A switch on the left-front side of the iQ5 provides a way to set the pickup for either directional or more omnidirectional stereo. According to Zoom, the iQ5 uses two microphone elements -- a directional "mid" mic that grabs sound coming in from the front and a bidirectional "side" mic that picks up ambient sound. Mid-side recording captures the mid and side mic signals as RAW data, which is then post-processed to adjust the stereo width or collapse the signal into mono.
The mid-side post-processing can be done with Zoom's free HandyRecorder app, which I found to be surprisingly useful. For additional information on the mic design and the app, I'll defer to this video from Zoom.
There's also a switch for gain control, which can be turned off, set with a limiter to avoid overpowering the mic or set to auto gain presets for concerts, solos and meetings. Once again, the presets require Zoom's HandyRecorder app. A mic gain wheel on the right side of the iQ5 makes it simple to manually adjust gain as well.
One note to potential users of the iQ5 -- you'd better use it with a case that allows full access to the bottom of your device, since I found that I could not install it on my iPhone 5s without removing the case. Once the case was removed, plugging in the iQ5 immediately rewarded me with a glowing red LED indicating that the device was powered up.
Having used some of Zoom's digital recorders for podcasting, I was dubious that the iQ5 would be able to capture audio with the same clarity and depth of sound as those dedicated devices. I'm glad to say that I was wrong. Monitoring the recording in progress was helpful, and there was no noticeable lag.
I won't go into too many details about the HandyRecorder app, only to say that it works well and is simple to figure out. One issue I have is that the only way to share your recordings is through SoundCloud. For podcasters, having the ability to send files through FTP is often a requirement. There's no way to do that; you can't email the files; nor can they be saved to your song library. However, that's a problem with the app, not the microphone. You can always choose to use a different application like GarageBand or BossJock Studio.
One possible issue -- twice during my testing I heard what appeared to be interference from the iPhone's cellular radio through the Apple headset I was using to monitor. That doesn't happen when I use the headset normally, and the sound did not appear on the recording I was making. I'm wondering if it was feedback from the Apple headset's built-in microphone interfering with the iQ5, so I'd warn users to use headsets without a mic for monitoring purposes.
The Zoom iQ5 is perfect for anyone who wants to do high-quality digital stereo recording, whether it's for interviewing, music or nature sounds. This compact and lightweight mic can slip into a pocket for immediate availability, and it's less expensive than most of the dedicated digital recorders.
Rating: 3-1/2 possible out of 4 stars possible
One lucky TUAW reader is going to get his or her hands on a Zoom iQ5. 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 January 27, 2014 11:59PM Eastern Standard Time.
- You may enter only once.
- One winner will be selected and will receive a Zoom iQ5 Professional Stereo Microphone with Lightning Connector valued at $99.99.
- Click Here for complete Official Rules.