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Mobile Audio – GuitarJack Model 2 Review

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Sonoma WireWorks have updated their very popular iPhone interface, GuitarJack. GuitarJack. Model 2 is now out and is compatible with all the latest versions of iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Model 1, which I reviewed for Audiotuts+ a while back, was compatible for iPhone 3 but Apple changed their connectors on their latest models, rendering GuitarJack model 1 useless for up-to-date Apple junkies. But now with the latest version of GuitarJack, you can use it on your iPhone 4S and your iPads.


First Impressions

When you open the box, the first thing you notice is how slick it looks. GuitarJack model 1 had a cool beveled black look to it, but the nickel plated design with the stainless steel sides make it look so much better. The only drawback to the design is that it quickly gets smudged with fingerprints, something the former black design was more resistant to.

Although Sonoma claims that you don't need to take your cover off in order to connect the GuitarJack, I actually did need to take my cover off in order to connect the device. I would blame it on the cover design rather than on the GuitarJack, since they seem to have designed it in such a way as to have a gap for where the cover would go.


Specs

GuitarJack has a few options for connecting audio in or out. It has a 1/4 inch instrument input for connecting your guitar. I suppose you could probably connect any instrument that connects with a 1/4 inch plug, but for the sake of simplicity I just used my guitars,  a Suhr Custom 017 electric guitar, and an Ibanez acoustic guitar.

There is a 1/8 inch headphone jack to monitor your sound, as well as an additional 1/8 inch input for an external microphone. The specs on these inputs and output are below, taken from the Sonoma WireWorks website.

Line/Headphone Output:

  • Max level (16ohms): 1.23Vrms (95mW) => 1.00Vrms (63mW) For comparison, the iPhone 4 headphone output into 16 ohms is about 45mW.
  • Max level (10kohms): 1.30Vrms (+4.5dBu) => 1.00Vrms (+2.2dBu)
  • Freq resp: +0.02/-0.20dB => +0.05/-0.40dB Noise level: -95dB => -97dB
  • Dynamic range: 95dB => 96dB
  • THD (600mVrms): 0.0025% (-92dB) => 0.0020% (-94dB)
  • Stereo crosstalk: -70dB => -88dB

Line/Mic Inputs:

  • Noise level (RMS, A-weighted): -88dB => -96dB

  • Dynamic range (RMS, A-weighted): 88dB => 96dB THD (-3dBFS): 0.05% (-66dB) => 0.008% (-82dB)
  • Stereo crosstalk (1kHz): -86dB => -96dB

GuitarJack is easy to set up. Just plug it in and download some of the free apps that work with it. They automatically recognize the apps so with a guitar and headphones you are ready to enjoy simple. high-quality mobile audio.

GuitarJack has the advantage over other iPhone audio interfaces in that it uses its own A/D converters and doesn't rely on the iPhone's built-in microphones or headphone outputs. GuitarJack control panel allows you to select the input and impedance level of the instrument or microphone you are using, creating a very versatile control panel for most of your needs. It is somewhat bulky on the end of your iPhone, but the added bulkiness is the price you pay for added audio quality.


Apps

GuitarJack isn't really anything without its apps. Just like any interface, it needs some sort of software to do what it does, and there are some great little apps that you can use with GuitarJack.

GuitarTone

GuitarTone is an amp simulator that allows you to connect a variety of different amp models, complete with different microphones and effects. Just plug in your electric guitar, select one of your favorite amps, throw a ribbon or a dynamic microphone in front of it and you're off playing some very convincing tones in no time.

If you're in love with modulation and effects, there are tons of different effects you can add to your chain, such as a phaser, reverbs or distortion pedals. The clean amps are fun to play with, but I'm a really hard sell when it comes to heavily distorted amp emulators. There is always a certain tendency for the distortion to come off as a bit too fake and digital. Not only with GuitarTone or GuitarJack, but just with distortion simulators in general. There's just something lacking when you don't have actual sound waves pushing actual air through the speaker cones.

All in all, GuitarTone is very much fun to play with, and it's free. It comes bundled with a bunch of amps and effects but if you're hungry for more you can also buy additional ones to satisfy your appetite.

Taylor EQ

The Taylor EQ is also one of their free apps. It is a lot fun to play around with if you're an acoustic guitar player. It has a bunch of different EQs to model certain acoustic guitars and it even has a 5-band parametric EQ that you can access through the Advanced tab.

However, the GuitarJack control panel is not accesible through the Taylor EQ for some reason. It gives me an error message saying that GuitarJack is not compatible with the iPhone 4 and that Model 2 is coming soon. It's a strange message since the apps works fine, and I can use all the other aspects of it, but to change any of my input and output settings I have to go back to any of the other apps.

FourTrack

FourTrack is the studio inside your iPhone. It's a four-track recorder that's incredibly versatile. Since GuitarJack has an additional microphone input, this really opens up creative possibilities. Technically, with two really good mics you could record a really nice acoustic performance, with one microphone picking up the vocals while the other one is plugged into the guitar.

I plugged my acoustic guitar into GuitarJack via the normal 1/4 inch input and I used my Zoom H2 Portable Stereo Recorder to record my vocals and overall room sound. That's just one of the many ways you could use the FourTrack along with an additional microphone. Other options might include recording meetings or interviews with only your iPhone and a small portable recorder on the table.

When you have everything coming into your iPhone instantaneously, sharing it online becomes much easier. For only an extra $9.99, the FourTrack is a really great companion for GuitarJack, especially if you want to use it for serious idea gathering or interviews. I know I'll be using it during NAMM 2012 to either take interviews or record on the spot commentary.


Overall Impression

GuitarJack 2 is everything that GuitarJack 1 was, and more. The sound quality is really good, and it's probably one of the better sounding iPhone gadgets out there. Some of the apps are free, and the FourTrack is well worth the extra ten bucks.

If you're in the market for a mobile audio interface, you should seriously consider checking out GuitarJack. It's versatile, giving you input and impedance controls for many situations and is great for on-the-fly audio ideas, whether you're doing interviews or sketching out your songs. Overall, a great contender is the mobile audio market.

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