Having recently announced that they now have more money to play with than the government of the United States of America, Apple are well on their way to world domination! Recognising their widespread appeal, a number of other companies have sought to cash-in on their popularity, by creating products that are specifically designed to interface with Apple units.
One of the latest products that has been built with this idea in mind is the DigiTech iPB-10, a programmable pedalboard with expression pedal, which houses an iPad running the special iPB-Nexus application…
DIGITECH iPB-10 – QUICK INTRO
Before I get into the nitty-gritty details of how the DigiTech iPB-10 works, I wanted to run over a few quick points in order to familiarise you with exactly what it is...
The DigiTech iPB-10 is essentially a 'shell' for your iPad or iPad 2. In combination with a special application, called iPB-Nexus, it can be used to mix and match a variety of amp models, cabinet models and effect pedal models, to sculpt your ideal sound. Whilst the iPad and application combination are used to customise your sound in an ultra-fast and intuitive way (using the touch-screen), the iPB-10 pedalboard is used to trigger the application as you would a traditional hardware multi-effects board (e.g. using the stomp pedals to activate/deactivate different pedals, select different presets, etc.) The DigiTech iPB-10 also features all the connectivity of a standard pedal board, so it’s easy to incorporate other outboard equipment into your set-up.
Finally, just before I start with the rest of the review, I should specify a couple of things:
1. No, the DigiTech iPB-10 does NOT come with an iPad!
2. The DigiTech iPB-10 pedalboard can be used without an iPad (and the application). The sound is actually processed by chips within the iPB-10 pedalboard itself and you can switch between presets by using the physical controls on the DigiTech iPB-10 and the two-digit LED screen to indicate your current bank selection. However, you cannot edit, adjust or save new presets without an iPad.
DIGITECH iPB-10 – FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Straight out of the box, the DigiTech iPB-10 looks and feels like a standard pedalboard. In fact it is pretty much a DigiTech RP-1000, but instead of an LED screen and a few dials in the centre, the DigiTech iPB-10 has… nothing!
Yes, I do admit that on first impressions, the DigiTech iPB-10 does look very plain and rather boring! In fact, had I actually spent money on this thing, I think that I would have been left feeling a little disappointed at the lack of controls and shiny lights! However, I must bare in mind that the DigiTech iPB-10 isn’t really made to be used as a standalone unit and I am sure that everything will get a lot more magical once an iPad is connected to fill that big blank void!
DIGITECH iPB-10 – CONNECTING AN IPAD
Connecting an iPad to the Digitech iPB-10 was extremely simple. Firstly, I needed to press in two silver ‘buttons’ on the back of the unit, which released the front panel, allowing it to be lifted up on a lever mechanism. This revealed a wire, which plugged into the bottom of the iPad. I could then lay the iPad down in the plastic bed before pressing the panel back down until it clipped back into place. This secured the iPad into the unit with a nice snug fit!
The DigiTech iPB-10 actually comes with two different moulds, one for the iPad and one for the iPad 2. These are easily interchangeable… all you need to do is to remove a few screws to release the currently installed bed, place the new bed into position and then put the screws back into place. Easy!
DIGITECH iPB-10 – THE APPLICATION
As soon as the iPad is installed in the iPB-10, the unit suddenly comes to life and looks a lot more impressive! In fact, it looks like one of the most exciting pedalboards that I have ever seen with that large touchscreen!
Once the iPad is connected and turned on, all you need to do is launch the iPB-Nexus app and you are ready to start configuring your pedals and amps! Of course, you will need to download the app from iTunes first though! Click here to visit the iTunes store to download the iPB-Nexus app.
DIGITECH iPB-10 – TOOLBAR
After the iPB-Nexus application has launched, you will be presented with the main screen, which provides you with most of the tools for all your amp and pedal configurations. At the top of the screen is a toolbar, which presents you with a number of options (all accessible via a touch of the iPad screen). The first option is for the ‘Pedalboard screen.’ This is the default screen that loads up and so this option should already be highlighted as long as you have not made any further selections.
The next option in the toolbar is for the ‘My Tones’ screen, which presents you with a list of all your saved presets. Next to this is the option for the ‘Help’ screen, which is very useful I might add! Rather than being a tedious, boring manual, it is laid out in a very intuitive way; each Help page shows one of the main screens within the application and each page shows different sections of the screen highlighted (with the rest of the screen greyed out). Little text boxes and arrows are then displayed around each highlighted section, allowing you to easily see what each part of the screen is used for.
Also on the toolbar is a Tuner icon (opens a guitar tuner), Preset Volume panel and the Settings icon, which can be used to access global settings, including the tuner reference, the record ‘out’ level, the XLR/1/4” mix and the expression pedal options.
DIGITECH iPB-10 – AMPLIFIERS AND CABINETS
Below the toolbar is the amp and cabinet section. Towards the upper-left are the amplifier controls, giving you a dial for each parameter of the currently selected amp. To make an alteration to the amp settings, simply touch the virtual dial and drag upwards to turn the dial ‘up’, or downwards to turn it ‘down’... and to suck eggs, simply purchase a pack from your local supermarket/farmer, pop one in your mouth and away you go! Whilst you are doing this, you can hear the output change in real with the parameter that you alter, just like you are manipulating a physical control on a hardware amp.
However, unlike a ‘real’ amplifier, you can also use the application to adjust the amp model! To do this you need to tap on the amp panel (where the virtual controls are), which brings up a menu showing all of the different amp models that are available! You can then use the touchscreen to scroll from side-to-side, using your finger to select the relevant amp model. It is a similar process to select a cabinet, apart from that you need to select the 'Cabinet' button! Once you have found your ideal combination of amp and cabinet, simply click the ‘Done’ button to confirm your selection.
DIGITECH iPB-10 – PEDALS
Onto the most colourful part of the application and the part that allows you to get most creative with your sounds; the virtual pedals! The DigiTech iPB-10 allows you to assign five pedals within your chain to five of the physical footswitches (labelled A to E) on the unit (although your chain can contain up to 10 pedals in total). Of course, you can also use the touchscreen to activate and deactivate the virtual pedals as well; although I imagine that the physical stomp pedals will come in much more use here.
All of the virtual pedals that come with the iPB-Nexus application look very nice! They are brightly coloured and feature all the controls that their hardware counterpart features. You get a whole range of different pedals, including wah pedals, compression pedals, noise gate pedals, distortion pedals, chorus pedals, flanger pedals, phaser pedals, pitch pedals, vibrato/rotary pedals, tremolo pedals, envelope pedals, an EQ pedal, delay pedals, reverb pedals and a volume pedal… in fact, there are 87 in total from a variety of different manufacturers, including DigiTech (of course!), TC Electronics, VOX, Boss, Dunlop, MXR, Ibanez, Fender, Lexicon and many more!
It is a quick and easy process to make any pedal parameter adjustments with the touchscreen. Again, all you need to do is to touch the parameter that you want to change and then move your finger up and down to turn the virtual dial. There is even a handy feature to enlarge a pedal to make the controls larger and easier to see (and touch if you have chubby Homer Simpson-style fingers!) This can be achieved by double-tapping the pedal of your choice.
Now, I mentioned earlier that although there are only 5 physical stomp controls for the pedals, you can actually chain up to 10 pedals in sequence. To view your entire pedalboard (i.e. not just the standard 5 that are displayed at the bottom of the screen), simply tap the grey bar above the virtual pedals.
To select different pedals, simply tap the pedal of your choice and this opens up another menu, showing you all the different pedals that you can select. Once you are happy with your set-up, then you can simply press the ‘Quick Save’ button towards the top-right of the screen, which stores your set-up in memory, overwriting anything that was previously in the preset slot.
One thing to be aware of is that the order that pedals appear on the application’s interface, is not necessarily the order that they appear in the actual chain. You can assign pedals to the hardware controls in any way that you want, for example, in the order that you will activate them in a song. To see all the pedals in the order that they appear in the chain, you can select the ‘Edit’ button (a little way down from the top right of screen). In this mode, you can reorder pedals within the chain itself, or add and delete pedals. This is all done with drag-and-drop functionality, or by tapping relevant buttons – it’s all very straight forward. From this screen you can also choose how to assign your pedals to the physical controls of the DigiTech iPB-10… again, this is just a case of dragging and dropping the virtual pedal interface's onto the pedal tabs that appear below. Again, it is as straight-forward as you could wish for and if you want to change a stomp-pedal to control a different virtual pedal, simply drag and drop a new pedal over the existing one in the tab. I have never experienced a multi-effects pedal that is as easy to set up as this one. It really does make experimenting and auditioning extremely quick, meaning that you should always be able to find your perfect sound.
An extremely handy little feature of the iPB-Nexus application is that whenever you make a pedal selection, the output will change accordingly, meaning that you can audition the pedal before you make a permanent change. Once you are happy that you have made the correct decision, simply select the ‘Done’ button!
DIGITECH iPB-10 – BANKS & PRESETS
All presets within the DigiTech iPB-10 are organised into banks and each bank contains 5 presets. The Bank selector is positioned below the pedals and you can use your finger to sweep along to choose your desired bank. Whenever you switch to another bank, the preset tabs (situated below) will update with new names and new configurations. Presets can contain any pedals, any amp, any cabinet, any volume, any parameter settings, etc, etc. This allows you to create combinations and sounds that are useful and then call them back at any time.
Each preset within a bank is assigned to one of the stomp pedals on the lower row of the DigiTech iPB-10 (labelled 1-5). This makes it extremely quick to switch between your signature sounds between songs, or even in the middle of a performance! You can even use the physical ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ buttons on the DigiTech iPB-10 to switch between banks, meaning that you should never have to crouch down and start fiddling with your touchscreen in the middle of a performance – all the essential live features are right there on the DigiTech iPB-10 unit itself.
DIGITECH iPB-10 – CONNECTIONS
Final thing to let you know about and that is the connections featured on the back of the DigiTech iPB-10 (I will keep it quick!) On the rear of the DigiTech iPB-10, you get:
• 1/4” guitar input
• 1/4" amp loop with ground lift switch
• 1/4" effects loop
• Stereo 1/4" line output with Amp/Mixer switch
• Output level
• Stereo XLR outputs with ground lift switch
• 1/8” headphone output
• 1/4" external footswitch control
• USB port for audio streaming
• DC power input
• Power switch
DIGITECH iPB-10 – SUMMARY
I was thoroughly impressed with the DigiTech iPB-10. The combination of the hardware and the iPad application made it the easiest pedalboard that I have ever used – effects programming has never been anywhere near this simple before! This thing was seriously fun to play around with and I can highly recommend it.
Now, whilst I was doing some of my technical research on the DigiTech iPB-10, I did find quite a lot of negativity being expressed. I have to admit that at first I fully agreed with quite a lot of these comments, which seemed to point out a lot of flaws with the DigiTech iPB-10, but after using it for myself, I slowly began to change my mind. Therefore, I am going to make a list of the most common complaints that I found about the DigiTech iPB-10 (from people that have not used one before I must add) and put my case forward as to why this really is an excellent product:
Complaint 1 - It costs around £100 more than an RP-1000 and it is essentially just a shell for an iPad, whereas the RP-1000 comes with a load of built-in effects!
At first, I have to say that I fully agreed with such statements! In fact, when I first got it out of the box, I couldn’t think why anyone would spend more on this compared to a cheaper multi-effects pedal that actually has effects built in! However, once I began to use it, I realised that the money that goes into purchasing the DigiTech iPB-10 isn’t just going into buying the hardware. In fact, most of the functionality of the DigiTech iPB-10 comes from a FREE iPad application and it is the time and effort that the DigiTech team have invested into making this so intuitive that a large chunk of your money is going towards. In essence, you are paying for the privilege to use this awesome application. In terms of what you are paying, I would say that half of your investment is actually going towards paying for the application, but DigiTech just make it easier for you by allowing you to pay for both items in one transaction. Everyone who purchases a DigiTech iPB-10 is going to download the application anyway (there is no point in buying one if not!) and I am sure that people would complain a lot more if DigiTech made it so that you had to purchase the iPB-10 for £200 and then had to download the app separately for another £200! In my opinion, once everything has been considered, you do get what you pay for! This is an extremely handy application and having programming experience, I can guarantee that making this was no mean feat!
Complaint 2 - You have to spend a heap load more money on an iPad if you want to use one, making this an extremely expensive pedalboard option… in fact, you may as well spend the money on an expensive amp and a load of hardware pedals and just pick the ones that you will actually use!
I agree with this in part… yes, if you are purely after a pedalboard and have a budget that covers the DigiTech-10 plus an iPad, then I would certainly prefer to spend the money on the ‘real’ bits of hardware and just pick the few that I would use (although you will certainly get a lot more models with the iPB-Nexus app!)
However, for the most part, I massively disagree with this opinion! I do not think that DigiTech seriously thought that people would see the iPB-10 plus iPad option as a pure pedalboard package. This product has been designed for people that already own an iPad, or want to buy one! I would question someone’s sanity if they splashed the cash on an iPad simply to use the iPB-Nexus application. If you opt for purchasing this package from scratch, then yes you will spend a lot, but as well as a hardware pedalboard and an awesome modelling application that is packed with amp, cab and pedal models, you also get an iPad, something that I assume will get a lot of use in other areas as well! Hence, I really don't see this as a problem at all.
Complaint 3 - Why would anyone want to be stomping their feet and drinking beer anywhere vaguely near their iPad? Surely this is a stupid recipe for disaster!
I have to say that this was initially my main problem with the DigiTech iPB-10! Indeed, at a hectic gig when the beer has been flowing and your judgement probably isn’t at its best, why would anyone want to be tapping their feet near the exposed and vulnerable screen of their precious iPad? It’s definitely a legitimate point, but I have also changed my mind somewhat on this matter.
Whilst I still wouldn’t like to have my iPad up on stage, you can use the DigTech iPB-10 without an iPad. As long as you have created all your presets before a gig and organised them so that you know where everything is by bank and preset (I would order my presets and banks so that they relate to the planned set, e.g. Bank 1 contains all the presets for song 1, Bank 2 relates to song 2 etc. and then maybe have a little note on the floor (or stickers on the iPB-10 itself) just incase there was a sudden change of plan). After all, you shouldn’t actually need to use the iPad anyway in the middle of a gig as you should already have created your sounds!
The only minor problem with using the DigiTech iPB-10 without the iPad is that you get less visual feedback as you only have a small two-character LED screen to indicate your current bank. However, if you are organised, you will know where everything is and you can always keep your iPad somewhere handy (but safe) to check preset positions if you get stuck or lose your notes. I personally think that this is a small price to pay for the heaps of added benefits that working with the iPad application gives you.
So, having started off being fairly against the DigiTech iPB-10, I have been completely turned around! Although I still don’t think that this will be everyone’s cup of tea, it is a damn good product and I really like how you can use the iPad app and pedalboard independently. I love the thought of creating my sounds from the iPad (with an IK Multimedia iRig) in the comfort of my chair at home, then attaching the iPad into the pedalboard to fine tune my sounds in practice and then going solo with the DigiTech iPB-10 for a live gig! Sorted! The iPad application just makes this product so easy to get along with and so fun to use. Plus,I thought that it sounded great!
Well, I think that’s about all I have to say on this subject! I hope that you have learned something from this blog post and feel free to leave your own comments (either at the bottom of this blog post or in our forum) to let us know what you think! Until next time!
You can also read what our guitar expert Lee Williams had to say about the DigiTech iPB-10 by clicking HERE!
If you want any more information on the DigiTech iPB-10, or if you want to buy one, click the link below: