The iRig Pre has been a highly popular device among Smule singers to use professional microphones with the Sing! app. But since more and more mobile devices now come without an analog headphone socket, the iRig Pre can’t be connected anymore – at least not easily. But IK Multimedia, the makers of the iRig Pre, launched a new series of digital audio adapters: the iRig Pre HD (~US$ 100) and the iRig Pro I/O (~US$ 150). We tested the latter and tell you how it works with Smule.
The iRig Pre I/O and Pre HD provide an studio-quality sound with a 24-bit A/D conversion and a sample rate of up to 96 kHz. There is very little background noise, which can’t be heard anymore after the recording has passed Smule’s audio processing. So you can expect a much better sound than with the iRig Pre or with the usually rather noisy headsets. And since the audio data is delivered digitally to the device, there is no loss of quality anymore through the connection itself and the processing in the phone/tablet.
Comparision: the iRig Pro and the iRig Pre
The new digital interfaces are much bigger than the iRig Pre. You can just lay the device on a flat surface or use the included Velcro strip to attach it to mic or phone stand. This works okay, but a more robust way to attach the rather expensive device securely to microphone stands wouldn’t hurt.
The iRig Pro I/O connections and buttons:
- A power supply unit is not included, but supported. The official one from IK Multimedia can cost you another 40 to 50 dollars, but it will allow you to use the device permanently and even charge your phone! This is a significant advantage of the device. The older iRig Pre only works with batteries and needs a lot of them, especially when used with condenser mics.
- If you don’t buy the power supply, you can run the device with two AA batteries.
- The iRig Pro I/O comes with a lightning cable for iOS devices and a USB cable for desktop computers. A cable for Android phones is sold separately.
- A nice feature is that the device powers on by connecting it to your phone/tablet/computer. No need to turn it on and off manually all the time!
Headphone socket and control
- You can connect your headphones directly to the iRig Pro I/O. No need for messy splitter solutions if your phone doesn’t have a headphone socket anymore. The output comes directly from your phone/tablet. So it’s not limited to direct mic monitoring, which is a problem of some other digital audio interfaces.
- The audio quality of the headphone output is excellent and you can also control the volume directly on the device.
- At the bottom of the iRig Pro I/O you can connect either a XLR microphone or a line input with a 1/4" jack.
- A switch to turn on the 48 V phantom power for condenser mics is on the left side of the device.
- To set the output gain, there is a big control dial on the front of the device.
- Smule users who also play electronic instruments can also use the audio interface to send and receive MIDI data.
If you buy the iRig Pro I/O and the official power supply unit, you will have to spend around $200. If that is too much for you, you might want to take a look at the iRig Pre HD, which costs around $100. It offers the same audio quality but lacks some of the connection options of the I/O: there is no external power supply, no line input and no MIDI in/out.
Comparision: iRig Pro I/O (left) and iRig Pre HD (right)
Using the iRig Pro I/O with the Sing! app
Unfortunately, there is currently no official support for lightning-based audio interfaces in the Sing! app. So by default, the signals from the iRig Pro I/O will be ignored by the Sing! app. In order to use the audio interface, you have to use a work-around. Start Apple’s GarageBand app, create a new project and turn on Monitoring. Then go to the Advanced Settings in the Song Settings and turn on “Run in background”. This way, other apps, which don’t use the signals from the lightning port, can use the signals from GarageBand instead. And this also works with the Sing! app. Now lunch the Sing! app and start recording. You will notice another issue: During recording you will only hear the audio processing you have set up in GarageBand, not the Smule audio filters. They will work on the review screen and in the final recording though.
Setting all this up correctly can take some time. You now have volume/gain controls in three places: the iRig Pro I/O, GarageBand and the Sing! app. But once you found your perfect settings, it’s not a problem anymore. You just connect the iRig Pro I/O, start GarageBand and the Sing! app and you can record easily.
The iRig Pro I/O provides excellent audio quality and with the optional power supply unit you can power the audio interface and even your phone/tablet permanently. This makes it a great solution for very active Smule users who are looking for optimal sound quality. It’s also a good interface if your singing is not limited to mobile devices. You can use the iRig Pro I/O for high-quality recordings on your computer as well.
But as long as it is not officially supported by Smule, it is not a turn-key solution for the Sing! app. If you are tech-savvy user, the GarageBand work-around might not bother you too much. But if you like a simple solution you can just plug in, the iRig Pro I/O might not be for you. At least not at this point. There is still hope that Smule will extend it’s support for third-party devices in the future. After all, the mentioned problems are only software issues. Smule could support audio interfaces like the digital devices from IK Multimedia directly. Once that is the case, this review will get updated and we would then highly recommend the iRig Pro I/O (Amazon link) for all Smule users wanting to sing with professional XLR microphones.
Edited by opentype