I’ve been playing acoustic guitar for more than 40 years. Same guitar, but I’m hopefully a little better for the years of practice. A decade or so ago, I had my guitar retrofitted with an internal pickup, since I was playing regularly into a sound system. Recently, however, I’m more interested in getting that sound into an iPad or my Mac, rather than live performance. I’ve tried using the built-in pickup, but it needs some sort of amplifier or at least a pre-amp. So, it was quite a nice break when IK Multimedia offered the Gadgeteer Gang their Acoustic iRig and I was chosen to review it.
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The iRig acoustic is a clip-on microphone/interface for acoustic instruments. It’s shaped like a guitar pick, and mainly geared toward that instrument, but it could be used with any other acoustic instrument that produces vibrations and natural sound, I’d imagine. The pickup is connected to a thin wire that’s about 6 feet long. This is connected to a small plastic molded assembly that has a short .125″ stereo connector plug, as well as a jack for the same connector. The male connector goes into the output – be it an amplifier, laptop, or tablet – the jack is a direct monitor for the instrument.
Having the cord be that long means you won’t feel as tethered to your recording device, but between mic stands and the length of your headset monitor cable, it can still feel limiting. It’s very thin and pliable, though, so tucking it out of the way is easy enough.
Included in the package is a rigid-shell zippered carrying case that fits the iRig and attendant cable easily. In fact, you could easily also fit in a pair of earbuds. The inside of the case is plush-lined, and there’s a pocket of netting sewn in to stash things to prevent (or, at least lessen) tangling.
In use, you clip the pickup unit to the sound hole of your instrument. The clamp is not adjustable, per se, but the metal is springy and flexes easily, should your instrument’s case be thicker or thinner than the standard quarter-inch. There’s cushioning on both sides, in case your guitar has not “seen the world” as extensively as mine has.
I used the iRig on several iPads and my MacBookPro with GarageBand, and found the sound clear and nicely isolated. With acoustic instruments, it’s difficult to use a mic and not get ambient noise from the environment – the thump of a string pick, a squeak on a round-wound string, etc. With the mic being situated inside the body, this was all but eliminated.
Here are two examples of the same few bars of music. The first is with the iPad Pro’s built in mic, situated on my desk about 18 inches from the guitar.
The second is with the iRig plugged in. I used the same settings for each, except for the iRig I chose headphone jack input.
I think it sounds a bit cleaner. I know it was much less work to setup the levels for the iRig, plus, I could have added any of the software amps and effects pedals that IK and others offer.
The difference between being tethered via a .25″ instrument cable to the tailpiece of your guitar, and being tethered by a small-gauge wire and a clip-on accessory to the sound hole of your instrument, however, is quite stark. I have never walked away with the house cable still attached, but, even in my office preparing the recordings and doing other testing, I found there were several times I would almost pull an iPad off the stand, or otherwise damage things. So, are the trade-offs worth it? I think the reader must be the judge. Some level of musician may only spend times recording where the iRig would be a great asset, giving previously unavailable creative freedom, while there are others who would be hamstrung to have such a small unit attached and being responsible for their sound output. But I’m glad there are options, nonetheless. For me, I like it. I’ve got an old friend I recently ran into who is wanting to get together in his studio for some recording, just for fun, and I will be happy to have the iRig going along.