IK Multimedia iRig interfaces

It’s hard to imagine a better time to be a guitar player. With continual advancements in music-related hardware and software, guitarists now have access to an expansive, high-quality playground for creativity. What’s more, many of these tools are now portable and can easily fit into our pockets and bags. IK Multimedia has been at the forefront of creating great tools that allow guitarists and bassists to bring their music along on their trips. I’ve recently tested the iRig USB and iRig HD X, two audio interfaces designed to connect your guitar or bass to a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Keep reading to find out whether these devices could be the perfect travel companion for your next trip.

IK Multimedia iRig USB vs iRig HD X

iRig USB overview

iRig USB and HD X

The iRig USB is a streamlined interface designed for guitarists and bassists. Its simple design will help you get up and running quickly, all while getting good results. It features a ¼ inch input for your instrument and an output for connecting to an amplifier. You can choose whether to process the output signal, giving you the flexibility to either amplify your digitally processed tone through your amp or its FX loop, or simply route the dry signal for recording or creating a totally different tone through additional equipment.

Additionally, there is a 1/8-inch headphone jack for silent practice. You can also route it to a mixer or speakers for home setups. Lastly, a big knob controls the amount of gain, so you can easily achieve a healthy signal no matter your instrument’s output. However, you will need to set the output through the app you are using.

Under the hood, the conversion is 24 bit with a 44.1/48kHz sampling rate. This is perfectly fine for recording at any level.

Compatibility-wise, the interface works with a wide range of devices. With the help of the included USB-C to USB-C cable, you’ll be able to connect to iPads, iPhones, Macs, Androids, and Windows PCs. If you have an iPhone 14 or an older model, you’ll need to use an adapter to connect via Lightning.

iRig HD X overview

The iRigs HD X is a great choice to record guitar

The iRig HD X is a similar tool, but with some extra features, controls, and an upgraded A/D conversion. Notably, you get an integrated tuner, which is a very convenient addition.

The big knob can activate various functions, including separate headphone and output volumes. The gain is auto adjust, and it’s displayed when you don’t touch the knob. You can also use it to cycle through the various modes, including toggling between effected and dry signals. Another addition is direct monitoring control, which combines dry signal to your output. This helps mitigate the processing delay you might feel when playing through your app.

The last extra feature, Loopback+, is ideal for those looking to stream their performance and process audio using the same device. Loopback+ routes audio differently so you can pass it on to your streaming app and get the effected signal without any hassle or extra gear.

Lastly, the conversion is also enhanced for this interface. You can double the sampling rate to 88.2/96kHz. In practice, this increase may not be significantly noticeable and is typically not a measure of quality.

This interface has the same compatibility as its sibling, meaning iPads, iPhones, Macs, Androids, and Windows PCs. For older iPhone owners, this model ships with both a USB-C and a Lightning cable, saving you an extra purchase.

Included apps

Using the iRigs with an iPad

In addition to the hardware, you’ll also get a couple of free apps with your purchase. First of all, you’ll have access to an appropriate version of AmpliTube (iOS or Mac/Windows). This is a great environment to plug into as it provides a lot of tools to get creative. It’s packed with amps, cabs, effects, and microphones. It even has a recorder and built-in drummer to help you write songs and practice. Speaking of practice, you can also import songs and alter the speed to make learning those tricky riffs and fast solos easier.

TONEX is also included. This is a modern take on modelling software using something called AI Machine Modelling. It leverages machine learning and offers a new way of experimenting with computers and your favourite instrument. Not only will you be able to browse various rigs created by this technology, but you’ll also be able to capture your own setup. The software will then create its own algorithm for you to use. Talk about sci-fi!

Setting up and using the iRig USB and HD X

Setting up both the iRig USB and HD X was a breeze on my iPad. Upon connection, the devices were instantly recognized by the OS, and I was able to quickly start using GarageBand. In the app, you can activate direct monitoring to hear yourself and set up your tones before you record. You’re not limited to using just headphones; the output can be split to route sound to studio monitors or other speakers.

The sound quality is good. The little devices do a great job converting your signal into a digital one. From there, the processing takes over and the power available to us is modern devices is immense. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the result, and it’s a great way to produce demo tracks or even some proper recordings.

Which one should you pick?

Both models offer an elegant and efficient way to get your guitar signal into your device of choice. The iRig USB is more simple and more affordable. I think this model is ideal for guitarists who just want to practise, record, and write in any situation. Since it connects to mobiles, tablets, and computers, you can use it in many ways—whether you are at home or travelling. You can also carry it with you to lessons and create tones with your teacher, something that wasn’t as streamlined a few years ago.

For those who want to have a few extra options under their fingertips, the iRig HD X is an interesting device. The way I see it, the main additional feature is the possibility of using the Loopback+ mode. If you are interested in streaming via your devices, this makes it quite easy. You’ll be able to build tones beforehand and spend less time and money on your rig to properly deliver your performance to your audience. I can also see many benefits for educators, as you’ll be able to teach remotely with great results. There is also the access to higher sampling rates, but I doubt most users will find it useful.

In any case, either product is an excellent choice if you want a simple way to record your ideas and practice with high quality digital tools via your device of choice. You could even perform live with either of these units or have it as a backup to your regular rig. It’s a great time to be a guitarist indeed!

Make sure to check out both the iRig USB and the iRig HD X on Best Buy’s website.

Nikolai Olekhnovitch
Nikolai Olekhnovitch is a professional guitarist from Montreal. The experience and musical versatility he acquired during his music studies and involvement with diverse musical acts come in quite handy when reviewing various instruments. When he is not on the road performing, he’s exploring martial arts and seeking out the perfect espresso.


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