ION Audio All-Star Guitar
ION Audio, www.iworldonline.com.au
Lots of fun; well made
No substitute for a real guitar; novelty can wear off quickly
The introduction of the Lightning connector with the iPhone 5 has created a bit of a dead zone in a world where we’ve become used to using the Dock connector to attach all sorts of amazing accessories.
At the time of writing, one or two Lightning accessories had come to market, but we’re ever-hopeful that more will begin appearing soon. In the meantime, if you ever needed a good example of innovative Dock accessories, check out the ION Audio All-Star Guitar.
It’s a plastic guitar that houses an iPad and lets you play music using a combination of iOS apps and a fretboard consisting of 84 illuminated buttons arranged in 14 rows. You can also use any non-Lightning iPhones or iPod touches, but the experience isn’t quite the same with such small screens.
Size-wise, the All-Star Guitar is the size of a small full-sized guitar, with a body shaped like a Fender Telecaster. There’s just an On/Off switch on the back and a Volume knob on the front.
The back of the guitar flips open so you can insert your iPad and plug it in via a 30-pin cable. There’s a separate insert you can use if you’re playing on an iPhone or iPod touch.
The hardware is really good quality, and the neck strap can be attached for either right- or left-handed playing. But the All-Star Guitar is nothing without a guitar simulation app, notably the free ION Audio All-Star Guitar iPad app. (We tried others, including Garage Band, but the integration just isn’t the same.)
The app has three modes: Freestyle, Song Jam and Guitar Basics.
Freestyle. As the name implies, in this mode the guitar acts like a real one: You press the fret buttons just like you would on a real guitar, and tap or strum the on-screen strings to play.
There are four guitar styles to choose from – Acoustic, Bass, Clean Electric and Dirty Electric – plus four effects ‘pedals’ – Reverb, Chorus, Delay and Flanger. There’s also a distortion switch and a whammy bar.
The level of control is pretty good, though not nearly as good as the real thing.
If you’re using the app without the guitar, chord buttons appear. You tap a button then strum the strings to hear the chord.
Still in Freestyle mode is a Rockstar option, which lets you ‘play’ full chords or riffs with the press of a button. This is pretty good for fooling your friends.
Song Jam. In this mode the app plays a well-known song, lighting up the appropriate fret keys so you can play along. It’s played at full speed, with no option to slow it down, and is a lot harder than it looks. An ‘EZ Strum’ option helps a bit.
You only get one song included with the free app – Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water – and others are available as in-app purchases. You can buy single songs, from rock (Foo Fighters’ Walk) to country (Keith Urban’s You Gonna Fly), classics (The Beatles’ Let it Be) and pop (Lady Gaga’s Born This Way) for $1.99 each, or 10-song collections for $10.49, as in-app purchases.
Guitar Basics. Probably the most useful function for beginners, in this mode you press a chord button and the lights on the neck show you where to place your fingers.
Macworld Australia‘s buying advice.
If you really want something that feels like a real guitar, then buy a real guitar. But if you want a fun gadget that helps you learn the basics and lets you pretend to be a rock god, then check out the ION Audio All Star Guitar.