Tag Archives: amplitube

VocaLive and iRig Mic Review

This is a guest post written by Imei Hsu.

Many of you know I am a musician. You also know how I adore my iPad and iPhone, so when a new product in the world of apps for musicians is released, I literally pounce on it like my iCat Charles-Monet pounces on his catnip mouse. Finally, there is something new for the vocalist as well. IKMultimedia has released the VocaLive app in the iTunes store, an app that unleashes the vocalist star potential in you. When used with the iRig Mic, vocalists, presenters, comedians, and those who need a portable microphone system will get a multi-functional powerhouse of effects for every occasion.

While the iRig Microphone (not to be mistaken for the iMic, which is a Griffin product) is a high-quality condenser microphone made to support iOS devices (iPhone and iPad), you can use it with any application that accepts an audio input. In my simple art loft set up, I used the iPad, the iRig Mic, and my Bose speaker. The cord on the iRig Mic, similar to the iRig, has a port for your cable – whatever speaker you wish to use. You can also listen with a pair of headphones.

The interface of VocaLive is similar to other IKMultimedia apps such as Amplitube and Amplitube Fender. Users have several presets they can fill and save, a single-track recorder (which can be expanded to a four-track recorder with an in-app purchase) the effects boxes (which look like stomp pedals), and a place to store songs downloaded from iTunes to your computer and fileshare to your iOS device. Additionally, the preset section has a plethora of funky effects for your voice, from standard harmonizing effects, to sounds that will send the hairs on the back of your neck on end with pervy voice distortion a la Silence of the Lambs. I’ll be sending along another video demonstration of those presets later, because there are so many with which to play for hours on end.

By the way, it’s no secret that I don’t listen to a lot of pop music these days. Just ask Chris how he responded to my accidental loading of the Lady GaGa Radio show on his Pandora account on his iPad last year. While she’s a superstar, neither of us followed her music closely, though I greatly appreciate her talent and mass marketing appeal. I had to sing through the song Bad Romance about four times before stepping in front of the camera, and thanks to a second iPad, it was nice to scroll through the lyrics. Yet, without being familiar with the song, VocaLive makes it easy to sing along karaoke style, or to import your own music and add vocals with multiple voices. You can judge for yourself if you think I can actually hold a tune. Watch out Al Yankovic; VocaLive might just unleash a little goofball singer onto the geek world.

VocaLive is perfect for people with much to say and small voices like mine. I can easily fill up a room with my voice using the “arena” preset, and the equipment necessary to do that barely fills a small gym bag. I am so excited to use this app and microphone on the road when I begin public speaking in the health care field in 2011 and 2012. But as a hobbyist who loves to sing for fun and in bands, VocaLive gives me a competitive edge for live performance with minimal set up. Better yet, there are only two cords involved in that set up; no more wires on the floor to trip over a half dozen stomp boxes and volume pedals. It’s all at your fingertips. And these fingers are going mobile.

Thanks to IKMultimedia and Starr Ackerman for the advanced copy of VocaLive and the iRig Mic.

B. Imei Hsu is a nurse psychotherapist, dance artist, musician, and sometimes shower singer. She’s been a guest blogger for LockerGnome, and she writes for her own blog Hips For Hire. When she’s not creating music or dance, she’s yodeling with her iPad iCat Charles-Monet in her art loft in the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle, WA.

Macworld Expo 2011 Best of All

This is a guest post written by Imei Hsu.

Having never attended Macworld Expo in San Francisco before, I really did not know what to expect. Rumor on the street said Macworld would never be the same after Apple pulled out their involvement. Past attendees said the previous expo felt like people walking around in a state of shock and loss. However, Macworld 2011 was a brand new world, with new options, a few strange offerings, and a fresh outlook of things to come. In this post (and the following two posts) I’ll share Macworld’s best, worst, and a few categories I’ve created to help you understand why Macworld Expo 2011 was the place to be.

West is Best
This year’s expo was held in the West Hall of the Moscone Center, with two floors for presentations and the exposition floor. Instead of having the expo split in two buildings as it had been in the past, having everything in one building meant that you could slip between listening to a band playing mostly Apple-centric and techy songs (one being lyrics taken from a letter complaining about a jingle written for Bing.com), pop into a workshop on how to create a song in less than sixty minutes in Garage Band in the Music Studio (sponsored by Berklee College of Music) , and catch a podcast of the Angry Mac Bastards on the Macworld Live stage without missing a single dubstep. If the expo floor needs to expand, this will no longer be possible. But for this year, the size seemed just right.

And the Winner Is

While it would’ve been easy to wait until all the Best of Show 2011 awards had been bestowed, I challenged myself to make my selections the first day, and then compare with officials selections later. Here they are.

The iPad was the clear winner, and we’re not even talking about having the iPad 2.0 on which to drool. Applications for iPad were abundant, and here’s a short list of a few of my faves:

  • 3D4Medical – I wrote about this educational app for medical clinicians, students, and people fascinated with the human body. With apps for the human heart, muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems users can flip, spin, and see cross-sections in beautiful 3-D color, we’ll no longer need laminated cards to educate patients about their bodies.
  • IK Multimedia VocaLive, iRig Mic and Amplitube 3 with iRig – While I already did a review on Amplitube and iRig with Ben Union, IK Multimedia is rolling out new apps that continue to amaze. Vocalists now have an effects processor, 4-track, and microphone made for the iPad called VocaLive. I’d post my demo here, but we’ve got a little something special planned for Lockergnome’s fans that is a real treat, so I won’t spoil the surprise. While the app is going to be available for iPhone and iPod Touch as well, I can tell you that it looks so much sweeter on the iPad, and I’m not surprised that it was the only way it was being shown on the expo floor. Editor’s note: I want!

  • SouthernStars’ SkySafari (Honorable Mention) – Southern Stars’ SkySafari app in the MacApp store gets my honorable mention because technically they are not new to the scene. They are the reinvented (and apparently, totally reprogrammed and coded) version of SkyVoyager for iPhone, which won Best of Show in Macworld Expo 2010. It puts 300,000 stars and 30,000 deep sky objects at your fingertips. They boasted being the only app that was able to clearly capture the total lunar eclipse back in December 2010. Check out the best demo of this remarkable app for astronomy lovers.

  • Music manipulation for the iPad/iPhone – When iPad DJ and entrepreneur Rana June Sobhany recounted her journey initiated with two iPads and a mixer, she mentioned that the original impetus for doing so was because she felt that a majority of exciting apps for iPad were going to be dedicated towards music creation and manipulation. She’s so dead on right about this, I’m dedicating an entire post to the options users have if they’d like to delve into a little music manipulation and DJ’ing through the expanding options and price points that are available since she burst onto the scene in April 2010.

Best Little Gadgets and Gizmos

A cursory walk around the Macworld Expo floor had me grumbling, “How many companies selling iPad sleeves with a handstrap do we need?” Honestly, there were a few too many vendors selling very creative clothing for your iDevices (or yourself!), replete with bling, original art, and clever sayings like, “iCandy” (I almost bought that one, but it was pink, which is not my favorite color, even if it does go with the slogan). If it caught my eye, it had better be worth getting. Here are my picks:

  • Glif Tripod Mount and Stand – The Glif was the cheapest and most eco-friendly solution to connect your iPhone4 to a tripod. This is what happens when two guys with no big company and no money to invest come up with a clever idea and get it in the hands of the public for a fraction of the cost of other solutions. And when it’s not on your tripod, you can flip the smaller end to grip the iPhone’s side and use it as a stand.

  • Impact Shield – Readers will laugh when they find out that Chris Pirillo was the first one to drop my iPad. Lucky for both of us, it landed on its back, and Chris has since dressed it up with a nice case from Griffin and a screen protector. But what if you’re a bit more of a klutz? You know that you can drop that little prized possession and watch the glass crack in front of your eyes. Don’t say, “Boo hoo.” Watch this little video, and see if you’d like Impact Shield’s super-protective gel wrapped around your Apple goodies:

Editor’s note: yes, that is a LEGO ring on my hand in the video. I must have been stopped over thirty times during the conference by people asking if that was a real LEGO. Yes, it is. No, I don’t have one that is upside-down to fit it. Go make your own.

  • Fling – Unless you want to go to an alternative dating site, be sure to look at tenonedesign.com and not Fling.com for the coolest game controller for your iPad. The dual controls work like a joystick, and while I’m not a gamer, these inexpensive pieces might just turn me into one. Like I mentioned above, I chose this as a best pick, and so did Macworld, bestowing a Best of Show 2011 award. Suction cups make these easy to place and remove. Now cats and old people can play games on the iPad. Who knew? While it’s so new I can’t comment on their durability, they get the thumbs up from me. Editor’s note: I want!

Overall, MacWorld Expo 2011 had far more to offer than I expected. If it had been aisle after aisle of cases and accessories, I might have yawned. But with presentations to teach you just about anything you wanted to know to enhance your user experience, and fun apps to turn yourself into a sumo wrestler or a zombie, it was a playground for Apple lovers young and old; in fact, there were quite a number of kids floating about late Friday and all day Saturday. No one hardly paid attention to the booth babes, who were strangely plentiful for the size of the conference. No matter, because we were all pressing our faces into screens and didn’t notice.

Next: Macworld Expo 2011 Worst of All (FacePalm iFails)
After: The Everyday DJ and Musician for the MacEnthusiast

B.Imei Hsu is a nurse psychotherapist, dance artist, and occasional guest blogger for Lockergnome. She also writes for Psycho Nurse on Lockergnome, and hosts her own project. Imei purchased a Macbook in 2008, and slowly became an addict. She now owns a Mac Mini, two iPads, an iPhone4, and that sturdy workhorse, the MacBook with the now famous “Snow White’s Revenge” skin. She lives with her iPad-loving cat Charles-Monet in an art loft in Seattle, WA.

iRig and AmpliTube Rock You


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This is a guest post written by Imei Hsu.

My first band was an all-girl band that didn’t need a keyboardist (my first musical instrument of choice), just a second electric guitarist and substitute bass player. Instead of passing me over for the audition, they stuck a guitar in my hands, handed me a lyric sheet with chord progressions, and asked me to give it a go. I did, and I got the part. Good thing I knew a few standard chords on the guitar. Songwriting and practice times used to take forever, mostly because we had to haul in our own equipment (including quarter-inch cables, stomp pedals, mics and mic stands, and speakers that almost weighed as much as I did). We scratched notes on paper, made rudimentary recordings, and we didn’t even have a video camera between us. What’s a girl rocker to do? If I could, I’d climb into a time machine with iRig and AmpliTube for iPad and iPhone, and rock the living daylights out those girls.

IKMultiMedia sells an impressive family of software instruments designed for the modern musician. It takes bulky components and hacked pieces of hardware strung together with miles of chords, and streamlines your set up to not only be less cumbersome, but also less painful to the consumer’s wallet.

Ben of Ben Union spent just fifteen minutes in my art loft in Seattle playing with the iRig and Amplitube on my iPhone4 (also available on iPad), and in moments, he was playing sweet licks and grooves with very minimal set up, and no gigantor speakers and amplifiers to carry. We ran sound through my Bose speaker, and compared it to the Fender Vibrochamp amp (which I rescued from a garbage dump, and once scraped off a dried frog that had taken shelter in the back and ended up getting fried onto the metal parts). Amplitube is the mobile app of the moment for the modern guitarist and composer, allowing users to create, process, record, and amplify music seamlessly, without the burden of carting around heavy, sometimes fragile, and often expensive equipment. Users can plug in a set of headphones or external speakers into the iRig, insert the ⅛-inch plug to the iPhone, and plug a ¼-inch cable from the guitar to a port on other end.

The latest version of the killer app, AmpliTube 3, ramps user’s experience with the following elements:

  • 160 pieces of gear, more than double the amount of other packages
  • 51 individual stompboxes and effects
  • 31 amplifier preamp & power sections
  • 46 speaker cabinet models
  • 15 high end stage and studio mics
  • 17 post amp rack effects
  • Open architecture, so users can add more packages as you need them, like AmpliTube Fender™ and Ampeg® SVX
  • Drag and drop features, so you can locate your components where you want it

Additionally, AmpliTube 3 boasts the proprietary VRM™ (Volumetric Response Modeling) technology, allowing users to add ultra-accurate rotating speaker effects, free dual mic placement plus room ambiance and response. Translation: ever wanted to sound like you were in a different-sized room, with a variety of vintage sounds and effects at the touch of your finger on a screen? If you are a guitar, bassist, drummer, or vocalist, you should be waving your hands wildly by now, shouting, “I want!” I know Ben was having a blast with AmpliTube, and he had not even explored all the settings!

While most of the app world is not accustomed to the cost of applications for music creation, any musician would tell you that the price of this app and hardware are well worth it. With nothing to wear out, and upgrades and additions available, this is a system no modern musician can afford to pass up, unless s/he is willing to be passed by.

B. Imei Hsu is a nurse psychotherapist, Bellydance and Bollywood dance artist, musician and vocalist, and coach for artful businesses. She creates content for her own businesses, including Hips For Hire, as well as content for other blogs, including Psycho Nurse on Lockergnome. You can drop in on her art loft in the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle, WA, where she lives and plays with her iPad loving cat, Charles-Monet, by tuning in at Ustream.tv.