Late last year IK Multimedia released iRig Mic Field ($169.95) – a pocket-sized high-quality stereo microphone with a Lightning connector into compatible iOS devices. Before I give it a run let’s get the technical stuff out of the way.
The unit boasts a 24-bit audiophile-grade A/D converter, a 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate, a 115 dB maximum SPL rating and a low-noise/high-definition pre-amp. This all comes in a plastic enclosure approximately 50mm square which contains two cardioid electret condenser capsules in an XY formation for true stereo capture. So there.
The device is 90° rotatable and locks in position to capture the best stereo spread in either landscape or portrait position. I must admit I feel more comfortable with the unit in portrait position, as in landscape it tends to sag a little in the connection socket. That’s not really the fault of the microphone, which is extremely light, but probably the limitation of the small size of the Lightning connector.
A multicolour LED indicator ranging from blue (we’re connected) through green (too soft) to orange (lovin’ it) and red (turn it down!) gives me immediate feedback on my levels, which I can adjust with a rotary gain control. The LED is also a handy reminder that I am looking at the user’s side of the unit and not the recording face. More of that shortly. There’s an integrated headphone output so I can hear what’s happening although it is wisely suggested to use the headphone socket on the iOS device itself to avoid further pressure on the Lightning connector.
The iRig Mic Field works with any iOS Core Audio or Core Video app. I tried it first on an iPad mini with GarageBand which recognised the unit immediately. I quickly set the levels on the mike and in the software and pressed record. Hmm. A little bit soft and somewhat muffled. Idiot! I’m talking to the wrong side. Take two is much better. Noticeably clearer and with a significant reduction of background noise compared to the sound I get with the built-in microphone.
I then repeated the process (without the stuff up, of course) with IK Multimedia’s own app iRig Recorder which I’ve used before. There’s a free version of this that comes with the microphone. The results were equally pleasing in terms of clarity and reduced background noise.
Finally I activated the Camera app on the iPad and shot some video. Again the results were very pleasing.
So who’s the iRig Mic Field aimed at? I think the name Field is the clue. It’s ideal for quality audio capture on the move because of its lightness and ease of use. I’m sure it would work well for pros and semi-pros who need to seize the moment in stereo without a bulky set up and without compromising on sound quality.
For me it’s something I’ll definitely take with me in its protective little pouch whenever I’m away from the studio. Just in case.