iRig HD 2 Review: Our Opinion

In the smartphone age, little surprise remains for the oddball, offshoot, non-traditional-telephone functions that apps incorporate into daily use. In past, in the studio, setting up for a session meant providing a guitarist with a place to plug in amp(s) and pedal boards. Increasingly, these accouterments are augmented or replaced with USB charging ports and a place to rest an iDevice.

The iRig HD2 continues in the tradition of the HD in providing superior digital signal processing while adding new connectivity. Remaining is extreme flexibility and portability with sound quality impressive enough to find a place in many recording studios, home and professional.

When you consider the virtual equipment at guitarist’s fingertips, the HD2’s hundred-dollar sticker price is laughable, considering the thousands of dollars of equipment it emulates with impressive accuracy. Let’s take a ground-up look at the new release.

King of the Rigs

There are other iOS guitar interfaces out there, but none quite as ubiquitous as the iRig, so much so that the name takes on an almost generic status for any guitar interface. For example, Line 6 has an almost legendary position itself in the guitar signal processing field. When a guitarist handed me a Line 6 Sonic Port guitar interface after calling it his iRig, I knew the IK Multimedia device holds significant cachet.

That prominence is well earned and the initial impression of the HD2 is positive. This is not a revolutionary makeover of the HD. A few tweaks here and there enhances an already impressive device.

 

Connectivity

Starting at the top plate, the iRig HD2 connects to iPhone, iPad or computer, Mac or PC through a Micro-B USB port to either a Lightning connector for mobile device or conventional USB for computer. Beside that is a 3.5mm headphone jack. The bottom plate features two ¼-inch TS phone jacks. The left is a high impedance instrument input optimized for guitar and beside it on the right is an amplifier output.

This output improves the functionality of the iRig HD2, acting as a supercharged direct inject box in live playing situations. Along the right side of the HD2, there’s a Thru/FX select switch.

This chooses the output of the amp jack. In Thru mode, straight guitar signal passes out of the device into the amp, handy for bi-amping straight and processed guitar sounds.

Flicking over to FX operation and the audio from your virtual pedalboard heads off toward the amp with all the digital sound processing goodness you’re hearing in your headphones.

There’s no longer a need to route headphone output to recording equipment, which is a big concern for iPhone 7 users with its very annoying lack of conventional headphone jack.

Without the amp output, the iRig HD2’s headphone jack would be the only way to record analog signal from the interface, but that would leave the iPhone 7 user without a convenient monitor jack. The amp jack restores this connection option while keeping the iPhone/iRig a self-contained unit when recording to other devices.

Also along the right side is the unit’s volume control. This is the master output volume. For input sensitivity, the left side features a gain control to tailor the input signal for level.

Sound Quality

Once your guitar signal passes the input gain and preamp stage, the iRig HD2 converts to digital using 24-bit, 96kHz sampling, a serious level of digital conversion. Of course, you don’t really feel or hear this level of sound quality in the same way you hear the bells and whistles that turn your guitar into a flying rock ‘n roll saucer from Mars which is, let’s be honest, where the serious fun resides in this type of interface. That’s the job of AmpliTube, the software packed with the iRig HD2.

Some devices pack with lite versions of the all-important apps, giving you a few effects and amp simulations, but requiring added purchases before you can really take advantage of the device.

The iRig HD2 includes not only the full version of AmpliTube for iOS, it also includes AmpliTube 4 for Mac and PC. Purchase Amplitube 4 separately and you pay more than you do for the HD2. Um, hey. That’s like getting the 48-ounce cup of soda at a cheaper price than the 24-ounce cup.   

AmpliTube — Worth the Price of Admission

For those unfamiliar with AmpliTube, it’s basically the heart and soul of the iRig experience. Essentially, it’s everything in an electric guitar signal chain, from the end of the guitar cable to the microphone on the guitar amp.

The iOS version comes with models of famous real-world equipment. 

The four amps, Fender, Vox, Marshall and Mesa/Boogie models, serve the guitarist, while a single bass amp emulating an Ampeg SVT does bottom-end duty. Eleven stomp box models include:

  • Chorus
  • Delay
  • Distortion
  • Noise Filter
  • Envelope Filter
  • Flanger
  • Fuzz
  • Octave
  • Overdrive
  • Phazer
  • Wah

There are even five speaker cabinet, dynamic and condenser mic emulations included.

If this allotment isn’t enough, you can indeed purchase additional virtual equipment. However, unlike many free or lite versions of apps, all major flavors of guitar tone are represented here.

It’s a Wrap

The iRig HD2 takes up where the original iRig HD didn’t really leave off, just adding a few more features to make an already great-sounding device easier to use. Features for both hardware and software go on well beyond the scope of this review, things like the HD2’s mic stand clip and AmpliTube’s Cab Room.

What any device of this nature comes down to is how it sounds, and the iRig HD2 sounds very fine. There may be nothing like a real amp blasting at loud volumes in a huge room, but the iRig HD2 comes very close at a fraction of the costs of both equipment and neighborly relations.

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