Not that long ago, you were just happy that you could plug a guitar into a Iphone. That you got any tone out of it seemed amazing. So Apps like Ampkit or Amplitube were perfectly satisfacory. Not pefect of course, not as good as a desktop PC or a dedicated foot pedel but good enough for sparetime noodling.
Of course, then Positive Grid came along with amp modelling that was better than a PC or a POD, an app that produced such brilliant tone that you really questioned if you needed an amp at all, especially if your taste was in the realm of metal or djent. Jamup was simply wonderful. And then BIAS came along, even better tones and infinite tweakability.
So it must be a pretty brave developer to launch itself into this market. And here we have one in Yonac, developers of highly regarded synth apps, who’ve just released their own amp and effect package, Tonestack.
First impression is of a clean, detailed interface, perhaps not as pretty as Jamup and not as fluid in its operation. Its just not as tactile, but it is much easier to navigate than Ampkit or Amplitube. This is just as well as Tonestack allows a much, much greater flexibility in desiging a signal chain than any other app, in fact more than any pC modeller allows as well. Any number of effects and amps in any order (are you listening Amplitube with your 3 effects slots?)
The really big thing here is the abililty to split signal chains through very flexible A/B boxes. This allows multi signal rigs to be designed very quickly, so stereo rigs, clean/distorted setups and any other variation can be built in seconds. The A/B models are very simple to use and can be inserted anywhere and the only limit to the number of signal chains is the CPU on your device. I managed 4 on a 4S with no clipping at all.
This multiple signal ability is a big, big thing and work superbly here. But of course it only helps if the basic amp and effect models work.
The basic package I tested has 6 amps and 20 effects. The amps are the usual suspects, Fenders, a Marshall, a Vox 30, a Mesa and and a Hiwatt. And they are….really rather good. Describing sound is very subjective but there is a weight to the sound, a sense of air being moved (the cabinet modeling is very good). They are far beyond anything Ampkit or Amplitube can offer and they are certainly on a par with Jamup. Bias may have an edge, but it is a testament to Tonestack that….I’m not sure by how much.
Effects are even more interesting. The website blurb does bang on about true analog modelling but they may have a point. The basic flangers, Wahs, phasers and choruses have a lovely transparent quality that is really very musical. There are also more outre pedals such as a very good filter that shows Yonacs experience in this field, a very powerful 10 band equalizer and a truly fab Echoplex that is almost an instrument in it’s own right – really, 5 minutes with this and you’re recording Electric Ladyland all over again.
These are the basic effects, there are another 50 effects and 18 amps that can be bought seperately, with everything available for £35, which is not bad if the quality is consistant.
It is also very stable, which is not too bad for a new release of such complexity.
The significance of all this is that just as Positive Grid looked like it was about to stomp on everything else in the market, along comes a real competitor. It’s easy to use, enormously flexible and of very high quality. As a total package it may be better than Jamup, which is very high praise and at £2.99 is an absolute steal.