This time, I’m trialling two recent releases from Australian microphone manufacturer Røde. Both units plug in to my iOS devices and coupled with the Røde Rec app can deliver quality audio vastly superior to what I get with the built-in mic.
First, the iXY, which is a matched pair of 0.5in cardioid condenser capsules in a 90-degree alignment. The unit itself is beautifully designed with a satin metal finish and a weight of only 40g.With adjustable input levels, it’s ideal for live music, for recording sound effects or atmospherics in the field, or for interviews, meetings and lectures. Connected to an iPhone or iPod touch, you can even mount it on your video camera.
If you plan to make extensive use of the iXY, it’s obvious that iPhone/iPod touch is the way to go, as opposed to the bulkier iPads.The iXY is compatible with iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPad (third generation), iPad 2, iPad and iPod touch (fourth generation iOS 6+). I didn’t get a chance to try it on my ancient iPod touch, but it worked fine on my first-gen iPad.
One minor concern, however, is that even though the unit has minimal weight it is still sitting unsupported in the iPad socket. You would need to take care not to accidentally knock it against something hard. In fact, my second-generation iPad has suffered some socket damage over time (probably due to the number of review devices I’ve plugged in and out of it!) and so the iXY didn’t sit cleanly and, consequently, the recording levels were a bit jumpy. But then, that’s not the fault of the microphone.
With Røde Rec my recording quality can go all the way up to 24-bit/96k quality. There is a free version, but the full monty only costs $6.49 and is well worth the expense.
The iXY will work with other audio apps, but it makes sense to me to use the proprietary app. You get one-touch presets, which cover most recording scenarios and also real-time waveforms, live input monitoring, a powerful range of EQ and dynamic controls, basic editing tools and one-touch publishing in a variety of audio formats to SoundCloud, Dropbox or iTunes. I found Røde Rec intuitive and easy to use.
I made a few test recordings. As a long time Røde user, going back to my Røde Podcaster, which I first used for the Macworld podcasts in 2007, I wasn’t really surprised with the quality – clear sound, wide dynamic range, impressive stereo separation and low background noise – traditional Røde hallmarks.
I can see myself making great use of the iXY for interviews, recording speakers at meetings and capturing ambient sound for my documentaries. I’ll just need a newer iPod touch! The unit comes with a nifty zippered case with an attachment clip and a foam pop shield.
The second microphone I’m looking at is the Røde smartLav, a tiny device that plugs into the headphone socket of my iOS devices. When I first read the name, I thought it was an app for finding toilets in unfamiliar cities! Lavalier, doofus! This one is compatible with all iPads, all iPod touches and iPhones from 3G to 5. It works with any audio app, which uses the headphone socket, but again the best results will be from Røde Rec.
The mic itself is a little fiddly to attach to the clip if you’ve got fat fingers like mine, but otherwise a breeze to set up for recording. It uses an omnidirectional condenser capsule, which picks up sound at equal levels from all directions. A tiny foam pop shield takes care of explosive consonants and wind noise. Similar to the iXY, this unit works more conveniently with the smaller iOS devices.
So I clip the smartLav discreetly to the person I want to record, check the settings, hit Record in Røde Rec and slip the iOS device into the speaker’s pocket and I’m away. This would be a good set-up at weddings for capturing the ceremony and the speeches. When the speaker has finished, I retrieve the iOS device and upload the recording to my Mac for editing or to SoundCloud or Dropbox. If I’m recording my own voice, it’s even easier.
Once again the test recordings I did yielded no surprises. Great sound clarity, really nice dynamic range and no pops. If I want to record someone speaking and I don’t need stereo, the smartLav will give me all I need with an amazingly simple set-up. If I need to capture the stereo space, then I’ll use the iXY. Either way all roads are covered.
iXy around $180. smartLav around $50