iRig HD Review
Mobile devices have become part of everyday life for most people, just as computers did for previous generations. And since smart phones and tablets are really just small computers it is only natural that musicians, who have long utilized computers for making music, would also want to use mobile devices for the same purpose.
Mobile Music Making
There are currently numerous guitar oriented apps available for guitar players. Everything from amp and effects simulators to virtual recording studios to tuners are available for low cost or free on the App Store. But guitarists need an audio interface to get their guitar signal into a mobile device so they can use these apps. There are several available now but quality and convenience varies. I am going to be reviewing a recent guitar interface from IK Multimedia: iRig HD.
iRig HD is a bus-powered compact guitar (and bass) audio interface designed for iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers. I tested the iRig HD using a iPad Mini and a MacBook Pro laptop. The iRig HD only has two jacks. One to plug your guitar into and one for the cable you plug into your device. It comes with three short device connection cables. One for the lightning jack on newer iPhones and iPads, one for the 30 pin jack on older iPhones and iPads, and one for USB ports on Macs. It has a thumbwheel on the side to adjust the instrument input level and an LED to show when the iRig HD is plugged in and to help set proper signal level.
The iRig HD includes a couple of free software goodies also. You get four exclusive gear models which are unlocked the first time you connect iRig HD and open AmpliTube (v. 3.0 required). The models include Metal W & Metal 150 (amps), and Wharmonator & X-Flanger (stompboxes.) You also get a code to register a copy of AmpliTube Metal for Mac.
The iRig HD is compact and light weight. It fits nicely in the palm of your hand. The plastic unit has a slight texture to it which makes it slide around less than smooth plastic would. Using iRig HD is very simple. It basically amounts to plugging your guitar into the iRig HD, then plugging the iRig HD into your device using the proper included cable. Then launching whatever app you want to use and selecting iRig HD as the audio input device in that app. You then use the thumbwheel on the side of iRig HD to set the input level (gain) for your guitar.
On my iPad Mini I tested the iRig HD mainly with AmpliTube for iPad, but iRig HD will work with any of the free AmpliTube apps also. It also worked great with the third party iPad apps I tried it with. These included GarageBand, AmpKit, and Jam Up XT.
With my Mac, things were hit or miss. As you would expect the iRig HD worked great with AmpliTube 3, AmpliTube Fender, AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix, and AmpliTube Metal stand-alone applications. It also worked fine with Apple’s Garage Band. But it did not work with MOTU DP8 (DAW) or Native Instruments Guitar Rig which require the audio input and output to be the same hardware device. iRig HD has no audio output capability so it could not be selected in these applications. If you are hoping to use iRig HD with your favorite DAW on your Mac you should check first with the publisher to see if iRig HD is compatible.
I am still fairly new to using my iPad Mini for music making, but one of my favorite uses for the iRig HD so far is plugging in, turning on AmpliTube 3, setting my Music app to random, and then jamming to whatever song comes on. A great way to practice soloing and have some fun. Using it with a recording app can also be a quick way to capture ideas that typical pop up when you are jamming. Basically iRig HD allows you to use your iPhone or iPad as a practice or idea capture tool anywhere you go.
iRig HD uses a 24 bit A/D converter at either 44.1 or 48kHz sampling rate which provided me with a strong, clear signal with no detectable noise. Considering that most music making on a mobile device is done using earbuds or headphones (I used Klipsch earbuds and Sony Headphones), I found iRig HD easily up to the task and it sounded great for guitar use. What I really what from a mobile guitar audio input device is an easy way get a strong, clear guitar signal into my mobile device, and iRig HD does exactly that.
iRig HD is an ideal interface for guitarists on the go. It is super easy to use, compact (easily fits in a guitar case), weighs next to nothing, includes all the cables you need, is bus powered (no batteries or power adapters needed), and sounds great. What more could you ask for in a mobile audio input device.
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