iRig HD review

iRig HDIK Multimedia’s new iRig HD is now available and promises iOS guitarists a step up in audio quality from the original iRig hardware. That original unit has been one of the biggest selling accessories for guitar playing iOS musicians over the last couple of years. I reviewed the original iRig back in April 2012 and it undoubtedly opened a lot of guitarist’s eyes (and ears) to the possibilities offered by their iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad for mobile music making. So, if you own the original iRig unit should you now be tempted by the iRig HD?

Mine’s bigger than yours

Physically, the new iRig HD is slightly bigger than the original unit. However, it is still compact enough to fit easily in your pocket alongside your phone or tuck neatly into your kit bag alongside your iPad. The unit features a standard ¼” jack for your guitar lead at one end and, at the other, has a small circular multi-pin connector for the cable that runs to your iDevice.

The iRig HD is nicely styled and not much bigger than the original iRig.

The iRig HD is nicely styled and not much bigger than the original iRig.

On one side of the unit is a recessed rotary gain control that adjusts the level of the guitar input so you can adjust this to match how hot your pickups are and you can monitor the levels via the single multi-coloured LED on the top surface. This glows blue when a cable is connected, green when getting a signal, orange when getting a bit more signal and red if the signal is a little too hot.

Unlike the original iRig, the HD version doesn’t include a headphone socket; you plug your headphones into the standard iDevice headphone output to monitor what’s going on or, of course, run a cable from this socket to a set of powered speakers, amp or a PA. You can also choose not plug any headphones or speakers in at all and simply use your iDevice’s own speakers. This is very convenient (one less set of cables to worry about) if you are just doing a little bit of personal practice.

Thankfully, IK Multimedia have included three cables with the iRig HD. All have the same connector for the iRig HD at one end and are about 60 cm in length but the connectors at the other end are a 30-pin docking connector (for older iPhones and iPads), a Lightening connector (for iPhone 5 and iPad Mini) and a standard USB connector. The last of these allows you to use the iRig HD as an audio input device on a Mac. There doesn’t appear to be support for Windows users at present.

In use

The iRig HD is a breeze to use and includes a useful gain control for setting your guitar input level.

The iRig HD is a breeze to use and includes a useful gain control for setting your guitar input level.

As with the original iRig, using the new iRig HD is a breeze; you simply plug in your guitar, plug the iRig HD into your iDevice using the appropriate cable and fire up a suitable iOS guitar amp sim. Setting a suitable signal level is easy using the gain control and, aside from that, you are good to go.

Comparing the original unit with the new HD version, the differences are immediately obvious; the iRig HD gets a much cleaner and clearer sound into your iDevice and is much less prone to interference. The result is cleaner cleans and, in particular, much less hiss and buzz on those overdriven sounds. While you can obviously buy more expensive audio interfaces with better-specified I/O components, the iRig HD is a significant step up from the original iRig.

Which iOS amp sim?

IK Multimedia would obviously like you to use Amplitube with your iRig HD but it works just as well with other major iOS amp sims.

IK Multimedia would obviously like you to use Amplitube with your iRig HD but it works just as well with other major iOS amp sims.

IK Multimedia would obviously like you to use the iRig HD with their own Amplitube app and that combination sounds excellent. However, I’m happy to report that it also worked absolutely fine with a range of other popular music apps. I had no problems getting my other favourite guitar amp sims – AmpKit+ and JamUp Pro to work with the iRig HD and the results were also very good indeed. It’s difficult not to be impressed by how much better this generation of the hardware sounds and, because the input signal is better (and contains less unwanted noise), the quality of the amp modelling within the apps can get closer to reaching its full potential. Take your choice of iOS amp sim, crank it loud through a suitable PA, and you can really make the iRig HD rock.

Equally, Cubasis, Auria and Garageband were all happy to use the hardware as a direct audio input for recording purposes, although I suspect most users would actually record using their choice of amp sim app through Audiobus and into these DAW apps.

iRig HD vs AmpKit LiNK HD?

So, the iRig HD is a very worthwhile upgrade from the original iRig and, with a street price of around £75 (or the $/€ equivalent), most certainly worth the extra cost over and above the price of the original unit. It’s not, or course, the only choice available and I reviewed the similarly priced Peavey/Agile Partners AmpKit LiNK HD just a few weeks ago.

While iOS musicians with an interest in recording might consider a more flexible audio interface format like the Focusrite iTrack Solo, for iOS guitar players who just want to practice, jam with friends or even try gigging with their iDevice, the format of the iRig HD is obviously ideal and, in this case, the LiNK HD is the obvious competitor.

Amplitube now features the Studio Section as an IAP and, with the iRig HD you can capture some high quality tones.

Amplitube now features the Studio Section as an IAP and, with the iRig HD you can capture some high quality tones.

I didn’t have the opportunity to compare the two units side-by-side as I’d already returned the review unit Peavey had supplied me with before getting my hands on a similar iRig HD review unit. They are slightly different in specification – the LiNK HD includes headphone and mini-jack stereo output sockets, for example – but in terms of both convenience and, most importantly, audio performance, I think the results are very similar.

In short, you won’t go far wrong with either unit and the ultimate choice will come down to a personal preference (perhaps based upon your own audition?) or whether you find yourself more in tune with one of these manufacturers or the other. What is clear is that the competition between the likes of IK Multimedia and Peavey/Agile Partners is a good thing for us users as it results in ever-better products.

Personally, I’d be very happy to use either unit for personal practice, jamming or iOS-based recording and, in the latter case, ‘HD’ really does make a very audible difference to what can be achieved.

In summary

IK Multimedia are one of the companies that has really embraced iOS as a music-making platform. They have a wide range of products in their catalogue that are pitched at iOS musicians and iOS guitar players in particular. The iRig HD is an excellent addition to that roster and if it doesn’t sell by the absolute bucket load then I’ll be very surprised.

Whether you are a newbie iOS guitarist or an old hand looking to upgrade from your original iRig, the iRig HD comes highly recommended.

 

IK Multimedia’s iRig HD is available from directly from Amazon.

To see and hear the iRig HD in action, then check out this short video.

 

 

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    Comments

    1. Having looked into this further I feel the prices are steadily increasing.

      So you download Amplitube (its discounted at the moment) but you need
      iRig HD
      Output adaptor (3.5mm to 6.3mm)

      If you purchase through IK multimedia you pay 15 euros for courier, 23.31 euros for Tax and 15.99 euros for the leads and 79.99 euros for the iRig HD, total 134.29. Now I am not even sure this is going to be something I can use so what will make me splash out?

    2. After much anticipation, I finally got my iRig HD. Plugged it all up & ……nothing. Zippo. Nada. I did get a clean signal output. Watched the input/output level dance up and down as they should. Saw the tuner working in action. BUT, the guitar signal was sanitary clean. Tried all the stomp boxes. Clean, no effect from the stomp boxes. Turned the gain & volume on the faux Marshall to 10. What did I get?? Clean…..clean…clean. Basically, either this is a defective iRig HD, or it’s a scam of the highest order. I am anxiously awaiting a response from a direct query to IkMultimedia. An online search for “iRig HD Problems” results in umpteen RAVE reviews about the product, but no complaints. Interestingly you will find several complaints on the iRig HD product page reviews. Right there in the App Store product page reviews. What the hell? Anyone else having this problem? Bueller, Bueller?

    3. Mark Eisemann says:

      Hi, can anyone tell me how to power my iPhone 5c while using the lightning port as input from iRig HD?

      • Hi Mark…. this is a good question :-) This is one area that, as yet, most of the hardware manufacturers of musical add-ons for iOS devices have really not addressed… and I don’t think Apple make it particularly easy either. It would be nice if their was a splitter cable you could buy from Apple (even if it was expensive) that allowed you to hook up both your power supply and your additional add-on (like the iRig HD)…. Whether that’s technically possible I don’t know…. but it would solve a lot of power-related problems…. If you do work it out then make sure to come back here and share… Very best wishes, John

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