IK Multimedia Stomp I/O Guitar Processor and Controller
By Chris Loeffler |
IK Multimedia iRig Stomp I/O
Get a foothold on performance technology!
by Chris Loeffler
IK Multimedia has been leading the pack for over a decade now with their virtual instruments and sound creation software as well as quickly taking over the space for semi-pro audio interfaces that bridge mobile devices and tablets to traditional instruments and recording setups. The release of the IM Multimedia Stomp I/O is the logical next step in their goal to bridge traditional and high-tech approaches to making music for musicians. Clearly designed to incorporate the best of what works in modern effect and modeling units to bring their software to the traditional musicians used to analog signal paths, the Stomp I/O is a USB pedalboard controller.
Given the copious amounts of reviewing the Harmony Central staff has done of various IK Multimedia products, both software and hardware, I will leave diving into the deep product that is AmpliTube to the dozens of well-written reviews on this site and focus on the platform/controller itself and how it integrates into the IK library and traditional guitar setups, although it goes without stating that Stomp I/O comes bundles with the most recent IK Multimedia guitar software (a has dropping $800 worth, if bought individually) for both live and studio use.
What You Need to Know
The IK Multimedia Stomp I/O is heavy, sturdy, and feels more than ready for the light beating that the rigors of the road will bring. It seems like a small thing, but anyone who has picked up a multi-effect or controller that feel too light, has the tell-tale rattle of loose components, or felt the flimsy travel of controls that clearly aren’t designed to take the abuse of constant tweaking knows how easy it is to do ground controllers wrong, and my hands-on review experience never gave me a moment of pause in considering extended use of the Stomp I/O. Even removing the cost of software from the equation, it is impressive to have such a solid piece with so many moving parts available for under the $300 street price.
While clearly designed to run Amplitube and integrate with IK multimedia apps first and foremost, the Stomp I/O generously allows the addition of up to two switches or pedals to be incorporated into its platform, so if there’s that one pedal you can’t do without (it’s probably an overdrive or fuzz… am I right?) the Stomp I/O has you covered. Even with over 15 years of MIDI use, I’m far from the expert in deep programing; I found the Stomp I/O integrated seamlessly with my rack effects and seldom used MIDI floor-controller without the typically obligatory manual dive.
Because this Stomp I/O is a controller first and foremost, how it handles the input and output signals is the most important thing I could evaluate it ion, and the 1/4" XLR Neutrik combo jack to accept instrument and microphone (including condenser mics with switchable 48V phantom power) were solid an snug, both on the enclosure and in accepting name-brand cables. A balanced stereo output connects to an external amp, mixer or PA for monitoring or studio use and a 1/4" stereo headphone output is available for late night playing. The input gain and volume output knobs are handily placed on the front panel, with VU-Meter indicators for the quick-and-easy setting of levels, much more reminiscent of high-end recording interfaces than the “behind the scenes” placement found own many modern keyboards.
I tested the headphones as a monitoring tool in both a recording session and when jamming with friends and was pleased with how well it worked, keeping me connected with the output sound without having me dig around to get a mix right.
Immediate integration with AmpliTube and VocaLive, powered with a 96kHz/24-bit audio interface makes iRig Stomp I/O setup a breeze, and you need only add 5-10 minutes if you haven’t used those programs before to purchase and license them. It easily ups the quality output from predicting mobile platforms like the iPad or iPhones I had previously used to evaluate their software, and while “transparent” isn’t a term typically throw around in the guitar world (no, “transparent” overdrive isn’t a thing), the preamps in the Stomp I/O performed flawlessly in the couple of dozen hours I played with them, with no perceivable distortion nor artifacts and any coloring that happened was only to the benefit of the mics and instruments I ran into it.
As a floor controller, iRig Stomp I/O’s expression pedal and four foot switches felt as solid and natural as any dedicated piece of gear I’ve played, with immediate activation with the foot switches (I’ve noticed more companies using footswitches that activate when the footswitch disengages, which is maddening to me). The travel and resistance of the expression pedal was aces right out of the packaging, and again, the Stomp I/O feels like a piece of gear that is meant to be played with your feet, and not just a desktop controller in a different form factor. The enclosure deign also incorporates a stand for your mobile device or tablet, which is considerate but I found to be unnecessary given tablet and phone mounts are now readily available for music stands, reducing the amount of bending over I had to do when creating and tweaking presets.
For what it was designed to do, none. While it lacks some of the more marketed expansions of high-end multi-effect boxes like Boss, Line 6, and Axe-FX, there’s a point where endless integration with any guitar processing setup becomes unnecessary, and the Stomp I/O know where that line is.
There’s never been a better combination of features, integration, and value put forth for the performer looking to move to software-based processing of their instruments that the IK Multimedia Stomp I/O. The software and interface are proven commodities, and the layout and implementation of the footcontroller is an exercise in taking everything that’s worked for other brands and leaving behind anything that’s meerly interesting. I enjoyed how it walked the line between traditional guitar gear and modern sound engineering in its design to create an intuitive and informative (behind the scenes) experience for the more rounded musician who is considering stepping into software. Considering most players still look to tube technology as the “only” way to process their sound, I don’t see the Stomp I/O taking over the way guitars and basses are played in the next year, but it is a solid bridge with no compromises for the modern player more concerned with getting the sound and performance they want than they are in emulating the past. - HC -
Buy IK Multimedia Stomp I/O at Sweetwater (MSRP $399.99, Street $299.99)
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.