iRig PRO is a compact audio and MIDI interface you can use with XLR-microphones, a guitar and bass, a keyboard and other line-level sources and MIDI controllers. It features an XLR and 1/4″ combo jack for connecting microphones and instruments, and a MIDI input for plugging in a controller. I was very curious to know if this small box would have the quality you need when shooting video with an external audio interface. Traditionally, this would mean using a Zoom H4n sound recorder, but if you have an iPad, an iRig PRO could do the job as well.
The iRig PRO is a rectangular box made of rubberised plastic. It comes with a 9V battery, a bunch of cables to connect to a Mac or iOS device (old and new), and a cable to connect a MIDI device to the iRig PRO. On its side, it has a switch for turning on 48V phantom power so you can power condenser mics as well as video microphones that are powered by their own internal battery. On top you’ll find a large shallowly protruding rotary knob to adjust gain and two LEDs that signal various device and/or signal states. The iRig PRO can record to up to 96kHz at 24 bits. In addition to the device and its accessories, you will also get access to a large number of downloadable IK Multimedia’s iOS apps, either for free or at a discount.
However, my first impression of the iRig PRO started earlier: when I unpacked the dull brown box of the shipper. Inside was IK Multimedia Italy’s own display box. And inside that box was the box that holds the actual device and its accessories. I have a thing with beautiful packaging and the iRig PRO’s is an absolute delight. It is original with bright colours, very nicely designed and a good indication of what you’ll find inside.
The device itself having been made of rubberised plastics is not a deal breaker. Metal would make it sturdier but also heavier. The plastic didn’t seem as if you can easily crack or break it. The rubber coating is something that I don’t particularly like. It looks and feels great, but my experiences with this sort of rubber is that it will become sticky over time.
Using the iRig PRO audio interface
I tested the iRig PRO with my trusted iPad Air 2 and compared it with an Apogee Duet iPad/Mac. I used GarageBand as my recording app.
The Duet requires you to first launch Apogee Maestro, which functions as a driver and controller for the device. The iRig PRO is instantly recognised as an audio interface. The Duet requires external power before it will work with an iOS device. The power adapter delivered with the device also powers your iPad while recording. That’s very useful as I would experience when recording with the iRig PRO later on. However, having to use a power adapter also makes you dependent on a power outlet. My solution to that problem is to use a 12V Powertraveller Powermonkey battery instead, but it’s not as elegant as having to use nothing at all.
The iRig PRO doesn’t need external power sources. Its internal 9V battery block provides the 48V phantom power for mics that need it. With other microphones, you just plug the device in the iPad’s Lightning interface and you’re set. However, I did notice that the audio interface will drain the iPad’s battery at a rate that would deplete it after about three quarters of an hour — maybe one hour if you’re lucky. Using a battery-powered sE Electronics ProMic Laser video mic, my recording of 2min 30sec resulted in a battery power drop of 4%. This may be a problem. Nevertheless, there’s one huge benefit to the iRig PRO: its low weight.
To test for sound quality I used a digital recording of Beethoven’s Coriolan and played it out through my AudioEngine A5+ speakers connected to an AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2. I made sure sound pressure for both the Duet recording and iRig PRO recording were approximately the same. I found the gain knob on the iRig PRO easy to use and the LED to be quite informative, changing colours from blue to green to orange to red as I increased the gain. The knob is recessed enough not to be easily damaged. While it is a bit fiddly to move it — you don’t have much grip — it does turn smoothly.
To be honest I expected a big difference between the Duet and the iRig PRO, with the Duet coming out on top. However, it’s much smaller than I thought and almost unnoticeable. There’s a bit less detail in the higher frequencies and more noise when using the iRig PRO, but only a little bit as you can see from the two spectrum charts.
I don’t think the difference of sound quality will be audible, unless perhaps you have perfect hearing or crank up the volume really high. Also, I think an iRig PRO audio interface really comes into its own with interviews and in environments where you don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself and your equipment — like with seminars or classes. The voice recording tests I made sounded identical to the Duet. They were equally rich in sound and not tinny, harsh or boomy.
The iRig PRO is an excellent addition to your video/audio toolbox. Its quality of sound matches that of more expensive equipment. It’s not built like a tank, but with a little bit of careful handling I’m confident it can serve you well for years to come. The free and discounted iOS apps are quite capable and turn this device into a real bargain at €182.99.