• Amazon: Digitech iPB-10
• Pros: Extremely easy to use, with good hands-free capability and plenty of amps, cabs and effects to choose from.
• Cons: There are some limitations on which effects you can use simultaneously, and if you don’t have an iPad then it’s virtually useless.
• Overall: For casual guitarists who own an iPad already, the iPB-10 is a fantastic pedal – otherwise, it’s probably best to stick with something more traditional.
Digitech’s iPB-10 is in many ways a sign of things to come. In this age where there is an app for everything, it was only a matter of time before technology-toting guitarists were treated to a multi-effects unit like the iPB-10. The basic idea is simple: combine the body of a traditional multi-effects pedal with the brains and user interface of an amp and effects modeling iPad app – allowing for one amp model, one cab model and ten stompbox effects working simultaneously. But is this is an inspired idea that represents the future of guitar multi-effects, or a half-baked concept that should have been left on the drawing board?
The iPB-10 is unusual in that its main feature isn’t even part of the pedal. Realistically, the iPB-Nexus app does the vast majority of the work, and all of it when it comes to controlling parameters, making edits to presents and arranging your signal chain. Thankfully, it’s free, but the iPad it needs quite obviously isn’t. If you don’t have an iPad, the pedal is just a collection of 100 presets. However, this also means that you can use it without your iPad at a gig, as long as you save your desired presets beforehand, and can do without a display screen or the ability to make further edits as you play. It’s a fairly sturdy unit, though, and your iPad fits right into the body, with a thick outer frame locking it in place and providing some protection.
Technically speaking, you can have as many presets as you like, so long as they’re only stored on the iPad. 100 of these can be stored on the pedalboard and be called up using the footswitches, and each preset can include up to ten effects, an amp model and a cab model. You have plenty of sounds to choose from, too, with 54 amp models, 26 cabs and 87 effects pedals included with the app. There are a lot of possibilities with the iPB-10, giving you the ability to draw on models of legendary amps and classic effects to make up to 100 different custom (and fairly sizeable) setups. If you were an unimaginably prolific musician playing in ten bands, you can have ten unique, fully-stocked pedalboards for every single band.
The non-iPad portion of the pedal is basically a collection of rugged metal footswitches and an expression pedal; it’s wholly dedicated to making the experience as hands-free as possible. The presets are split into banks of five, and you can change banks using the two switches to the left of the iPad slot. In your chosen bank, the lower row of footswitches (labeled 1 to 5) is used to select a specific preset – so you can access any of your 100 presets completely hands-free. When you’ve called up a preset, you can use the top row of footswitches to activate or deactivate their corresponding effects, and the two to the left of the iPad allow you to activate or deactivate the effects and amp loops of your signal chain.
On the back of the unit, there are stereo outputs in both 1/4 inch and XLR, a 1/4 inch input jack, dual 1/4 inch jacks for both an effects loop and an amp loop, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a USB port, a looper controller jack and a spot for the power supply, along with an output volume knob and a power button. Needless to say, you aren’t short of options for connectivity.
The decision to use an app for the user interface, while meaning you have to be in possession of an expensive piece of technology to get the most out of it, was an excellent one in terms of ease of use. Almost everything is accomplished with either simple dragging-and-dropping or just tapping the thing you want to change. For example, your signal chain is displayed across the middle of the screen (as images of stompboxes), and if you tap any element of it, the alternative options are brought up for you to choose from. There are only five stompboxes displayed at once, but it only takes a simple touch to scroll over to the next screen. There’s also a page where you can see your full signal chain, and from there you can re-arrange it by just dragging and dropping as appropriate. You can also drag and drop specific effects onto icons at the bottom to be controlled by the five assignable footswitches.
Parameter-adjustment also couldn’t be much easier. Double-tapping any element in your signal chain enlarges it, and changes can be made by “turning” the dial – just like on the real things. Really, you tap the dial and drag up or down to adjust (with the display telling you the current setting), but it’s close enough to how you work a real stomp-box to be intuitive. It’s so easy to use you’re unlikely to even need the manual.
Is it As Good As it Seems?
For ease of operation, the pedal is an absolute knockout, but there are still some niggling issues it’s worth considering. The amp and effects modeling is really good, overall, but the amps in particular don’t quite measure up to the real things, especially when you increase the gain. If you’re looking for a top-quality tone, you can use the effects but you’d be better off using a real, physical amp.
The option of having ten simultaneous effects is great, but you don’t have the complete and utter freedom you may be imagining. Along with your amp and cab, you can use one distortion, noise gate, wah, delay, reverb, compressor, an EQ, a volume effect and two modulators. Most guitarists wouldn’t have a problem with this, per se, but more flexibility in combinations would have been useful for some. Additionally, they could have included a “stompbox mode,” where all ten of the lower footswitches were assigned to effects to increase the hands-free capability, rather than just five. Again, though, most players won’t really need to toggle all ten effects, but it would have been a good extension of the pedal’s capability.
And then there’s the big, iPad-shaped elephant in the room. You’re not only buying a multi-effects unit, you’re also expected to own an expensive bit of technology. In effect, you aren’t really getting the whole effects pedal package, more like a shell with basic functionality. Only a madman would buy an iPad for the purpose, but it’s a lot more rational to be wary of having your iPad (however protected) on stage when you’re jumping around and stomping switches, especially after a couple of beers. It is well protected, but iPads aren’t cheap, and there’s an obvious risk involved. You could program your required presets in and use it without the iPad, but then you have no screen other than the small LCD one in the top corner showing which preset bank you have active.
If you own an iPad already, and particularly if you’re a casual player – with the odd gig to play but primarily jamming or playing at home – then the iPB-10 is pretty awesome. Its appeal lies in its simplicity and ease of use, and while the sound quality could be better, for most the pedal will have everything you want and more. For serious gigging musicians, the inherent, physical appeal of more traditional pedals might still win out, but otherwise the iPB-10 is fantastic fun, and a purchase you’re unlikely to regret.
Amazon: DigiTech iPB-10