On their own, iOS devices are powerful music making tools, but when you combine them with additional hardware, your iPad or iPhone starts looking like a complete performance or studio solution. Once you can run a guitar through your iPhone, hook a microphone up to your iPad, or trigger an iOS synth with a keyboard controller, you’re taking the art of iOS music to a completely different level. While musicians have been recognizing this fact for a while, hardware manufacturers are starting to take the idea of iOS music very seriously. We’re starting to see external hardware that allows you to expand your iPhone and iPad into all the different aspects of music making. This does require a bit of a larger investment though, so iOS musicians need to consider the pros and cons of each device before they buy.
Guitarists have found iOS devices to be practical partners in their music making endeavors, so we’ve seen quite a bit of external hardware to support them. Entry into the iOS music market by established companies like Digitech has been encouraging, but we’re still venturing into unexplored territory; despite the respected reputation of a company like Digitech, iOS musicians can still be wary of their investment. In an effort to help us figure out the value of Digitech’s latest piece of iOS hardware, the iStomp, guitarist and iOS musician Steve Williams has written a review of the device based on his experience.
The Digitech iStomp has been widely accepted into the guitarist community, if for nothing else, but the promise and innovation it possesses. As its name suggests, the iStomp is a stomp-box style guitar effects pedal that you can program to trigger any effect from a range of over 20 pedals via the free Digitech Stomp Shop iPhone app. In theory, the iPhone contains all the necessary processing features to replicate any guitar pedal all in a convenient pocket-sized device. This revolutionary, “blank canvas” concept has been tried before rather unsuccessfully by Line 6, but the iStomp has been much more impressively executed. Physically, the hardware very much reflects the blank canvas idea, as it looks very neutral for a guitar pedal. It is also built with the same robust build as other Digitech stomp boxes, so it’s capable of handling a lot of stamping.
The iStomp works by connecting the unit to an iPhone through the included Digitech Smart Cable (DSC). Once you’ve connected the DSC, the Stomp Shop app then establishes the relationship between pedal and phone. This allows different effects to be transferred to the iStomp; effects are loaded into the pedal one at a time and can be changed when necessary. Once the effect has been successfully uploaded, you remove the iPhone and then the pedal acts as any typical stompbox. This obviously increases tonal flexibility, but also keeps you’re iPhone safely away from any unfortunate accidents and over-excited feet.
The Stomp Shop app can be downloaded for free from the app store and comes with the Total Recall Digital Delay effect and the Redline Overdrive. You also get the chance to purchase one more effect for $0.99 the first time that the iStomp is connected; after that, any additional effect purchases start at $4.99. The Stomp Shop app also comes with a great feature – you get to try before you buy. You are allowed a 5-minute trial on any effect, so you can test it with your own guitar and your own rig before you commit to buying.
I fortunately got to sample quite a few pedals on the Digitech iStomp; there is quite an impressive collection available for download, including some very large names. I can honestly say that the sound replication was very impressive and it met a much higher standard than I was expecting. The Vintage Tape Delay sounded very authentic and can be used in stereo and tap tempo depending on what you prefer. I found that the more experimental and unique pedals sounded too digital and harsh whereas the more popular dirt effects such as Fuzz Face and Tube Screamer sounded very authentic.
There are some negatives that come with the Digitech iStomp. You do need an iPhone or compatible iOS device to use it; the reality is that not everyone has one. this may change though – rumor has it that Digitech is working on a desktop equivalent. Another negative is the price – $150 it is quite expensive, especially when you consider that you still need to purchase additional pedals. A pedalboard with only iStomps would be quite pointless; it would cost about the same as buying the real pedals. Still, one iStomp integrated into your rig would be extremely useful, offering you endless amounts of options.
Watch the official video below and see what you think.
Have you used the Digitech iStomp yet? How have the effects sounded to you? Did it become part of your rig or just another novelty in your collection of guitar equipment? We’d love to hear about your experiences – LEAVE A COMMENT below and let us know about your experiences with the Digitech iStomp.
Are you using a piece of hardware with your iPad or iPhone that you would like to tell us about? Would you like to sing its praises or warn us to stay away at all costs? I’d love to hear from the iOS community about hardware – so if you’ve got some experiences with iOS hardware, submit a review! If you’d like to write a quick review, send a message about your idea to the iOS Music And You review center!