Only a short time ago, if you'd asked me to describe a modern guitar effects unit, something like the GR-55 from Boss would probably have come to mind. Since the introduction of iPhone and iPad music creation apps like IK Multimedia's AmpliTube app, however, multi-effects processing and amp/cab emulation have risen up from the stomp box on the ground and into the hands of the player. Now DigiTech have announced a new unit which offers the best of both worlds. Docking an iPad in the iPB-10 Programmable Pedalboard allows guitarists to drag and drop a chain of effects using the accompanying app and then use the physical footswitches to control the action.
The fact that the iPad was practically everywhere at NAMM recently is testament to the power and versatility that music apps on such a device bring to players. For the most part though, players have to interface their instruments with Apple's tablet using something like the Apogee JAM or the iRig from IK Multimedia. With DigiTech's new iPB-10 Programmable Pedalboard, users actually slot Apple's tablet into the built-in docking bay and then hook up the instrument and amp to the back of the unit itself.
DigiTech has also launched its own specially-designed iPB-Nexus app for iPad that gives iPB-10 users the ability to design boards by drag and drop on the tablet screen and includes a MyTones library to store and organize presets. Players can choose to use other apps with the system but full functionality may suffer.
"The iPB-10 will stream a digital audio signal to any application that uses the digital audio input on the iPad," Scott Klimt, Marketing Lead at DigiTech, told Gizmag. "In our testing we've found that we can create a preset within iPB-Nexus app, run that sound into Garageband, add any additional effects within that application and record tracks. We're not able to control third party apps with the footswitches but you can run those apps while the iPad is docked in the iPB-10."
DigiTech is also currently working with application developers to incorporate more features into the Nexus app and has plans to offer users the chance to upload custom presets to a community portal and share them with others.
"The iPB-Nexus app for iPad brings a level of connectivity and sharing to musicians that never existed for presets," says Klimt. "Allowing users to share their presets with each other directly from their pedal within an online community of iPB-Nexus/iPB-10 users is one of the features that make this part of the future of guitar effects. Imagine the ability to search and load the perfect tone for any song without having to unhook all your gear, plug into your desktop computer, install the drivers, and wait for everything to update."
Up to ten different effects pedals can be included in any one chain, in any order. The Nexus app offers a choice of 87 different pedals - including various flavors of wah, distortion, chorus, flanger and phasers. Board design can be undertaken on a docked or undocked iPad, if the latter the iPB-10 will auto-sync with the Nexus app when the tablet is next docked.
"At this time users can assign up to 5 of those pedals to a footswitch A-E (top row)," Klimt explains. "Footswitches 1-5 (bottom row) are presets within a bank. There are 20 banks (1-20), each with 5 presets within each bank. Players have access to up to 100 through the footswitches. In a future update to the app there are plans to incorporate more advanced configuration options that could allow players to completely customize the layout and assignment of each footswitch within each preset."
Once satisfied with the effects, a user can then add one of 54 amp emulations - with numerous models from Mesa Boogie to Marshall and Fender to DigiTech's own - and one of 26 cabinets to the design and save the whole thing to one of a 100 preset locations for easy recall later on, although the Nexus app itself can store an unlimited amount of designs.
When a preset is chosen, individual pedals in the chain are brought in and out according to their footswitch assignment and a real-time performance view shows each pedal and its settings on the iPad display. Any loaded preset can be further tweaked as necessary and saved to the current or a different location as desired. Users also have the advantage of recalling different board designs for live, studio or rehearsal situations or even swapping between layouts during a song.
Interestingly, a user will still be able to choose from onboard presets even if there's no iPad in the cradle - although it won't be possible to alter the configuration, that can only be done using Apple's tablet computer.
To the rear of the cast metal unit, there's an instrument input, an amp loop, an effects loop, stereo line-out with an Amp/Mixer switch, stereo XLR outputs, external footswitch control, USB port, and a headphone jack.
The iPB-10 is powered by two Audio DNA2 DSP processors, offers 24-bit analog-to-digital conversion and a 44.1kHz sample rate, and is compatible with all models of iPad and iPad 2.
Shipping starts this month at a suggested retail of US$700, with the free iPB-Nexus app available via the App Store. Of course, the unit doesn't include an iPad - you'll have to either already own one or go out and buy one and I have to say that this development might just tempt me to do so.