iRig Pre HD by IK Multimedia
Handy microphone recording solution for every pocket – quite literally; a small, inexpensive interface with A class preamps.
by Alex Arsov, Jan. 2018
I record various vocalists and sometimes when they don’t have much time, or they can’t come for any reason, I pack my laptop, my condenser microphone and my old USB audio interface and go to them. The microphone has its own box, same for the laptop, leaving the problem of how to transport my audio USB box without braking the knobs. After all, you only have two hands, so carrying three things at once can be a bit tricky. I’m also quite a bit into video production, so taking all these things out into the field and connecting everything together can be a bit of a demanding task. In both cases I need the best mic preamp I can get to avoid editing madness later during the post production process.
I already have a few IKM hardware products, so I knew what to expect when I ordered this one, being sure that it would make my musical life a bit easier. As soon as I got iRig Pre HD, I tried it with my main laptop to see if it could replace my big, old USB audio interface. No matter that in the specifications it says that the gain range is 40 dB, I found iRig Pre HD to be loud enough for recording vocals normally, as I’ve had issues with some other USB interfaces, where the signal was too low, no matter that some of them went up to 70 dB. Here the signal was loud but very clean with nice definition.
The main advantage of iRig Pre HD is not just the pocket size along with the low price, while still having class A preamps, but the fact that it also works with iPhone, iPod range, as with Mac, PC and even with Android. For that last one you’ll need a special cable that can be purchased directly from the IK Multimedia site.
So taking high quality audio and video out into the field is not a big issue anymore. You need a good field microphone with a stand and your phone along with iRig Pre HD. A friend of mine, a well-known Slovenian vocalist, told me that she has made many recordings for her last album directly on her iPad. With this small preamp that supports phantom power, I assume her travelling life could hardly get much easier than it already is.
You might think that normal USB interfaces are not such big beasts, but it makes a difference if you can just put your USB interface into your pocket and use an iPhone instead of your laptop.
After toying with my dynamic microphone I put batteries into iRig Pre HD and tried it with my condenser microphone. It is surprising how good this small thing is. Absolutely no hiss or crackles or anything similar. Also the sound was clean and present, on the same level as on some better models of USB or Firewire interfaces. IK iRig Pre HD also offers direct monitoring, so you are able to combine music from your DAW with the direct input of your connected microphone. Of course, for that purpose you should enable low latency monitoring to avoid a double signal. I tried this option and it works quite well, the only difference being that I noticed the background music was not at the same quality on headphones as it is when I listen to it through the direct output on my PC, but I presume you don’t need high quality background while recording your takes, especially as the microphone sound can be heard as it is, without any quality loss. I think this is an absolute bonus and must-have for any field recordings, or even when you are recording vocal takes with your iPhone, iPad or any other travelling recording device using multitrack recording software, being able to control the quality of your recorded takes at the same time.
iRig Pre HD offers up to 96 KHz / 24-bit resolution sound quality with full flat response from 20 Hz up to 20 KHz. At the heart of the box is a Class A microphone preamp.
What Do We Get?
A small black interface made of solid plastic (it doesn’t look cheap), and can fit into the palm of your hand – 11 x 4 x 4 cm. It comes with Lighting and USB cables and two AA batteries that you’ll need just when using phantom power.
At the bottom is an XLR microphone input without security switch (I didn’t find this to be problem as the cable fit perfectly, not being loose at all).
On the front of the box are two led indicators, the upper one showing when phantom power is switched on while the lower one changes color – from a blue light to let us know that iRig Pre HD is connected, green for signal too low, orange for balanced input, and red when the signal is too hot.
On the left side are switches for turning phantom power on and off, along with a gain control, while on the right-hand side is a direct monitoring switch and headphone gain control.
At the top is a small headphone output along with Lightning and USB cable connectors.
More or less, that is all regarding the hardware. There is also some Microphone modeling software included for all platforms. I must admit that I haven’t installed it, as years ago I tried some similar software. I believe that this piece of software from IK Multimedia is a quality one, but truth be told, if you have a solid microphone and a good microphone preamp, as iRig Pre HD definitely is, there is no need to change anything. If the microphone or preamp are not up to the task, then no software will help you.
For €99 EUR you get big quality in a small box that gives you professional results, works with all microphones and can be connected to most platforms. I’m already using it in my home studio as the main microphone preamp and will use it in video production. It can also come in handy for recording band rehearsals or recording acoustic guitar and vocal takes when you are on the move. After all, you only need an iPhone, an iPad or a laptop, a solid microphone and iRig Pre HD, and you’re in business.
A very handy solution. Literally.
For iPhone, iPad, Mac and PC.