This is for those of you who fall into one of three categories. Category A – you love music. You love to play music, and you want to record that music or to make music wherever you are, without waiting until you get home or to a studio. Category B – you love technology. You tend to find some special feature of a device that other people don’t have, and you have to get it because even if you don’t use it often, you have the “WOW” factor (not to mention showing it off to friends who are missing out!). Finally category C – you want to give a gift this year. Not one that will get thrown into the Goodwill pile. Not one that garners an “oh, socks, great… thanks.” A real, “wow I’m excited, this is awesome!” gift.
Belong to one of those categories? Then keep reading. My husband and I fall into more than one of those categories, and couldn’t have been more intrigued the first time we saw the original AmpliTube iRig guitar cable in stores. IK Multimedia has since come out with many new and exciting devices, and sent me two of them, the iRig Stomp and iRig Keys to try.
The iRig Stomp is a full stompbox pedal for guitar that allows users to connect their electric guitar to their iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad. In the box is the iRig Stomp (which is a sturdy aluminum pedal), a six and a half foot audio cable, instruction booklets and a 9v battery. The AmpliTube app is a free download from the App Store, but the device is also compatible with other music applications such as GarageBand.
This stompbox looks like any other – small rectangular metal box, large gain knob on top, a foot switch, and various input/outputs. There is an input for the guitar, interface for your iOS device, a headphone port, a cabinet or chain output for your speaker or next effect pedal, and a monitor speaker output. The knob adjusts the gain from your guitar input, and the chrome foot switch turns your iOS effects on or off.
The iRig Stomp works great, and while it can become a seamless part of a gig setup, chances are you will use it more at home or out with friends and its size is perfect for that. My husband used the stomp box with his guitar and his Spider effects amp, and did not lose any signal or get any interference. The sound quality was much better than you’d expect from something that plugs into your iPhone.
The issue most people will encounter is the cost of apps to use this with your iOS device. AmpliTube is free, but you only get a few stomps, amps and one cabinet model to use. If you want to use any others, you will have to make in-app purchases to download them. Most other decent and compatible apps are not free either, although they don’t cost a ton.
The iRig Keys is even more exciting than the Stomp! This is an electronic keyboard compatible with iOS devices as well as Mac and PC. The package includes the 37 key piano, 30-pin dock cable, a USB cable and a card with serial numbers for the included computer software.
I have not been able to test the Keys with my computer, but I did connect it to my iOS devices. The piano works great, as expected, and the apps give multiple sounds to use (additional sounds, piano models and more are available in-app purchases). While in app, you can select which octave to use, or simply slide the piano keys on screen to the left or right and the piano will change octaves to match the app.
The keys are velocity sensitive, so if you press softly, it plays softly. Pound on the keys and it will be much louder. This is a great feature for an affordable keyboard, because every note shouldn’t be the same (pianoforte means soft and loud, right?). The iRig Keys doesn’t need an external power source other than your iOS device, so you only have one cable to deal with. Just plug the included cable from the keyboard to your dock port, open the app you want to use, and you’re ready to make music! The only thing that would make this device better is if the keys lit up to show what note to play next.
After testing each device for a while, I was surprised to find that we use the iRig Stomp less even though my husband is a guitarist. I expected the iRig Keys to be gimmicky and not usable for real music making, but we have found both devices great for playing, recording, and even making sound effects for iPhone apps he is helping to develop! The Keys might be less usable as a professional device, but the Stomp can definitely be used for gigging and recording. I’m torn on which is more useful, but both would make awesome gifts for music lovers!
Connect with iRig
Family Centsability was not monetarily compensated for this post. A product sample was provided in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are our own.