Thoughts on PRS Guitarbud from GiuseppeL

I’m always happy to hear from anyone who wants to review a product / app or whatever. This review comes from GiuseppeL:

My thoughts on the PRS GuitarBud

The idea that I could take my electric guitar with me and record (almost) silently or practice at nighttime with full amp modelling using this GuitarBud thing, headphones and my iPhone really excited me. As soon as it was announced I had decided I wanted one and upon release I threw down a whopping £25 GBP (inc. Delivery) despite a lack of reviews or many real details. I trusted my previous experience with the PRS brand on a day’s wage and these are my thoughts after a few days:

1. Build Quality:
The actual kit is really well made, it doesn’t feel as though a stray tug could pull anything loose (the packaging on the other hand is really, really bad- it had me worried!)

The GuitarBud essentially consists of a jack-end to go into an instrument, a headphone input and finally the output to an iPhone. It’s all about the right length for the iPhone to sit on your knee with a bit of slack.

2. Actual Usage:
Here was my first issue, I had assumed the accompanying, advertised JamAmp app would actually come with it, either in the form of a redemption code or simply being free as it needs the wire to function anyway. It didn’t, it costs another £5.99 GBP! I cannot afford this and feel slightly betrayed as all of the promotional material lead me to believe it came with the amp modelling software. Bad start.

So I fire up FourTrack, plug in my Fender and a set of good headphones, *plink* … oh, I had also read on the packaging that the GuitarBud would let me ‘monitor’ in realtime. It doesn’t. Even without the amp modelling I had hoped I could hear the dry signal, I suppose that’s up to the software so I can’t really blame them but I knew then that there was no circuitry/preamp in the GuitarBud, which lead to my next issue: With no way to hear what I am playing, I often had the volume on my guitar too high or too low. It either clipped or was nearly inaudible. This isn’t too bad with a guitar but with my portable MicroKorg XL synth which makes no physical noise (something I planned to use lots with this) I have no way to monitor anything. Another thing was, with instruments like my synth that are already amplified, everything clipped I had to be jus a tiny fraction above zero for it not to clip. Definately not good so far.

3. Further Use:
Not willing to accept that I had wasted my money, I hacked together a solution that involved a digital effects pedal and a headphone splitter. It made the whole deal a whole lot less portable but meant I could pre-set the line level and monitor everything whilst recording directly.

Final thoughts:
I think it can be summed up in the fact that today I did a recording using both my Fender and my Kor with the iPhone, both were captured with the iPhone next to the amp. The GuitarBud is not worth it right now, maybe for a fiver but definately not twenty-five! Unless some good apps come out that let me play/monitor then I doubt that I will find any use for it.

Extra note: I did try a free effects app, it worked okay but there was a slliiight delay, I hear this doesn’t happen with the 3GS or iPod touch but my old 3G is not as fast. It wasn’t BAD though.

Thanks, GiuseppeL


  1. Jasuto Pro sounds like it might pair very well with this product, as it can apply effects to mic input in real-time.

    It's not exactly an out-of-the-box effects software, but with a bit of experimentation you should be able to control/amplify the sound from your guitar before applying any effects.

    Just a thought.

  2. I've been using a home made cable for the past month. The 25 pound cost for the guitar bud was just too steep for me when I had a few old av cables with the necessary TRRS plugs that I could easily alter.
    I have an 8GB ipod touch 2G and I use my cable to process the output from a steel string acoustic or my Yamaha EZ-250i keyboard.
    If you want real time with no lag then you will have to stick to a few apps like effectorlite or stompvox (look at the recent top ten of real time apps from about a week ago).
    One thing I found useful recently was adding a few resisters and a pot to the cable so that I can set the level better. This prevents the sort of clipping that GiuseppeL mentioned. I actually assumed the guitarbud would have this sort of modification built into its circuit since it is well known that a straight signal from a guitar is not ideal for the iphone/touch and will overload it.
    Anyway my impressions of the utility of such a cable is very different from GiuseppeL (perhaps since I didn't spend much to get it). I find it hugely increases my appreciation of the iphone/touch as a musical tool. I keep finding new ways to use it. I've mentioned before that this cable system allows you to use voiceband as a proper (but limited) synth, either keyboard or guitar, but just yesterday I've found out how to use the cable to rapidly create new instruments in thumbjam. I would put the acquisition of such a cable as a “must-have” on any serious list to do with making music on the iphone/touch (but seriously, make one yourself, its easy).

  3. PRS told me that they were working on a line-level solution for keys / synths-to-iPhone in the near future…

    But why the @#$% can't anyone get on board w/ a dock-connector solution that works? We KNOW the latest OS supports such things…

    At any rate, I have a feeling that the iPad will get a lot more love in this arena. Developers are more likely to look upon it as a viable, “serious” workspace.

  4. Well the macally ivoice 3 pro is sort of a dock connector solution. I plug my guitar straight into that and set it's mode switch (switchable between line level and int/ext mic) then plug my headphones into the normal phones socket. Works beautifully.

    Hadn't even thought of using it with voice band -I must give that a go!

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