Published on December 29th, 2012 | by Greg0
Ion Audio All Star Guitar: A Fun Way To Rock Out
We first got a glimpse of today's device almost a year ago, at CES 2012. The idea was simple: use your iPad as the centerpiece for a guitar controller, allowing you to plug your tablet into the middle of a guitar, and use a real-feeling instrument to electronically control your iOS device. Now, almost a year later, we got a chance to check out the final product, and though some of the details have changed, it's still a fun, immediately-appealing way to play and learn guitar and bass.
If you're familiar with GarageBand for the iPad, you know it's many strengths and some of the limitations. The instrument samples are pretty great, and the app is responsive and offers plenty of features. But for guitar players, it's always felt a little limited, since strumming on a tablet is awkward at best. That's the problem solved by the Ion Audio All Star Guitar- it serves as a classy case while offering 84 notes on the fretboard. There aren't strings, but for the most part, you won't miss them much- those looking for an authentic guitar should buy a real guitar after all. Unless the lack of velocity-sensitivity is a buzz-killer, the All Star Guitar will satisfy your inner rocker.
Fully compatible with GarageBand, we started the app on our iPad 2 (the original model is also supported, along with some iPhones and even iPod Touch models, though we did not test them). The tablet slides into a fairly solid housing, and just like any Rock Band fan will recognize, you adjust the included strap and pop in the four AA batteries. There are no extra cables or wires, the entire thing is self-contained, and feels pretty well-balanced once setup. A built-in speaker amplifies the sound (necessary, since the iPad's speakers are blocked), and there is access to your headphone port so you can use headphones or connect to an external amp.
For those without GarageBand or looking for an educational experience, the free All Star Guitar app includes a few included songs and four guitar sound options: clean and dirty electric, along with a a decent acoustic and a so-so bass. And the best part: there are lights on the neck that illuminate to help you learn to play. It's not as beginner-friendly as some learning tools, but a novice will pick it up fast. And other songs are available for purchase ($1.99), from 'Rolling in the Deep' to 'Hey, Soul Sister'.
Available now for under $100, you definitely get a lot for the money- it looks and feels pretty good, though the knobs are a bit plasticky. Great for parties, the Ion Audio All Star Guitar is a fun and fairly addictive experience.