As a father to a cheeky but adorable 2 year old girl, I often find myself with a little time to spare late in the evening to pretend that I’m the next Joe Satriani or Angus Young. With the aforementioned dozer being fast asleep at such hours of the evening, it would be ideal if I had a whiz bang tool that allowed me to very quickly plug in and jam along to some Satch or AC/DC in my living room, or with the possibility to use headphones if I wanted to play loud without anyone else hearing it. The same features would also make such a product ideal for any bedroom rock star or a student who cant make too much noise in their dorm room.
I suppose it would also make sense that such a tool has super flexible features like streaming music from any Bluetooth device (phones/tablets/PCs/MACs) and is loud enough to rehearse and gig.
What about making it look especially cool and edgy with a funky updated vintage vibe going on so that it looks as good in a living room as well as on stage. Then lastly give it a price point that is affordable for even the smallest budget.
Well prepare yourself….. As those clever boffins at Line 6 have only gone and delivered an innovative and feature rich amp that fits all those requirements and more to boot! Its called the AMPLIFi, and is apparently such a new take on the humble guitar amp, Line 6’s marketing material suggested that the AMPLIFi is ‘The guitar amp, reinvented’. That is perhaps an overstretch, and I would have gone for ‘The guitar amp, evolved’.
When I first approached an AMPLIFi, the first things that struck me were:
-That it looks like a sleek modern day Vox AC30 – that had been designed for the first time in 2014 and not 1958.
-There is no Line 6 logo visible, so it doesn’t look out of place as a Bluetooth speaker in a living room, but it does still look amp like enough to look comfortable on stage.
-The 75 watt version I have to review is surprisingly loud and weighs enough to be sturdy when packing a big punch, but it is quite small and light compared to other amps I have which are similar in power output. I could easily carry it on a bus or train using its built in top handle without it being to big and heavy, but in the comfort that it will still be plenty loud enough to gig with. For research and to compare to the A75 I have, I’ve also tried out a 150 watt AMPLIFi at a guitar store was even louder but may be a touch too big to comfortably carry on a bus, but its still compact for how loud it is.
One of the major advances is the ability for the AMPLIFi Remote app to download a suitable guitar tone within a few seconds of starting to play a song from your music library. Essentially this uses the CustomTone database which is effectively a cloud service with guitar tones/presets populated mostly by users themselves. This does mean there are occasional dud tones that maybe sound good on one persons guitar that may not transfer to another guitar so well (i.e. a strat vs a Les Paul), but there are also plenty of great tones to choose from, so this won’t be such an issue. Line 6 claim 6000+ presets (which is growing), so this means tones for popular songs will be a plenty, but you may have to manually search for a tone if you’re playing some more obscure music. The AMPLIFi Remote app, can either load cloud presets automatically for you, or this can be turned off in the apps settings – which is handy if you’re playing several similar sounding songs, and you’ve found the perfect preset, you may prefer that the app doesn’t automatically change it for each song.
One slight difficulty here is that the AMPLIFi Remote app will only work on iOS7 devices (at the moment) – so that’s most iPhone’s, iPads and iPod touch devices from the past few years. So what does that mean really? Well if you don’t have your own iOS device, but say your partner has an iPad, that may be enough for you to use. But if you’re planning to use it a lot it may mean you’ll need your own iOS7 capable device if you don’t already have one. Some of the other features of the amp don’t require an iOS7 device though, like for playing with the amp standalone. Any Bluetooth capable device can stream music to the Amplifi by holding the Bluetooth button on the top of the amp for 2 seconds, and then pairing your phone (any make/model with Bluetooth)/tablet/PC/MAC, and then just play music. You can also store 4 presets in the amp, which can be selected by a button on the top of the amp, or by using an FBV Express MKII pedal or an FBV Shortboard MKII pedal (See below for more info).
Wet/Dry Amplification is likely something new to a lot of potential AMPLIFi users, as it’s something used with much bigger rigs. I mention it because it’s a very high end feature in what is a medium priced amp – so this adds to the value this amp presents. Basically it splits up the post amplifier model effects (typically time based effects line MOD, Delay and Reverb) and amplifies them separately through different speakers. This serves to give a less cluttered sound. Here’s a good diagram from Line6.com to explain it:
Using an AMPLIFi Live does sound a little strange given that there’s so much talk of using the AMPLIFi Remote app, or streaming music using Bluetooth. But load 4 presets to the AMPLIFi in advance, and plug in an FBV MKII foot pedal, and you’ve got a great rehearsal and gigging amp without the need for any iOS7 integration. Also, when it’s the break between sets, any of the band members who have a smartphone that has Bluetooth and a music library could start playing some recorded riffage to your punters while getting a beer at the bar (distance permitting). There are also knobs on top of the amp for your usual Drive, Bass, Middle, Treble, Reverb, FX tweak (more later) and master volume. there’s also a tap button for tap tempo and holding it engaged and disengages the tuner, and the master volume doubles as a blend control for if you want to use a backing track from your Bluetooth device. That would be ideal for those 1 man bands or duos that need a backing track to play to – you can do it all with your phone or media player and the AMPLIFi. There is also an aux input on the amp too, so if you need to, you can use that instead of everything else for a good FRFR amp (i.e. if you have a POD HD or other instruments that need a small/medium PA).
If you want to know more about how the FBV MKII pedals work, check out a video I recorded recently, which shows in detail what the FBV Shortboard MKII can do:
That video also mentions the FX tweak knob on the amp. This can be assigned to many different perameters on many of the FX models, and is there for when you’re playing without the iOS7 app. perhaps you want it to change the delay mix so that you can use the same preset for 2 songs – go for it. The FBV pedals also feature a wah and volume controller to control built in volume and wah effects. The wah model can also be edited in advance with the iOS7 app. The FBV pedals also can show the tuner display for in gig tuning, without needing to look back at the amp.
The AMPLIFi Remote App doesn’t come with a user guide as such – which can trip up some who aren’t used to finding their own way with apps or learning from videos. But give yourself an hour with it, watch the videos (see below) and have a look through all the menus and it becomes second nature – it’s actually quite simple and intuitive. The videos I mentioned are hosted on a FAQ page on Line 6’s website that show you how to create, save, edit, manage and publish tones. That will give you most of the info you’ll need to use the app. Here’s the link: http://line6.com/support/page/kb/_/amplifiers/ampl/amplififaq
The key parts for me are that the AMPLIFi Remote app allows you to store presets within the app, in a silo called ‘My Tones’. This tied with disabling the setting to auto load tones when you start streaming a new song, means you can load a tone that suits your music library, and kick off playing an album and jam along to it. Then when you’re jamming to songs you’ve not played before, enable the setting to auto load presets/tones from the cloud, and away you go. Those are the 2 main scenarios I use to make it work in the way I want to play.
A good feature I have also used, is when a tone auto loads, I sometimes later think I would like to tweak it a little. After thia I can save it to ‘My Tones’ in the AMPLIFi Remote app for later use, and I can also publish it to custom tone for myself and all other AMPLIFi users to use. That’s great for playing a Youtube demo – as afterwards all other users of the same amp can easily access your tones. You can even try it out. In the app, load a song to bring up the cloud search box, and search for ‘ambient delays demo’, and it will find the delay demo tone I used in my video (linked to earlier).
Editing presets using the AMPLIFi Remote app is very straightforward, and there are a wealth of settings available – I certainly wasn’t left feeling I needed anything more. Check out my video above (as I talk a bit about FX blocks positioning) and also the Line 6 FAQ page linked earlier to help you understand more here.
The Verdict – 9 out of 10
Pros: Far too many to list – It’s a 21st century take on a guitar amp for just abour every use for most players. Key benefits are the look (my wife will allow it to live in the living room), the Bluetooth streaming, auto tone loading, great Line 6 tones, portability.
Cons: Only tiny niggles – No Android/Windows Phone app, or manual for the iOS Remote app.
For more info visit: http://www.line6.com/amplifi/