I’ve been a big fan of Apogee products since I started using the Apogee ONE audio interface a few years ago. While the Apogee ONE is a powerful, portable audio interface that plugs into your laptop, the company has taken the idea one step further and produced the Apogee JAM, a guitar-only interface that plugs directly into your iPhone (or iPad) for the ultimate in portability.
The JAM, when coupled with a mobile app like Garageband ($4.99), provides the equivalent of $250,000 worth of recording equipment in the 1980’s. Its nearest competitor is the iRig from IK Multimedia; the biggest difference I can see is that the iRig provides an analog signal via the iPhone’s microphone input, while the JAM does the onboard analog to digital conversion and sends the digital signal via the device’s USB port. While I haven’t tested or compared the two of them directly, I’m much more inclined to think that the pure digital signal will be higher quality than the analog one, which could be modified, for example, by the quality of the metal-to-metal contacts in the microphone port (i.e., if you jiggle the plug, it can “scratch” the sound). I will say that the iRig is much less expensive ($39.99) than the JAM ($99.99).
There are some very cool apps for the iPhone/iPad that will work with either connector.
- AmpKit+ ($19.99 +add-ons) from Agile Partners is an amplifier modeling kit—in essence, it provides digital signal modification that will allow your guitar to sound like it’s being played through any combination of amplifier or effects boxes.
- AmpliTube ($19.99 +add-ons) is a similar concept, though it of courses focuses on tube amp modeling.
Both these apps let you purchase add-ons that will extend the range of amps, speakers, effect, etc., that can be modeled.
While I imagine that many folks will not be using these for live performance, the quality is actually quite good. Here’s my poor guitar playing through AmpKit+:
Remember—that was entirely recorded on an iPhone, with no external equipment involved.