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IK Multimedia iRig 2 Guitar/Audio Interface

The continuing crusade against crappy converters

 

by Craig Anderton

 

 

Wasn’t it only yesterday that the original iRig HD for iOS/Mac/Windows was introduced so you could feed your guitar digitally into iPhones, iPads, and more? My, how time flies…actually it was over three years ago and a lot has changed, like Apple eliminating the 1/8” analog headphone jack on the iPhone 7. Although iRig HD 2 isn’t a radical change from the original iRig HD, there are enough significant differences to merit a review.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

  • The case remains small and light, but has a somewhat “rubbery” outside coating that makes it more resistant to the rigors of the road.
  • iPhone 7 fans can keep using their favorite headphones—there’s a 1/8th analog output jack with volume control.
  • A 1/4” mono output jack can patch either the dry guitar signal or the signal processed via your iThingey or computer to an amp or mixer, depending on the setting of iRig HD 2’s Thru/FX hardware switch.
  • The previous mini-DIN connector has been banished in favor of a micro-USB port.
  • Of course, there’s a 1/4” input for guitar with its own preamp level control.
  • One point I rarely see mentioned is the IK customer experience. IK seems to have taken a cue from the Apple world, with packaging that has a sophisticated look and feel. It may not make the iRig HD 2 sound any better, but it does show attention to detail.
  • Included accessories are a USB cable, Lightning cable, and a clip with a Velcro strap to hold the iRig HD 2 to, for example, a mic stand. You also get a Quick Start guide and registration card, the latter of which lets you download AmpliTube 4 after you’ve registered. However, it’s important to note this is not a “lite” version—it’s the full version for Mac/Windows and when you plug into an iOS device, it unlocks the full features for the iPhone and iPad apps from the free versions.
  • iRig HD 2 follows Anderton’s Law of Documentation: The products with the best documentation usually need it the least. About the only feature that requires explanation is the six-state status LED (green/orange/red for signal strength, dark blue for standby mode, and bright blue for connected and ready).
  • Everything worked as expected when I tested with iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro, with a good “feel” from the inherent low-latency operation.

 

LIMITATIONS

 

  • As with most iOS Lightning-based devices, because iRig HD 2 needs to access the Lightning port, you can’t charge the battery while practicing—unless you have IK’s PowerBridge, which costs around $70.
  • There’s no low-latency driver for Windows (e.g., ASIO, WASAPI, or WDM/KS) so the lowest latency I could get with MME drivers was around 30 ms. Your best bet for lower latency is the free ASIO4ALL driver, although opinions are mixed as to how well it works with specific computers.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

One application IK doesn’t seem to emphasize is that with laptop music libraries, you’ll get much better sound with iRig HD 2 than you will with the laptop’s onboard converters and headphone amp—the converters run at 96 kHz with 24-bit resolution, and the headphone preamp delivers plenty of clean gain. The interface’s small size and light weight make it a natural for the road, and with Windows, the latency doesn’t matter for just listening to music.

 

However mobile isn’t the only application; the iPhone/iRig HD 2 combo makes it easy to practice anywhere, anytime. The iRig HD 2 and necessary cables will fit in your guitar’s case candy pocket, so whenever you have your guitar and a phone with earbuds, you’re good to go for practicing. Or, just keep iRig HD 2 in a central location in your house and grab it when you want to play, especially if the volume levels from an amp would cause domestic discord.

 

One thing’s for sure: if you’re still using an analog-based system for practicing with a mobile device…don’t. Going digital gets rid of feedback issues, improves fidelity, and is overall a much better experience. And if you’ve waited until now to go digital, you’ll be happy to know the technology is mature and cost-effective—for proof, try out the iRig HD 2.

  

______________________________________________ 

 

 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.

 

 

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