I got excited when i first saw video of IK Multimedia’s iRig Acoustic Stage at the Winter NAMM Show on GP’s Instagram feed. The pick-shaped gadget sitting in the soundhole of the acoustic guitar is actually an omni-directional digital microphone that transmits its signal via the cord to a digital preamp/processor attached to the guitar strap. From there, a standard guitar cord routes the signal to an amp or P.A. What a clever innovation! Can it really be that easy to amplify, say, an old steel-string Martin or classical guitar, or a ukulele, or anything else with a soundhole? I was eager to find out.
The iRig Acoustic Stage is easy to use. I clipped the mic into the soundhole of my Taylor 514ce, secured the preamp to the strap, and ran its signal to an AER Compact 60 Tommy Emanuel signature amplifier. Once hooked up, I was able to choose from three presets on the iRig’s 32-bit/48kHz processor—Natural, Warm, Bright—by toggling the Tone button. (The same presets are available in conjunction with a Nylon guitar setting.) Natural sounded just that: a straightforward rendering of the Taylor’s naturally round tone that did not break up under hard strumming. The Warm setting was bigger in the low end and lower midrange. When feedback ensued, I pushed the Cancel Feedback button and it automatically cut out most (though not all) of the problematic frequencies. (Up to 10 frequencies can be cut by repeatedly pressing the Cancel Feedback button.) When I switched to the Bright setting, all the woofiness cleared up, and the tone cut through fabulously without being too slicing on top. When I experienced some feedback at higher volumes that the Cancel Feedback function couldn’t mitigate, I simply turned down.
The iRig Acoustic Stage has a standard guitar input jack labeled “Aux” that is designed for tone blending. The Taylor had a Fishman Prefix preamp system onboard, so I sent its signal into Aux, and set the Mix knob in the middle. Using the preamp’s onboard controls I was able to dial in a complementary tone by favoring the Prefix’s signal, and blending in just a small amount of brighter iRig signal. With a flick of the iRig’s Phase switch, that lively dual-source tone became quite serviceable, picking up every element of my percussive playing.
The iRig Acoustic Stage offers endlessly interesting possibilities. I had a blast going down a signal-blending rabbit hole using the Compact 60’s dual channels and onboard effects instead of doing all the blending inside the iRig Acoustic Stage. I didn’t get into using its USB output for direct recording, but that’s another world to explore. It sure felt nice being able to move about relatively freely while being miked up, although having the iRig’s processor affixed to the guitar strap took a bit to get used to. Acoustic purists who can’t imagine cutting any holes in their favorite traditional instruments may find a strange digital bedfellow in the form of the iRig Acoustic Stage, and acoustic-electric enthusiasts should be enthralled to explore its blending potential. For just under a Benjamin, the iRig Acoustic Stage is a striking discovery. Now I can’t wait for a wireless version.
iRig Acoustic Stage
PRICE $99 street
CONTROLS Volume, Mix, Tone (Natural/Warm/Bright/Nylon/Calibrate), Phase Switch
CONNECTIONS Dedicated 3/32" iRig Mic input, ¼" Aux input, micro-USB output
POWER REQUIREMENT Two AA batteries
WEIGHT 3.5 oz
KUDOS Innovative design. Quality miked-acoustic tone in an affordable, non-invasive package.
CONCERNS Some feedback issues. Having the preamp/processor on the guitar strap takes getting used to.