iRig PreHD Digital Microphone Interface REVIEW Powerful iOS Microphone Interface
One of the problems with technology is that a rig may work well in one situation but may not scale or may not be easily used on-the-go. Home/Office Music studios often have heavy duty and expensive gear to record/experience sound and unless you have access to a trained sound team, you may not have access to some of this gear. As our iPhones have replaced more and more of our tech, we have left the camera, the video device, books, calendars, wallets, portable DVD players and sometimes musical instruments at home. We have the option to add peripherals to our smartphones or tablets, to further enhance the functionality of the iOS device. From flashes, to flashlights, to carry rigs/mounts to digital interfaces and countless dongles, our iPhone now serves as the black lion of the Voltron team and all of the components come together to form an ultimate machine. My wife has been involved with our church choir for numerous years and practices/sings with them regularly. We had been looking for a way for her to use her iPhone 7/iPad Air 2 to record herself and to work on Harmony, vocalization and intonation. When we saw the iRig PreHD, she knew immediately that she needed the device to help prepare for her upcoming solo. This kit promised to reduce the need for bulky gear and to provide an amazing option to pair a full sized microphone to her iPhone.
Companies are well aware that their packaging can drastically impact their sales. As you navigate down the aisles of any retail establishment, look at how similar the boxes are and then look for the outlying beacons. They may choose to use uncanny colors, vivid stark contrasting color combinations or perhaps weird box shapes. When I find a company that focuses on the consumer experience as much as the product itself, I tend to become a brand fan. This may be the reason that I enjoy evaluating the packaging nearly as much as the products. The iRig Pre HD packaging proved to be visually appealing, using a fun color combination. The packaging makeup/shape was not that interesting, arriving in a 6 3/8 inches wide by 6 3/8 inches tall by 2 1/8 inches thick retail package. However, the clean white front and back panels were beautifully accented by red side, upper and lower panels. iRig intelligently used their cover to display a clear glossy image fo the iRig Pre HD device and further detailed the scope with a silver microphone. The bold title was clearly present and you could easily determine what the device was designed to do based on the cover panel alone “Digital Microphone Interface for iPhone, iPad, Mac/PC.” Rotating the packaging ninety degrees clockwise, iRig provided three multicolored App thumbnails for included software: Mic Room, Mic Pack for VocalLive iOS, Pro Bundle for iRig Recorder iOS. Additionally, the device will work with other apps like GarageBand. The opposite face provided four icons representing compatibility with XLR microphones, 24bit/96kHZ Hih-Resolution, Headphone/Line out, precision gain control. They also attempted to provide a brief glimpse at the packaging contents, but this seemed to be a wasted section of real estate. Personally, I would have liked the icons spread out and the contents detailed on the back. The small side picture of the contents that was located on the side panel was a higher resolution, higher-quality picture, than that displayed along the bottom left of the back panel.
The back panel proved to be rather busy. Along the top left, iRig provided some supporting details about the side panel icons, in six different languages: compatible with XLR microphones, Class A preamp with 48V phantom power (2AA included) batteries. Direct monitoring and precise gain control, headphone output with volume control (iPhone ready), up to 24 bit/96kHz recording, USB and lightning cable included. The images detailing the iPhone and iPad app interfaces were very well placed yet I wish that they were bigger. An inked outline of the product setup was included along the bottom left and I felt that it was creative how they used a bold outline to show what was included and a faded color to show the components that were not included. Just to the right of the inked image, iRig proudly displayed the “Made for iPod, iPhone, iPad” MFI logo. The bottom panel was even busier than all of the other panels combined and suffered from package legalese. There was an included QR code along the bottom that may have been better placed on the back of the packaging or on one of the sides. To access the internal components, remove the tape blocking the cardboard wing and then open the box. Inside, you will find a black cardboard box with a cutout for the red instruction manual. This was a rather ingenious way to display the manual and was a visually pleasing surprise. Remove the two pamphlets (red instruction manual and black product manual) and set the box aside for a minute. The inside of the instruction manual mirrors the color scheme of the packaging with the red and white stop sign coloration. The manual was bareboned but adequate. If you need more information, you can use the QR code located along the inner cover to learn more. With the help of the manual, you can learn about the 27 inches long USB-micro to USB-A cable and the 27 inches long USB-micro to lightning cable, the velcro strap and the 4 1/4 inches tall by 1 1/2 inches wide by 1 5/16 inches thick iRig pre HD device. The manual instructed you to install the batteries and then to plug the micro-USB end into the iRig Pre HD box and then the lighting end into your iPhone or iPad.
I started my review by trying to pair a Fifine Professional Cardioid Studio Microphone with the iRig PreHD. I found that the microphone came with its own XLR to USB-A/3.5mm output and would not work with the iRig kit. So, I turned to Amazon and purchased a ten-foot XLR male to XLR female cable for $7. I waited forty-eight hours and when the package arrived, returned to testing the product. The iRig Pre HD had brand new batteries, I plugged in the XLR cable into the microphone and into the iRig, I turned on the 48V phantom power, connected a pair of Tribit XFree Tune headphones via 3.5mm cable into the 3.5mm port on the Pre HD device and then turned to garage band. The manual detailed the gain wheel and that you should tune the wheel to a level that allows the bottom LED to alternate between green and orange. When the LED alternated between blue and green, the instruction manual recommended that I increase the gain and if it flashed red at all, it recommended decreasing the gain. No matter what I tried, I could not get the Fifine microphone to work with the iRig. I plugged the branded Fifine microphone cable back into the microphone and plugged it into my USB port on my desktop and microphone input slot. The Fifine microphone worked well with Audacity proving that it did not work with the iRig Pre HD. I do not know if the kit simply did not provide enough phantom power or if something within the microphone caused a compatibility issue. To resolve the issue, I turned to my good friend Toby. We took the iRig to his house and tested numerous microphones. We found that out of the four we tried, we had 100% success with the iRig. The Fifine worked with his professional input station but he could not get it to work with a variety of his cables. Together we felt it was an issue with the microphone and not the iRig.
For my second round of testing, Toby allowed me to use a Behringer B2-Pro microphone. The Amazon cable plugged directly into the microphone and into the iRig Pre HD. I plugged the lightning end into my iPad Pro and then the micro-USB end into the device and the lights turned on immediately. I was able to turn the gain to the proper station, turned on GarageBand and had the plug and play experience that I hoped for. GarageBand will announce “Audio Device Connected” and ask you to turn on monitoring, which will allow you to hear yourself in the headphones. With a compatible microphone, the kit worked flawlessly and we were able to start recording without further delay. Ecstatic, my wife began to record “It is Well with my Soul,” and “Wade in the Water” in multi-part harmonies. The GarageBand tech was actually quite robust and served her purposes well, easily navigating between tracks, songs, etc. We caught a few test tracks of guitar and I look forward to using this to help me learn to play the banjo. I will be able to record audio from playing and speed it up with the tempo. This will allow me to practice slowly and steadily increase the speed. Whether you wish to record vocals or music, the iRig Pre HD should serve your purpose. After discovering that the microphone was the issue, I had no further issues with the iRig Pre HD. The product lived up to the promises on the packaging and allowed us to use studio microphones with our iPhone and iPad. Even though we are not yet to professional level audio recording, iRig makes us feel like we are very close. I have included two of the tracks that we completed below.
Originally published at macsources.com on April 24, 2018.