A new music app release from Klevgrand is always something to get excited about. And a new guitar amp simulation app? Almost as rare as an in-the-wild sighting of an AirPower mat. Combine both, at an introductory price of just $10, and you have a pretty special day. The app is called Stark, and it’s also the first Audio Unit amp sim for iOS.
First up, Stark is an AUv3, or Audio Unit. These are the iOS equivalent of plugins. They’re apps that run inside other other music apps, or hosts. Garage Band is one such host, as is the amazing AUM, seen in my screenshot here. The advantage of Audio Units is that you can add plug-in functions to your favorite music apps, and that you can run everything in one app, instead of switching between them.
You can also run multiple instances of an AU plugin, using it several times to process different instruments, for example.
In the screenshot above, I’m using the Enso looper AU app in a chain with Stark. And you can mix and match as many as your iPad or iPhone can handle. Another great advantage is that you can easily record the result, because AUM is a fully-featured recording app too.
The most important thing is that an amp sim sounds good, and Stark sounds great. In fact, for clean and mildly crunchy-sounding guitar, it’s better than rivals ToneStack and Bias FX — to my ear at least. Try the Bright Strat preset, and you’ll be happy for hours.
Unlike most other amp sims, Stark doesn’t outright mimic real-world amps. Instead of naming them after famous 1950s-era guitar amplifiers, they have names like British Guitar A2, or General Tube amp. The effects are similarly generic, in name in not in sound. They effects are all competent, and some are excellent. Even the distortion sounds good.
And of course, because this is an Audio Unit, you can pipe its input into any other effects apps you have. Don’t like Stark’s reverb? Then pick form a zillion reverb apps on the App Store.
The sounds aren’t just designed for guitar. There are presets for keyboards, too, and you can pipe in any instrument that might benefit from some warmth and some effects. Or try this: use a virtual instrument (the guitar, say) inside GarageBand, and then pipe it through Stark. That’s the beauty of Audio Units.
Another thing I like about Stark is that it looks, well, pretty stark. Unlike almost every other amp sim ever, this one doesn’t try to make every amp and pedal look like its real-world equivalent. Skeuomorphism out, plain, flat panels and control in.
That’s partly a concession to the AU format, where apps appear in resizable windows, so the UI has to scale gracefully. But its also partly good taste, and good design. Which Stark has in spades.
If you’re interested, check it out before the price goes up to $20.
Download: Stark from the App Store (iOS)