Sound — 10
The beauty of the iRig PRE is that it sounds like whichever mic you like to use you don't have to use the onboard mic on your iPhone or iPad and you aren't stuck with using a mic specially made for one of these devices. You can use ANY mic you like from a ribbon mic, to a hyper-cardioid mic or an omnidirectional condenser mic. Completely your choice. From there you can export what you record, or you can import it into another of IK Multimedia's apps for further projects on your iPhone or iPad. I personally strongly recommend VocaLive for any type of vocal work you plan to do using the iRig PRE. I'll tell you why I can't sing at all. I absolutely can't stay in key and my voice is utterly unappealing, but using the powerful processing tools with VocaLive I am able to get some very passable vocals very easily. It has a lot of effects such as delay, chorus, compression, parametric EQ, reverb, an envelope filter, phazer, de-esser, choir effects, pitch fix and a morph effect. It also has dozens of factory presets saved under 5 separate preset categories: Lead, Harmony, Extreme, Morphing and FX. You can also save your own presets very easily at the push of a button. To give you an idea my wife was playing with the iRig PRE as I was figuring out how to use it and she recorded herself singing several old 70's era soul songs in what sounded like an almost perfect impression of Marvin Gaye. My point being is you don't have to use extreme effects you can use the effects sparingly and enhance your result, or if you are like me and don't consider yourself a vocalist but still have to get vocals completed somehow then you can stack on the effects and sing in any voice you dial up and have it pitch corrected. Bottom line, the iRig PRE means that I can plug up to my Shure SM58 and work on my vocals, or plug in a Carvin M67 and mic my amp, or use an old MXL 990 condenser and record an acoustic ballad with foot thumping for percussion.
Overall Impression — 8
I love the iRig PRE, being someone who has accumulated my own personal equipment that I like to use. This device allows me to use the mics I've already grown to love for recording of all types on my iPhone. I don't have to make do with the built in mic on the phone and I don't have to get to know a new mic that is made specifically for the iPhone I can use the equipment I am already familiar with. Along with VocaLive, as someone who can't sing, this is going to help me add vocals to what have been mostly instrumental recordings to date for lack of singing ability. As another point of interest, even the VocaLive FREE has voice training tools to help you improve your voice for both pitch and timing. The iRig PRE is yet another peripheral that is slowly giving iPhone and iPad users the power of a home studio that is supremely portable and affordable. Hopefully, as time goes on, there will be peripherals made like this for the Android devices and other smartphones and tablet devices so that any mobile device can become a mobile studio. I hope when it happens it comes from IK Multimedia as I've been playing with a lot of their products lately, and they're all supremely well thought out and seem to be the best available peripherals and apps for iPhone and iPad music practice, performance and production. I've become a huge fan and looking forward to whatever is coming next.
Reliability & Durability — 8
There isn't a lot to go wrong with the iRig PRE. It is small and not heavy enough to damage itself from any realistic fall. The switch for off/on/+48v is mostly depressed into the casing so no chance of the button being jarred and broken if it is dropped. The battery life expectancy is listed as 30 hours with dynamic mics and 10 hours with condenser mics, and to be honest I've probably only used it a total of 10 hours, about 7 with dynamic mics and about 3 with a condenser mic that required phantom power. At this point, I expect it will last approximately as long as the paperwork says. To me, that seems like a really reasonable amount of time to run off of a 9 volt battery. I don't have any fear of using this without a backup, but I may very well have to buy a second one of these because my wife keeps "borrowing" it with my SM58 so she can play with the effects in VocaLive.
Features — 8
The iRig PRE is basically a small box-shaped device slightly larger than a 9 volt battery. It has a cord coming out one side of it to plug into your iPhone or iPad. There is a place to plug in some headphones (for self-monitoring) and on the other side an XLR input. There is a compartment for a 9 volt battery and then a switch that goes between off, on and +48v (for condenser mics that require phantom power). You can use pretty much use any of IK Multimedia's VocaLive or iRig Recorder apps to record vocals or instruments from that point with any mic of your choice. You can then export via e-mail, File Sharing, etc., and go from there with it in whichever direction you want. Included is a velcro strip to attach the iRig PRE to a mic stand and a 9 volt battery to power the device. There is also a registration card and a quick start guide included. There are two IK Multimedia apps you can choose from for FREE to get started with your iRig PRE, and which should meet most casual needs. They are iRig Recorder FREE and VocaLive Free and they are both really useful and easy to use. I personally tested the iRig PRE out with the full version of VocaLive and I have to say it is a powerful tool and well worth the cost.