In my last review, I talked about an iOS app called ToneStack and basically how awesome it is – this review is about using it in a real-world setting.

I was excited at the idea of using an iPad live instead of a traditional amp. Taking an iPad to a show instead of lugging a heavy amp around? Sign me up! I pieced together a reliable rig in a 4U rack that was easy to load on stage.

The photo above is the first incarnation of my iPad rig – wireless into the iTrackDock, then to the 44 Magnum and finishes up at a cab. The dock, 44 Magnum and all the power adapters, sat nicely velcroed to a slide-out shelf. I ran this setup for a good while, probably 10 months or so and it served me well. The time for change came when I had to carry this 25kg rack three blocks to a gig because there was no parking anywhere near it.

Sound, reliability and ease of use, worked a treat – everything I wanted, it was just too bloody heavy! So I set about downsizing.

Downsized, I went with a Tuner, iTrackDock and new power amp, the Baroni Lab Mini Amp all stuck down do a PedalTrain Mini. I sacrificed wireless and easy setup for a much lighter rig. Was it worth it? Yeah, probably, but let’s get down the nuts and bolts!

Focusrite iTrackDock
The reason I chose it is because it charges the iPad while I’m using it. One of my biggest fears of using an iPad live was it going flat mid-gig. Feature wise it’s jam packed – 2 mic pres, monitor and headphone outs, 48v and more. Build quality is a little plastic feeling and the instrument input started to feel like it was going to break. The tuner is only on the board so it could stay connected to the instrument jack, avoiding possibly breaking the it.

EHX 44 Magnum and Baroni Lab Mini Amp Custom 50 pedal-sized power amps
The 44 magnum is simple and loud, smaller, lighter and cheaper than the Mini Amp but lacks character – it sucks the life out of anything you put in front of it. You can work around it, or you can replace it, hence the Mini Amp. Baroni Lab are an amp manufacturer from Italy and make some top notch amps. The Mini amp is a 50 watt power amp with a 3 band EQ and blows the doors of the 44 Magnum in terms of sound quality. It also has a built in FX loop and cab simulator.

iRig BlueBoard
The BlueBoard is a battery powered, BlueTooth connected switching system for the iPad. With it I could engage effects and switch channels on the amp in ToneStack – an absolute must have for using ToneStack live. There’s little to no latency when using it and it feels good under the foot. Build quality is great and batteries last forever – the only time I had to change them was when I forgot to turn it off after a gig.

In conclusion, I’ll say that we’re in exciting times right now – being able to use an iPad as a guitar amp on stage is really something. It’s been fun, but sadly my iPad journey has come to end – I discovered something new and exciting at the Melbourne Guitar Show this year and I can’t wait to review it soon!