Amplifying acoustic guitars has come a long way since the early 60s and 70s. A common form of acoustic amplification today is the Piezo pickup. That style of pickup is fine if your guitar comes with it built in, but what happens when you have an older guitar or a new one that you want to amplify? You could retro fit a Piezo pickup in your acoustic, but do you want to drill a hole into your 30-year-old guitar? The alternative is an external mic or pickup system and while there are several fine products of this type on the market, almost all of them still require you to run some sort of cord system so you can plug into an amplifier. The iSolo wireless acoustic pickup is designed to change that with a wireless pickup that transmits to your amp or computer for recording.
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Before I go too far with this review, at the time of this writing, iSolo is currently an Indiegogo project seeking funding to bring this product to market. From what I could learn from the crowd funding page, the iSolo comes in two packages. The first which I am reviewing is the recording package containing the transmitter, recording receiver and Magic carpet. The second package has all the previous listed plus a live receiver. The live receiver is designed to allow you to plug into an amplifier.
The iSolo recording I am reviewing comes with the following:
- ISolo guitar microphone
- Recording receiver
- Magic carpet (2, one already attached to the iSolo and a replacement)
- USB to Micro USB charging cable
- Carrying case
- Quick start guide
- Warranty card
- Checklist card (inside the case)
Truly a lot of goodies for a small package.
As you can see from the photo above the iSolo is not that big, coming in at 2 3/8″ long by 1″ wide by 3/8″ thick it weighs .95 ounces. The top has the iSolo logo and an LED light,
The bottom of the iSolo has the Magic carpet and a built-in mic with a cloth covering. I believe this is a leftover design from the violin version of the iSolo.
The front of the iSolo has:
- Micro USB charger input
- Power indicator
- On/off pair button
- Pre -amp gain slider
The back of the iSolo has a flexible mic and the product serial number.
The flexible mic on the iSolo is approximately 5 3/4″ long so that will dictate where you will be able to mount this device.
The left side of the iSolo has an antenna protruding out of it while the right side has no noticeable features.
The included USB recording receiver is approximately 3 1/2″ long and will plug into you computer or iPad/iPhone if you have an Apple Lightning to USB camera adapter.
One of great feature and possible flaw of the iSolo is that fact that it has a built-in rechargeable battery. To charge the iSolo you simply plug the included USB to Micro USB cable into a USB outlet and into the iSolo Micro USB input. My only concern with this system is long-term battery life.
After charging my iSolo, the next decision was to decide where I would mount the iSolo transmitter. There are some things you need to consider when placing the transmitter, such as your play style and distance from the sound hole. I chose to place mine above and in front of the sound hole. After running the microphone under the strings and placing the transmitter on my guitar I fiddled around with the flexible mic arm to get the mic exactly where I wanted it (in the center of my sound hole). The flexible arm on the mic will let you play around with the location of the mic to change the sound a little.
Since I moved away from my desktop computer, I use my iPad for recording and just about anything else so that is how I will be doing my initial testing. As stated earlier in this review you will need an Apple Lightning to USB camera adapter, which I have. The iSolo is compatible with Apple’s Garage Band so that is what I will be using. For sound comparison, I will be recording two samples, one will be with the iSolo the other will be using the onboard active Piezo pickup and an iRig to play into the iPad. I recorded two samples for sound comparison and these are my thoughts. Using the iSolo produces a more natural ambient sound, a little deeper in tone and feel. This sound is similar to what you get when you play into a mic with the added ability of being able to move around. The Piezo recording sounds good, but a little more processed. Having the ability to dial in the sound with my Piezo’s onboard electronics is nice as well. So, from a recording and use perspective, it all comes down to what sound you are looking for.
Links to sound demos:
So, what’s my bottom line here? The iSolo seems to be a fine product and I like it. The fact that it will allow you to amplify your acoustic guitar without drilling or wiring things is a great feature. Sound quality was good and rich as I would expect from a mic situation. I must say on a scale from one to ten for ease of use I would only give the iSolo about a 7. The main issue with me is the positioning of the mic. I can appreciate that the iSolo gives you a lot of flexibility in how you mount the transmitter, but that is also it’s shortcoming when you are trying to get the mic positioned in the sound hole. The other issue I had with the iSolo was the Magic carpet not sticking for long periods of time. I was sent an additional Magic carpet and my instruction did tell me that I could clean the Magic carpet with water to enhance its performance, but I am still skeptical about long term usage. I mentioned the rechargeable battery above so I will not go into that. As I stated at the time of writing the iSolo is an Indiegogo project seeking funding until the 16 of February 2016, with a $139 pledge getting you the same iSolo package I am reviewing. If successful the iSolo will ship in the April 2016 time frame.
From iSolo: Few weeks ago, we redesigned the “sound hole stand” which will be included in the package. Here’s the video about how to use and install it. Video Link Also we have tested it on several Android phones (Samsung Note5, Samsung Note4…)