IK Multimedia has been busy lately with a bunch of recording accessories and apps for iOS and Mac reaching the market. The latest, which we're announcing before its official unveiling tomorrow, is the iRig Mic HD (US$129.99), a 24-bit digital microphone that is as comfortable connected to a Mac in your office as it is to an iPhone or iPad in the field.
Dimensions: 7.28 inches long x 1.89 inches max diameter (185 x 45 mm)
Microphone Type: condenser, electret, cardioid polar pattern
Interface Type: USB Digital Microphone, built-in low noise high definition pre-amp
Frequency Response: 40 Hz - 18 kHz, -3dB
Maximum Sound Pressure: 134 dB
Distortion: 3% THD at 134 dB, 1 kHz
Sensitivity: adjustable over a 40 dB range
Built-in low profile gain control
Built-in multicolor LED for status and audio level indication
Connector Type: standard Micro-USB with Lightning or USB connector (30-pin Dock connector available separately for US$29.99)
Power and Connection: works with iOS and Mac/PC computer
The iRig Mic HD is a nice looking handheld mic, with a black or silver (available only at the Apple Store) body and a blue stripe announcing that it's an HD mic. There's one LED on the mic opposite a sensitivity dial.
IK Multimedia includes a lot with the iRig Mic HD. There's a mount that attaches to a music or microphone stand to hold the mic for you, a cable for use with either a Mac or a Lightning-equipped iOS device, and a carrying bag.
Probably the only negative I can see design-wise is that there isn't an output jack on the iRig Mic HD that can be used for monitoring what is being recorded, something that is available on other mics like the Blue Microphones Spark Digital, which also includes a shock mount for reducing noise when used on a desk or table. That means you might run into some latency issues when monitoring recording as the sound will need to travel into your Mac, iPhone and iPad, through an app, and then back to your headphones.
In my testing, I compared the iRig Mic HD to the Blue Microphones Spark Digital, which is more expensive at $199.99. I've used the Spark Digital for several years for podcasting and have been impressed with its ability to accurately record voices, so it's the standard by which I compare other microphones.
My test was rather simple: I used Garage Band to record my voice saying the first two paragraphs of the Design Highlights section of this post. The settings remained identical, and both mics were placed about the same distance away from my mouth. Here's the recording, first with the Spark Digital and next with the iRig Mic HD.
The Spark Digital sounds a bit more "open" and clear, although I personally felt that the iRig Mic HD actually provided a slightly warmer tone. For some reason, the iRig Mic HD seemed to pick up more plosives (those "p" pops you hear) than the Spark Digital, so you may wish to pick up a pop filter to help reduce that noise. Remember, what you hear in the test recording is subject to personal taste -- some may find the Spark's sound to be too "cold", while others may find the iRig Mic HD to be "muddled".
To test for monitoring latency, I used the Spark Digital with a set of headphones connected directly to the monitoring plug, while for the iRIg Mic HD I plugged the headphones into my Mac. While the Spark Digital exhibited just a tiny delay between speaking and hearing my voice (contrary to the company's claim of "zero latency"), the delay was more noticeable with the iRig Mic HD. That's something you'd expect, and once again I consider this to be something that is a personal preference. Doing podcasting, I'd find the delay to be totally acceptable and not an issue. However, if your preference lies towards having as little monitoring latency as possible, then you may wish to consider a digital mic with a built-in output port.
Update: A IK Multimedia spokesperson responded as follows -- "I was reading the review, and noticed your concerns on latency. And wanted to tell you that you could've reduced your "Buffer Size" setting in the recording software you were using, that would've helped. It's really up to the software to process audio and put it back out with a degree of latency. But that's up to the app. Its also not an issue with iRig Mic."
The iRig Mic HD is an impressive digital microphone for the price, offering good sensitivity and a warm tone that may endear it to vocalists. I do recommend using a pop filter with the mic if you're using it for vocals of any type, and the lack of a built-in output port on the mic will add a slight monitoring latency that may be annoying if you're using headphones to monitor your recording.
Rating: 3 stars out of 4 stars possible
IK Multimedia wants a TUAW reader to be one of the first people to try out the new iRig Mic HD. Here are the rules for the giveaway:
Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
The entry must be made before August 8, 2014 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
You may enter only once.
One winner will be selected in a random drawing and will receive a IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD valued at $129.99