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Making music with your Mac or iOS device? Check out iRig HD and Amplitube Studio

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If you’re in the market for a way to hook your musical instrument up to your Mac or iOS device, and have a need to do multitrack recording on your iOS device, IK Multimedia has recently released two new products that may help you: iRig HD and AmpliTube Studio.

iRig HD is an upgrade to the old iRig adapter, and Amplitube Studio is a $26 in-app purchase in the AmpliTube app. In this post, I’ll talk about my experiences using these new products and how they might integrate into my musical workflow. I’ve become quite a fan of IK Multimedia’s products over the last few years, and I was very curious to see how these new releases performed.

iRig HD

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m strings-deep into band rehearsals. Aside: isn’t that new-band smell great? While I used my USB Fender Stratocaster for a lot of the practice time, I also used the iRig HD ($99) for a lot of it. I’m going to spend a lot of time saying nice things about the iRig HD, so I’m going to start by saying I wasn’t overly thrilled with its predecessor, the iRig.

The iRig used your iOS device’s headphone jack for its input. As a result the sound quality was iffy. The iRig pretty much earned a spot in my truck’s glove box for use if I was buying a guitar and needed a tuner.

The iRig HD solves a lot of those problems. Instead of using your headphone jack, the iRig HD ships with USB, 30-pin and Lightning connector cables. As a result, the audio quality is much improved. The only downside is that you won’t be able to also charge your device while using it.

Unlike the Apogee Jam (which currently does not come with a Lightning connector), I found the iRig had a very solid connector to its main unit. It comes in two pieces: the main piece where you connect your instrument’s 1/4″ cable, and then the cable that connects this unit to your Mac or iOS device. The Apogee Jam’s connector was a tad flimsy. The iRig HD cable connector reminds me of the old Apple ADB connectors and fit snugly.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been using the iRig fairly often and haven’t had any issues with it. I think it’s well worth the $99 asking price, especially if you have an iPhone 5.


AmpliTube Studio

The other new product IK Multimedia will release on Thursday is an upgraded Amplitube app, with a new Studio module. Previous versions of AmpliTube had an in-app purchase for an 8-track recorder, but Studio turns your iOS device into more of a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). While Apple has its own iOS DAW with GarageBand ($4.99), it’s a little limited. The in-app amps aren’t that good, and you have to remember to tell GarageBand to record more than a few measures if you want to record a full song. While GarageBand does support Audiobus now, it’s still a limited recording platform.

AmpliTube Studio is a step closer. I much prefer AmpliTube’s amps over GarageBand’s, and having a better DAW within AmpliTube is a win for me. AmpliTube also comes with a decent little drum looper, where you can program intro, outro and verse drum loops. It ships with a set of Rock loops, and others are available via — you guessed it — an in-app purchase.

The app uses a grid layout similar to GarageBand, and you can move, cut, copy, paste and punch-in. I was able to record several minutes of audio without any issues. While the audio quality certainly wasn’t pro-level, it was good enough to piece together song demos. The biggest problem I have, is trying to figure out where the Studio module would fit in my workflow. Just about every time I decide something I’m working on needs multi-track recording, I end up deciding to do it on my Mac with GarageBand. I think it will be fine if someone is on the road, and just wants to layer some guitars and vocals for a demo. What makes it very hard is there still isn’t a good way to capture multiple input sources on an iOS device.


Final thoughts

I’m very happy with the iRig HD. It’s been a product I was eager to get my hands on since it was announced at the National Association of Music Merchants show (NAMM) earlier this year and the release does not disappoint me. It’s a product I can see myself using for quite some time.

AmpliTube Studio earns high marks for a nicely designed product that works well. I’m just not sure how often I’d use it. That said, if I were a touring musician, using AmpliTube studio and a guitar on a tour bus sure would be convenient.

2 Responses to “Making music with your Mac or iOS device? Check out iRig HD and Amplitube Studio”

  1. Noah Montena

    I presume, when you say there is currently no good way to capture multiple simultaneous sources with an iOS device, you mean there is nothing as inexpensive or compact as products like the iRig. There has been a recent (within the last year or so, and especially within the last several months) explosion of iOS-compatible, high quality and studio grade interfaces. Focusrite has notably led the charge with a full range of portables and rack-mountable interfaces, and Apogee, Akai, RME and Tascam all make a range of multi-channel interfaces including pre-amps and MIDI, with additional features like multi-element meter LEDs, 48V mic power and variable gain. However, most of the better appointed of these units tend to run into the hundreds of dollars, if not closer to a thousand, require a power outlet, and certainly do not fit in your pocket. A few are less than $200, though, and you might be pleasantly surprised.