24-bit/96kHz recordings with the iRig Pro I/O mobile audio/MIDI interface
The iRig Pro I/O is the successor of the iRig Pro. It’s slightly bigger but offers higher specs and more professional capabilities, including headphones monitoring and a dedicated power supply that charges your iPad while recording.
The iRig Pro I/O is bigger than the iRig Pro and that’s a good thing. It looks sturdier than the previous model and runs off two AA batteries or your Mac’s USB-port — or even better: off its own optional DC power supply unit that will be available soon. The slightly elevated and tooth-edged gain wheel makes it a lot easier to operate, while the numbers make it easier to remember settings when using the same equipment on different occasions.
Two quite large multi-colour LEDs show you power and recording levels at a glance. The whole thing is rubberised. That is not my favourite material as it tends to become sticky after a while, but it withstands bumping and scratching much better than the glossy surface of the iRig Pro Duo. The back of the unit is home to the AA batteries and has a cavity to guide through an included velcro strip so you can attach the unit to a mic stand or similar.
The iRig Pro I/O also features a 1/4″ Hi-Z input that handles passive and active pickup configurations. Just as the older iRig Pro, the new model has a MIDI Out jack (and included cables) that lets you easily chain and control outboard MIDI gear. Finally, the iRig Pro I/O delivers 48W phantom power for condenser microphones.
I put the new iRig Pro to the test, using the older model and an iRig Duo for direct comparison. For sound quality comparisons, I used my trusted Apogee Duet iPad/Mac. The microphone I used was my equally trusted sE Electronics SE2200a — a microphone that needs phantom power and has a nice low noise floor.
The first thing that you’ll notice when reading the iRig Pro I/O specs is that it’s now a 24bits/96kHz device. The iRig Pro and Duo models both stop at 48kHz. This is enough if you’re not going to process your sound but higher values are better when you plan to. Latency is non-existent with the iRig Pro I/O while recordings are crystal-clear and balanced throughout the frequency range of 20 to 20kHz.
The iRig Pro I/O or the Apogee Duet iPad/Mac?
However, the litmus test as far as I am concerned was the comparison with the Duet. As with previous IK Multimedia products, I noticed how well the iRig Pro I/O performed. I used the gain wheel on each device to slowly increase the signal until it clipped. My signal was a voice recording that I played back at a fixed level. What I noticed was that the iRig Pro I/O stayed below -20dB until I reached level 6 on the wheel. At level 7 it started to increase to about -10dB and at level 8 it started clipping occasionally. Levels 9 and 10 were too high for the signal I used.
Up to and including level 7, there was no noise added to the signal that I could hear — nor see when I opened the recording of the test in SpectraLayers Pro. The same test performed with the Apogee Duet iPad/Mac showed a more gradual build-up of noise. When it comes to noise, I found the iRig Pro I/O to perform incredibly good for its price.
The more expensive Apogee Duet iPad/Mac only showed its superiority in the lower frequencies. In SpectraLayers Pro I could clearly see the Duet picking up more bass tones than the iRig Pro I/O, which is not to say the iRig Pro I/O sounds like a tin can — far from it. In many recordings with the Duet, I find myself turning down the low frequencies somewhat in order to create a more balanced result.
Especially with interviews, I would prefer the iRig Pro I/O above the Duet for two reasons: the bass levels of the Duet when the recorded voices are male, and the hassle of having to plug in the Duet into a wall outlet before you can start using it with your iPad or iPhone. For musical recordings, it all depends on what you prefer and which music you’re recording. However, if you want to avoid the hassle that is inevitable with the Duet, the iRig Pro I/O will certainly not ruin a recording.
Personally, I would only grab my Duet when I would have to record a symphonic orchestra because of the stereo image, which becomes especially complex in the low frequencies.
In addition, the iRig Pro I/O comes with a whole feast of apps for your iPad/iPhone to get you started immediately. If you happen to own an iRig PowerBridge, you can power the iRig Pro I/O. The dedicated power supply unit, however, guarantees a better user experience and a less cluttered (cable management!) environment. The iRig Pro I/O costs €182.99. That’s a very decent price for what it offers.