If only we had this as kids. The iRig Mic from IK Multimedia is a drop dead easy way to punch up an app and start recording with your iPod, iPhone or iPad. It has three preamp levels for low, medium and loud sounds and can be used to capture vocals or instrument sounds.

The sound quality is what you would expect from a $60 microphone and preamp combo, decent. It’s not a Neumann but the versatility, ease of use and small portable ‘studio’ footprint it enables is what makes it fun.

We plugged the iRig Mic into an iPad 2 and fired up Garage Band and the free app demos VocalLive, Amplitube and iRig Recorder. The free demos are kinda lame because they only have 1 track enabled. It’d be more interesting to showcase fully functioning apps and have them timeout but we get it, pay to play.

The iRig Mic allows real time monitoring of the audio signal as it’s recorded. So singers can crank up the reverb as they lay down those awesome vocal tracks. Of course, if you’re in the room next door listening to the dry signal through the wall you may not be so happy.

Our first 4-track was a Fostex 160, a great machine that still works today but didn’t include any effects, required a fresh high bias tape for each mix and certainly didn’t provide random access to anything. Now a $20 app does it all on a portable device.

There are some downsides to using music apps without real knobs, mainly the lack of real knobs. I mean would you sit around the house running your fingers up and down a regular sheet of glass? After a while we get what we call friction fatigue.

However, as a way to quickly capture song ideas, interview guests for a podcast or simply get kids involved in music making, the iRig Mic comes in super handy.

Visit IK Multimedia for more information.