IK Multimedia iRig Pro review
It doesn't seem long ago that the challenge of getting a high-quality audio signal into a digital workstation required bulky equipment and a fairly healthy bank balance. Now it's perfectly feasible to create impressive sounding compositions on an iPad, using interfaces that can fit comfortably in your pocket. The iRig Pro is such a device and for one so small it really is very impressive. It connects to the latest iPads through a Lightning connector; to older models with a 30-pin dock connector; and to PCs with a USB 2.0 plug.
When you first take the black-plastic unit out of its packaging there's a distinct impression that something must be missing. Without inserting the included 9V battery the unit weighs next to nothing, and the only obvious control on the device is a large silver dial marked Gain.
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This simplicity though belies a decent range of options. The iRig Pro is a versatile audio/MIDI interface that boasts an internal 24-bit A/D converter. You plug your guitar or microphone into the input in the base – a combined Neutrik XLR and 1/4in mono jack – then connect the iRig into your Mac or iOS device via the various included leads. Launch your DAW software of choice, and you get a strong, clear signal with little fuss.
Included with the hardware are expandable versions of AmpliTube Metal and SampleTank XT.
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The Gain control allows you to fine tune the level of the signal, and there’s a helpful LED above it which changes from green, to amber, to red, depending on whether you’re overloading the volume or not. It’s about as easy as it gets, but the results are excellent.
The unit itself is bus powered when connected to a device, with the battery only there to facilitate phantom power for any condenser microphones you may wish to use. A small switch on the side of the case turns this on and off. Other than that the only remaining feature is a 3.5mm input which enables you to connect a MIDI keyboard, with the required cable also included in the box.
If there’s one gripe about the construction then it has to be that the Gain dial is a little too smooth to the fingers. This helps the unit to remain sparse and clean, but makes adjustment somewhat fiddly. It’s not a big problem, but the addition of a few ridges would be a welcome refinement.
Some may also find the lack of a headphone socket on the iRig itself disappointing, but we experienced no problems with monitoring when connected to another device.
Sound quality on recordings was very good across the board. Guitars, MIDI, and vocals all displayed full bodies, plenty of warmth, a strong signal and no discernable latency.
We did experience a buzz on single-coil pickup guitars when used close to computer speakers, but this is no different to much more expensive rigs and just required finding a playing position that negated this age-old problem. Humbuckers had no such issue, and when played through the amps on Garageband or IK Multimedia’s own Amplitube software there was plenty of power and harmonics to keep even the most aggressive player happy.
As an all-in-one unit for connecting your live instruments to a DAW the iRig Pro is very easy to recommend. IK Multimedia has thought carefully about the needs of musicians and built something simple to use that produces great results. The inclusion of all the relevant leads is also a nice touch that means the device is ready to use out of the box. It’s not cheap, compared to iDevice-only devices like the Line 6 Sonic Port, but the fact that it’s compatible with both your Mac and iOS devices gives it a real edge. It might be small in size, but the iRig Pro packs a seriously impressive punch.