A few years ago a little company based out of Italy released a neat little accessory for the iPhone and iPad called ‘iRig’, and an app that went along with it called AmpliTube. Travis reviewed it here. Since then we have covered loads of ‘pro-sumer’ grade hardware and software from IK Multimedia. Now they are back with the next generation of the guitar interface that made them famous – the iRig HD! Let’s take a look!
Here are some of the features:
- High-quality instrument-level 1/4” Hi-Z input jack
- Detachable cables for Lighting, 30 pin and USB connector compatibility
- Preamp gain control
- High-quality, low-noise, high-definition preamp
- High-quality 24 bit A/D conversion
- Powered by the iOS device or USB
- Ultra-compact and lightweight
Ever since the launch of the original iRig, there has been one thing holding it back – the signal path. iRig used the combined headphone/microphone port, which is an analog signal path intended for phone calls, not high quality music recordings. Yet the iRig has held up pretty well, though more recent audio systems using the 30-pin port had better overall sound quality. Of course, when the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini came along with the Lightning connector, users of 30-pin devices were left using their older iPads – or using their iRig! So when we learned at CES that IK Multimedia was going beyond just adding Lightning compatibility, it was great news!
What IK Multimedia has done with iRig HD is to take a simple interface and turn it into a true pro-level way to get your guitar plugged into your Mac or iOS device. There are a couple of important things about the iRig HD – connectivity and signal handling.
Signal handling is the most critical part of any system, so I was glad that IK made as much of the signal path digital as possible. Once you plug your guitar in, you are mated up with a high impedance interface for optimum noise rejection and signal matching. The signal is processed through a 24-bit analog-to-digital converter and a low-noise pre-amplifier with a variable gain setting on the outside. This allows you to deal with a particularly ‘hot’ or soft input signal rather than having it simply distort. The video review shows how that works.
Connectivity was handled about as well as possible – to accommodate users on the Mac, new iOS and older iOS devices, IK Multimedia includes three cables. These each mate to a 5-pin mini-DIN connector which provides a robust digital interface. The cables are only a few feet long, but are all that is needed to connect to your device of choice. The other great thing about the interface is that you no longer need to worry about the audio output. On iRig you needed to plug into the headphone jack, but now you can use whatever works best for your performance or studio.
But ultimately the main thing is the sound – and I was astounded. Having just used iRig I was amazed at the audible difference in audio quality. Whereas the iRig would tend to roll off some of the high frequencies, now my chords simply shimmered with all of the overtones present. And the clean signal path meant much lower noise, no audible hum or cross-talk with other signals.
This sounds like hyperbole, but as of today every other guitar interface for iOS is obsolete. Nothing else I have tried has the combination of sound quality, functionality, flexibility and usability we get with the iRig HD. If you are serious about making music on your iOS device, this is simply a must-have.
What I Like: Great design; excellent sound quality; external gain control for line-matching without distortion; great range of connectivity
What Needs Improvement: Nothing
Source: Manufacturer provided review sample
Here is my hands-on review: