We’ve all seen the overzealous guitar player stomp a few effects pedals to change the tone of his or her guitar. If a company called Positive Grid has its way, tonal tweaks like this will be done on an iPad or iPhone in the future.
Calvin Abel is co-founder of Positive Grid, a company that makes apps for guitar players. It bills its JamUp app as “the best guitar multi-effects processor on the planet,” and where other effects processors can get expensive very easily, the JamUp app is free and requires nothing but a $US20 connector to get your guitar talking to your iOS device. (An “HD” version of the connector is in the works.) After that, you only have to run a cable to your amplifier or recording software to get playing.
We caught up with Abel to hear the latest on what he and his company have been up to.
BUSINESS INSIDER: What’s Positive Grid all about? How did it start?
CALVIN ABEL: It started with few friends who are engineers and guitar players. We observed that, to simply play guitar along with backing tracks (which we do all the time to practice for weekend gigs), we actually need 4-5 cables to connect iPod, guitar, audio interface, computer, software, etc. When iPhone first came out, it was clear that we wanted to build on this platform. That led to our JAMUP app and JamUp Plug Audio Interface in 2011. It turns iPhone/iPad into a guitar multi-effects system with jam player, phrase sampler and 8-track recorder.
With over 1 million downloads our idea evolves along the way, thinking how we can connect all these guitar players and provide even more tones, so we built a social network called ToneCloud, which allows users to create, share and download custom guitar tones, right on mobile.
It took off and people started to share their custom presets and soon it got over 10,000 presets that users can download for free on their iPhone/iPad. At that point, it’s still all about arrangement of amp and effects, we started to think how about we go even crazier, to let users to design their own guitar amp and share it out. All other guitar amp/effect products are kind of developed as a closed platform, you pay for a number of amps and effects. But now we can build a platform which users can create and download literally unlimited amount of creative amps.
That’s the idea of BIAS — users can virtually design and customise almost every aspect of a guitar amp, it’s kind of a ultimate dream you can download a ’57 Fender Deluxe and create your own version, or build it from stretch, from simply changing the look and feel (tolex, knob and putting your own name), to moving a microphone position on the speaker, to go as deep as changing transformer or adjusting the bias of vacuum tube.
BI: How capable of a guitar player should someone be to get something out of your app?
CA: It’s absolutely built with ‘no user manual’ mindset, on BIAS, if you don’t even play guitar you can still create your own amp by changing Tolex and knob, loading your own pic to be background, and putting your name on the amp, and share on Facebook. It comes with 36 factory base line amps to help you get started, and you can download one from the ToneCloud. And of course, for experienced players, you can go very deep by changing tubes, transformers, speakers and equalizers.
BI: Which is better to have — a guitar amp, a guitar effects pedal, or an iPhone?
CA: It depends, we started to see mobile music is a natural next-step from computer music, and with all the interesting social and connectivity, it can deliver tremendous value that computer music or traditional amp/effect just can not provide. For some user cases (learning, home practice, and gigging musicians) it’s obvious a better solution, it sounds better, 10x cheaper, 10x more convenient. Computer music completely changed the landscape for recording and live in the ’80s, it will be interesting to see how far mobile can go.
BI: Is it suited for live performance?
CA: Yes. BIAS allows you to create your own amp, you can import the amp into JAMUP with one finger tap, it provides the full LIVE-VIEW and MIDI support to connect with foot controllers, for example our BT-4 Bluetooth Wireless Pedal. All you need is JamUp Plug to connect your guitar into iPhone/iPad, that literally replace your whole rig.