IK Multimedia's tagline is "Musicians First", and the company has a huge and ever-expanding line of surprisingly good accessories and apps made for one purpose -- helping musicians make and record music through technology. Their latest invention is a really brilliant idea; a set of "rings" that let you control music-making apps just by moving your hands. The iRing (US$24.99) consists of two specially-patterned "rings" that work with specially-designed apps to make or control music through your hand motions.
The iRing is a refreshing accessory; it requires no batteries, no constant app updates, or any special drivers. There are actually two rings, one for each hand. They're not really rings, either -- instead, they fit between two fingers like some high-tech brass knuckles, displaying either a pattern of three dots in a triangular or linear shape. IK Multimedia was smart in making the iRings fit between fingers, as they fit every size hand. I found them very comfortable to hold for long periods of time, as they add almost no weight (each ring weighs .2 ounce or just 5.67 grams) and you don't really need to grasp them to keep them in place.
Without software, though, the iRings are just rather plain jewelry. At this time, you have a choice of two apps -- iRIng Music Maker (free with in-app purchases) and iRing FX/Controller (free with in-app purchases). The difference between the two apps? Music Maker is a music creation app, while FX/Controller is a MIDI controller. IK Multimedia is also making an SDK available for musicians who want to build iRing control into an existing or planned app.
The apps both use your iPad's cameras to "look for" the rings. By watching the location and size of the dot patterns constantly, the apps are able to determine the X, Y, and Z-axis locations of the rings (and therefore your hands), whether or not they're moving, the direction of movement, and the angle at which the hands are being held. Those measurements are then translated by the apps either into music or MIDI commands.
iRing Music Maker has five in-app purchases; an EDM (electronic dance music) sounds pack for $1.99, a dubstep pack for $4.99, and two FX bundles for $4.99 each. There's also a "total bundle" available for $19.99.
iRing FX/Controller provides ten different in-app purchases. For $0.99 each, there are packages for delay, twist up, noise, crush, autowah, reverb, comp and stutter. In addition, there are two FX bundles, one priced at $4.99 and the other at $7.99.
Since I'm not really a musician (other than having good vocal skills), I chose to try out iRing Music Maker with iRing. The app is installed and then registered with IK Multimedia, after which time you can begin to futz around with some of the free riffs that are stored in the app. Buying the in-app purchases unlocks the sound packs and FX bundles, after which you have a lot more flexibility playing with iRing Music Maker.
Saying that iRing Music Maker is addictive is putting it lightly. If you're a fan of electronic music or a DJ, you really want to buy the iRing and get the app -- you can spend hours playing with this and never get tired of it. You can choose a song from the EDM, Dubstep, House, or Hip Hop libraries if you've purchased the total bundle, open that song, and then begin playing with all of the almost-infinite varieties of settings for the various sequences.
Below are three tunes I created with iRing Music Maker and the iRing -- the first two are using one of the EDM songs, while the third is from the Dubstep library. Put on your headphones and crank up your volume.
I'm sure that professional musicians will find plenty to fault with my "music", but I enjoyed "making" it with this app and the iRing set.
If you love electronic dance music, dubstep, house or hip hop and want to try your hand and recording your own, then by all means purchase IK Multimedia's iRing and then treat yourself to the "total bundle" in-app purchase. Musicians and non-musicians alike will find iRing, iRing Music Maker, and iRing FX/Controller to be a totally fun way to spend hours creating unique EDM.
Rating: 4 stars out of 4 stars possible