IK iRig Acoustic Stage Miking System for Acoustic Guitar
IK adapts iRig Acoustic for live performance
by Craig Anderton
Amplifying electric guitars: Easy!
Amplifying acoustic guitars...well...uh...
That’s the goal of iRig Acoustic Stage, which uses the same special-purpose, clip-on acoustic guitar mic that’s the heart of the original iRig Acoustic. However unlike iRig Acoustic, instead of working with a smart phone/tablet/app, iRig Acoustic Stage mates with a DSP-laden control unit that expands on what’s in the app. The system works with steel string guitar, nylon string guitar, ukulele, and similar guitars that allow mounting the mic in a sound hole.
The mic mounted on a Gibson HP 735 R. The green button on the control unit indicates the unit has been user-calibrated specifically for this guitar.
What You Need to Know
It has the typical classy-looking IK packaging. After all, this is from the same country that brought us Sophia Loren and the Alpha Romeo.
The system packs up in a convenient travel case.
The control unit. The red Tone button indicates that the unit has the factory calibration. Note the recessed Volume control, which pops out for adjustment.
Ultimately, all that matters is the sound. I started off comparing the iRig sound to the Gibson HP 735, which has an internal LR Baggs Element VTC. I much preferred the HP’s sound, which was more balanced and had a higher output. But...long story short, don’t believe the manual that the calibration procedure is “optional” for steel-string guitars! I checked out the online video for the proper calibration technique, did it, and wow—what a difference.
Initially, I couldn’t get the guitar to sound right without a medium width, -8 dB notch at around 550 Hz. After calibration, the DSP compensated automatically (which was kind of magical, actually) for the response peak at 550 Hz, and conveyed the HP 375’s rich tone properly. Although the HP 375’s built in electronics still had a more nuanced sound, the iRig Acoustic Stage had its own take on the sound that was equally valid...which also validated IK’s genius move of including a Mix control (with phase switch) and Aux input for your guitar's existing electronics.
The Gibson does one sound, iRig Acoustic Stage does three sounds, but put the two together and you have a huge variety of sounds that neither makes by itself. It’s very similar to the options you have when going direct and taking a mic feed, and the phase switch adds another dimension. (Of course you don’t have to use the internal mixing option; you can feed the guitar’s output and the iRig’s output independently to an interface or mixer for stereo.) I found several recording-ready sounds that I would definitely use, generally with the iRig contributing a lower frequency warmth, and the HP 735 providing the definition. I started to wish the Mix control was bigger; it’s more like a trimpot (which is understandable for live performance).
Anyway, back to the stage. Although I didn’t have any acoustic guitar-driven gigs during the review period, I do have a PA set up for practicing. For stage use, once you’ve done the calibration you’ll hear that IK has done an excellent job of deciding what an acoustic guitar should sound like, and the DSP does its magic to avoid the “honk” of piezo guitars. Because I could always hear the guitar itself as I played it, to check for tone properly I had to record the control unit’s output. If you’re in a small enough venue that the guitar itself will be heard, then iRig Acoustic Stage becomes more of a support system that adds depth and tone to your instrument through the PA.
For recording, although many will still prefer a high-end condenser microphone, if you don’t have that option iRig Acoustic Stage takes care of you better than some built-in systems—or mics that either aren’t set up properly, are influenced negatively by room acoustics, or just aren’t that good. Furthermore, you can always tweak the sound with your DAW’s EQ and other processors.
Still, the main reason this exists is for playing live. If your acoustic guitar has no internal electronics, then this is a pretty close to a no-brainer purchase. If you’re happy with your acoustic guitar’s sound when you take the stage, then this may be superfluous. But if not, iRig Acoustic Stage checks off the boxes—tone, convenience, DSP, and ease of use—for under $100. And as a bonus, it definitely has its uses for recording.
Just remember to calibrate your steel-string guitar :)
Product landing page with audio examples
Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.