IK Multimedia iRig STOMP
The iRig stompbox is a devilishly simple tool for controlling IK Multimedia’s popular Amplitube iOS software (as well as GarageBand and a slew of other apps, the company notes). You just connect the pedal to a 9V battery or Boss-style adapter, plug your guitar into the input jack and your amp or P.A. mixing console into the output (or a pair of headphones into the headphone jack), and set the signal level of the guitar via the large knob. The pedal connects to an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad with a specialized 1/8" cable that sends the guitar’s signal to the Apple device, through the Amplitube app for processing, and back to the pedal where the processed tone is sent to dual output jacks. This quick and painless setup allows Amplitube to mesh with your live guitar rig. And since you can program Amplitube patches to bypass amp modeling entirely, you can use the iRig Stomp to add any of the software’s effects into your pedal chain—transforming your Apple device a potent and useful effects processor.
The iRig Stomp put latency concerns to rest—demonstrating excellent response from a rig made up of a Stratocaster, iPhone 5 and a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier. Older devices like the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 performed just as well as the newer iPhone 5 did, too. The output was completely free of the annoying pops and clicks that result from poor analog-to-digital conversion. However, there was a noticeable drop in low end when using the amp models, as well as grainer digital artifacts in the high-end output in the app’s higher gain settings. Unfortunately, I could only correct these issues this from the app’s settings panel, instead of from a knob on the pedal—which would greatly improve its usability for players who don’t want to navigate menus to do something as simple as setting volume.
Despite those problems, the iRig Stomp’s ability to instantly turn your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch into a great-sounding effects processor is worth its price alone. I was able to easily bring in individual patches from Amplitube’s huge effects library, and use them with my own real-life amp—as well as use them in different combinations with my actual pedals in a signal chain. Bypassing the effects was completely click- and pop-free too, and I wasn’t able to detect any signal degradation in the pedal’s bypassed mode.
Blue Microphones Mikey Digital Microphone
The Mikey Digital is Blue’s attempt at packing their microphone design expertise into an iOS device-friendly package. And boy, did they succeed. This excellent microphone uses stereo condenser capsules, which are housed in a shockmount and protected by a tough metal grille. A three-way slider switch on the back sets the mic’s sensitivity range, which can be set for loud performances in the 100-130db range to super-quiet whispering at 45-65db, or an auto adjust mode. The mic’s hinge enables seven different locking positions, which is great for propping the mic at an angle on a table, or positioning it to capture the clearest signal possible. Direct recording is possible via a stereo input, and it even comes with a ¼" adapter for guitarists and keyboardists. Best of all, it sports a USB-through jack for charging the Apple device while the mic is plugged into the 30-pin socket. As of press time, Blue only offers a 30-pin compatible Mikey, and hasn’t announced an upcoming version that’s compatible with Apple’s newer Lightning interface.
Recording a full—and loud—rock band with the Mikey and an iPad 2 running GarageBand sounded remarkably clear and balanced. The mic’s auto mode did a good job of keeping the clipping to a minimum, and quickly adjusted when a section suddenly jumped in volume. I wanted to find out how well the Mikey could discern frequencies at different spots in the room, so I propped the iPad about five feet behind my drummer and asked him to go a little heavy on the cymbals for his parts. After playing it back, I was pleased with just how well the mic’ not only picked up the wash and crispness of his cymbals, but how much of my guitar tone was captured through the clamor of his drums. The recording did have some congested sections, but in general, it sounded amazingly clear considering that I placed it in a pretty awful position for general recording.
Close-mic'ing a loud amplifier with the Mikey wasn’t as successful, even with the sensitivity switch set to its lowest range. The raging overdrive of a Dual Rectifier proved too much for the mic to handle, though turning down the volume a bit and mic’ing from further back helped clear the congestion. Close-mic’d clean tones exhibited a similar brittleness, but as soon as I moved the mic back to add a bit of the room’s sound, the clarity of the recording opened up dramatically. The Mikey won’t replace your trusty SM57 or your prized Royer 121—and it wasn’t designed to—but it’s an absolutely wonderful-sounding microphone for full band practices and jamming ideas.
Tascam iM2X Stereo Condenser Microphone
The iM2X is an advanced X-Y stereo condenser mic for iOS devices that uses the same mics found in Tascam’s DR-07 MKII and DR-40 models. It’s small enough to fit in a jacket pocket or the accessory compartment in your guitar case. Its analog-to-digital converters deliver 16-bit CD-level sound quality, and it’s capable of handling up to 125dB without distorting. There's also an LED clipping meter on the front, and an analog limiter that can be switched on from the side. Due to its X-Y orientation, it’s really designed to mic up acoustic instruments such as pianos, drums and acoustic guitars, as well as vocals. While the little condenser pulls its power from the 30-pin jack of an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad, it also features a USB-through port for charging the iOS device when the mic is being used.
Tascam recommends using their free PCM Recorder app with the iM2X, which is a pretty decent two-track recorder when it works. The app crashed three times while I was using it with an iPhone 4s. Luckily, the mic worked with GarageBand without any fuss.
The clarity I achieved recording a Martin dreadnought was often astonishing. The highs were crisp and present, and the guitar's lows were warm and accurate. It’s very forgiving and I didn't even need to reposition the mic from its resting place on a table about three feet away to get a focused sound.