Pros – Pads feel great – Lightweight & compact design – Class-compliant, works with iOS devices/Mac/Pc
Cons – Knobs and slider could be better – IK could do more in terms of apps mapping
Okay, we all know making beats on a touch screen is fine, but not ideal. Using a mouse or a keyboard controller on a desktop computer, even less so. Because of this, I decided to try something more ‘physical’. I picked iRig Pads from IK Multimedia, a portable 16-pad MIDI groove controller for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch as well as Mac and PC.
Main features at a glance
16-velocity-sensitive backlit rubber pads that light multiple colors depending on velocity and outgoing and incoming MIDI messages
2 MIDI knobs, 2 pushbuttons, 1 slider and 1 push-button rotary encoder, all programmable
16 user-programmable MIDI scenes for instant recall of custom MIDI maps
a 1/4″ TRS expression / sustain pedal jack.
USB cable and Lightning cable are included (30-pin connector sold separately)
Who is it for? Despite its simple look and a VERY compact size (90mm/7.5″ x 205mm/8.1″ x 23mm/0.9″), I found iRig Pads to be an extremely versatile tool. Beat-making? Check. Loops launcher? Check. DJing? Check. iRig Pads is compatible with several apps, right out of the box. Not surprisingly, IK Multimedia apps like Sampletank, Groovemaker 2 and Dj Rig are very good friends with iRig Pads and provide quite advanced control options (considering we’re talking about a display-free controller). For instance, in Groovemaker 2 you can control the groove length, set track parameters, browse and cue loops, tweak effects, etc. This video will show you how easy it is to control Sampletank from iRig Pads.
Since I’m not really into DJing or loops, I’ve mostly used iRig Pads with drum machines and beat-making apps.
Sampletank provides a good number of factory kits, but there’s more. Once you register your iRig Pads you’ll also receive The Grid, an exclusive collection of 50 additional instruments and 50 MIDI patterns. This can be downloaded from the user area for SampleTank 3 SE and can also be used on SampleTank iOS. The Grid is a cool addition to Sampletank, especially for those users into EDM, Dubstep, Drum & Bass and more electronic sounds.
In the heart of the scene iRig Pads comes with 16 different scenes. A General MIDI drum kit is the Scene 1. Scene 2 is a chromatic one while Scene 5-8 are dedicated to Akai MPC banks and iMPC Pro (the other scenes are empty). To take full control of iRig Pads I definitely recommend checking out the PDF manual (no printed version, unfortunately). Even if you don’t like reading manuals, in this case it’s a must.
What if you want to use iRig Pads with an app like KORG Gadget, Garageband or software like Live? On its forum, IK Multimedia has listed the scenes you should use:
SampleTank (iOS, MAC/PC) –> SCENE 1. GrooveMaker 2 (iOS) –> SCENE 1 FL Studio Mobile (iOS) –> SCENE 1 for drum kits Korg Gadget (iOS) –> SCENE 1 for drum kits iMPC Pro (iOS) –> SCENE 5 GarageBand (iOS, MAC/PC) –> SCENE 1 only notes. Maps have to be done MPC Studio (MAC/PC) –> SCENE 5, 6, 7, 8 Ableton Live (MAC/PC) –> SCENE 1 only notes and CC. Maps have to be done Maschine (MAC/PC) –> SCENE 2
For KORG Gadget, I also found that Scene 2 works well, better in fact, than Scene 1 in Bilbao. I’ve been able to use iRig Pads with DM1 as well, using the app’s MIDI Learn feature. I’ve enjoyed using iRig Pads with iMPC Pro too. It’s not a 1-to-1 MPC controller, but the pads are a joy to use, and programming beats (or launching sequences) with them is a breeze. If you feel like experimenting, you can also try iRig Pads with synth apps (customizing the chromatic scene, for example). Sometimes it’s interesting to approach things differently, you never know where your creativity can lead you. Keep in mind that everything (knobs and slider included) is programmable…
Conclusion For me, iRig Pads proved to be a very good choice. Banging on some real pads instead of a glass surface or a keyboard DOES make a difference (it’s hard to explain, but I find it fascinating – it’s like it brings us back to a somehow primitive need, tucked away in our DNA). I love the pads – they feel just right – and I like the fact I can use the device with both my Mac and iPad (a quite unique feature), without a power adapter. While the pads are great, the knobs and the slider do their job but could use better parts. We’re talking of an affordable controller though, so I was expecting some compromise.
I think IK Multimedia has a very good and versatile product here, they just need to ‘support’ it a bit more than they did so far. For instance, it would be nice (and it would make iRig Pads much more appealing) if they would partner with other app developers, so to offer a wider compatibility out of the box. If you feel like ‘getting physical’, give iRig Pads a try. There’s a good chance your beats (and your inner child) will benefit from it.
Price $109.99 / 120 Eur / £106 approx. If you’d like to support ANR, please buy iRig Pads from Amazon using the links below. Thanks!