Audio, Reviews

Recording audio to an iPad with the iRig Pro Duo

Irig pro duo audio interface

It comes with its own batteries to drive 48V phantom powered microphones, has two Neutrik XLR/TRS audio jacks for mics and instruments, two MIDI ports, two speaker output ports and a headphone interface. The iRig Pro Duo is a cross-platform portable audio interface and I was curious to hear how well it sounds.

IK Multimedia’s iRig Pro Duo comes with all the cables you need to connect to your iOS or Android device, and your Mac or PC. The box contains a Lightning, USB-OTG and a USB cable as well as two MIDI cables. A nice surprise for a mobile audio interface is that the iRig Pro Duo is powered with two AA batteries, so it does not draw any power from a connected iPhone or iPad — something that I found less appealing when I reviewed the iRig Pro earlier. The device is a rectangular polycarbonate black box with a glossy polished surface. It has four LEDs each capable of communicating multiple status messages through colour changes.

The iRig Pro Duo looks great, but I fear the beautiful looks won’t last long if you’re not careful. It’s the same observation I made when I reviewed the Duet for iPad/Mac a couple of years ago. You’ll have to be careful not to damage the glossy surface — unless you don’t give a hoot, of course.

Irig pro duo audio interface

When you’re using the included USB or Micro-USB to OTG cable connected to a laptop or Android device, the iRig Pro Duo can be powered by the attached device or the iRig’s batteries. There’s also an additional DC power input for powering extended recording sessions, but a DC power block is missing from the box.

The iRig Pro Duo allows for maximum flexibility where it concerns the recording environment and the device you’re recording to, but the sound quality is what really matters. As with every recording unit I try out, I tested it with two sE Electronics studio mics, a Rode Videomic and the sE Electronics ProMic Laser video mic. The former two require 48V phantom power, the latter two don’t. This time as before, the Apogee Duet for iPad/Mac was my reference device. I set both devices to record in 16-bit/44.1 kHz.

My first impression was that the iRig Pro Duo’s maximum gain level is about 2/3d that of the Duet. Subsequent tests confirmed this. Another impression that got confirmed is that it generates a less noisy recording. So, you need to crank up the volume if you want the same sound level as with the Duet, but you end up with a nice low noise recording.

Voice recordings sound great, but lack a bit of punch at the low end. Setting the gain is easier than with the iRig Pro audio interface, but it’s still a bit tricky. Finding the sweet spot for an acoustic guitar, for example, wasn’t simple. It took quite a bit of turning the knob in small increments to find the exact spot where the signal wouldn’t clip, but would be high enough.

Having said that, I’d prefer the iRig Pro Duo for recordings with an iPad above the Duet. Although the latter is sturdier — it’s metal after all — it’s also quite heavy and its OLED display easily damaged. It’s also not practical to run the Duet audio interface off a MacBook’s battery and impossible to run it off an iPad’s battery. The iRig Pro Duo is less sturdy, but given a bit of careful handling it will do just fine. It too delivers 24-bit audio (although “only” up to 48kHz — which, by the way, sounds just as good as higher sample rates) and as with the Duet you can monitor the recording on headphones directly off the unit. Latency is virtually non-existent.

If you want to also process your audio file on the iPad, I would recommend Vocalive. I briefly tried out the basic version and it enables you to further enhance your vocal recordings with compressors, Eqs, etc. The interface is simple yet nicely designed. It can compete with much more expensive DAWs if you purchase the in-app extensions that enable multi-channel recording. And it has an in-app option to make your mic sound like other microphones!

The iRig Pro Duo costs €243.99.