For reporters, podcasters or musicians on the go, you really want the best possible sound quality without having to lug a lot of equipment around. That's why portable digital stereo recorders like those from Zoom are so popular -- they're compact, and they capture incredible sound. The iPhone and iPad can make recordings, but the built-in microphones leave a lot to be desired. That's why small digital mics like the Mikey Digital (US$99.99) from Blue Microphones are so useful -- you can get amazing sound quality while using your Apple device so you don't have to carry yet another piece of gear.
I first reviewed the Mikey Digital in 2012, but iOS devices have now moved on to the Lightning adapter so the old Mikey Digital required a 30-pin to Lightning adapter in order to work; in other words, one more adapter to lose. The new device just plugs right into that Lightning port on your iPad Air, iPad mini, or iPhone 5/5s/5c. I thought it would be a good time to take a fresh look at the Mikey Digital.
- Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.5 x .5 inches (63.5 x 63.5 x 12.7 mm)
- Weight: .18 pounds (81.6 grams)
- Microphone type: Stereo pressure gradient condenser
- Sampling: 44.1kHz/16-bit
- Polar Patter: Cardioid
- Frequency Response: 35Hz - 20kHz
- Features: auto level sensing, low gain, and high gain settings; 230 degree swivel mount; 1/8" instrument, external mic, or line level input; pass-through USB connector for device charging
With the exception of the Lightning connector, not much has changed with the design of the Mikey Digital. It's still small enough to fit into a pocket comfortably, and Blue Microphones thoughtfully provides a small carrying bag to slip the Mikey into for that very purpose.
What I've always liked about the Mikey Digital design is the swiveling mount. If you have your iPad or iPhone mounted on a stationary tripod or stand for recording video and sound, you can swivel the mic around so that it points directly towards your sound source. One side of the mic has a Blue Microphones logo on it, and as long as that's pointed towards the sound source, you're going to get great sound.
You'll need an app like Garage Band to record and edit the sound you've captured. When the Mikey D. is under the control of a recording / editing app, all three LEDs light up. During recording, those LEDs will flash red if you're overloading the mic and clipping sound. The other side of the Mikey Digital has a sensitivity selector for loud sounds (live music, sporting events, etc... in the 100 - 130dB range), quiet sounds (distant noises, un-amplified lectures, and other sounds in the 45 - 65dB range), and an Auto Mode for speaking voices in interviews, acoustic instruments, etc...
To test the new Mikey Digital I read the first paragraph of this review, first with the built-in microphone on an iPad Air and then with the Mikey D. Both intros were recorded with the Mikey Digital as well.
As you can hear for yourself, the iPad Air built-in mic recording is somewhat clipped and also has a bit more noise in the background. The additional directionality provided by the Mikey Digital eliminated that noise, and there is additional depth and warmth in the recording that wasn't there while using the built-in mic. The sound quality -- at least to my ears -- wasn't as good as I expect from a much more capable (and expensive) pro desktop mic, but for a portable, stick-it-in-your-pocket microphone, it was definitely acceptable.
So there it is: the Mikey Digital does provide better sound quality than your built-in mic. The big question you need to ask yourself is "Do I want to spend that extra $100 to get better sound?" If you need extra sensitivity for recording lectures, if you want to be able to make bootleg recordings at loud concerts without overloading the built-in mic, or if you want a very compact mic that can go with you just about anywhere, then the Mikey Digital is worth the $100 price tag.
If, on the other hand, you're doing studio recording with an iPad and want the absolute best in sound, you probably want to shell out the extra quid and a much more professional microphone like the Blue Microphones Spark Digital ($199.99) or the recently-reviewed IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD ($129.99).
Compact, directional, and with built-in settings that allow optimum sound recording under a wide range of situations, the Blue Microphones Mikey Digital is an excellent choice for a portable iPhone or iPad mic. While it offers better recording quality than what you'll get with the built-in microphones on Apple's iOS devices, those wishing for the best possible sound will want to spend a bit more to get a top-end mic.
Rating: 3-1/2 stars out of 4 stars possible