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IK Multimedia iRig HD
Review by: Jason D Buchwald


3.5 Stars



It’s been three years since we reviewed the original iRig by IK Multimedia ( MultimediaMiRig.php), which was arguably the interface that started the current craze of mobile hardware and software apps. We enjoyed iRig then, and have had the opportunity to review nearly all of IK Multimedia’s mobile apps and hardware since. So what’s the big deal about iRig HD?

Well, nothing… and everything! On one hand, there is very little here that is a revolutionary. However, it seems that everything from the original hardware to the software has been upgraded and improved upon in numerous ways.

Instead of plugging into your iPhone’s or iPad’s headphone/mic jack as the original iRig did, the iRig HD interface now plugs directly into your iOS device’s dock connector. This allows for significantly better audio quality, as the hardware itself contains a twenty-four bit A/D converter. Unlike the iRig Pre, however, the iRig HD does not require batteries. Instead, it’s powered directly by your iOS device. Happily, we found the power drain on the device we used (Apple iPad 2) was remarkably less than expected.

The iRig HD has a ¼ inch jack to connect your instrument, and there is a recessed gain thumbwheel on the side to adjust your input signal level. Original iRig users will note that the HD is shaped more oblong than the original iRig’s more circular form. Also of note is that there is no output jack on the HD version itself. Now, you simply plug your headphones into the iOS device’s headphone jack.

Finally, the main unit has a single LED that changes color and brightness depending on its current status.

Speaking of iOS devices, the landscape has changed since 2010. There are now not only thirty-pin dock connectors to deal with, but newer Lightning dock connectors as well. Worry not, as the iRig HD comes with detachable cords from the main unit that allows you to use thirty-pin, Lightning, and even USB connections. This means you can use the HD on pretty much any Apple device—even your Mac Pro or Macbook.

As with previous iRig devices, Amplitube Free is a free download featuring a limited selection of amp simulations and stomp boxes familiar to guitarists (and old school electromechanical piano players). However, the full Amplitube ($4.99) expands these collections significantly. The paid version of Amplitube not only incudes four new pieces of gear (based on the Randall Warhead 3000, Peavey 5150 head, Digitech Whammy pedal, and MXR Flanger 117, respectively), but for Macintosh computers users it also includes Amplitude Metal: a substantial collection of metal gear including five amps, thirteen cabinets, six mics, nine rack effects, and fourteen stomp boxes. IK Multimedia allows further expansion, mostly by in-app purchases of individual pedals and amps, or, as complete bundles. The list of optional downloads, according to IK Multimedia, is “constantly growing.”

We liked the original four-track style recorder in the older iRig Amplitube application. IK Multimedia has taken this idea to a whole new level with Amplitube Studio, an eight-track, DAW-style recorder on the iPad (four tracks on the iPhone). A welcomed feature is the Freeze feature, which allows you to assign effects to a track non-destructively, meaning you can change the effects back to the original unprocessed audio at any time, even if additional tracks have been recorded.

There are also tools for editing actual waveforms, and besides the expected cut and paste, there are now fade in/out tools. There is even a separate drum track that doesn’t take up any of your eight tracks, which utilizes the included loop drummer. You can also use preset styles or programs of your own.

Finally, Audiobus is supported, so other programs that utilize it (like IK Multimedia’s own SampleTank, iLectric Piano or iGrand Piano) can be used in your tracks, essentially functioning like soft-synth plug-ins. Overall, the iPad version makes great use of the extra screen space, and the graphics are quite nice. Being able to use hand gestures, unlike a standard laptop, is an additional welcomed perk.

As always, when all is said and done, it’s about the sound, features, and usability. iRig HD and Amplitube do well in all of these areas. There’s a noticeable improvement in sound quality over the original product, and we didn’t have any problems with latency. In a perfect world it would be nice if some of the “upgrades” were available from the get-go, but at least people who want certain amps/stomp boxes only have to pay for the items they want or need. The Studio eight-track recorder/DAW within Amplitube was a pleasant surprise, and allows quite a bit of editing. Of course, we’d love to see a direct import/export feature of entire sessions that allow simple loading into a computer-based DAW, whether Pro Tools or something similar.

The collection of DAW features, however, are not included in the base Amplitube software. To get it, you need to purchase the Total Recorder Bundle, which costs $17.99. People familiar with previous versions of Amplitube will feel right at home, but even if you haven’t used Amplitube before, it’s very easy to navigate. Pull down menus, allowing you to take advantage of the iPad’s large touch screen, and attractive graphics make this a generally pleasant experience.

For the iRig HD itself, the cost is $99, which includes Amplitube Free. Various upgrades range in cost, depending on the amp, effect, or bundle. If you don’t have a guitar interface for your iOS device, you owe it to yourself to check this out. If you already have an interface, the Amplitube software is still worth checking out, as it sounds great, is easy to use, and now incorporates a very interesting recording tool.

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