IK Multimedia has started selling its basic iRig Pro Quattro I/O audio interface. The Deluxe version that comes with an XY microphone, a power supply and an accessory bag, will be shipping by the end of June (check back then for an update). The iRig Pro Quattro I/O is a 4-in/2-out portable audio and MIDI interface aimed at field recordists, content creators, live streamers, podcasters and performers. IK Multimedia claims it is a professional-grade device. I put it to the test to find out.
What is “professional-grade” anyway? Does it stand for best possible quality? Or does it mean it’s suitable to make a living with? Regardless, I am happy to say the sound quality of IK Multimedia’s new device is very good. That is not to say I don’t have criticism. I do. By the way, for detailed specs, I have the pleasure of referring you to the iRig Pro Quattro I/O product pages.
First of all, let’s take a look at some specs. The iRig Pro Quattro I/O has a built-in MEMS mic1. It’s also a MIDI interface and in tune with IK Multimedia’s tradition works seamlessly with an iPhone, iPad (MFi-certified), Android tablet, Mac, and PC.
Its maximum recording quality is 24-bit, 96kHz on four combo XLR/1/4″ mic / guitar ports with phantom power, and there are two RCA 3.5 mm line in ports, two balanced XLR outs, and a headphone out port with direct monitoring. You can use it as a 4-track, a stereo or mono recorder. It has live mixing capabilities, a built-in limiter and a safety mode. It connects to your device via USB and can be powered via a separate USB port, a 9 Volt DC power adapter that comes with the Deluxe version or 4 AA batteries.
The iRig Pro Quattro I/O is made of a plastic that is robust enough to withstand daily usage, but if you’re planning on throwing it around, I think you’ll end up with cracks and cuts everywhere.
The device comes with a cleverly designed tripod (1/4in) mic stand mount. Since the device has input and output ports and switches all over the place, the only space where a mount could fit is the bottom where the battery compartment’s door is located. The mounting screw therefore is fitted onto a separate plate that you slide-and-click in place over the battery door. Lifting up and simultaneously pulling up an extended lip of the mount releases it from the device. It’s safe to use but you could lose the plate if you’re not careful.
The knobs are flat and recessed, which prevents them from breaking easily. Switches are the slide and click type. For example, to switch from mono to stereo, to multi-channel recording, you have one switch with three positions. My experience with an alarm clock that has this type of switch is that frequent use ultimately leads to the click part becoming so fuzzy that you need to use tape to hold it in place at the desired mode. Only time will tell if that is also the case with the iRig Pro Quattro I/O.
The device is equipped with a metering screen at the top and a column of LEDs bottom-center, the latter of which serve to alert you of host, output and MIDI connections. Both screens are not of the glossy plastic kind. They’re actually made of a rough transparent plastic that won’t scratch nor show grease marks from touching.
Two grudges I have with all IK Multimedia audio interfaces I tested so far is:
- that the USB power port is micro USB. What happened to USB-C
- that connections that have an orientation, like the XLR combi (Hi-Z and mic capable) ports and the micro USB interface are upside down.
Especially the latter is annoying. Try connecting to an upside down XLR port a Sommer Carbokab 225 mic cable — more like an oil rig drilling pipe than a signal cable — without forcing it into turns…
How well it all works
I first tested the MEMs mic. It’s OK but it takes a loud signal to get a decent recording and it’s not going to make you win awards with its thin sound. It’s good enough for short statements, but I wouldn’t use it for anything else. The XY mics should be much better if you need to have mics on the device itself.
Four mics (48V phantom powered or not) can be used and three different configurations are possible. You can record all four to individual channels or tracks in a DAW.
Using two mics on channels 1 and 2, or four on all channels, you can record stereo with channel 1 and 3, and 2 and 4 mixed to the same track in your DAW. Channel 1 and 2 will be at the gain level you’ve set and the other two are safety (redundant) channels that automatically record at a 12dB lower gain.
Last but not least, you can record to mono whereby all channels will be summed. Channels 3 and 4 will again serve as safety channels.
If you know in advance your signal will be very loud, then the unit also has a decent limiter on channels 1 and 2 (working both with instruments and mics). Speaking of loudness, I pitted the VU meters against a pair of Klangshelm VU meters in DIN mode on my Mac and measurements differed by a small margin only.
The maximum quality level of 24-bit/96kHz is lower than, for example, a MixPre 6 from Sound Devices, but it all sounds well, even if you take into account the price difference. The iRig Pro Quattro I/O records a 10Hz to 46kHz dynamic range with very silent pre-amps making for little difference with my more expensive higher-end but not portable Apogee Element 24. The iRig Pro Quattro I/O is a bit less detailed than the Element 24, though.
As I tested with four 48V phantom powered mics, one thing that is still puzzling me is that, when I started using the device with the 48V switch off everything was as expected, but when I switched off the 48V phantom power, the mics remained hot. Loud noises still transmitted to the mic, even at a zero gain setting. This should not happen.
The iRig Pro Quattro I/O does not have its own data storage, however, it appears that stand-alone means something else in the world of professional audio engineers than it does in common language. The iRig Pro Quattro I/O is indeed an audio interface, using your smartphone or tablet, or even a camera for storage and it allows for usage as a standalone mixer that can be used for live performances on its own.
Commendable features include Direct Monitoring and Loopback, the latter being the ability to record the signal coming in from the computer or smart device through the USB connection to channels 1 and 2. I tested that with a YouTube movie and recording my voice on channels 3 and 4, and it works well.
The iRig Pro Quattro I/O is a good and relatively inexpensive portable audio/MIDI interface that you can take with you for recording audio to any tablet, smartphone or desktop computer, or for routing MIDI between in/outputs. Its sound quality is top notch with very little noise from the pre-amps.
The device has all the necessary functionality to satisfy a professional while having extra features that will be of use if you’re only starting out as a sound recordist. Its built-in mic, though, is not good enough to be of much use other than serving as a backup solution. Instead, the XY plug-on mics will be making full use of the iRig Pro Quattro I/O’s capabilities.
That’s why I would recommend buying the Deluxe instead of the basic version you can buy now. The basic version is available now and retails at €349.99 excl. VAT. The Deluxe version is available for pre-order and will ship by the end of June. It costs €449.99 excl. VAT.
- A MEMS microphone is a mic that consists of a pressure-sensitive diaphragm etched behind a stationary perforated plate. The combination acts much like a capacitor of a condenser microphone. ↩