iRig 2 – the £30 guitar effects pedal for your iPhone 6 (or Android device)
The iRig 2 is a simple device that lets you hook up an electric guitar (or other instrument) to your smartphone or tablet. You can use it to record instrumental parts in GarageBand and the like, or to play live through an amp simulator or audio–effects app. Both 3.5mm and 1/4in jack output sockets are provided, so you can listen along through headphones, feed the signal out to a stereo system or plug it into a real guitar amplifier. See also: In depth – iPhone 6 review
The idea itself is admittedly not that fresh. The original iRig came out way back in 2010, and this updated version is functionally very similar. The 1/4in amplifier output is new, however – the original design had a headphone output only – as is the gain-control knob, which lets you dial down the input level if the signal from your instrument is too “hot”. There’s also a new “FX/Thru” switch that you can flick to bypass the connected phone or tablet, and play clean through your headphones or amp.
Since the iRig 2 plugs into the headphone socket (like a wired headset), it will work with any generation of iPhone or iPad (including the iPad Air 2), as well as a variety of many Android devices and various Mac and PC systems.
The £30 price doesn’t include much in the way of software – just the free edition of IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube, which offers only a single Marshall-type amp model with delay and noise–gate effects – but once you’re up and running you can buy additional features, or take your pick from numerous affordable alternatives. iPad users can also draw on the impressive range of amp simulators and effects built into GarageBand.
We tested the iRig 2 with an iPad Air and found it did an admirably straightforward job. At first our recordings picked up an unwelcome crackling noise, but this vanished when we switched to a different charging cable. If you’re looking for it, you can also detect a tiny degree of latency between plucking a string and hearing the processed sound in your headphones, but again this is down to Apple’s hardware, and it’s subtle enough to forget about entirely once you get into the groove.
Bedroom musicians might wonder whether it’s also possible to hook up a microphone, but if you try it you’ll get a very quiet signal: the iRig 2 is designed only for instrument-level and line-level inputs. The good news is that, since these require little or no amplification, you don’t need to worry about batteries or charging cables.
The £30 price may feel a little steep for a device that does such a simple job, but the iRig 2 is a plug-and-forget interconnect that lets you focus on being creative – and by the standards of guitar (and iPad) accessories, it’s a bargain.