Review: IK Multimedia iRig HD Guitar Interface

Since it was announced, we've been eagerly waiting to get hands-on with IK Multimedia's iRig HD Guitar interface. Now it's here, Mike Watkinson wasted no time putting it to the test.  

So here it is at last. IK Multimedia have launched an updated version of their iRig guitar interface for iOS devices, cunningly named the iRig HD.

Where the original iRig plugged into the headphone socket of your iOS device, this plugs into the dock connector. IK have supplied three connector cables, one with an old-school 30-pin dock connector plug, one with a lightning connector and one with a regular USB cable for using the iRig HD with your Mac. And you would be right to compare the iRig HD with Apogee's Jam, as they are very similar in this and many other respects:

  • Both connect to the dock connector
  • Both have a variable gain rotary level control
  • Both have a three-state LED '" blue to show the device is connected, green to show a low level signal, red to indicate clipping
  • Both have a single quarter inch (6.35 mm) mono jack input suitable for a guitar lead
  • Both are about the same size (the iRig HD is 30mm x 99mm x 21mm)

What are the Differences?

Well, there are differences, but they are quite subtle. That dock connector lead '" only the iRig HD comes with a cable suitable for lightening connector equipped iOS devices (the iPad 4, iPad Mini and iPhone 5). The Apogee Jam requires you to purchase a connector converter. All supplied leads are short, at about 45 cm, and sit at the iOS device end rather than the guitar end of your cable, and will therefore need securing so the device doesn't flop around when you move. In both cases the supplied leads use a proprietary connector at the interface end. Both fix very firmly with no likelihood of falling out, but only the Apogee locks in place. IK might just have the upper hand here however because their leads have connectors which are also in use on their other products, so now I have a Lightning connector cable for my iRig Keys, albeit quite a short one! Your headphones plug into the OS device itself.

The thumbwheel gain control is slightly easier to access on the Apogee, but that means you're less likely to accidentally change the setting on the iRig HD!

Build quality is very similar, although clever use of rubberized paint-like finish on the iRig HD lends it a more rugged feel. The Jam did suffer from some handling noise in tests at high gain settings (see below), so there might be something to this.

What's most important is Sonic performance. It doesn't matter what color the LED turns on clipping, as long as the device sounds good! Owners of the original iRig will know that, handy though that device is, sound quality is not a feature. With very high background noise, no gain control and a tendency to emphasise microphonic, pick-up generated, feedback howl with high gain guitar amp settings.

Thankfully none of these issues are apparent with the HD. Most importantly however is how it squares up to the Jam.

Plug in, Turn up, Play...

I tested both devices side-by-side using my trusty Stratocaster and a combination of Amplitube and GarageBand on the iPad. I was careful to turn off the noise gate in the virtual guitar amps so that I could listen to the '

Mike has been obsessed with music software since he first saw Fairlight's Page-R, and has tracked its development through his work as a performer, composer and producer. As a writer he has contributed articles to Sound On Sound since 1999, and currently writes their Apple Notes column. As well as being a certified Logic Pro and Pro Too... Read More


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