similar ~2.5Vpp output. Running a Signal Generator app, with a 1kHz sine wave with full output level I measure ~3.6Vpp. Changing to a GuitarJack Stage gives similar results. So yes it is definitely possible, and our devices both do it without external power. Of course, add the external power, and you get the pass-through charging for your iPhone or iPad:) We run them for 10 hours a day, all week at NAMM. We had to have twice as many iPads as demo stations at shows before we added charging. It was our number one feature request for GuitarJack Model 2, and it tool a lot of work to get right. A lot of this is thanks to Joe Bryan”

THAT is the kind of tech support you’d expect from a company that wanted to stay alive in the desktop world, but is so sadly lacking in the iOS world. This is what you should DEMAND, without question, from the other iOS based companies. MEGA kudos to Sonoma Wire Works.

Hopefully I’ll be trying these sooner rather than later.

Update: Got one on order stay tuned!

Here’s the StudioJack Mini next to my iRig HD2 for a good size comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the products themselves live up to the excellent customer care standards SWW have already shown, I think these devices will be the top of the heap.

After quite a bit of testing I can verify the level claims, this thing is SERIOUSLY legit! The included cables are nice and long, no worried about having to tweak them into suicidally crazy bends in order to hook it up to your iDevice. The multi colored level LEDS on the top of the unit are very handy, a cool feature that some of the iRigs and the Apogees have as well. I found this unit to have plenty of level, no silly noises, and even next to my computer, had very good noise rejection (below the noise level of my guitar). I know I harp on it a lot, but again, the output level was more than high enough to make my amp’s FX loop happy.

A real good look at just how small this thing is. If you were worried by the pictures on the website thinking this was quite a bit larger than the conveniently pocketsized IK iRig devices, fear not. Yet somehow it still has the space for charging and real 1/4″ jacks

 

 

 

 

My live and testing setup. StudioJack Mini velcroed to the top of the amp and velcro for my iPad’s case. The Fender Mustang III V2 is pretty handy for this. I have my software’s right signal path including a cabinet simulator, while the left signal path contains no cabinet emulation. If you switch the Mustang’s FX Loop return to “Looper Pedal” setting, the FX return is the only signal path before the volume knob that goes to the speakers. The real speaker does the cabinet sound, since, well, its a speaker in a cabinet! Plugging into here breaks the path from the main guitar input to the speakers. The main input goes thru the regular preamp section, where I have bypassed anything that could be bypassed and set anything else flat. The right signal with the cabinet emulator goes in here, and it goes out to the Mustang’s line level XLR outputs. This way, the soundguy gets the cab sim signal for the PA, without needing a direct box, and the amplifier’s speaker gets the signal it wants! Perfect! Till I get my hands on an FRFR setup anyway

In Conclusion

For a modern lightning device, staying as wireless as possible, the Line 6 Sonic Port, possibly the IK Multimedia iRig HD 2 (though I still have GRAVE concerns about the level issues and some questionable non confidence in their tech support) seem like good choices. But to me , the Sonoma Wire Works StudioJack Mini pulls far, far ahead in this category.  The IK Multimedia iRig Pro I/O and iRig Pro Duo could possibly fit into this category as well, I need to find out more about their power situation and output levels.

For a modern lightning device where you don’t mind cables running across the floor, the Focusrite iTrack Dock looks to be an extremely solid contender, with its mass of I/O’s and pass through charging and general Focusrite reliability. However, not to sound like a fanboy, the Sonoma Wire Works GuitarJack Stage looks to absolutely wipe the floor with the competition. If it lives up to its claims, it would seem to dominate this particular category without even an inkling of taking prisoners.

And Finally

As always, I am FOREVER on the lookout for programmers, especially ones that speak C++. I believe my track record of successful audio engineering software should be an encouragement for any coder looking to get into this stuff and we can do some AWESOME work together, let’s go guys!!!

I get a lot lot lot lot of requests and questions about this or that gear, but as some of you know, I make very little money in real life, and any time a windfall shows up, I just end up buying fun stuff for our kids at Kailua Music School, so I have near zero funds to buy and try this stuff. I don’t know if I could set up an easier to use testing donation fund (thanks millions by the way for the stuff so far, everyone reading this is benefiting from your contribution!). Probably the best thing to do at the moment is either send me the things, or ask any manufacturer in question to send it to:

Kailua Music School
131 Hekili Street Suite: 209
Kailua, HI 96734

 

If you like the kind of stuff I’m doing here, please consider buying some vintage REAPER shirts at my spreadshirt store. https://shop.spreadshirt.com/pipelineaudio/

Low Output on iOS guitar interfaces

Update: As far as I can tell upon much much much testing, while the most I can coax out of this thing is 0.684volts or around -4dBu (as compared to Sonoma Wire Works StudioJack Mini’s 1.3volts or a solid +4dBu at 0dBFS with the 0dBFS being according to the iPad Levels app running in Audiobus 3 ), it is in excess of the -10 standard. I just flat out don’t know why the amplifier FX returns or PA inputs I have tried it in don’t seem to like how quiet it is.

For the real surprise, I was shocked by just how crazy loud even my passive guitars were. Yes, its still true as below that the iRig output was at best 12 dB below my guitar, but holy good golly miss molly, my EMG guitar ended up measuring a whopping 1.8volts or a WHOPPING +7dBu….OK

Just to test my sanity I compared I/O levels with that guitar going into different devices, and aside from desktop audio interfaces, they all came out lower than what the guitar was putting out, including an ART Tube MP. A digitech RP 360 XP for a reference came out at 0.32volts, just about right on the money for a -10dBV

I don’t know if I was totally wrong in this whole situation, but I certainly wasn’t getting or putting out the whole picture, so I’m doing my best to correct it

now onto the original post, saved to show my humiliation 

I have been testing a few of the iOS interfaces available. The specs for the iRig HD 2 show the maximum output at being 1.6vpp, which is roughly equivalent to a guitar output (my EMG 707’s put out about 1.5vpp if I hit an open A chord). If anything, these devices should be capable of MUCH more output, a regular audio interface will be on the order of +10 – +20dBu (1.6vpp is around -2.7dBu for reference). But I digress

I can’t get the actual output going through this device and through any software (even with everything bypassed) to get anywhere near this level. Here are the results of some testing I did, first setting guitar to DI to -15dBFS for reference levels

guitar into DI = -15dBFS

guitar into iRig HD 2 (not connected to lightning) into DI = -28dBFS Gain controls have no effect but Thru/FX switch mutes when set to FX

guitar into iRig HD 2 (connected to lightning) into DI = -15dBFS Thru/FX switch set to Thru. Gain controls have no effect

guitar into iRig HD 2 (connected to lightning) into DI Loudest with no distortion = -28dBFS Thru/FX switch set to FX. All Amplitube FX bypassed.

guitar into iRig HD 2 (connected to lightning) into DI Using Amplitube’s in/out controls to set for highest output, allowing distortion = -27dBFS
Thru/FX switch set to FX. All Amplitube FX bypassed.

I have exchanged some emails with IK’s tech support over this, and tested roughly the same on an iRig 2. Anyone know if the Sonicport has higher output levels?

Update: I have heard from IK Multimedia tech support and they say I should definitely be getting higher levels and perhaps I have gotten two defective units…Stranger things have happened, stay tuned when I try another one!

Could there be some setting on the iPad telling it to drop the lightning connector’s audio 12dB?