Review: iRIG Pro DUO Lets You Use Your iPad to Record Music on the Go

 iRIG Pro DUO Lets You Use Your iPad to Record Music on the Go

IK Multimedia, maker of many things for the mobile musician, has released a new audio gadget, called the iRig Pro DUO. The normal iRig Pro model, which is plenty cool by the way, does have one minor limitation. You can connect a mic or a guitar, but not both. The iRig Pro DUO ($199 MSRP) addresses this with dual input/output channels that allow you to jam out, record, and mix music from vocals and instrument on your iPad, and it has a few other worthy tricks thrown in for good measure.

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The iRig Pro DUO is about the size of a typical direct box, though maybe a tad fatter, and it serves a similar but expanded function—to interface your signal output to the audio situation that you make music in: be it a P.A. system, mixing or recording equipment, computer, or Android or iOS device. The point is to get music from a connected microphone and guitar (insert your audio-capable instrument of choice) out to other sound equipment. You need to provide the 1/4" instrument cables, but most everything else is provided in the kit (cable-wise).

Most direct boxes work off phantom power coming from a mixing board and require an XLR connection. They are typically designed for a single channel and many will have a ground switch to kill off ground loops. Direct boxes are standard for connecting acoustic instruments that have an internal instrument pickup (like an acoustic/electric guitar) without some other form of amplification. They can cost anywhere between about $20 and $300. The Duo provides its own phantom power option for use with high quality condenser model mics, and the power options can come from a connected laptop or iPad or iPhone. The functionality provided by the Pro DUO makes it one of the more flexible audio interfaces for portable recording support. 2 status lights on the front indicate signal levels and rotating gain controls for both inputs allow detailed control of the levels.

The DUO can serve duty as a direct box (provided you have an iPad or iPhone handy) as it does offer two balanced output 1/4" connectors, though it lacks the XLR interface commonly found in mixing or performance scenarios (which means you have to convert signal with an adapter). This is probably not really that big of a deal unless you really are set on using this live and need a super long run to a mixing board for your dual channels. However, the DUO, like many IK audio gadgets has the ability of interfacing to both MIDI input/output and iOS or computing devices (which can act as MIDI controller for software or send output to device). A switch along the side also allows you to turn on/off unprocessed output when monitoring through headphones (a headphone jack and volume control also provided).

On the app side, IK has done good work over the years developing apps that are specifically designed for musicians looking to use their devices (Mac, PC, iOS, Android) to make, enhance and record music on the device. They range from the free guitar amp apps like Amplitube, Vocal Live (a vocal oriented app similar in functions to Amplitube) to more production-level apps like Sample Tank. They are active in updating and adding features to their apps, and it has been my experience that they work well and are intuitive to use. My biggest complaint is that the most compelling app features (accessed through in-app purchases) are not cheap: It's $9.99 for the full version of Amplitube, for example. This makes many of the best app features out of range for a struggling musician. Of course you can stick with the free Garage Band and get similar mixing mileage. The free versions of the IK apps are still very capable; however, the fact that you can't do multi-track or looping is a major buzz-kill for recording something like a demo.

IK needs to build in more flexibility with their own gear for this to be a true Swiss army knife for musicians. For example, I can't use the DUO with a MIDI-over-USB keyboard. When connected to iPad, I can't power my iPad. I can do one thing—MIDI control or music—with the DUO, but not both. Example: The Blueboard pedal stomp accessory can only send signals back to an app like Amplitube (not out to my Line 6 amp) when I connect DUO to my Line 6 (using the included MIDI cables). However, I could use another app to send MIDI control signals, but not simultaneously while using Amplitube. You also can't use an iRIG microphone like the iRig Mic Studio with this configuration (as both require connection to your Lightning port) unless you simply run it into your computer or another recording target and then mix it in later (which defeats the purpose of dual channels).

Pros

  • Portable dual channel recording capability
  • Good range of apps

Cons

  • iOS can limit I/O effectiveness
  • Needs more app freebies

Final Verdict

What IK Multimedia has done with the DUO is to double-down the I/O options on their original iRIG products, which is perfect for anyone who needs the ability to quickly produce twin-channel vocals and music practically anywhere. It gets my stamp of approval, and worked well in all my test cases, but I would probably go with the free Audacity or Garage Band (or maybe even the pricey Pro Tools) apps on a PC or Mac for more serious sampling and recording endeavors. However, it is still handy to have the IK sampling and recording apps on the iPad or iPhone for that on-the-go session.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 <<Needs rating logo here>>

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Author Details

Nate Adcock's picture

Author Details

Nate Adcock

Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.tumblr.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.