Review: GuitarJack 2 for iPhone and iPad

One of the great things about Apple’s iOS devices for musicians is having the ability to play and record our guitar while on the go. When the hardware and software allowing us to do this was first introduced, we gave the companies a little leeway on the quality just so we could play, but that’s changing.

Personally, I think that was a fair trade-off. But being able to play and record guitar on an iPad or iPhone has gone beyond a novelty, and like most things, users are demanding more quality.

For the last few weeks I’ve been playing around with GuitarJack 2, a new $149 device from Sonoma Wire Works. GuitarJack, unlike many of its competitors, plugs into the iPad and iPhone’s dock connector, so it’s a digital signal.

What this means for you is a clean, clear signal for your guitar. There is nothing worse than having a noisy signal even before you start adding amps and effects to your guitar. You end up spending more time trying to cut out the noise than you do playing.

The GuitarJack has a 1/4-inch instrument input that has configurable Pad, Lo-Z and Hi-Z modes. There is also a 1/8-inch headphone jack and a 1/8-inch mic/line input with Pad, Normal and Boost modes.

The design of the GuitarJack is stunning. It’s sleek, attractive and something you would be proud to carry around with your Apple device. But this is a guitar device, so the proof is in the sound.

I tested GuitarJack with Ampkit to dial in some high-gain tones and it worked beautifully. Ampkit recognized the hardware right away and the quality of the signal was evident. I also tried it with AmpliTube, but that software requires an iRig connector and would not recognize the GuitarJack.

I also used Sonoma Wire Works FourTrack software on the iPhone. When you open the software with the GuitarJack installed, you get a window allowing you to adjust preferences of the devices inputs. FourTrack also has amp and effects modeling built-in, so you can build a guitar tone without using apps like Ampkit if you prefer.

Of course, FourTrack allows you to record four tracks of audio as well. The app basically gives you everything you need to take advantage of every aspect of the GuitarJack.

I always worry a bit about connecting anything to the bottom of my devices and leaving it there. I wonder if it could break off or damage the dock connector, but in my experience, the GuitarJack was just fine. I held up my iPhone and the GuitarJack didn’t pull or drop, so it’s balanced really well. Plugging a guitar cable in does add some pull, but it still wasn’t a problem for me.

I’ve been a fan of Sonoma Wire Works for many years. They are a company that cares about its users and they make very high-quality software and hardware products. If you’re looking for a device to play your guitar on the iPhone or iPad, I highly recommend GuitarJack 2.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, Sonoma WireWorks is awesome. FourTrack is an amazing scratchpad for songwriting that is always with you. Highly recommended to anyone who has a need for these tools. You can’t go wrong. It is worth getting an iOS device just to run these tools. There is no point in using a competing mobile platform if you are musical at all. CoreAudio and CoreMIDI remain essential music software even in their iOS incarnations.

  • Kypros

    Interesting, but one would think that a fundamental part of any review would ask “how does this compare to the competition?”

    IE – why should I be spending more than 3x the price of the IK Multimedia offering, for example, or is there something else I should consider?

    • That’s actually not a fundamental part of any review. It may be a large part of a comparison piece, which this isn’t.

      • Kypros

        Most major music publications would probably disagree – check out any review from Sound On Sound, for example, which fundamentally outline the competitors, at least briefly. But this is blogging, not journalism, so fair enough.

        • And people like you are the reason many sites got rid of comments.

  • Dennis

    Question: how does this compare to the Apogee JAM, which also uses the dock connector? I was looking at that one before I saw this review and wanted to get your opinion. Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • I was talking about this on Twitter tonight. I love the Jam — the sound is digital too, so the sound is also very good. The Jam does allow you to connect to your Mac as well, so that may be a consideration.

    • Michelle

      Thanks for asking. GuitarJack is better than alternative dock connecting, device-powered accessories because it is the only accessory that offers all this and more: stereo recording and simultaneous voice and instrument recording with recording apps that support those features; a 1/4 inch instrument input with configurable pad, Lo-Z and Hi-Z modes and 60 dB of continuous level control; a 1/8 inch stereo mic/line input with configurable pad and 60 dB of continuous level control; and an 1/8 inch stereo output with increased drive for headphones.  More here:

  • Anonymous

    According to their user forums, IK is going to release a new version of AmpliTube Real Soon Now (well, they say sometime in January) that will support the 30 pin connector.  We’ll see if they can make that date…

  • Pkopco

    I just bought the Line 6 Mobile In, which also connects through the 30-pin connector. As well as working with its companion app, Mobile POD, it works with Ampkit, JamUp, and iShred. With iRig, Ampkit was always warning me to lower the iPad’s volume to avoid feedback, but with this digital interface I was able to crank it all the way with no feedback at all. And it’s only $80.