Now, IK is shipping the iRig Pads – a portable MPC-inspired MIDI pad controller for iOS, Mac & Windows. They say it’s the smallest ‘groove controller’ on the market – so it will fit anywhere you can store an iPad, in a backpack or a laptop bag.
Can IK’s inexpensive pad controller deliver on the promise of being portable, powerful and compatible?
The IK Multimedia iRig Pads
As their official intro video, above, shows, IK positions the iRig Pads as a portable pad controller that will work with just about anything.
The iRig Pads is a low energy consumption device – it draws its power directly from its host. So it doesn’t need the usual wall-wart for power.
It can be used with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, via the included Lightning cable (30-pin connector sold separately), without the need of a Camera Connector Kit. It can also be used with Mac and PC, using an included USB cable.
It even comes with software to get started on each of the platforms.
- MIDI pad controller for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, Mac and PC
- Portable & bus-powered
- 16-velocity-sensitive backlit rubber pads that light multiple colors, depending on velocity and outgoing and incoming MIDI messages
- Two MIDI knobs, two pushbuttons, one slider and a pushbutton rotary encoder, all programmable
- 16 user-programmable MIDI scenes for instant recall of custom MIDI maps
- Fully MIDI class-compliant
- Lightning connector and USB cable included, 30-pin cable available separately
- Expression/sustain pedal input
- USB port can supply power when connected to iOS devices for no battery drain
The iRig Pads is small, about the size of an outstretched hand. It’s lightweight too, but the case feels solid and sturdy.
The face of the iRig Pads is dominated by a 4×4 pad grid – clearly MPC-inspired. The pads have a good feel – firm, with a little give – and are dynamic and sensitive.
Along the top, the iRig Pads also offers four button controls and a push-button rotary encoder. Two of the buttons are assigned to Scene and a Fixed Velocity toggle. The second pair of buttons is assignable.
Here’s an overview of the available controls:
The weakest point of the iRIg Pads hardware is probably the slider. It does the job just fine, but doesn’t feel as substantial as the pad controls.
Along the top edge, the iRIg Pads has connectors for a USB cable, Lighting/30-pin iOS device cables and a 1/4″ expression or sustain pedal.
Two cables are provided:
- A USB cable for connecting the iRig Pads to your Mac or Windows computer; and
- A Lighting cable for connecting it to any current iOS device.
If you want to use the iRig Pads with an older 30-pin iOS device, you can, but you will need to buy an optional 30-pin cable.
Getting started with the iRig Pads is straightforward. It’s just a matter of plugging it in and opening a compatible app.
A brief quick-start guide is provided in the box, but no printed manual. In-depth documentation is available as a PDF download. We would have liked a printed manual, but providing it as a PDF is a reasonable way to keep costs down and minimize waste.
IK provides several apps to get you started.
- On iOS, SampleTank free, GrooveMaker 2 free and DJ Rig free.
- On Mac/PC, SampleTank 3 SE is provided as both a standalone and a plug-in virtual instrument for using in your DAW. It includes over 6.5 GB of sample contents, 400 instruments and 150 MIDI patterns. Registered iRig Pads users also get The Grid, a collection of 50 SampleTank instruments and 50 MIDI patterns.
- The SampleTank Free App is available from the App Store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
- The SampleTank App is available from the App Store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
- The GrooveMaker 2 Free App is available from the App Store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
- The DJ Rig Free App is available from the App Store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
iRig Pads comes with a collection of pre-programmed ‘scenes’, for popular apps. To select a scene, you push the ‘Scene’ button and then use the pad grid to select from the available scenes.
Compatible With Any MIDI App
In addition to the IK apps, you should be able to use iRig Pads with any MIDI-compatible app:
- iRig Pads is fully MIDI class-compliant. You can use it with MIDI-compatible iOS apps (including FL Studio Mobile, iMPC Studio and GarageBand) and Mac/PC software (including MPC Studio, Ableton Live, Maschine, GarageBand, etc)
- All controls are customizable. You can create up to 16 MIDI scenes, assigning any MIDI note or CC to the controls.
iRig Pads is a natural fit for use with beatmaking apps and drum machines. But it’s equally interesting as an alternative controller for other MIDI apps.
Using iRig Pads with synth apps opens up new performance options, because it encourages you to explore sounds in different ways. Just as MIDI wind controllers open up lyrical performance options with software synth, the iRig Pads are ideal for exploring the percussive and rhythmic potential of sounds.
IK Multimedia’s iRig Pads is a flexible and fun MIDI controller for working with beatmaking apps and other MIDI-compatible apps.
Paired with an iPhone or an iPad, it makes an extremely portable MIDI music making setup. And, in the studio, it works equally well with your Mac or Windows apps.
With a street price of about $150, the iRig Pads offers a lot of bang for the buck.
- Plug and play
- Cables included for iOS, Mac & Windows (30-pin available as an option)
- Solid build quality & good ‘feel’ on the pads
- Fully MIDI class-compliant
- Limited app mappings
- List of official ‘partner apps’ is fairly small
- No printed manual
iRig Pads Official Demo Videos
Pricing and Availability
iRig Pads is now available for US $149.99/€119.99. See the IK Multimedia site for more info.
If you’ve used the iRig Pads, leave a comment and let us know what you think of it!