A guitar link is a 1.5 metre USB cable with an appendage about the size of a mobile phone on the other end with a guitar input and headphone socket plus headphone volume control and a switch that will set the input level. More than a few companies offer products that eschew the conventional hardware audio guitar interface with the actual interfacing that does the analogue to digital conversion being built into the connecting cable or the guitar itself. In essence, operation in Guitar Link couldn’t be simpler – plug the USB end of the cable into a computer, connect guitar and headphones at the other end.
There are three separate amp simulations comprising Native Instruments Guitar Combos derived from Guitar Rig (the AC Box, Twang combo and Plexi combo) presented as Behringer special editions – Combo I, II and III. All three combos have the usual gain and tone controls and come with adjustable effects – treble boost, tremolo and spring reverb for the AC-30-style amp plus a Tube Screamerish overdrive; chorus, vibrato (tremolo) and spring reverb for the Fender. The combo based on a Marshall gets Big Muff- and Rat-style distortion, delay and an on/off reverb.
Given with the wide range of features, one most important feature that all three guitar combos may have is the ‘Tapedeck’ facility as found in the Guitar Rig software. It allows playback of audio files with the usual phrase training facilities of tempo adjustment, half-speed playback without changing the pitch plus transposition and fine pitch tuning, if needed.
With the package offered, it provides the user for a trial period of 30 days and keeps only one of them permanently at the end of the trial period. Choices range from Vox, Fender or Marshall-alike as your virtual practice amp.
The USB connection, the UCG102 exhibits very little in the way of latency delay and the experience of playing through a computer feels very natural with the sound of the pickup cleanly converted and a nicely produced sound coming back at you.
There are plenty of Guitar Combos software that provides three distinctly flavoured and very playable amps, each with just the right amount of effects onboard to dial up a wide range of conventional sounds.
Each combo comes with 32 factory preset patches (plus 32 user storage spaces) selected from a menu that appears on the speaker grille, and these provide instantly familiar tones for rock, blues, pop and several other styles.
After 30 days trial period, the Guitar Link provides a universal USB connection that will happily work with any of the other amp simulation software available on the market. However, with any of the Guitar Combos, anyone learning to play would have instant access to a much wider range of sounds than with a bog-standard practice amp.
If you have a computer and are yet to sample the delights of plugging in your guitar, the UCG102 is probably the most cost-effective way to get started. You will be getting a very effective phrase training and practice facility with a decent-sounding virtual amp – no complaints.