6 easy ways to connect your guitar to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch
Many of us have iPhones, some of us have iPads, and it can’t have escaped your attention that there are many apps available for iOS devices aimed at guitarists.
From the simplest tuner, to tab and tutorial apps, through amp simulations and multitrack recording suites, there’s plenty for players at all levels – and often at real pocket money prices. To take advantage of some of these, though, you need to plug in a guitar, and there are several devices on the market that let you do just that. Of course, you could always grab a Squier USB Strat from the Apple Store and do without an interface, but that's not the only option.
What’s often needed is a piece of hardware that will take the signal from a standard guitar jack lead and get that signal into the iOS device. It can do this in one of two ways – either through the mini jack headphone socket or through the dock (a 30-pin connector).
Obviously if you’re using the headphone socket you can’t use it for headphones, so any input devices that take this route provide their own inbuilt headphone socket to compensate. A device that’s plugged into the dock has no such restriction, so you can still use the headphone socket for monitoring.
Some input devices are essentially adaptors that route the analogue signal in and let the iOS device’s own A/D converters do the rest while others can send a digital signal in. We give you the lowdown on six different input devices to help you decide which is best for you, although the imminent arrival of Line 6's Mobile In is likely to increase the competition even further.
Bear in mind that while most apps should be compatible with any input device, there are some exceptions – for example, at present IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube will only accept an input through the iPad’s headphone socket.
IK Multimedia iRig (£29)
Simply plugging into your iOS device’s headphone socket via its attached lead, the iRig is IK Multimedia’s companion to its iOS versions of the wildly successful AmpliTube modelling software.
It couldn’t be easier to use – just plug your guitar into one end of the cylindrical device, your headphones into the other, and off you go.
Peavey Ampkit Link (£31)
The only device of the six on test to require batteries (a pair of AAAs), the Ampkit Link is made by Peavey in conjunction with Agile Partners – a developer that produces the Ampkit app.
It connects via the headphone socket through its attached cable – guitar and headphones both plug into the same end of the unit’s plastic body.
Apogee JAM (£90)
Apogee is a heavyweight in professional analogue/ digital audio conversion and the JAM is the only input device in this group that has its own onboard conversion – converting your guitar signal to digital before it reaches your iOS device’s dock.
It can also work when plugged directly into a Apple Mac computer using the supplied USB cable.
Alesis iO Dock (£139)
The iO Dock sits on your desk like a portastudiostyle device and houses your iPad or iPad 2 at a practical working angle.
It has socketry on its back and sides, offering all the connectivity you’d need to utilise recording apps and software synths, as well as guitar-related apps.
Apple Camera Connection Kit (£25)
Apple’s Camera Connection Kit offers two items that connect to the dock. One of them reads SD cards, but the other one allows you plug in a USB cable, letting you send a signal from an audio interface into the iPad.
Sonoma Wire Works GuitarJack ($49)
Sonoma Wire Works has a new version of GuitarJack that will work with iPads and newer iPhones in the pipeline, but this version only works with the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and the second and third generation iPod touch.
However, in anticipation of the new product, the asking price has been reduced to a bargain $49 from the original $99.