IK Multimedia iRig 2 review
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
TL;DR: Get this only if you’re on a budget but get ready to compromise, especially if you’re chasing high-gain tones.
What is it?
IK Multimedia’s analog adaptor for guitarists who want to plug in to a mobile device and lay down tracks, now with more features compared to its predecessor.
There is now a gain control on the iRig 2, and an amp out.
Tell me more.
The iRig is one of the most popular accessories for guitarists who want to plug their guitar into their mobile device thanks to the low purchase price and ease of use. There’s a new one out now, with new features. It is called the iRig 2.
The iRig 2 adds a ‘gain control’ wheel that controls the amount of gain going into the mobile device, which is necessary. It also adds an amp out, meaning you can send your processed signal direct to the mixing board or PA system, and choose to send either a wet or dry signal (there’s a switch on the iRig 2) to an amp so that you can monitor yourself as well. A very useful feature for live situations, no doubt.
The iRig 2 is made entirely of plastic, but it seems like tough, hard-wearing plastic, so it should last a long time. The switch and wheel aren’t top notch, but that’s okay, considering the price. The 3.5mm cable worries me a little, though, because there is no way to detach it from the main body, and it isn’t angled. If you carted this around a lot (and it IS supposed to be portable, right?) there’s every chance that you’ll end up breaking the cable inside, despite the protective bit where the cable enters the housing being the most impressive component of the iRig 2.
The first big stumbling block is the fact that while the iRig 2 works well with iOS devices, there isn’t any assurance that it will work well with an Android device. It exhibited latency when paired with an Android phone, but I believe that has more to do with the Android operating system rather than the iRig. So you’re limited to iOS mobile devices, then – that’s iPads and iPhones… which haven’t had a 3.5mm jack for a generation or two now. Hmm.
Luckily, I have an iPad Pro from the last generation with the 3.5mm jack, so I’m a great customer for the iRig 2. I plugged it in, started up Positive Grid’s Bias FX 2 Mobile, and the clean tones coming out of this were great! This was really enjoyable! Now that we’ve established it works well, how about some dirt? So I switched to something with a lot of drive, and promptly went deaf from feedback.
What I didn’t know is that there is some signal ‘leakage’ between the input and output in the iRig, and has been a problem with the original iRig as well, which is why the gain control has made an appearance on it. I shot off an email to Positive Grid asking for a solution, and they don’t have any. Disappointed, I switched to Amplitube for iPad, and was rewarded with wonderful high-gain tones devoid of feedback. There is a weird sudden drop off in volume at the tail end of a sustained note, especially from low-output guitar pickups, and it has nothing to do with a noise gate pedal. This is just a hunch, but I suspect that iOS has an anti-feedback feature, and that is controlling the drop in volume in these cases.
In the interests of science I then plugged in the iRig 2 to the headphone/mic port of my Macbook Air, loaded Amplitube 4, and even though I was prepared, I was still half-deafened by feedback, again. Sadly, then, the iRig 2 will work only if you’re prepared to live with low gain tones, or to fork out the dough for Amplitube’s iOS mobile version, with all its various add-ons.
Should I buy it?
iOS devices have long since given up the 3.5mm jack; in fact, they’ve begun giving up on the lightning connector as well, and have now started using Type C connectors. This makes the iRig 2 an anachronism, especially considering its problematic use with Android devices, for which IK Multimedia suggests the iRig UA, which is a digital adaptor like the iRig HD series but optimised for Android.
There’s another problem, that of devices that do exactly what the iRig 2 does, and in the same form as well – but at a fraction of the cost. Sure, the quality won’t be as good, and you won’t get the free software that IK invariably bundles with its products, but the target audience for the iRig 2 is someone on a budget, and if you offer that audience a similar product at a fifth of the price… you get where this is going, don’t you?
Verdict: If you have the budget, you’ll be better off buying a digital adaptor instead. If you’re really strapped for cash, there are options like the Focusrite iTrack Pocket that give you the option of stereo onboard mics as well as an instrument input for a mere Rs 500 more than the iRig 2. Else you can choose from a wealth of no-name, no-warranty products that cost around Rs 1000 to test the waters, and see if going fully portable is your cup of tea. If you decide it isn’t, the price of your education is very little in comparison.
Price as purchased: Rs 4954 from Bajaao.com, inclusive of Rs 250 shipping.