Microphones and Mobile Devices
USB-equipped microphones can generally be used with the iPad in conjunction with the Camera Connection Kit. There are now many of these on the market ranging from mono telecoms, voiceover and vocal mikes to high quality studio stereo condensers requiring phantom power and it’s beyond the scope of this book to mention them all. A few example of manufacturers include MXL, Marshall and Samson who make the tiny GoMic with a laptop clip as well as the attractive Meteor desktop vocal or instrument mike, Shure (who also make an X2U interface to simply connect any existing XLR-equipped mike to USB), Chord, t.bone, Behringer, Logitech, Audio Technica and many others. If only one manufacturer could be mentioned in more detail, then the very affordable Yeti and even more compact and inexpensive Snowball (allegedly the world’s first professional USB mike) both from Blue Microphones can be very highly recommended for their advanced specification and performance.
As another example, Samson’s Meteor ($150 or often a lot less) is a smart looking tabletop USB cardioid mike that, using the Camera Connection Kit, works well with GarageBand, FiRe and other recording apps.
There are just a few microphone products that are more specifically dedicated to use with iOS devices.
TASCAM’s iM2 at around $90 is one of the very few microphones specifically dedicated to use with iOS devices. It’s tiny, just about the width of an iPhone (and finished in black or white to match either iPhone design), offering stereo condenser mikes with a rotary level control, switchable limiter and a mini USB connector simply to allow charging to continue while the device is in use. The mikes rotate forwards or backwards and the unit’s designed for use with the iPod Touch 4th Generation, iPhone 4/4S or iPad.
The iM2 is a stereo cardioid design that claims to handle up to 125 dB input levels for high level sources such as rock concerts and motor racing, matching the recording quality of TASCAM’s own DR-series sound recorders. TASCAM’s own stereo PCM Recorder app is best suited to the device, offering recordings up to 12 h in length, but it’s unsupported, for example, by IKM’s Vocalive, which expects its audio source to come from the iPad’s built-in mike or audio input socket.
The new IKM MicCast ($40) looks similar, sitting on top of an iPhone or iPad but connected to the audio socket. As its name suggests, it’s designed for podcast and broadcast use, has Hi and Lo input level settings and a headphone output for direct monitoring. The pickup pattern’s unidirectional, so it should be good for interviews and meetings. A desktop stand for the iPhone/iPad is included as well as VocaLive Free and iRig Recorder apps.
The Blue Microphones Mikey 2.0 at around $40 looks superficially similar too, but it’s stereo and fits in the dock port. It has three sensitivity settings and unusually a minijack input, so it can be used as a stereo line input too, and a USB input, so charging can continue while it’s in use. It works well with Blue’s own FiRe stereo recording app but apparently there are compatibility problems with iPhone 4 and possibly with the latest iPads, so these would need to be checked out thoroughly before purchase.
MiC by Apogee, however, is another excellent iPad-oriented microphone that, like Apogee’s Jam guitar input, has a proprietary multi-pin connector matched with output cables either to USB for laptop use or to a dock connector for iPhone/iPad use. Physically, the MiC falls pleasingly in size between a telecoms mike and a full-sized studio mike, so it appears robust while remaining easily transportable. It comes supplied with a small stand that resembles a budget camera tripod (an optional MiC Clip mounts it on a full-sized mike stand instead) and has a gain control on the side and input level light on the top.
Apogee MiC works well and its disadvantage over models like the Blue Yeti is simply that it lacks a headphone socket for direct zero latency monitoring.
iRig Mic from IK Multimedia ($60) takes a different approach. Connecting to the audio input, it takes the form very much of a stage vocal mike. It’s a unidirectional electret condenser design and, with a minijack output on its connector, it can offer zero latency headphone monitoring. A three-level gain switch compensates for various stage and studio conditions, and of course it fi ts into a conventional mike stand with a suitable clamp included.
iRig Mic is accompanied by a free version of VocaLive, which is a very versatile app offering multi-effects setups of delay, chorus, pitch shift, pitch correction and much more, plus in-app purchase of additional effects and multitrack recording. AmpliTube Free is also included – see the sections on guitar hardware for more details – as well as the basic audio recorder iRig Free.
iRig Mic is good for stage or studio vocals, interviewing, karaoke, gaming and many more applications, very substantially improving on the performance of the built-in iPad or iPhone mike and isolating vocals from their background much more effectively – assuming you only want mono recording. It has a very substantial feel in the hand, and although not perhaps delivering the quality of Apogee’s MiC that connects to the dock port, its 6 ft. cable is going to make it the solution of choice for many interviewing and other applications in the field as well as in the studio.
A quick note on the Fostex AR-4i ($200) that seems a striking product mounting two mikes in an iPhone holder/dock connector (working for iPhone 4 and 4S) and offering the facility to plug in larger third-party mikes. It has an additional audio input gain control, headphone output, low-cut fi lter and LED meter for input level monitoring. Two AA batteries give up to 10 h of recording time and an accompanying app also called AR-4i allows some additional parameters, such as input panning and level limiting, to be set.
The unit’s really meant for increasing the quality of audio on video recordings made with the iPhone 4, a fact given away by its also including an accessory shoe onto which you may like to mount a video light.
The above excerpt is from Mark Jenkins’ new book iPad Music: In the Studio and on Stage
Mark Jenkins is a writer for Melody Maker, Keyboard, and Music Week; a musician performing in the UK, USA, France, Holland, Germany, Brazil, and China at venues including the Royal Festival Hall, London Planetarium, and National Theatre of Brazil; and author of Analog Synthesizers (Focal Press) as well as iPad Music: In the Studio and on Stage (Focal Press.)