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REVIEW: IK Multimedia's iRig Acoustic Stage

Laura  Barnes
REVIEW: IK Multimedia's iRig Acoustic Stage

Hot on the heels of a plethora of recent product launches by Italian music technology company IK Multimedia comes the latest hardware product, aimed at musicians looking to capture acoustic instrument sounds when performing liven with iOS compatibility thrown in for good measure.

The new iRig Acoustic Stage system is a revamp of the iRig Acoustic recording system, designed to help capture a great tone from any acoustic instrument that benefits from a sound hole (acoustic/classical guitars, acoustic bass, ukulele, etc) in a user-friendly system with the minimum amount of intrusion.

Traditionally, when capturing the sound of an acoustic instrument for the studio or for live application there are two main methods. Either your instrument has an on-board pickup system that can be plugged directly into your PA/mixer/audio interface, or an external microphone is used and placed in front of the instrument. Both of these procedures have their own drawbacks; an acoustic might sound great, but the on-board pickup system might not sound as natural as the instrument itself, and while close microphone placement has its advantages, the microphone needs to remain close to the mic and can stop the natural feel and playability when performing or recording a track.

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The iRig Acoustic Stage system gets around both of the above issues by fitting the microphone directly into the sound hole of the acoustic instrument, allowing a more natural playing stance and capturing the real tone of the instrument. The MEMS (MicroElectrical-Mechanical System) microphone is designed to capture a flat but detailed frequency, and is rather cool in that it’s shaped like a large plectrum. Fitting the mic to both my six string acoustic and 12 string was a doddle, the rubber backing kept it securely in place, plus its low profile meant that I didn’t accidentally strike it while playing the instrument, which is always bonus.

The mic is connected via a long cable at around a meter in length to a mini jack that is then connected to a main unit, featuring the iRig Stage’s control settings. These include a tone function that offers six different tone options; three for steel strung instruments and three for nylon strung. These consist of Natural, Warm and Bright settings, and while they are all subtle they have a pleasant variation of tone.

A big Feedback button is located alongside the tone settings, with the ability to suppress annoying acoustic feedback that often happens on stage to 10 frequency settings. There’s also a 1/4” jack Aux input, for use when blending the tone from an instrument with its own pickup system (and subsequent Mix knob that allows you to mix the two sounds together) 1/4” jack Out for connecting to a PA, mixer or audio interface and a micro USB output. This output allows the user to connect to a computer or iPhone/iPad and produces an audio interface with mono input, with monitoring coming from iOS headphone output or studio speakers. It's a neat addition and certainly takes recording acoustic tomes to a whole new level; the sound was clean and natural with good input levels, too.

For musicians looking to record acoustic demos and ideas ‘on the fly’ this is a great addition and it should also be noted that it can be used with IK Multimedia’s superb AmpliTube Acoustic App, offering further tweaks to the tone and sound.

There’s also a Phase switch that can be selected between 0 deg and 180 deg which offers more pleasant variations on tone, plus an on/off switch. Lastly, the volume knob which benefits from operating on a push/click setting, so no more annoying volume drops/hikes when accidentally brushing against it. The main unit also comes with a belt clasp that clips neatly into place so that it can be worn discreetly, plus two AA batteries that we’re told offer top to 15 hours of operation time.

The whole system comes neatly packaged in a zipped hard case with internal pockets to keep all the unit’s pieces together.

The iRig Acoustic Stage system is a cost-effective microphone solution for the acoustic performer, providing a superb natural tone and nice selection of functions at a fraction of the price of other live pickup solutions. The microphone placement is unobtrusive and means playability of the instrument isn’t compromised in any way, plus its versatility means it’s equally at home in the studio. Another innovative product from IK Multimedia with the iOS musician in mind.

The IK Multimedia iRig Acoustic Stage has an RRP of £99 and is available now.

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Tags: ik multimedia , Reviews , iRig Acoustic Stage , live recording , acousitc recording

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