IK Multimedia recently released iRing, a motion controller for iOS devices, which utilizes two double-sided rings to manipulate parameters across three-planes. The “rings,” which come in either red or green, don’t actually go around your fingers, they sit between and can modulate either the included iRing Music Maker app or the FX/Controller app.
iRing employs the iPhone or iPad’s camera to detect the two different dot patterns in three-dimensional space. This is more PhotoBooth than Minority Report an it shows in the latency and “stepping” when tweaking both apps. After hours of use, we found the iRing to be more “proof of concept” than ideal for music making. Nothing could have showcased this more when our reviewers attempted “music making” on the very unsophisticated Music Maker app. The handful of sounds that were included lacked any sort of depth or refinement and what you could devise was uninspiring to say the least. Marry this to absolutely no supporting literature or help, and the whole enterprise can be summed up as “a complete waste of time.”
Worse, is that when touching one of the grayed out sounds, it immediately launched Apple’s authorization for an in-app purchase. However, there was no indication of pricing, so you had no idea what it would cost for the sound set. But wait, the pain doesn’t stop there. Apparently, there are bundles of sounds and effects that you can purchase, but there’s no laundry list of what’s available and at what price, so again you have no idea what your purchasing. Adding insult to injury, the authorization process would not be denied, even after hitting cancel multiple times. It kept popping up over and over again, paralyzing the app until you had to Force Quit. Pathetic.
The FX/Controller app fairs much better in use, and does have some depth to it. You can control a variety of other apps with AudioBus or external devices via CoreMIDI implementation. We still found the same latency and stepping issues as the camera attempted to track the dots in a narrow band in front of the camera. Over two feet and in limited lighting, basically any live performance stage, all bets were off, but closer to the iPad it was able to trace the dot patterns reliably. The FX processor was decent, but nothing the development team behind Korg’s Kaoss products will lose sleep over, and limited to two effects at once, out of 16 possibilities. However, each one of those effects, even as basic as delay, ends up setting you back a dollar or more, which adds up fast. Sure there’s two bundle options at $7.99 and $4.99, but since they don’t describe exactly what you get in the bundles, its the same crap shoot as the patches in Music Maker.
The takeaway is that there seems to be a lot of potential in iRing, especially since IK is making their other apps, like Groovemaker, iRing compatible. But $25 just to enter the iRing ecosystem, plus another $20+ in necessary in-app add-ons pushes the cost well beyond the value of this product. Not Recommended.
FutureMusic Score: 60%
The Future: For IK, which seems like they come out with a product every other week, you’re going to end up fumbling the ball along the way. The iRing doesn’t meet the same standards of other IK products, but they still could pull it together. Heck, by the time you read this review, the iRing 2 will be announced.