I procrastinate. Yes, I’m one of THOSE guys. I might put off my research paper a few days to, you know, let it “mature.” I also might put off writing a killer guitar tune because I’m not in the creative mood. Sure, THAT’S the reason. Actually, it’s because I’m not as proficient with musical notation as my high school music theory teacher would like (unfortunately, that man is also my cousin). I’ve been playing guitar for over 23 years now, and I still have yet to write the next big rock hit. So what gives?
I’m happy to say that I’ve found something that is sure to help me out of my musical funk: Griffin’s GuitarConnect cable in conjunction with my iPad. Griffin Technologies has been cranking out quality gadget accessories and cases for years now, and one of the latest additions to their arsenal is a cable that connects directly to iOS devices and allows you to connect the other end to your guitar or bass. The beauty of this marriage is that you can sit in your comfy spot, connect the instrument and iOS device and have access to a myriad recording options without the expense or space-wasting properties of actual studio or live equipment. You can fire up one of several music/recording apps such as Apple’s own Garage Band (iTunes link), Frontier Design Group’s iShred Live (iTunes link; Griffin’s officially sanctioned app) or IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube (iTunes link), and start using their built-in amp models or effects pedals to hammer out your masterpiece.
The true genius here, however, is Griffin’s cable. One end is a standard 2.5mm headphone plug that fits into all iOS devices to date, and the opposite end terminates in a “Y” configuration consisting of a headphone port and a 1/4″ guitar plug. Until recently, guitarists had to rely on microphones to record their shredding riffs; as you can imagine, that was a less-than-optimal solution. The apps I mentioned above each have a recording feature that takes the feed directly from the cable and allows you to keep your sounds for export later.
I took Griffin’s cable for a spin whilst attached to my Ibanez acoustic/electric, and I can honestly say I’m blown away by what can be done with the devices we use today. The drawback to some of the amp-modeling apps is that you can quickly rack up in-app purchases and end up spending a good chunk before you know it. So as a result, I spent most of my time in Apple’s Garage Band ($4.99 in the iTunes store). The advantage to this method is the ability to easily lay down track after track of music from a variety of sources including built-in (digital) drums, pianos, basses and guitars as well as the live input from your actual guitar. It was easy enough to figure out the operation of the app, and I was recording multiple guitar tracks using already-written songs from my favorite bands. Before I finished my first session, I had laid down four separate tracks of guitar and the built-in drums in a rough-draft manner. I was surprised that it didn’t sound all that bad! The audio fidelity was acceptable for rough purposes, and you can turn dials like on real amps to fit what sound you’re going for.
My only real complaint so far is that with Apple’s new iPad 2 case design, the headphone port sits smack-dab in the middle of a slanted portion which makes seating the Griffin GuitarConnect cable a bit visually precarious. The rubber around the headphone jack on the cable sits perpendicular with the top of the iPad, which actually leaves a few millimeters of the actual plug exposed on the back side of the iPad where the case bevels towards the back of the unit. This isn’t a huge deal because the plug is secure, but I wouldn’t trust that tiny plug if you’re around a lot of jostling, acrobats or unruly children.
The bottom line is: if you want to be able to easily hook up your guitar to something in order to record in a minimalistic fashion, this is definitely something to check out. It’s certainly not going to replace a Marshall half-stack, a Fender tube amp or any rack-mount equipment for pure power and audio fidelity, but if you don’t want to disturb people and want to get ideas down quickly, it’s one of the best ways this procrastinator has found to make music!
The Griffin GuitarConnect cable can be purchased at their site for $29.99 USD. Apps vary by feature, with many including in-app purchases.
What I liked: This cable easily allows you to connect to an iOS device for easy, flexible guitar recording. This type of setup really makes for a self-sufficient practice or idea recording session.
What I didn’t like: The connection plug into an iPad 2 feels a bit precarious due to the shape of the tablet. Some audio aberrancy present under certain amp settings.