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IK Multimedia iRig Pre for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch
Review by: Jason D Buchwald


3.5 Stars


IK iRig Pre

IK Multimedia has been quite busy creating cool products for iOS devices over the last few years. We have previously reviewed iRig (Guitar), iRig MIDI, and iRig Mic, and all have proven both useful and fun to use. IK Multimedia's latest addition is the iRig Pre, a microphone preamp with built-in phantom power (48v) and gain control, allowing you to plug in any dynamic or condenser microphone with an XLR connector to your iPhone or iPad. This opens up essentially unlimited microphones choices, and allows you to use high quality mics with your iOS device.

The preamp runs from a standard 9V battery. This is particularly important, as the preamp won't drain your iOS device power. IK Multimedia claims that the preamp will operate for up to ten hours using 48v phantom powered condenser microphones, and nearly 30 hours with dynamic microphones. Other features include:

• 40 cm (15.75") TRRS cable to connect to any iOS device headset jack
• Gain control
• Headphone output
• On/Off switch

For those that want the nitty-gritty, here are the specs as per IK Multimedia:

  • Frequency response: from 20 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 1.5dB
  • Noise: -98 dB full-band, phantom power On
  • Maximum output level: 2 Vrms
  • Distortion: 0.025% THD
  • Phantom max current: 6mA

iRig Pre is compatible with most, if not all, audio applications, and you can start using two free apps from IK Multimedia right away: iRig Recorder FREE, a simple waveform recorder and editor, and VocaLive FREE, a live vocal effects processor. We have previously reviewed these as well [editor to add URL links to previous iRig reviews]. The full versions, of course, require separate purchase.

iRig Pre also includes a Velcro patch, with the idea being that you can attach the iRig Pre to a mic stand, use the iKlip to attach your iPad or iPhone to a mic stand, and have everything secure. Not everyone will take advantage of this, but it is nice that this was thought of nevertheless.

iRig Pre is compatible with iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod touch (4th and 3rd generation), iPad 3rd generation, iPad 2 and iPad. They all require iOS 4.3 or later.

So how does the darn thing sound? We tested the iRig Pre on an iPad 2 with our trusty Shure SM-58 mic, and captured audio via IK Multimedia’s Vocalive and iRig Recorder programs first. We didn’t have any issues of noise or hiss, and certainly, the sound was better and fuller than the iPad’s built-in mic. The Recorder application was also, if nothing else, fun to use, as the eight built-in processors allowed us to change the recording’s pitch and speed, as well as offering several other optimizations. If you ever wanted to sound like a deep-voiced, male radio announcer even though you’re a teen-aged girl, this app can help you do that!

Vocalive, with its eight-track recorder and vocal processing, was even more fun. We reached into our a cappella pocket and put together a quick version of “All Aboard/People Get Ready.” Again, the quality was much better than our previous recordings using other input means.

Finally, we used Apple’s Garageband with the iRig Pre. Again, straightforward, no problems in operation, and no problems with hiss or distortion. We were quite pleased with out iRig Pre/SM-58 setup.

We did, however, get some usage tips directly from IK Multimedia prior to our unit arriving including reducing hiss when using iRig Pre. We didn’t run into any problems, but for those who do, IK Multimedia has the following recommendations:

  • To reduce background noise in your recordings, adjust the iRig Pre's Gain settings. If the gain is too low, recordings will be too quiet, and when boosted within the apps they will become too noisy. If the gain is too high, recordings will be distorted.
  • Leave the app's volume control at 0dB (some apps such as GarageBand have it set at 0dB by default) and then use the knob on iRig Pre to control the levels.
  • Make sure the volume on your iPhone/iPad is not turned all the way up, especially when using speakers. This may overdrive the headphone amp on your iOS device.
  • If you experience noise, try setting Airplane Mode to On. This may be causing interference noise in iRig Recorder or VocaLive. In your iPhone's Settings, you will see the setting for Airplane Mode. Set it to ON temporarily to see if it helps. 

So… is it worth it? iRig Pre sells for $39.99, the full version of Vocalive is $9.99, and iRig Recorder is $1.99 (but remember, the iRig Pre includes the scaled-down Vocalive Free and Recorder Free). While you can make the argument that an all-in-one mic/preamp might fit your needs (i.e., iRig Mic or iRig Mic Cast), with iRig Pre you can use pretty much any mic you want, including some very expensive ones if you choose.

Although not everyone may want to use their beloved Neumann or Telefunken classic with their iPad, the iRig Pre opens up all sorts of possibilities for sound designers and engineers. Imagine making field recordings bringing along only a test microphone and your iPhone! Further, if you follow IK Multimedia’s recommendations, you shouldn’t have any issues with hiss or distortion (we didn’t). While perhaps not as glamorous or sexy as some as IK Multimedia’s other iOS products, the iRig Pre worked well for us, and it will be extremely useful to those who need it.


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