byPhil O'Keefe06-13-201304:50 AM - edited 07-14-201312:52 PM
Guitar and bass oriented audio interface for iOS devices and Mac / PC computers
By Phil O'Keefe
The AmpKit LiNK HD is an audio interface for your guitar or bass that works with iOS devices, as well as Mac and PC computers. It was co-developed by Peavey and Agile Partners. Unlike some iOS "interfaces" that are simply splitters that allow you separate access to the analog mic-in and headphone output on separate jacks instead of the stock single combination connector, Ampkit LiNK HD is a digital device, including onboard A/D and D/A converters. It connects to your computing device with either a iOS 30 pin connector, or via USB, and gives you a 1/4" instrument input, 1/8" stereo headphone out, and a 1/8" line output jack.
What You Need To Know
The AmpKit LiNK HD comes with two cables. Each connects to the unit itself with a locking connector, and is designed for use with different devices. For iOS use, there's a 18" cable that terminates at the other end in the stock 30-pin Apple connector. This is perfect for owners of older iPhones and iPads, such as the iPhone 4 and iPad 3. For use with Mac (OSX 10.6.4 or later) and Windows (Vista or later) computers, there's a second 3 foot cable that terminates with a USB connector.
Setting the side mounted input level control properly is important - if it's set too high, clicks and pops in the audio will occur. Fortunately, the multicolor LED on the AmpKit LiNK HD makes it easy to tell if you're overloading. It turns yellow when your guitar isn't connected, dim red when no audio app is running, dim green when the app is running and the guitar is connected, but no signal is present, and bright red when the input signal is too "hot" and causing clipping. A second volume control on the other side of the unit controls the headphone level.
The AmpKit LiNK HD draws its power from the device it is connected to, but doesn't seem to cause a huge drain on your batteries. An optional power supply can be connected to the LiNK HD to not only power it, but recharge the iOS device while you're using it.
Agile Partners, who co-developed the AmpKit LiNK HD with Peavey, offers two versions of their AmpKit software - AmpKit (free) and AmpKit +, which includes more amp and effects models than the free version, although both can be augmented with in-app purchases. Both software versions are available from the App Store. There's also a version that will run on your Mac. AmpKit LiNK HD works with most iOS audio apps, and not just AmpKit.
It works flawlessly with Garageband, both on the iPad and on a Mac computer.
Owners of newer iOS devices, such as the iPad mini and iPhone 5 will need to purchase a 30 pin to Lightning adapter in order to use Ampkit LiNK HD with their device. I tested Apple's 30-pin to Lightning adapter with both, and the good news is that it works perfectly.
The labeling on the unit itself is embossed into the black rubberized coating, which makes it nearly impossible to see the markings unless you're in direct sunlight or the room is really well lit. You'll remember where everything is quickly enough, but it's still a bit of a hassle.
This is a really sweet little box. I liked the sound quality better than the stock iPhone and iPad headphone output. The stereo imaging and detail are both improved. The unwanted feedback that plagues many unpowered interfaces is a complete non-issue with the AmpKit LiNK HD. The inclusion of a line output jack is a big plus, since it allows you to monitor the sound over headphones while simultaneously sending it to an amp, recording interface, or PA system. The main downsides are the poor visibility of the labeling and the lack of an included Lightning cable, but those are relatively minor concerns. If you need a good sounding audio interface for your instrument that will work with your iOS device and your computer, the AmpKit LiNK HD will serve you well.
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.