IK Multimedia's iRig microphone records audio on the iPhone and iPod touch -- a compelling need on mobile devices that weren't built for audio recording. We tested the microphone as well as companion applications, some that are directly associated with the iRig, and some that aren't, but that exploit it well. We were happy with the audio quality, but the iRig wouldn't be considered high quality in the world of professional microphones.
The first thing we noticed about the $59.99 iRig mic was its striking resemblance to the Sennheiser MD46, which is one of our favorite mics for interviews in noisy places. It is a well-built microphone, perfect for any road warrior, and runs about $199.95. Looking under the hood of these two mics reveals where the $140 price difference comes into play (you gotta love German engineering). The glaring difference between the iRig mic and the MD46 can be seen at the base of each microphone. Unlike the more traditional MD46's XLR output, the iRig mic has a fixed wire which leads to a dual mini jack connector. While this doesn't create a noticeable difference in audio quality, the iRig is more susceptible to damage; it's just more flimsy.
The iRig is an electret microphone, meaning it incorporates a permanently charged material within the microphone and therefore needs no power source to run. It is a modified version of the classic capacitor (or condensor) microphone, which exploits changes in capacitance due to mechanical vibrations to produce voltage variations proportional to sound waves. Whereas the condensor microphone needs an applied (phantom) voltage, the electret has a built-in charge.
The out-of-box experience with the iRig mic is relatively easy. Three minutes and you're unpacked, plugged in and ready to go. Once you're connected into the dual mini jack connector, you are ready for real time monitoring with your headphones. You can send the audio off to a mixer, to a PA system, or in our case, we actually sent it off to our camera to record a demonstration (see video below).
The first app that we tested was IK Multimedia's own Vocalive app, which is tailored to singer-songwriters. IK Multimedia touts it as the first professional, practicing, performing and recording vocal processor for the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad (although we noticed there wasn't an actual iPad HD app for this application; the company says an iPad app is coming, but did not say when).
Included in the hefty $19.99 price of Vocalive is a suite of five dedicated, real-time vocal effects including pitch correction, choir harmonizer and voice doubler -- more than what you'd need in a mobile recording application. The app also packs in seven vocal processing effects including reverb, EQ and an envelope filter. Most of the effects were a lot of fun to fool around with, but very much geared towards the music professional as opposed to the voice over or the podcasting professional.
Vocalive also includes a cool feature which lets you to import pre-recorded music from your iTunes music library to sing over for karaoke style fun.
For the ambitious recording artist, Vocalive offers a $4.99 add on that allows multi-track recording, which lets you record multiple sources separately. We found this app to be beautifully designed and quite functional, but some of exporting features were a little bit tricky to figure out. After about five minutes of testing, it was smooth sailing. Adding $4.99 onto the $19.99 is a little bit pricey for what I'm looking for, so we looked for a couple of cheaper options and the first one we found was Voice Memos ($.99 on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch). Voice Memos couldn't be easier to use. Unlike Vocalive, Voice Memos is a straight up audio recorder with absolutely zero bells and whistles. Our biggest complaint about this app was its inability to allow the user to monitor their recording in real-time. Although we could see the levels displayed on the lower part of the screen, not being able to hear what you are recording is a huge no-no. Additionly, if we wanted to export the audio as an email or trim a recording, we were prompted to spend an additional .99. No thanks.
Finally, we decided that we wanted an app with a little more functionality than Voice Memos, but less costly than Vocalive. We give you the all-new GarageBand. From the start, the $4.99 app for GarageBand comes across as a fun and easy to use application. Aside from all the musical instruments and amps included in the application, it also has a wonderful audio recorder which is very easy to use. We were blown away with the audio quality when paired with the iRig microphone, and we liked the ability to send high quality audio to anyone via email. Coupled with the $59.99 iRig mic, the $4.99 GarageBand is a must have for any podcaster or voice over artist working on the fly.
Matt Conner is the Video Producer for TechWebTV. You can write to him at email@example.com.