Flying Haggis – iOS Guitar Amp – User Manual

iOS 8 UPDATE

Flying Haggis 1.2 (available from the iOS App Store) is compatible with iOS 8.

Introduction

I have a confession – I love hardware. In the late 80’s, long before I carved a career in computing, I was a hardware nerd studying electronic engineering at University and playing guitar in a band at weekends. So to this day, the raw excitement of plugging a guitar into a few basic stomp boxes and a real hardware amp stays with me.

Flying Haggis aims to capture this excitement in a great sounding iPad amp:

  • It has hardware usability – every control is right at your fingertips.
  • There are no complex menus or multiple screens to navigate.
  • There are no in-app purchases or advertising to distract you.
  • Just start the app, plug in your guitar, and play.

Flying Haggis is an original amp design. It doesn’t emulate existing hardware amps. Instead, I designed Flying Haggis the old fashioned way, using my ears (along with some advanced software modeling techniques I’ve picked up over many years of writing audio plugins).

In essence, Flying Haggis is the boutique guitar amp I would probably have built had I remained a hardware engineer!

I hope you enjoy playing with Flying Haggis – let me know what you think by reviewing or rating the app, or leaving a comment on our Facebook page. You can also contact me directly using this contact form.

Dave Brown (Director of db audioware, and author of Flying Haggis)
February 2014

Contents

Connecting up

Flying Haggis supports standard iOS Core Audio and Core MIDI. This means you can use any iOS compatible audio interface to connect your guitar to your iPad.

There are a huge number of iOS audio interfaces on the market:

  • Basic guitar interfaces which connect to the 3.5mm headset socket are usually cheap, but can suffer from low audio quality (lots of background noise) and audio feedback (see below for a fuller explanation of this well-documented hardware issue). However, they are ideal for informal practice on the move, as long as you don’t use very high-gain presets
  • Guitar-specific interfaces which plug into the dock connector are more expensive, but generally deliver much higher audio quality with no feedback issues. If you want to do some serious recording or live performance with your iPad, this is the route to go.
  • If you crave more features, there are a number of docks and desktop interfaces on the market for iOS. These are usually desk-bound (they need a mains power supply) but offer far more connectivity options (line/mic/instrument inputs, phantom power, MIDI inputs etc).

All of these devices should work transparently with Flying Haggis, with no configuration required.

If you wish to control Flying Haggis via MIDI, it’s the same deal – any Core MIDI compliant hardware will work fine. See below for a full list of the MIDI messages you can transmit.

If you can’t hear any signal from your guitar, make sure Flying Haggis has permission to access the microphone:

– Tap the iOS ‘Settings’ icon
– Tap ‘Privacy’ on the left
– Tap ‘Microphone’ on the right
– Make sure the switch next to “Flying Haggis’ is on.

If you encounter problems using a hardware device with Flying Haggis, contact us and we’ll investigate.

Using Flying Haggis with Audiobus

AudiobusFlying Haggis comes with full Audiobus integration. If you haven’t heard of Audiobus before – it’s a remarkable app that lets you connect your audio apps together is a number of useful ways.

Audiobus is available separately on the App Store.

Flying Haggis works as an Audiobus Input or an Audiobus Effect:

  • When used as an input, you can record Flying Haggis directly into a multitrack recording app, or any app that supports audio recording.
  • As an effect, you can use Flying Haggis to process audio from any audio-generating app. For example, use it to lo-fi a vocal recording, or destroy some drum loops.

General Usage

We have designed Flying Haggis to be as easy to use as possible. There are no menus, control panels or hidden options to worry about.

The main panel contains ALL controls for amp, cabinet/mic selection and the various fx. Because of this, you always see an overview of the entire setup at a glance, and tweaking your sound is extremely easy.

The CONTROLS/PRESETS switch toggles between the main panel and the presets panel. In the presets panel, you can access the factory banks/presets, and create your own.

The power toggle (under the CONTROLS/PRESETS toggle) bypasses the amp & fx, and lets you hear the clean, unprocessed guitar signal.

All knobs in Flying Haggis are adjusted by dragging up/down or left/right. As you drag, the precise value is shown in the display panel under the power switch. So, when adjusting a knob, it’s best to watch the display panel rather than the knob itself.

Tapping on any control will display the current value.

The knobs have acceleration to allow fine adjustments. The slower you move your finger, the more accurate the changes will be. This is excellent for, say, setting very precise echo times for bpm synced fx.

The haggis at the top of the screen doesn’t do anything. He’s just there to keep an eye on your tone.

How to use the tone controls

This might sound like an obvious, even patronising topic. But it’s perhaps not obvious that guitar amp tone controls are nothing like the tone or EQ on a mixing desk or mp3 player. In a guitar amp, the tone stack is an integral part of the gain design. It plays a critical role in scuplting a feeble signal from your pickups into something more powerful sounding.

For a start, throw away any thoughts you have of the tone being “flat” when Bass/Mid/Treble are set to centre position. Most guitar tone stacks are never flat, no matter what settings the controls are set to. It’s quite common for most tone stacks to scoop out a big chunk of mid frequencies at all times.

Throw caution to the wind when playing about with the tone controls. You will find some of the best sounds are available at quite extreme settings. For example, don’t be afraid to turn the Bass up full, and then experiment with different cabinet/mic selections to create interesting tones.

On the factory banks & presets – these are merely starting points. You should be prepared to do some tweaking of the factory settings to find values that work well with your own guitar and interface combination.

Sending a mono output for a PA mix

Flying Haggis outputs a stereo signal with stereo fx (specifically – echo, chorus and reverb). Great if you’re practicing with headphones or recording to GarageBand. But what if you’re sending a feed to a PA desk for a live performance? For that, you probably want a mono signal.
Luckily, as well as phase-reversing the output, the KILL FEEDBACK switch also converts the stereo output into a mono-compatible output. So for a perfect feed for your PA, just flip the KILL FEEDBACK switch ON, and send either the L or R output to your desk.

Input Drive Stage

This knob controls the gain of the input stage. But, it is not a simple volume control – this is the critical control for getting a nice warm overdrive sound.

The key is to watch the IN meter while playing your guitar and adjusting the DRIVE control. Keep the meter in the green zone for a clean tone. The further into the red zone you go, the more warm overdrive you will hear.

High Gain Distortion

This is a traditional distortion effect, similar to a high gain channel or a distortion stompbox. We don’t need to tell you what to do with this one ☺

One point worth noting – try combining the DRIVE and DISTORT controls together for some more interesting tones (don’t just turn DRIVE flat and crank up DISTORT full)

Tone Stack

The BASS, MID & TREBLE controls operate like a classic hardware guitar amp. You can completely change the guitar tone by slightly tweaking these controls. Check out the presets for some ideas.

  • For a “scooped” high-gain sound, increase the BASS & TREBLE controls to maximum and decrease the MID control to minimum. Combine with a 2×12 or 4×12 cabinet with close miking for a really heavy sound. Works best with humbucker pickups.
  • Don’t always be tempted to increase the BASS & TREBLE controls. Start with the tone controls flat – you’ll find that the amp is optimised to sound pretty good that way.
  • If your guitar has a single coil pickups (e.g. a Telecaster on the bridge pickup) and the sound is too bright, you can reduce the TREBLE control a little to compensate (obviously!). Alternatively, try switching to OFF AXIS or EDGE mic positions – this will give a warmer, less cutting sound.

Compressor

This is a simple single-control compressor, optimised for guitar. Just increase the AMOUNT knob to get a fatter, more chunky sound with more sustain.

The compressor is mostly useful for clean sounds. With heavily driven sounds, too much compression will have little effect on the tone, but may increase audible noise.

Reverb

This is an emulation of a classic spring reverb, again optimised to sound good with guitar signals. Simply switch on and increase the AMOUNT knob.

Master

This control sets the overall output level. In general, adjust so the output meter stays just below the red zone.

The output stage of Flying Haggis incorporates a brickwall limiter, to prevent nasty digital distortion if you push the amp gain really high. However, if you keep the output meter within the green zone, this final stage limiter will not activate, giving you a nicer sound.

Cabinet Selector

This switches Flying Haggis between one of 6 highly useful speaker cabinets.

  • 1×8 TWEED is a small speaker, typically found on blues practice amps.
  • x12 BLUES is a classic sounding speaker, ideal for blues, jazz & clean sounds.
  • 1×12 TWANG is excellent for country & blues tones, either clean or slightly overdriven.
  • 2×12 VINTAGE is a rich, full sounding cabinet, ideal for classic rock tones.
  • 2×12 MODERN is a brighter sounding 2×12 cabinet. Goes well with a clean chorus sound.
  • 4×12 ROCK is the cabinet of choice for heavy overdriven sounds, with bags of bass and strong midtones. Crank up the INPUT, OVERDRIVE and COMPRESSOR controls, and use a close microphone for the heaviest sound possible!

Mic Selector

Four microphone positions are possible.

  • CLOSE emulates a microphone placed on-axis, directly in front of the speaker cabinet. This gives the fullest-range sound, with a strong bass sound due to the proximity effect of the microphone being placed very close to the source.
  • With OFF AXIS, the microphone is moved slightly away from the cone at an angle. This attenuates the extreme high frequencies, and can be a better mic position for bright single-coil sounds.
  • With EDGE, the microphone is moved right to the edge of the speaker, but is kept very close to the cabinet. Here, you get the full low and midrange frequencies, but the highs are cut further.
  • FAR emulates a microphone places several feet away from the cabinet. The proximity effect is lost (less bass) and the overall sound is less “full”. However, this is a better position for making the guitar sit nice in a very full mix.

Noise Gate

If the guitar signal being sent to Flying Haggis is noisy (perhaps your guitar has noisy single-coil pickups, or your soundcard is generating some hiss) you can power on this effect and increase the threshold knob

to activate the noise gate. This will attenuate the input signal when you stop playing.The noise gate does not actually reduce the amount of noise in your guitar signal. When you start playing, the noise still remains in your signal, but it is mostly masked by your playing. Also be aware that if the noise gate is activated, the amp becomes less responsive to quiet playing. If the threshold is set too high, you might find that some subtle notes are actually cut off. That’s why it is better to get a clean guitar signal into your soundcard, rather than rely on the noise gate. Having said that, the noise gate is very useful when you are using high-gain settings.

Auto Wah

A flexible wah-wah effect, which automatically tracks the guitar sound. As a rough guide, set all controls to midway, then adjust to taste. (The ideal settings depend on the tone and output level of your guitar)

Phaser

This is a classic 4-stage phaser, modeled on a vintage hardware stomp boxes. Controls should be self-explanatory!

Tremolo

This is a classic tremolo effect, as found on many vintage amps. Very simple to use – so simple, we’re not going to tell you how!

Echo

The classic guitar effect of all time, if you ask me ☺. Offers a maximum 1000ms delay time, and variable stereo width.

Chorus

A stereo chorus effect, again modeled on a classic stomp box. For gentle chorus effects (to slightly thicken the sound) set all 3 controls to less than halfway. For a full rich chorus, set depth to maximum, keep the speed to less than halfway, and set mix to exactly halfway. For vibrato effects, increase the speed control to the upper half of the range. Set the mix control to maximum for a pure vibrato effect.

Using banks & presets

Flying Haggis comes with a number of factory presets ready to go – but you should consider these as starting points only. Since every guitar has different tonality and volume, you’ll almost vertainly need to modify the factory presets to sound perfect with your own setup.

The buttons under the bank/preset lists allow you to create, delete and rename the banks and presets as you wish. You can load the presets by clicking directly on the lists or using the up/down arrows above each list.

If you connect a MIDI controller to your iPad, you can control the bank & preset up/down buttons from a MIDI footpedal – allowing you to control Flying Haggis just as you would a hardware amp or processor.

You can also change the order of the presets in a bank – an essential feature if you want to use a MIDI controller to advance sequentially through a bank in a live gig. (You might have one bank per song, with presets arranged in the correct order for that song)First, click on the bank, then activate the SORT button. Now, highlight any preset and use the UP/DOWN arrows (above the preset list) to reposition it. Repeat as needed.

Using MIDI to control Flying Haggis

Flying Haggis automatically listens to any connected Core MIDI device for control data. Every parameter in the app can be remotely controlled via MIDI, using CC messages or Notes. The full list of supported messages is as follows:CC controllers on MIDI Channel 1:

  • CC 7 Master
  • CC 8 Drive
  • CC 9 Distort
  • CC 10 Bass
  • CC 11 Mid
  • CC 12 Treble
  • CC 13 Compress
  • CC 14 Reverb
  • CC 15 Mic Close
  • CC 16 Mic Off Axis
  • CC 17 Mic Edge
  • CC 18 Mic Far
  • CC 19 Cabinet 1×8 Tweed
  • CC 20 Cabinet 1×12 Blues
  • CC 21 Cabinet 1×12 Twang
  • CC 22 Cabinet 1×12 Vintage
  • CC 23 Cabinet 2×12 Modern
  • CC 24 Cabinet 4×12 Rock
  • CC 25 Gate On/Off
  • CC 26 Gate Threshold
  • CC 27 Auto wah On/Off
  • CC 28 Auto Wah Depth
  • CC 29 Auto Wah Speed
  • CC 30 Auto Wah Tone
  • CC 31 Phaser On/Off
  • CC 32 Phaser Depth
  • CC 33 Phaser Speed
  • CC 34 Phaser Tone
  • CC 35 Tremolo On/Off
  • CC 36 Tremolo Depth
  • CC 37 Tremolo Speed
  • CC 38 Echo On/Off
  • CC 39 Echo Time
  • CC 40 Echo Feedback
  • CC 41 Echo Width
  • CC 42 Echo Mix
  • CC 43 Chorus On/Off
  • CC 44 Chorus Depth
  • CC 45 Chorus Speed
  • CC 46 Chorus Mix
  • CC 48 – Master bypass switch
  • CC 49 – Next Bank switch
  • CC 50 – Previous Bank switch
  • CC 51 – Next Preset switch
  • CC 52 – Previous Preset switch
  • CC 53 – Kill Feedback switch

Other MIDI data processed by Flying Haggis:

  • Notes on MIDI Channel 15 – bank select
  • Notes on MIDI Channel 16 – preset select
  • Standard MIDI bank & program changes

Audio feedback on the iPad, and how to manage it

The bottom line: if your guitar interface plugs into the dock connector, you can safely ignore the KILL FEEDBACK switch and skip this section.

There are two types of guitar interface for an iPad – those that plug into the 3.5mm headset socket, and those that plug into the dock connector (30-pin or Lightning).

As a general rule, you get what you pay for. The 3.5mm style interfaces are usually cheap, and are ideal for practicing if you don’t mind some background noise. The dock style interfaces usually sound far better and have decent preamps with all-important gain control, but at a cost.

However, 3.5mm interfaces all suffer from a major technical problem – crosstalk. This is when a strong signal (the audio to your headphones) “leaks” into a weaker signal (the output from your guitar pickups). When combined with a high-gain amp preset, you get uncontrollable feedback. To tackle this common problem, most iOS guitar amps have a “feedback prevention” option – in Flying Haggis, it’s the KILL FEEDBACK switch under the input meter.

The principle is simple – by reversing the phase of one of the L/R output channels, the crosstalk is largely cancelled out. It’s somewhat like a balanced mic cable, where +ve and -ve signals travel along the cable, cancelling out any noise picked up along the way.

However, you’ll notice that with KILL FEEDBACK activated, the sound has a “hollow” feel, and you lose any stereo effects (e.g. from the Echo, Chorus or Reverb fx). This is a necessary trade-off of the feedback cancellation technique.So, ideally you want KILL FEEDBACK to be OFF if possible. Is there anything you can do to reduce the crosstalk problem, other than buying a dock-based interface? Quite a few things, as it turns out:

  • Use a separate amplifier or a portable headphone amp. By plugging a separate amp into the headphone socket of your guitar interface (e.g. a FiiO E06) you will drastically reduce the current flowing out, and so reduce the crosstalk.
  • Reduce your headphone volume. This reduces the current flowing to your headphones and in turn reduces the crosstalk.
  • Use high-efficiency headphones, which can produce good listening levels without drawing loads of current. Again (and you see the pattern emerging here) less current to the headphones = less crosstalk.

It’s also important to note that crosstalk can vary between models of iPad and brands of interface. For example, in our own testing we found that an original iPad 2 is far more susceptible to crosstalk than a new iPad Mini Retina.

Troubleshooting

Problem: I have plugged in my audio interface and guitar, but Flying Haggis is silent.

Check that Flying Haggis has permission to access the microphone:

  • Tap the iOS ‘Settings’ icon
  • Tap ‘Privacy’ on the left
  • Tap ‘Microphone’ on the right
  • Make sure the switch next to “Flying Haggis’ is on.

You MUST do this even if you use a digital audio interface which plugs into the dock connector (e.g. Apogee Jam, iRig HD)