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IK Multimedia iRig MIDI
|Simply put, this app/hardware is way cool. Easy to use, and with pro quality sounds, this should be a staple on everyone’s iPad (or iPhone if you are willing to work on a smaller screen). The iRig MIDI device is a standard Core MIDI interface that connects any MIDI hardware device to any Core MIDI-compatible apps — like Garageband, and also IK Multimedia apps like the bundled SampleTank Free and iRig MIDI Recorder.
The hardware part of iRig MIDI is a connector sporting three MIDI ports: In, Out and Thru, with two red LEDs that light up to indicate activity. There is also a micro-USB connector on the side which serves to charge the iPhone/iPad, especially useful on the iPhone since that device tends to have shorter battery life than the iPad. No, sadly, it will not also power your connected MIDI device (we know you were wondering about that). Two standard MIDI cables are included, as well as a dongle-sized micro-USB to USB charging cable (the short length is supposedly to meet Apple’s device-charging specifications).
We tested the iRig MIDI interface initially with an M-Audio Oxygen8 v2 MIDI controller on an iPad running Garageband. Can you see us grinning? It worked without a hitch or a hickup. Connecting to other random MIDI keyboards around our studio worked equally well.
There are, at the moment, two main IK Multimedia apps featured with the hardware: SampleTank Free and iRig Recorder.
SampleTank for iOS devices uses the same samples as IK Multimedia’s desktop version, which is found in many studios and on many recordings. As you can guess, the bundled SampleTank is free, and it includes only the most limited sample set (eight instruments). Upgrading to SampleTank costs just $19.99 and gives you more sample sets and instruments (136 instruments after registering). To get the whole collection, that is still a good deal at $39.99. There is also an option to buy instrument packs individually for around $4.99 per set.
SampleTank was released as a universal app, meaning one download contains the appropriate interface for both the iPad and iPhone in a single application. Of course, the iPad version takes full advantage of the larger screen. You can play keys right on the screen, choose your sounds to play, adjust sound paratemters, and select backing patterns easily, all from the primary interface screen.
And let us say this: the sounds are pro quality and sound great! The whimsically named “Juniper” pads clearely are dervied from Roland’s Jupiter synth series, and sound particularly good. The CP-pianos sound like Yamaha’s CP-70 from 1980’s Genesis fame. You can layer up to four sounds at the same time, too. IK Multimedia states there are over 500 sounds in 16 categories, and over 1,000 patterns. That should keep you busy for a while. There’s also a free bonus: iRig MIDI owners get an additional 48 sounds once they register.
A cool feature is that not only can you pull up a keyboard on screen to play, but also a four by four pad screen as well. Each pad is assignable, and when combined with the iRig MIDI hardware, you have a powerful tool for live use. There’s even a Tap Tempo button to help get you in sync with the live band!
We also apreciated the inclusion of a simple four-track recorder. It is pretty basic, and lacks “piano roll” editing as one would see on a DAW, but you can easily sketch out ideas in four parts and then export your work as an .m4a audio file. Still, we’d love to see a full-featured MIDI editor, and streamlined exporting of MIDI tracks. However, you can export the MIDI tracks using iTune File Sharing. The recorder exports both audio and MIDI, but the MIDI file is only available via File Sharing (whereas the audio can be exported via E-mail). It’s great to know that you can create a whole tune from MIDI tracks on your iPad sitting on a beach, and then import those MIDI tracks into your DAW that runs the full desktop version of SampleTank. Pretty cool, even if our editor wouldn’t send us to Hawaii for further product testing.
On a related note, the simple iRig MIDI Recorder does allow MIDI recording and export. You may record not only your playing, but it also serves as a MIDI monitor with independent indications for Notes, Control Changes, SysEx. Even better, you can send MIDI SYSEX dumps to the iRig MIDI Recorder to backup device settings! Recordings can then be exported via Wi-Fi, email, or iTunes file sharing in Standard MIDI File (SMF) format. Note, however, there are no virtual instruments with this simple recorder: just a basic MIDI recorder. Perhaps someday this will evolve into the iPad version of Master Tracks Pro!
All in all, this is a great product, and it really shines live. SampleTank combined with the iRig MIDI hardware creates a pro-level setup that sounds great and has a great deal of flexibility. The fact that a MIDI Thru port is included further enables different types of setups, which are diagrammed nicely on IK Multimedia’s website. If you don’t yet have a MIDI adaptor for your iOS device, get this.
Pricing & Contact Information
iRig MIDI $69.99
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