AmpKit Gets a Beautiful Update

March 27th, 2012 by Jack Ivers

AmpKit IconOn March 16th, Apple began delivering the new iPad with its breathtaking 3.1 million-pixel Retina display. Today, March 27th, we’re excited to release AmpKit 1.3, with full support for this new Retina display.

Few apps are more graphics-intensive than AmpKit, due to its extensive library of virutal gear, the most complete of any iOS amp simulator — now up to 36 amp channels, 24 effects pedals, 21 speaker cabinets, and 8 mics. Updating all the associated graphics was a major effort: over 140 separate images had to be re-rendered using four times as many pixels.

Why did we bother with visuals when AmpKit is all about tone? When you walk around NAMM you get to see firsthand how important the visual is to music gear. This seems especially true for the kind of guitar gear that lives virtually inside AmpKit. Amps, cabinets, pedals, and microphones all have intense visual presences. Iconic guitar gear is as iconic visually as it is tonally.

Creating the beautiful Retina visuals in AmpKit 1.3 was indeed a painstaking, time-consuming effort, but we feel strongly about its importance. It gave us the chance to more fully evoke the visual aspect of the amazing guitar gear living inside AmpKit, and we hope you enjoy the results. Example Retina screenshots (you may need to hit the maginifier icon to see these full size):

Thoroughly Modern Bass Amplification Comes to iOS

Trace Elliot 1215 Bass Amp ScreenshotThe newest amplifier to arrive in the AmpKit Gear Store is the Trace Elliot 1215, the most feature-rich amplifier we’ve ever modeled in AmpKit, and the first modern bass amp simulation available on iOS. Modern bass amps are complicated beasts, with a significantly larger feature set than the average guitar amp. The Trace Elliot 1215 model in AmpKit includes the sophistication that bass players have come to love in the real Trace Elliot amps:

  • Switchable valve (tube) drive circuit, delivers fat, rich bass distortion.
  • Single-touch Pre Shape circuit which applies a set EQ pattern that produces the classic Trace Elliot tone shape.
  • 12-band Graphic Equalizer, with the frequency bands specially tuned for bass.
  • Dual-band compressor, likewise tuned for bass signals.

The tone fidelity is everything you’ve come come to expect in AmpKit. Besides our sophisticated amp simulation, we’ve included a convolution-based simulation of the 1215′s cabinet, which features a specially designed 15″ Celestion┬« speaker and high-frequency horn.

Digital guitar interfaces, like the upcoming AmpKit LiNK HD, are ideal for bass. If you don’t yet have a digital interface, though, AmpKit’s adaptive input compensation logic takes the input from less-expensive headset interfaces like AmpKit LiNK and adds back attenuated bass frequencies. The result is remarkably good – good enough that Nathan Peck, the bass player of the Alex Skolnick Trio, played through AmpKit LiNK at this 2011 performance:

More Rocktrons for Metal and Gain Enthusiasts

We worked closely with Bob Waller, President of Rocktron, to select the initial Rocktron pedals for AmpKit. Our criteria for new gear in AmpKit is (1) it needs to have amazing tone, and (2) that tone needs to be unique. The first Rocktron pedals we introduced in December, Zombie Rectified Distortion and Cottonmouth Fuzz, certainly qualified. In AmpKit 1.3, we’ve added two more Rocktrons that are just as unique and just as much fun.

Rocktron Metal Planet PedalThe Metal Planet Distortion pedal delivers sizzling metal tone that stands out even in AmpKit’s well-stocked Gear Store. Metal players like a scooped tone where bass and treble are emphasized and middle tone ranges attenuated. The Metal Planet has a pair of unique mid frequency controls that make it easy to get the perfect scooped heavy metal sound, or with a quick flip of the controls, create a modern rock tone. Take a listen to this preview audio for the Metal Planet over on SoundCloud and see what you think:

Rocktron HUSH Pedal

The final piece of Rocktron wizardry in the AmpKit 1.3 gear lineup is the HUSH Noise Reduction pedal. HUSH started life back in 1984 as an expensive rack device widely used by touring pros. Rocktron later miniaturized the HUSH circuitry and released it in pedal form. Unlike noise gates, which completely block or “gate” the guitar signal when it drops below threshold, HUSH applies a form of single-ended noise reduction that tracks the signal and pushes the noise floor below the point where your ear can hear the noise. Unlike a gate, HUSH doesn’t kill sustain; yet, unlike a static noise filter, HUSH makes sure that your music signal integrity remains unaffected. I’ve been using HUSH a lot, replacing AmpKit’s built-in Noise Gate in many setups. Here’s an example of what HUSH can do:

Other Refinements

Although this update was mainly about Retina and new gear, we also improved AmpKit internals in several areas. On AmpKit’s many multi-channel amps, we now save the settings for all the channels as part of your setup. We added support for Apple’s VoiceOver technology, which makes AmpKit more accessible for the visually impaired. We switched AmpKit’s input and output gain controls to use a dB rather than linear scale, making adjustment easier and providing increased headroom. Finally, we continued to improve AmpKit’s support for digital guitar interfaces, with better detection logic and support for interfaces with low signal levels.

So that’s AmpKit 1.3 – we hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please write us a review in the App Store!