The iRig Pre Microphone Preamplifier Review

Sometimes releasing audio accessories is a thankless job. I recently reviewed the iRig Stomp, which has the glorious job of being a foot pedal interface between your guitar and the awesome sonic shaping of AmpliTube. Not exactly glamorous! Now along comes iRig Pre – and all it has to do is get your professional-grade microphone sound into your iOS device without screwing things up. IK Multimedia seems to know this if you look at ‘The Hype’ below. But let’s take a look and see how it does!

The Hype:
Introducing the First studio quality mic pre-amp for the iOS platform

Here’s how you use it: Take the microphone you use every day on stage or in the studio and plug it into your iOS device. It’s that simple. Need Phantom Power? Flip the “Phantom Power” switch. Congratulations, you’ve just become a professional user.

The Reality:
Similar to the iRig Stomp, when you have a simple utility device, all it has to do is function properly, withstand actual use, and not mess up your audio to succeed. And for the iRig Pre at $39.99, there is great opportunity for success – or failure. At that low a price point it is easy for compromises to overwhelm the device.

The good news? iRig Pre works great! I will look at those three critical elements in a bit, but let’s start by walking through the features:

  • 40 cm (15.75″) TRRS cable to connect to any iOS device headset jack
  • XLR input connector for microphones
  • Gain control
  • +48 V phantom power
  • Headphone output
  • On/Off switch
  • Power/Phantom Power provided by 9V battery
  • Battery life is approximately 30 hours with dynamic microphones and 10 hours with phantom powered condenser studio microphones
  • Download 2 free apps from the App Store:
    – iRig Recorder FREE, an easy-to-use voice recording/editing app,
    – VocaLive FREE, a multi-effects processing app for singers.
  • Compatible with iPhone/iPod touch/iPad.

Which is a longer list than it needs to be, but hits the critical items: you connect a microphone, use phantom power if needed, adjust the gain to set the level, and … that is about it!

One item missing from the features is the slot for inserting the included velcro strap to connect the iRig Pre to a microphone stand. It is one of those simple yet very useful features. In my video I show the mic stand my kids bought themselves with pop filter and everything – when you have a solid setup it makes sense to secure everything possible.

As noted, the iRig Pre needed to do just a few things. The first was to basically function – in other words, this is all about getting sound from your XLR-based microphone into your iOS device. And as demonstrated in the video – it works! Insert the 9V battery, hook up the mic, and switch the iRig Pre on to get started. The ‘on’ switch works if you don’t need phantom power, and ‘off’ will save your battery.

Some budget priced gear is simply not made to hold up to the rigors of normal music use – as noted with my iRig Stomp review I have pedals and boxes that are over 30 years old, some hand-soldered, that work just fine in spite of being used in clubs, studios, moving several times, surviving my kids, and so on. The iRig Stomp and iRig Pre clearly mark IK Multimedia’s commitment to the working musician – they are rock solid, with stable connections, well-designed enclosures, and a robust enough construction to survive daily use. The velcro strap definitely helps with this.

Finally the sound quality – IK Multimedia warned me that wireless communications from the iOS device could interfere with the mic, but I didn’t see that, but definitely recommend disabling WiFi when making critical recordings. Aside from the fun demo in the video, I had my kids make some recordings using the iRig Pre in place of their normal (more expensive) preamp, and they were happy with the results. In some tests on my iPad I also had no issues with sound quality in any way. It just worked perfectly in every way.

It is easy to look at iRig Pre and think ‘that’s it’? That is because ‘all’ it does is facilitate the signal path between your XLR microphone and the iOS device. But in reality there is much more – it has to stand up to the rigors of BEING used in a real-world music setting, it has to have a clean signal path, and it needs to provide reliable functionality with all of the little extras IK Multimedia customers have come to expect. And iRig Pre delivers admirably on all of those points. The device works smoothly, the sound is clean and clear, and I could use it without fear of breakage. And every time I toggled the switch it powered on and sounded great. Who could ask for anything more?

Here is an unboxing video of the iRig Pre:

And here is a hands-on video of the iRig Pre in use:

Review: iRig Pre

Where to Buy: IK Multimedia or (Affiliate Link)

Price: $39.99 MSRP, but $38.99 through Amazon

What I Like: Solid and robust feel; maintains signal path integrity; just plain works!
What Needs Improvement: Nothing!

Source: Publisher provided review sample

Categories: Music Diary, Reviews

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