IK Multimedia iRig Pads Review
iRig Pads ($149.99) is the latest addition to IK Multimedia’s impressive lineup of music creation peripherals for iOS mobile devices and Mac/PC. This versatile and portable 16-pad MIDI groove controller was designed from the ground up for on-the-go musicians, boasting low battery consumption and a compact form factor without sacrificing features. iRig Pads comes with a solid assortment of sound packs for beat creation, and works with a wide array of iOS apps such as GarageBand, GrooveMaker 2, SampleTank, DJ Rig and more.
iRig Pads features a compact and lightweight design, and can easily fit into any laptop bag or or backpack as it is less than 1″ thick. There’s no power cord to lug around either, which is nice – iRig Pads is powered via USB or Lightning/ 30-pin connection (USB and Lightning cables are included, 30-pin is optional). Even with the fancy lights on the velocity-sensitive pads, IK Multimedia’s new MIDI controller wasn’t a huge drain on my iPad’s battery, which is a huge plus for on-the-go music creation. There’s nothing worse than getting an awesome musical idea in your head, only to have your battery die on you before you can record it.
To help inspire those musical ideas, iRig Pads comes with codes to download a couple of great sound packs. For Mac and PC users, there’s a free download of SampleTank 3 SE, featuring over 400 individual instruments and 150 midi patterns to play with. Upon registration, users gain access to an additional sample pack called The Grid, which contains 50 additional instruments and patterns. iOS users get SampleTank Free, and The Grid can also be accessed in the iOS version.
Since all of these mobile music apps allow users to create full-fledged, complete tracks with a touchscreen, the main selling point of iRig Pads is obviously the physical aspect. No doubt about it, having real, actual pads to drum along to makes a huge difference. The rubber pads feel great, and light up in different shades of green and red depending on what velocity you hit them with. I found that using iRig Pads allowed me to be much more creative with beats and drum tracks, adding a more natural, humanized feel due to the slight timing and velocity variations. It’s definitely more musically inspiring than dragging drum notes around with a mouse and keyboard, which can be one of the most tedious and frustrating aspects of creating songs on a computer. While I did feel that the velocity sensitivity on iRig Pads left something to be desired on the default settings (it doesn’t register lighter hits very well), there are settings that can be configured for this and many other aspects of the MIDI controller. If you’re after a robotic-sounding performance, there is also a button on the top of the device to turn off velocity sensitivity altogether.
Alongside the mini-USB and Lightning/ 30-pin connections, there’s also a jack for connecting a TRS expression pedal. While iRig Pads appears to be made entirely of plastic, it has a solid, durable feel and a nice weight to it. It seems like you could beat the hell out of the pads for a long while without worrying about damaging the unit, though the slider and knobs have a less premium feel to them. Still, the unit strikes a good balance between portability and build quality.
Overall, I really like iRig Pads. Playing drum samples and loops on the device is genuinely fun, the pads have a very ergonomic feel, and the light-up functionality is quite cool looking (especially in the dark). IK’s MIDI groove controller allows for a decent amount of customization, and can be programmed to work with just about any iOS or PC/ Mac MIDI-compatible music application. The unit is small enough to be portable but is durable enough to take some abuse on the road. Considering the vast array of compatible apps and the included software/ samples, iRig Pads is, in my opinion, absolutely worth its $149.99 price tag.