IK Multimedia Unites Music Making And Mobile Technology
...of companies have adopted a supremely practical “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach, and one company stands out as the pioneer of the movement, the architect of the mobile music making revolution, IK Multimedia.
IK Multimedia offers a comprehensive range of software and hardware products that bring the two worlds together, making music making more convenient, more portable, more fun—and serving an undeniable cultural reality: People are conducting more and more of their lives through mobile devices. IK Multimedia’s domination of this market was recently reinforced with the introduction of iRig UA and AmpliTube UA, hardware and software breakthroughs, respectively, that open up its music making apps beyond Apple’s iOS to the world of Android device users as well.
When it comes to plugging a guitar, bass, keyboard, MIDI controller or microphone into a mobile device, IK offers the most complete range of hardware and software solutions including a full range of analog and digital instrument and microphone interfaces, analog and digital handheld and studio microphones, and a growing line of MIDI controllers, mounting solutions, and portable speakers. It also offers more than 70 music creation apps to support these hardware products, covering the full range of music making activities.
IK Multimedia is best known for AmpliTube, the mobile guitar studio that enables guitarists to build great-sounding virtual guitar and bass rigs by selecting from more than 100 available gear models comprising amplifiers, stompbox effects, speaker cabinets, and microphones. Its flexible signal path lets players change the order of effects and amps, including adding effects after the amplifier in the signal chain, to facilitate even more creative tonal options. In addition to the groundbreaking UA (Universal Android) products, recent industry-standard releases from IK’s prolific design and development team include: iRig Mic Field, the first ultra-compact, stereo digital microphone for audio and video field recording on iPhone, iPad or iPod touch; iRig 2 guitar/bass interface; iLoud Bluetooth stereo studio-quality speakers; iRig Power Bridge, used to connect and power iOS devices onstage; and SampleTank 3, a sample workstation with a 33GB/4,000 instrument sound library. And the pipeline of future releases is full.
Pre-millennials may be prone to lumping mobile music creation apps into the same category as Candy Crush and Fruit Ninja rather than tools for “serious” musicians. It’s no surprise, then, that some music retailers may be inclined to leave this business on the general consumer table, for sale online or perhaps at consumer electronics stores. But they’re wrong on at least three counts. First, the sales are already happening, and they’re growing—fast. IK has experienced continuous double-digit growth year after year since pioneering the segment, but the important number to watch is the number of mobile devices sold every year. Almost every musician has a mobile device, but not all of them are using them to create—not yet. More significantly, the sales are happening at music stores. In addition to being a staple on the Apple Store and defining the category at Best Buy, IK products have enjoyed strong growth at Guitar Center, Sweetwater, Sam Ash, Musicians Friend, George’s Music, Washington Music Center, and a host of other progressive retailers.
Second, IK has been at the forefront of improvements in the variety, detail, and quality of audio for mobile technology. For example, the new iRig UA features 32-bit DSP, a 24-bit A/D converter, 44.1/48kHz sample rate, and a low-noise instrument preamp. IK’s other mobile interfaces including iRig PRO and iRig HD soon will be migrating to a 96kHz sample rate. And on the software and app fronts, the company has partnered with key industry players to develop a line of apps that make any guitar played through a mobile device sound like it’s coming through an amp made by Ampeg, Fender, Marshall, Orange, Dr. Z, Engl, Soldano, and a host of others; effects pedals from Fender, Seymour Duncan, and T-Rex; and signature combo amp/effects products emulating the guitar tones of Jimi Hendrix and Slash. (In fact, Slash reported that he used an iRig and AmpliTube to write his latest album while on the road.) That these companies and artists have licensed their names and images to IK speaks volumes about how it has captured the essence of their products’ tone.
Lastly, predicting the future is risky business, but betting against the music/mobile device trend is probably akin to early predictions that MP3s would never replace CDs. Our industry’s target demographic—young musicians, and young people in general—already experience the world through their smart devices. This is where they live, so of course it’s where they play. Virtually every consumer walking into a music store owns a mobile phone, so it’s not a stretch to assume that a good number of them want—or soon will want—a way to connect it with what they’re doing in music: getting ideas down quickly, practicing, or recording an entire album.
When IK released GrooveMaker, its first app, in 2009, its first adopters were musicians making music cues for television, many of whom uploaded their work to the studio. It exploded from there throughout the music-making community, with apps designed for everyone from beginners and hobbyists to the most discerning professionals, as well as broadcasters, audio-for-video producers—anyone who needs real-time processing capabilities.
To date, IK apps have been downloaded more than nine million times and cover the wide spectrum of music making activities. And IK has sold more than one million hardware- and app-related accessories at retail. Simple apps such as iRig recorder are favored by everyone from hobbyist broadcasters to full studios, providing 16 effects, audio waveform editing, etc. GrooveMaker is a loop remixing app that anyone can use to make non-stop music. One of its early adopters was composer Russ Landau, known for his scoring for television series Survivor and Fear Factor. IK has also become a leader in the mobile audio-for-video market, offering several field microphones that are already in use in settings throughout the broadcast industry, from Fox News to Sirius XM.
With its new iRig UA and AmpliTube UA offering, IK Multimedia has solved two vexing technical problems for Android device users: the inability to play guitar with real-time effects processing and playback due to latency issues; and non-standardized operating systems among device manufacturers. As such, it represents an enormous technological breakthrough as well as a serious commercial coup. After waiting years for “over a thousand” Android app developers to solve prohibitive latency issues, IK finally tackled the problem in-house by shifting the heavy data crunching away from the mobile device to its own hardware interface. The new $99 iRig UA allows users to make music with high-quality audio in real time on any Android device running Android 4.2 or later.
Back in 2010, when IK introduced the first iRig, there were more than 100 million iOS users. The company estimated that if just one in 100 of them played guitar, there would be 200,000 potential customers living in the greater New York City area alone. Today, there are over a billion Android devices sold every year worldwide. IK has already tested the Android waters; a complimentary copy of AmpliTube LE is included with Samsung’s hot new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge phones, effectively seeding this enormous potential market, and IK is rapidly expanding its offerings for the Android platform.
“At IK, we’re Musicians First [the company’s motto],” says Managing Director Gary Kerzner. “We make inspired, compelling, cutting-edge hardware and software products that make musicians’ lives better. We provide the professional tools they use to make music anywhere, any time. As experts on, and providers of, mobile music making technology products, retailers benefit by offering their customers the ‘next big thing’ every time they walk through the door. Apps provide the reason a musician needs the hardware, and hardware makes the retail cash register ring.”
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