iRig UA is the first truly portable Guitar and Bass solution I have used
- Zero latency
- Small and compact
- Feels cheap
- Looks cheap
- No way to clip it to anything
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I call myself a guitar player. In reality, I pluck strings and make things sound how I like them. Sure, I read tablature, pick out notes or chords in songs, and piece together my own stuff but I certainly can’t sit down and fluidly hammer out a Kirk Hammett solo and make it look effortless. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy learning new riffs, solos of rhythms. While I am not a ‘musician’, that doesn’t mean that I don’t look for solutions to issues that many musicians face daily. On the guitar and bass front there is always a fairly constant scenario. Once you have played on good, or above average equipment, you can’t go backwards and be as satisfied. Generally that equipment runs hundreds or thousands of dollars. It is the price we accept when we want a sound and feel that works for us. However, often times those sounds come by way of exceptional large amps/heads, speaker cabinets and one or more effects peddles. None of which makes for an ideal impromptu playing session, quick inspirational melody composition or easy portability. There is a solution that was recently launched by IK Multimedia called the iRig UA that might just do the trick for many like myself and even the more professional of players.
I covered the press release at launch and was quick to see about getting my hands one on for review. I wanted to look at it for a number of reasons. First being that it was the first device of its kind that was created specifically for Android devices. Secondly it claimed ‘zero latency’. Simply put, you strike a chord and hear it immediately rather than suffering through a small delay. There is nothing more annoying to me than hitting a chord and hearing it through my speakers or headphones when I am already three chords past it. It really messes up your playing and rythem. Thirdly was the size of the device and lastly was the price. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the iRig UA.
In the box
- iRig UA amplifier/processor
- Micro USB to Micro USB cable
- 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable
Tech Specs for the Geeks and Audiophiles
- Maximum Input Level: 8.0Vpp (+11.2 dBu)
- Dynamic Range: 121dB A-Weighted (112dB RMS)
- Distortion: <0.025%
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz +/- 0.2 dB
- DSP: 32-bit floating point
- Conversion: 24-bit A/D
- Sampling Rate: 44.1 and 48 KHz
The box doesn’t look like much. It is small, measuring in at 2.01 x 3.9 x 0.83 inches and weighing only 2.82 oz. It is extremely light and portable. On the top you find a small LED light to indicate that it has power from your device. It also alerts you to volume levels being to high from input devices and the app.
You will also see two small idiot proof pictures of a guitar and a pair of headphones. The corresponding locations on the side under the image are your two input ports. One being a 1/4 inch jack for your guitar/bass and the other the 3.5mm headphone jack.
To the right side we have an independent volume control that reminds me of the discman days, to the right of that is an AUX jack. This AUX jack is an secondary input port that allows you to connect a MP3 player, computer or other device to pipe audio like drum loops or complete songs to your headphones.
The other end houses a Micro USB port that is used to give the device power from your phone as well as utilize the associated app on your device to gain you various effects. The port puts your phone in USB host mode to accomplish this task. Much like using an OTG USB cable paired with a mouse/keyboard or external hard drive.
The iRig UA houses the magical components to do make the associated free app do its job, but the app is what brings it to life.
The iRig UA app, AmpliTude UA
The app won’t do you a darn bit of good without the iRig UA device above, but paired with the AmpliTude UA app it is nothing short of amazing. Once installed you simply connect the iRig UA to your phone and open the app. Inside you are given a set of amps, mics and effects peddles to alter the sound to your liking. There is even a built-in tuner to get you from standard tuning to drop D and any other tuning you prefer. With the free version of the app you are given 5 amplifiers and 2 mics along with 9 effects peddles. Your included effects are Delay, Phazer, Flanger, Chorus, Octave, Noise Filter, Wah, OverDrive and Distortion. It really gives you a lot of freedom to customize the sound without spending anything beyond the iRig UA product price tag.
You can set up presets like Black Clean, Metal 1, Octave bass and Solo! Bouncing between presets is only a two taps away and they leave you enough room to save any configuration you have put together for future use.
More stuff to buy
While you are given quite a few configurations with the free variant of the app, its capabilities don’t stop with what you see. There is a store in the app that offers up plenty more amps, effects peddles and bundles to put to use. You can go all out and purchase the All-In Bundle which carries with it 15 amps and 7 effects, or you can pick and choose what you need or want. They even have a few signature amps like the Slash Marshall JCM and Slash Marshall AFD 100.
I am not sold on the additional purchases as of yet. Being that I am a bit more of a casual player the included amps and effects keep me plenty happy for the few hours a week I find time to play. A more consistent player who has a sound or preference in their music will find plenty of things to pick up that will deliver.
Does it do what is advertised?
Simple answer, yes it does. Once connected I was able to easily switch things around and get different sounds with zero latency. Harmonics, hammer-ons, pull-offs and all. Mind you, I also have a really big pile of a guitar at the moment, but was still quite impressed with the sound it gave through the iRig UA. Connecting the iRig UA and opening the app is straight forward and very simple. I have read a few user reviews that experience issues with it not staying connected and no audio out, but over the last few weeks of playing I haven’t experienced any of those issue first hand.
Fiddling with the configurations and knobs is intuitive and simple as well. I spent most of my time playing through a set of Marshall headphones, but I also used the line out to connect it to my home stereo system and cranked it with no latency and crisp clear sound.
IK Multimedia has a slew of recordings that were taken with the iRig UA so you can hear how various configurations sound. You will want to head over to the IK Mutimedia SoundCloud account to take a listen.
But wait, there’s more
Beyond the standard configurations and abilities of the app, there are also a few alternative apps that are compatible. One being Samsung’s Soundcamp app. In a nut shell this app is designed for the Note 4 and Galaxy S6 devices and anything newer. The app gives you the ability to toss down drum beats, keyboard tracks, a looper function, a sampler board and the ability to record it all together. I haven’t seen anything else that works together with the AmpliTude UA app that offers the same abilities.
Possible deal breakers
There are only one minor flaws to the device that I have discovered in my few weeks of jamming. The iRig UA is powered by your device’s battery and there is no alternate way to power it. while I have sat for 3 to 4 hours playing and have not run into a dead phone because of it, I would have liked to see a way to keep the phone powered at the same time. I did place the Galaxy S6 on the wireless charging pad to keep power to the device with no ill effects though. So that could be one option for an all day jam session. Of course, if you get a lot of calls and notifications you might want to switch into airplane mode while you rock out to keep from being interrupted.
The construction of the iRig UA seems fine, but being so light and made of a hard plastic, it feels like a cheap toy. It detracts from its physical appearance, but certainly doesn’t make it perform any less than a high quality audio product. Had they changed the housing to something a bit more premium it might have looked better, but in turn would have inflated the price and its weight. While a bit of a turn off, it isn’t a deal breaker for me.
I also feel that the iRig UA could have done something about potential mounting solutions. While a person could easily slap some Velcro to the back to easily attach it to places, it would have been nice to have a clip on the back or some sort of detachable clamp.
The app works well and I didn’t experience any issues connecting the iRig UA to a Note 4, Galaxy S6 or LG G4. While the app works well, you might find yourself needed to purchase additional apps to get more out of it. By design the app doesn’t offer a way to record what you are playing. That takes another app, in my case I poked about with Samsung Soundcamp, and it was fine. If you really want to get solid recordings and don’t own a Samsung device you should expect to hook it up to external recording equipment.
Should you buy it?
Even though I might nit pick a little above, mainly for others than for myself, I still think the product is excellent for its cost, function and size. It is portable, which lets me grab the guitar case and go play anywhere. If you are just starting out learning the guitar or bass the iRig UA is a tool you should easily own. More seasoned vets might not be extremely pleased with it if they are looking to replace their current gear. Taking it for exactly what it is, a tool to play anywhere anytime and factoring in that it works and has zero latency, it is a great purchase. Mix in the apps offerings and that it is only $99.99, you get a lot more freedom on a budget, not to mention saves a ton of space in your garage, bedroom or living room. It is worth checking out.
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