IK Multimedia is giving electric guitar players new ways to purify and capture their beloved guitar tones. This NAMM season, the company is releasing a new buffer boost preamp pedal, DI box, mobile interface, and USB audio interface, all with killer controls and killer tone.
First on the docket are the Z-Tone Buffer Boost and the Z-Tone DI Box. Both leverage the triple-topology preamp from the company’s award-winning AXE I/O, and both add powerful ways to shape tone that will be a boon to any axe slinger. You’ll note, for instance, a Z-Tone variable impedance control, which has a drastic effect on your instrument’s tone, because you’re literally shaping how the pedal resists the electrical signal with which it comes into contact. You can use this control to preserve the natural tone of your instrument across long cable runs, or to mangle the timbre completely: the choice is yours.
You’ll also note the two channel settings—JFET for warm, tube-like sound, and PURE for clean—and the Active/Passive switch to accommodate different pickup types. Both boxes offer dedicated 1/4" effected outputs, as well as 1/4" link outputs for mirroring unaffected sound to amplifiers, and XLR connections for outputting balanced signals. That’s where the similarities between the two units end.
Now onto their differences: The Z-Tone Buffer Boost is essentially a stompbox, while the Z-Tone DI is a direct-injection box for taking sound directly to interfaces, PAs, or FOH mixers. The Z-Tone Buffer Boost has, as you may have guessed, a boost footswitch for kicking your signal into a higher-gear; you can dictate the level of this boost with a variable knob control, or you can bypass the entire pedal altogether with the bypass/engage footswitch. The DI, on the other hand, gives you the opposite of a boost footswitch—a depressible -20 dB for tamping down the signal to work better with high-gain destinations further downstream.
Now, let’s look at the interfaces. The iRig Pro Duo I/O is designed to make capturing pro-quality guitar on your smartphone or tablet as easy as possible, since it works right out of the box with your mobile device. The pots have been re-designed from previous iterations to facilitate easier recall, and the class-A preamp has been improved for a wider gain range. Now, the unit comes with Lightning, USB Type-C, and USB Type-A cables, making it suitable for the latest devices. If you require MIDI, you can use the 2.5mm I/O jacks with the included breakout cables to make that happen.
The AXE IO Solo, on the other hand, is a 2-in / 3-out USB audio interface for use in home-studios. But don’t let the home-studio designation fool you: this thing offers pro-quality sound, with its PURE ultra-transparent mic preamp and Z-Tone enabled instrument input with switchable PURE/JFET circuits. Use the amp out to record with your real gear, or input directly to computers over USB to make use of the pristine 24-bit/192 kHz signal path. However you choose to record, you’ll have a great sound at your fingertips, at any volume level, since this little unit offers great dynamic range. Included with the AXE IO SOLO are AmpliTube 4 Deluxe, Ableton Live 10 Lite, and 10 T-RackS Single plug-in modules for processing in the box.