Sunday, July 21, 2013

IK Multimedia iRig HD and iRig Stomp

I recently received both the iRig HD and iRig Stomp from IK Multimedia for review.

iRig HD

I have had the standard iRig since just after it came out and while it is a decent unit, I've always felt like it was not really usable in a live setting. The main problem is that without using the noise filter pedal in AmpliTube, that there was too much digital noise, then when you used the noise filter it dulled the guitar sound too much by rolling off the high end and making the guitar sound muddy.

This is where the iRig HD comes in and does things a lot better. For one, the iRig HD is not a bi-directional I/O device, you are not sending signal in and out the same unit. It is simply an input device. This is great because it can focus on it's one task. Converting your guitar signal. If you want audio out of your device, you can use a different interface. So in the case of iOS, you simply use your headphones out, or on Mac you could use headphones out or other external audio device if you have one.

This brings up another area where the iRig HD is very handy. It includes 3 adapters. A standard 30 pin iOS cable, a Lightning cable and a USB cable. So if you are using a Mac, iPad, iPhone or whatever, you can probably hook it up. It was nice to make this modular and not make them device specific. So you only have to get one of them for all your devices rather than getting the Mac version or the iPod version, etc.

One issue I do have with the iRig HD is that there is not a way to use it and have your iPad plugged in to power at the same time. This means that if your battery is running low, you are out of luck until you get a recharge. I'm not sure if someone makes a 30 pin splitter that would alleviate this problem, but it is a problem non the less.

For getting the most pristine signal on your devices for recording / practicing, I think the iRig HD is a great option.

iRig Stomp

AmpliTube to your pedalboard. Well you can with the iRig Stomp. The idea is simple, take the basic idea of the iRig and put it in a pedal box. Here's how it works, you have 1/4 inch in and out much like a normal effects pedal. There is a footswitch that turn the pedal on and off. When the pedal is off, signal simply passes from the inputs to the outputs. When it is on, it send the signal to a stereo 1/8th inch I/O jack. Then with the included long male to make 1/8th" cable, to your iOS device. Using AmpliTube, you set up the sounds you want, then the signal comes back in the same cable. The pedal has a volume knob for you to equalize the return signal to your dry signal. There is a 2nd 1/8th" jack that you can use with a pair of headphones,
Being a 'pedal guy' I thought the iRig Stomp was an interesting idea. What if you could bring the power of

With this setup, you turn your whole AmpliTube rig into another pedal. So why not give it a go? I play guitar at my church. I generally run into my pedalboard, then to my Crate V33-212 amp that is in a backstage closet. I gets mic'd up back there. Since AmpliTube is not just effects, but also amp simulation, I though I would try to run from my pedalboard into the iRig stomp, into my iPad, then out of the iRig Stomp into a direct box.

I was pretty surprised at the sound that I got. I did not have tons of time to tweak my sound, so I dialed up the basic crunch amp and set the volume low to simulate the base tone that I usually shoot for with my amp. Pretty clean, but with a bit of breakup. Since I had my American Special Telecaster, which does pick up nasty levels of noise in that space, I turned on the noise filter. This certainly dulls the tone a bit, but I was able to brighten it up a little with the amp EQ.

Overall it sounded pretty good. Certainly a viable option to replace the amp if the need be. It is definitely nice to have the amp knobs at arms reach instead of having to 'set it and forget it'.

If I were to use AmpliTube on the iPad for live settings, I certainly wouldn't use it for all my effects. being able to turn effects on/off with my foot or tap in tempos on certain pedals is a must for me. I could use presets, but again, switching presets is a 2 click process. I would certainly have some usability ideas for IK if they were to ever ask me. Now to be fair, IK is coming out with the iRig BlueBoard which is a BlueTooth pedalboard that will control IK programs on iOS and mac. Perhaps I get my hands on one and see how that works.

Another thing to consider from a purely logistical standpoint is using something like an iKlip. I just had my iPad on my music stand under my music. This was fine until I managed to reset my settings (I think I loaded a preset) right before we started our set. So yeah, that wasn't cool.

I need to fire up the Studio section of AmpliTube still and will be reviewing that in a follow up post soon.

Other Ideas & AmpliTube Custom Shop

Another option would be to run the output of my last pedal into the iRig HD, into my MacBook Pro. Then run AmpliTube Custom shop. Then using a 2nd D/A converter that I have run the output to the sound system. Custom Shop has a lot more options than the iOS version of AmpliTube (rightly so). There is a vast library of amps and effects that you can purchase. You can also try out individual models for 72 hours which is good, because credits will run you between $1 to $0.50 depending on how many you buy at once. Most 'normal' amounts of credits 20-80 credits, they are about $1 a piece. For reference, of the 8 delay pedal models, they range from 10 credits to 15 credits, amps run about 30 credits, speaker cabinets are 5 credits, mics are 5 credits. So using the 72 hour 'try' period is a good idea lest you drop a bunch of cash. The much better way to go would be to spend about $100 on one of the collections and get many more models for the price.

 The free core of the software does come with a modest set of models. Enough that if you were running some 'real' pedals in front of the interface, you could use it in a live setting. But again, would definitely need some external controls, because in the middle of a show, the last thing you want to have to do is mouse around the screen to change settings or presets.

In Conclusion

iRig HD and iRig Stomp are similar products that fill a slightly different space. The iRig Stomp is a great way to either use AmpliTube as another pedal on your board, or use it as an amp replacement so you can run direct. While the iRig HD gives you a cleaner way to connect your guitar into your iPad, iPod or Computer digitally without relying on the crummy D/A conversion that generally happens in the mic in jack on your device.

 I would certainly recommend either of these devices if someone were looking for a way to get a little more digital in their rig or extend some sonic options that may not otherwise be available.

On the software end, there are still drawbacks to using it live, but I think IK is aware of that and hopefully some of their hardware offerings in the future will address these issues.

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