Review: IK Multimedia iRig Acoustic – can an acoustic mic at this price be any good?
When a musician rocks up to a gig and introduces themselves to the sound engineer, the sound engineer will ask what their setup is. If the musician explains that they have a fully acoustic guitar that will need micing up, you can see the engineer’s face, the onslaught of bad words running through their mind.
This is bad because the sound engineer is in charge of making you sound as good as possible to the audience. They can make or break a musician. You want them to make you, so generating bad vibes from the start is not a good idea.
Looking through a number of clip-on mics on the market, you can pay as much as you want. But I think it’s good to look at one of the cheapest options: the IK Multimedia iRig Acoustic. Musicians who need to worry about these things are likely on a budget, so it seems a good place to start.
IK Multimedia are a brand who have been at the forefront of mobile technology aimed at musicians.
From their minuscule audio interfaces and preamps, through to their diddly little monitors, as well as the range of software they offer, they’ve really been on top of things for gigging and studio musicians.
|What kind of capsule is it?||A little clip-on one|
|Frequency range?||15 Hz – 20 kHz|
|Signal-to-noise ratio||63 dBA|
I could throw any amount of numbers at you, but listing things is boring, and it’s more important to get stuck in and explore how this works, and if it’s actually any good in a practical context.
I wasn’t sure where to mention it, but here seems as good a place as any. One of the key features of the iRig Acoustic is its intended use with IK Multimedia’s Amplitube app. It’s essentially a host of amps and effects in your smart device. More about that when I get to reviewing the tones.
I feel like this is very much geared towards recording sessions, rather than live playing scenarios. This is very much “literally just a microphone” rather than a clip-on pickup.
The thing that suggests this to me is the mini jack plug connection. In addition to your iRig Acoustic, you’ll need a barrel to convert it to a regular sized jack plug, in order to plug in your regular guitar cable. I have no idea why you’d bother.
I’ll be honest, getting started, it felt like a flimsy piece of kit. I think I’m glad it’s studio focused. I’m not confident it would survive the wear and tear of regular gigging.
With this in mind, I’ve kept this review focused on recording scenarios.
You may have noticed I said ‘scenarios.’ That’s because of the nature of this little mic, you can attach it to any acoustic instrument with a sound hole. So, your regular steel string acoustic, a nylon-stringed guitar, or a ukulele.
I guess that’s the kind of versatility a little microphone can have over a pickup.
I’ll be recording through USB monitors with a built-in audio interface, going into an online DAW via a Chromebook. It’s a cheap and cheerful setup, but it does the job for what I need. I’m in my small home studio, which has a pretty flat sound.
I started my investigation with my trusty acoustic guitar. It’s a good model to review such things with, due to it being a good all-rounder in terms of sonic ability.
I plugged directly into my interface to start with, just to see what it would do without any kind of interference. Luckily, I’m enough of a messer to have the required odds and ends to get that mini jack plug into the interface. I clipped the plectrum shaped mic to the bottom of my soundhole.
Given the nature of what I was doing, I had to turn the volume of the monitor right down to avoid feedback, or the mic recording its own sound the was coming from the monitors. I used the output on the iRig to listen to what I was doing, but I’m not sure there was any real need. I didn’t have anything in particular to play, so I just ran through a few chords and phrases.
Listening back, and the sound wasn’t bad. It would need some EQing and compression for sure, as is standard. I found it a little bit harsh or thin. I guess I’d rate it as akin to that of any other microphone you’d buy for in or around the $50 mark.
As with any piece of kit, you get what you pay for.
I then sent it through an iPad to have a bit of a play with Amplitude. I was using the free version, so I couldn’t get too fancy, but honestly, I think it was plenty. I got the gist of what it was supposed to be doing.
I have to say, I found it weird, and mostly unnecessary. I’d understand it for a live setting I guess, where you’re trying to keep your rig to a minimum. But I don’t know why you’d put your phone or tablet in the line between mic and interface when you can apply the effects in the DAW anyway.
I would recommend the IK Multimedia iRig Acoustic for those on a budget, and who need to save space – this takes up a lot less room than a microphone and stand!
It’ll be fine for putting together some simple recordings, but I can’t help but feel the mobile device element of it is unnecessary flashy nonsense, just because they can.
It also doesn’t work on Android devices: an unfortunate recurring theme in IK Multimedia products. I would suggest that if you’re recording multiple instruments, like electric guitars, percussion, and vocals, you can get much more versatile solutions.