IK Multimedia – iRig Acoustic Stage
Just plug your acoustic or nylon guitar and start recording, no matter if you’re at home or on the road. It’s small, simple to use and sounds great – that’s the IK iRig Acoustic Stage.
by Alex Arsov, Mar. 2017
This is a portable digital microphone system for acoustic guitar. An ideal solution for gigs or for recording your acoustic guitar in a home studio or in any other location. The truth should be told – I perform live just a few times a year, so let’s concentrate for a moment more on the studio recording aspect. The main question is: does it sound like acoustic guitar recorded in a bathroom with two quality condenser microphones? Maybe not, but surprisingly it comes very close, good enough for any pro or semi-pro recording. With a touch of reverb and a bit of equalizer even quite an average old nylon guitar could sounds just perfect. I’m impressed with the fact that no matter how many different acoustic and nylon guitars I’ve tried with IK iRig Acoustic Stage, I’ve never had any issue with lowest string booming or overwhelming other frequencies and ruining the whole recording just because you didn’t set the microphones up correctly. It is something that can’t be corrected just with an equalizer.
Let me emphisize how easy is to set up the whole system to prepare for recording. Everything can be done in less than a minute. I presume big studios will not use this for recording big names from the music industry, but it seems like an ideal solution for any home studio owner and, of course, for stage performance purposes. It is an ideal solution for any modern day troubadours that perform regularly in clubs or other small venues. iRig Acoustic Stage allows you to move freely on a stage providing full and rich natural sound of your guitar without any additional equipment. All you need is your guitar, iRig Acoustic Stage and one guitar cable for connecting the iRig interface to the main amplifier. There is also a belt clip included for attaching the iRig Acoustic Stage DSP interface directly to your belt. All in all a simple, small and portable solution that allows you to concentrate on your music without loosing your time and nerves setting everything to sound as it should.
The pickup is a small microphone in a triangle shape (looking like a plectrum) with a tiny cable for connecting it to the main iRig Acoustic Stage DSP interface. The main interface is powered by two AA batteries (included in the package). There’s a belt clip and a nice carry box too. For connecting it to the PC, you will need an extra USB to Mini USB cable. I tried with my mobile cable (the one that most new mobile phones use for charging) and it fits perfectly. So, problem solved.
The interface device is a box with a digital preamp. IK Multimedia is a well-known developer of various software amp simulations. If you are familiar with Amplitube 4 then you know that they already experimented with acoustic emulations that can convert an electric guitar into an acoustic one. I presume that making an acoustic guitar sound like an electric one is much less complicated than making electric sound like acoustic. There is a preamp provided with integrated software, capitalizing on all the knowledge of software emulations that IKM has amassed over the years. But enough about the internals – let’s concentrate on the nice looking externals. The first thing you notice will be two big round buttons. The red “Cancel Feedback” button does exactly what its name suggests. I tried this one on my son’s guitar amp (since I’m totally on software, only here and there using my POD, it is almost impossible to get feedback). My conclusions: if you are not standing inside the speaker, this button will definitely do the job correctly. Next is a big “Tone” button. Here we can select one of the six different preamp settings. Three for acoustic guitar with still strings and another three for nylon guitar, choosing between Natural,Warm, or Bright settings. Somehow I always end with the Warm option, no matter which guitar I use, but I presume this is just a matter of personal taste. There is also an option, which is nicely described in the manual, allowing us to calibrate the preamp by analyzing of your guitar and finding the best solution for it. The whole process takes less than two minutes, plus an additional few seconds the interface needs to calculate the results. I have tried this function with my ancient nylon guitar and the calibration went nicely, making some discrete improvements to the “natural dullness” that’s a trademark for that particular museum piece of gear.
At the top of the interface we find two mono jacks. One is labeled AUX for inserting a guitar cable for combining the sound from Piezo pickups with the sound from the MEMS microphone that comes with iRig Acoustic Stage. At the bottom is a Mix knob for setting the level of the Piezo signal in correlation to the MEMS microphone.
The other Out jack is aimed at connecting a DSP interface with external amplifier through the guitar cable. Between those two jacks is an input for MEMS microphone along with a mini USB connector for connecting the interface with your PC, Mac, Android or iPad, iPod. There is also a Volume knob for setting the level of the input signal. On the side is an On-Off switch and a phase inverting switch. That is all, everything else is an inside job, magically provided by the IK Multimedia programmers. The whole box is quite solidly built, so I presume it can easily survive numerous gigs.
MEMS microphone is simple to use. All you need to do is to stick it on a guitar sound hole, without any further modifications needed on the instrument itself. The only thing that bothers me is the tiny cable that rubs against the sound hole edge. and I really hope that it doesn’t get broken too soon if I stick and remove it many times.
iRig Acoustic Stage can be used with Mac and PC (through the ASIO4ALL driver). It also works with almost all iPod and iPad models, even with some Android ones, at least those that support Samsung Professional Audio Technology, or with any other Android 5 device that uses the USB OTG connector.
For €122 EUR we get an ideal home studio solution for recording acoustic and nylon guitars. It is hard to find a studio or even home without an acoustic guitar, so maybe it’s time to start using it. For that money there is absolutely no better solution for the task, so I’m totally grateful to IK Multimedia for making such an easy-to-use tool that sounds at least as good as, if not better than, most other not-so-easy-to-use solutions considering that miking acoustic guitar with two microphones is not an easy task for a beginner. To do this right you need to know how to set everything up to avoid phase issues and find the sweet spot in your bathroom. Yes, there is no better place for recording acoustic guitars than in a bathroom. And let’s not forget avoiding the aforementioned issues with the lower strings. If you are a home studio owner or acoustic performer then this is just the perfect tool for covering all acoustic, nylon guitar needs. As I’m getting older, I’m becoming a big fan of simplicity. The iRig Acoustic Stage is as simple as simple can be and yet sounds surprisingly good.
For more information, check out the IK Multimedia iRig Acoustic Stage page here: