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DigiTech iPB-10 Programmable Pedalboard

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STOP!!

Okay, now that I have your attention...

Normally I start a Pro Review with a photo tour, and we'll get to that soon enough. But first, I have to dispel a major misconception about the iPB-10 programmable pedalboard.

When I've mentioned it to people and opined that I think the concept is really clever, they often say "Well yeah, but I'm not about to take my iPad to the gig in a stompbox. The thing wouldn't last 10 minutes. I think it's a really dumb idea."

STOP!!

So here's the deal: The iPB-10 is a multieffects that you program with an iPad. You can sit at home and come up with the pedal of your dreams - well, 100 pedalboards of your dreams, to be exact - load up the iPB-10 hardware with the pedalboards, then take it to the gig while the iPad sits at home. I actually think DigiTech hasn't really quite gotten this point across, but hey, that's why Pro Reviews exist - to get deep into a piece of gear, and really explain what it's all about.

Think of it like an iPod: You fill it with tunes using your computer, but then you take the iPod with you - you don't have to drag the computer along with you. Same principle here.

Now, if you want to insert the iPad into the iPB-10 and take it with you to a more iPad-friendly environment like a studio, you can do that as well, and tweak your setup on the fly using the iPad. However, after working with it for a bit, the iPad is actually quite well protected in a recessed well, and a large metal bar surrounding it on three out of four sides. It would be pretty hard to stomp on the iPad accidentally, and if you do choose to leave it in place while gigging, it makes for an excellent overview of what's happening in your pedalboard.

So to steal a line from Burger King..."have it your way." Leave the iPad in, or take out it before going to the gig. You don't lose your sounds, only the ability to edit them, and the ability to get a summary of what's going on your pedalboard at a glance. Then again, how many guitar players are going to stop in the middle of a solo and say "Y'know, I think a Marshall sound might work better here..."

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let's proceed.

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Here's what the iPB-10 looks like when you take it out of the box. Power is provided by a "wall wart" with multiple removeable/replacing plugs that snap into place, so you can use it internationally.

OLAAP.jpg

That's not a real iPad in there, but the Quick Start guide. And it is quick - once you've dowloaded the free iPB-Nexus program from the Apple app store and loaded it into your iPad, you can start the process of creating your own pedalboards.

However, out of the box, the hardware "dock" already comes loaded with presets. Remember (this is the last time I'll say it, I promise) you don't need to have the iPad docked in order to call up sounds.

Looking closer, it's built to DigiTech's usual build quality standards. They've been making Things That Sit on the Floor And Get Stomped for so long, they've got the recipe down. Or maybe they just have an aversion to things coming back for repairs. Either way, this is a substantial piece of gear with metal construction, a serious pedal with the right amount of resistance (it doesn't feel flimsy, and holds it position when moved), and footswitches that give a reassuring, positive click when you hit them.

I couldn't wait to check out some sounds, so without the iPad connected, I started running through the sounds. Those familiar with DigiTech gear won't find too many surprises; like the gear itself, they've been tweaking effects for a long time, and yes, they sound really good. Granted it's the customizable aspect that makes this cool, but it's pretty darn good out of the box.

As to cost, it's pretty reasonable - $749.95 list, but it streets for $499.95. That kind of surprised me, actually...although I guess that the iPad does some of the "heavy lifting" the electronics in a device like this would normally have to provide. So when you take the iPad into account obviously the package cost is a lot more, but then again, if you already have an iPad you actually get some cost savings because that kind of circuitry doesn't have to be duplicated in the "dock."

Here's what it looks like with the iPad in place. You can see the editor for the Recto patch, and we'll be getting to know the editor a lot better in future posts.

vpZ3F.jpg

So how do you get the iPad in and out? That's next.

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Referring to this shot of the rear, there are two buttons (circled in red) that when pressed, release the arm that holds the iPad in place. The cable that connects to the iPad sits in a recessed area (circled in blue).

ff6kO.jpg

This side view shows how substantial the arm is. It's also really easy to see the tray that holds the iPad. There's an extra tray included so the iPB-10 accommodates different iPads.

tmFWI.jpg

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First, here's an overall view of the back panel to give context with the rest of the iPB-10.

SpS5c.jpg

Now let's look at the I/O in detail, starting from the rear panel right and going left.

I5REj.jpg

The power button and AC adapter input connectors probably don't need explanation. The USB 2.0 port provides an interface for recording directly into a DAW; it streams two channels to the computer simultaneously with receiving two channels from the DAW for monitoring what's been recorded. It runs at 44.1kHz and offers 24-bit resolution.

As to the rear panel footswitch jack, I haven't figured out what it's for yet, and I can't find a reference to it in the documentation. So either I'll figure it out, or someone from DigiTech will weigh in and let me know what's happening with it.

The headphone jack is an 1/8th-inch type--I'd prefer a 1/4" jack for studio-type headphones, although it seems these days most headphones come with adapters so they can be used with 1/8th-inch or 1/4-inch jacks. However, on the plus side there's a physical output level control. I think it's crucial for any piece of gear with a mostly virtual interface to have a way to get to the volume quickly so you don't have to go through menus or other hoops to set the levels.

Now let's move over to the left side of the panel.

Xgt8s.jpg

There's actually quite a bit of flexibility going on here.

The XLR outs are ideal for feeding a mixer, and include non-defeatable cabinet emulation (what DigiTech calls "speaker compensation"). The 1/4" outs can feed amps or mixers; note the switch that optimizes these for amps for mixers.

Moving more to the left, there's a Stomp Box send/return loop that lets you put an external hardware device into the iPB-10 signal chain. This also has an associated footswitch on the top of the unit so you can bypass or enable it.

The Amp/Loop sent/return jacks are intended for amps with effects loop, and basically lets you use an amp's "front end" preamp/tone stack as another effect. The iPB-10 send jack patches to the amp's input, with the amp's effects loop send returning into the iPB-10 via the iPB-10 return jack. The iPB-10 output then goes into the amp's loop FX return. So, your signal flow is guitar > amp preamp > iPB-10 > amp power amp/cab. Like the Stomp loop, the Amp loop also has an associated bypass/enable footswitch on the top of the unit (you can see the Amp and Stomp footswitches to the left of the iPad bay in post #1).

Finally, there's an input jack (of course) for your guitar, and two ground lift switches for troubleshooting potential ground loop problems.

The bottom line is that the iPB-10 is clearly designed to fit into a variety of contexts, from direct feeds into mixers, recorders, or PA systems, to plugging into a guitar amp, or providing effects for an amp's loop.

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While I can see what Digitech are trying to do here, I'm not sure 'I' would buy this at $500 street, plus an iPad, where their RP1000 streets at $400 and doesn't need anything else for programming. The UI is vastly different on both units, obviously, but you can get free editor/librarian software for the RP1000 anyway. I believe the sounds the two devices are capable of are pretty much the same. What am I missing?

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As to the rear panel footswitch jack, I haven't figured out what it's for yet, and I can't find a reference to it in the documentation. So either I'll figure it out, or someone from DigiTech will weigh in and let me know what's happening with it.
That jack is for future implementation.

The guy on this YouTube video points at the USB jack and mentions midi control. Is he right?
While the possibility exists for what you mention, the iPB-10 doesn't have MIDI > USB at this time.

What am I missing?
The following are where the iPB-10 differs from the RP1000:

1. iPB-10 has 2 DNA2 chips
2. iPB-10 can have multiple modulation pedals
3. iPB-10 allows for any pedal order, instantly
4. iPB-10 allows the StompLoop and AmpLoop to be placed anywhere in the chain
5. iPB-10 allows for other Apps to run simultaneously
6. iPB-10 allows for clearer visualization and manipulation of the signal chain, this translates into way faster setup as well as adjustment.

Since everything is right in front of you and all settings are easily accessible the user experience is far different from the RP1000. The iPB-10 combined with the iPad interface gives you the editing capability of the RP1000's software right on the unit itself. It really is a different beast.

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Welcome, DigiTechRep! Manufacturer participation is always key to getting a good pro review going, and I already appreciate that you're giving us straightforward facts and not "marketing-speak." I think you've stated the differences compared to the RP1000 pretty succinctly, but I'd add one more thing: A lot of people already have iPads, so they've already paid for the computer part of the editing equation - but in a more convenient and portable format. I also think that your point (6) needs to be underlined - the user experience involved in doing drag-and drop-programming with an iPad is something else altogether.

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Just as a side note to the people following the review - I know DigiTechRep's "secret identity" smile.gif, and he's "one of us" in the sense of being a player and gear junkie. So, I've invited him to chime in whenever appropriate, and he may also have some cool tips for us as he's very familiar with the product.

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Thanks DigiTechRep for the features comparison between the IPB-10 and RP1000. I'm wondering what differences there are due to the use of the two processors. Is it only for the flexibility in effect placement ... or is there an impact on the quality of tones avialable? In other words, will we find an audible difference in the sound of amp models or effects?

Also, are there any other differences that affect tone such as cab IR's? Thanks for any light you can shed on this.

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Looking forward to the entire review.

Glad to see a digitech rep is chiming in. I just said yesterday in another forum that a digitech person ( as well as other vendors ) should be involved more in forum discussions, and I come across this. Can always use Tips !

I bought the IPB back in September and I really like this unit. There cannot be enough said about the user friendly interface. So easy to use and dial in tones.
I already owned an ipad, and was in the market for a MFX box, when I came across this product. I was going to spend 500.00 anyway, so for me, this was perfect.

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Quote Originally Posted by Den

View Post

I'm wondering what differences there are due to the use of the two processors. Is it only for the flexibility in effect placement ... or is there an impact on the quality of tones avialable? In other words, will we find an audible difference in the sound of amp models or effects? Also, are there any other differences that affect tone such as cab IR's? Thanks for any light you can shed on this.

 

Right now it is for the effect placement and the multiple mods etc., but the other processor will be used quite a bit in future models. As far as it impacting the quality of the tones, technically it shouldn't, but we have been getting reports from the field that the models in the iPB-10 sound better than the RP1000. I've been chalking it up to the ability to dial in tones in a more logical and repeatable fashion than any processing difference. But it is an entirely different board and circuit layout so, who knows? :shrug:

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Thank you ... good info and it makes sense that the ability to have more customization of effects layouts and a more powerful interface could add up to getting better tones. If there were a firmware update to add tap tempo (unless it's already hidden in there somewhere I'm not aware of), this box could be a real contender! Interested in learning more from this review. Thanks again!

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Quote Originally Posted by DigiTechRep View Post
Right now it is for the effect placement and the multiple mods etc., but the other processor will be used quite a bit in future models. As far as it impacting the quality of the tones, technically it shouldn't, but we have been getting reports from the field that the models in the iPB-10 sound better than the RP1000. I've been chalking it up to the ability to dial in tones in a more logical and repeatable fashion than any processing difference. But it is an entirely different board and circuit layout so, who knows? :shrug:
Good info !
When you say the processor will be used quite a bit in "future models" I assume that also include my current ipb10 via software and firmware upgrades ?

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Quote Originally Posted by Den

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If there were a firmware update to add tap tempo (unless it's already hidden in there somewhere I'm not aware of), this box could be a real contender!

 

There are quite a few things like this that could be addressed in updates. The ability to update your firmware from the connected iPad makes these types of feature additions quite painless.

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Quote Originally Posted by jerryratpack View Post
Good info !
When you say the processor will be used quite a bit in "future models" I assume that also include my current ipb10 via software and firmware upgrades ?
Absolutely, we have big plans for the iPB-10. We consider it to be a gateway into a greater performance oriented world where the divisions between computers, pedals, processors, multifx, etc. become meaningless.

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Quote Originally Posted by DigiTechRep

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Absolutely, we have big plans for the iPB-10. We consider it to be a gateway into a greater performance oriented world where the divisions between computers, pedals, processors, multifx, etc. become meaningless.

 

Great ! Thanks for the response !

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Before we dig into the details of how to use the iPB-10 – and so far, I have to say it has one of the most painless interfaces ever – how about some sounds?

I ran through some of the presets and picked what I thought represented a reasonable variety of tones, although really, this is just scratching the surface. I recorded them into Sonar, and edited down the clips into eight measures of each preset (12 total). As I played along with drums (Steven Slate drums in Sonar's Session Drummer 3, in case you wondered) to get the rhythm right, I thought I'd include some drums in a few places for context. All guitar playing was done with a Gibson Firebird X, using only the dry pickup sounds.


Here are the presets I used, in their order of appearance.

  • Plexi Drive
  • Cool Chorus
  • Solo Delay
  • Boogie Man
  • Acoustic
  • Spring
  • Moshmell
  • Twang
  • Swell
  • 5ths
  • Rock Lead
  • Into the Void
So does this thing make some cool sounds, or what?

Anyway, I've been working with the iPad aspect a bit – actually, "work" is a misnomer, it's one of the few interfaces that truly merits the description “intuitive” - and it's really well-designed. We'll get into that next, but I figured there was no point in continuing unless you could hear what the thing actually sounds like.

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I'm a long time fan of Digitech gear and have owned a piece of Digitech (or DOD) gear since I started playing guitar about 26 years ago (currently the RP500 and Jamman Solo). I love the concept of the iPB-10 and have zero doubts regarding its tonal abilities based on the current RP/GSP line. However, I'm not an iPad owner and won't ever be one. As such my question to DigiTechRep is this: Are there future plans to create a traditional tray insert for non-iPad owners or plans for Android compatibility, perhaps with the new Kindle fire? I'd love to give you some of my money Digitech...

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Hey Will - welcome to the thread! You're not the only person asking that question. My gut tells me that a) it's only an iPad thing and b) even if it wasn't, you wouldn't get an "official" answer from DigiTech unless development on other options was very far along, but we'll see...

I'm not an iPad owner either (I borrowed one to do the review) but it's getting to the point where if a few more apps come along to justify getting one, I'll be able to amortize the cost over enough things that it starts looking more attractive.

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Man the question above mine is really valid. (edit, er above craigs, dang you ninja craig icon_lol.gif) More tray inserts and the ability to program on something other than an ipad (iphone, andriod stuff etc...) would be really good. I get the problem that android devices have, but was a little dissapointed that this couldn't happen with other apple istuff.

The only other thing I'm a little disappointed to NOT see on this thing at the price it goes for is a s/pdif port...

I'm assuming this is because guitar players are for the most part not going to use such a thing (or don't have a clue what it does haha), but man it's a sell point for me.

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Quote Originally Posted by Will Chen View Post
my question to DigiTechRep is this: Are there future plans to create a traditional tray insert for non-iPad owners or plans for Android compatibility, perhaps with the new Kindle fire?
Hi Will, as of now the market share and QoS from Apple and the App store makes the iPad the clear choice to pair with the iPB-10.

I totally get it if you don't want to spring for an iPad, especially since you already have an RP500, or join the "iCollective" as it were. But, I really wish I could sit down with you and show you the iPB-10 in person because once you actually use it yourself, all the concerns just evaporate.

I'm going to wax a little philosophical here if you don't mind: Believe me, we had the multi-platform conversations 18+ months ago when the iPB-10 was on the drawing board. At a certain point we realized that we had to "pick a horse and ride it" otherwise we were going to "if" ourselves to death. We could see the potential of the iPB-10 and we also knew that it was pretty radical for most guitarists. So in an effort to change the game without locking ourselves into a niche of a niche of a niche and dooming the entire concept, we went with what felt right.

Further, we realized that DigiTech is known for pushing the envelope. We pushed it with the IPS, the Whammy, the Space Station, the 2101, the RP1, and on and on. We had two choices, be bold and stick with the original vision of the iPB-10 or be conservative and try to please everyone. We chose bold.

I'd love to give you some of my money Digitech...
We'd love to earn your money, our best chance at that is to be who we are.

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