It's not hard to imagine that the iPhone and especially the iPad will do for 21st century musicians what those 4-track Tascam cassette recorders did for 70's rockers: provide an inexpensive, easy way to compose and record song demos (if not full-blown songs), or even double for portable recoding decks. The weak links in this equation, though, are the iDevice's built-in microphones — okay for phone calls, not really optimal for full-fidelity recording.
That's where the iRig (US$59.99) comes in. It's a pro-grade condenser microphone designed exclusively for use with Apple's flat-panel handhelds. This is not some plastic throwaway mic — it's full-sized, sturdy and metal, and it's unidirectional pickup pattern and three-level sensitivity switch allow you to record sounds both quiet and loud without distorting. A clever pass-through plug lets you jack in your earbuds (or any headset with a mini-phone plug) for real-time monitoring. The iRig also comes with a sturdy, zippered carrying case and mikestand clip. The price and performance alone puts it in the same category as more expensive pro-grade microphones.
Don't have any recording/composing apps on your iDevice yet? iRig's got you covered with a full suite of audio software. This includes VocaLive (voice-processing software), AmpliTube (a guitar amplifier/effects modeling suite with recording capabilities), and iRig Recorder (a standalone audio recorder/editor). All three apps are available in both free and pay versions and can be upgraded with new tools/effects.
Check out our hands-on review below: