I probably am not
the first person to call when it comes to any and all things Mac. I
spend my days cranking out nationally syndicated talk radio
programming on Windows and Linux machines, using the software with
which I am most familiar. We have several iMacs at the network that
we use for video editing, but I don’t spend much time near them.
When I was offered
to try out the Apogee Electronics MiC 96k professional digital
microphone, I knew the company made audio hardware exclusively for
Apple products. But I asked anyway: “Does it work on any computer?”
and they told me, “We designed it for Mac hardware.”
O-okay-y … send it
I figured this was a
good opportunity for me to get on good terms with Mac hardware and
software and to see what I can get the MiC to do when I’m removed
from my comfort zone. Going in without any notions or prejudices, I
was bound to be impartial. Hard to imagine, given the experiences I
have had with USB microphones from many other companies: low levels,
noisy preamps, gritty A/D converters and low threshold for overload
and distortion. Besides, there were plenty of people at work with
iPhones that I could convince to plug in and try out the MiC on their
own, then harvest their opinions.
Here’s the quick
read: If you are in radio and you have a Mac computer, iPad or
iPhone, get one of these now.
The fact Apogee
Electronics was behind the design of the MiC is enough to go get the
checkbook. I had hoped for the same in the MiC. The unit they sent me
to try out is the 96k model, which can output a 24-bit/96 kHz signal.
Add to that a responsive and detailed condenser capsule, and the
street price of about $230 becomes a steal.
The MiC has the
looks and lines of any classic condenser microphone you have seen in
your career, only in a stubby little 4.5-inch long body. Its zinc
diecast body packs some surprising heft for its size, and that
3/4-inch condenser capsule is mounted inside a double layer of nice
I’m pretty certain
the Apogee engineers knew the MiC was not going to be a coddled
condenser mic that would be lovingly returned to its velvet bag and
back into its lacquered walnut case every evening after a session,
but stuffed randomly into the accessory pocket of a MacBook bag after
an inspired impromptu recording, likely somewhere unusual. They built
it to boogie.
Given that, I did
notice the finish they gave the case is a bit prone to scratching.
One of our staff missed when trying to plug into the output socket
and left a long divot in the end cap.
The mic is supported
by a clever little tripod accessory with a standard 1/4-20 thread as
used on cameras. Apogee also included an adapter that couples the MiC
to a standard mic boom thread. Brownie points for not making us shop
for an accessory that should be included.
Seeing how Apogee
Electronics decided what went inside, I knew the preamp was going to
be ultraquiet and the converter was going to be miles ahead of your
basic epoxy blob. The company did more than that: they included a
gain control on the mic body to dial in your recording level (rather
than opening a mixer window on your hardware), and a tricolor LED on
the mic body that tells you if you’re connected (blue), if you’re
talking to your software (green), and if you’re talking too loud
Apogee packed the
mic with good ole USB cabling, but also included Apple’s
proprietary eight-pin Lightning connector, as well as a cable for the
earlier 30-pin version of Apple sockets. You are covered, no matter
how you hook up to your Mac product.
The first test
recording we made was a tabletop setup: MiC on its tripod and plugged
into an iPhone, recording a voiceover to be emailed to our production
Those of us present
were surprised by how quiet the mic was — like I said, we have had
experience before with digital mics and USB interfaces and had been
less than impressed. But on the MiC, we had a clean, noiseless
recording with lots of clarity. When no one spoke and only room atmo
was evident, there was none of the graininess or fizziness we have
heard in those aforementioned USB mics. The Apogee MiC 96k proved its
worth right out of the gate.
What was noticeable
was a bit of phasing honk — the mic was too close to the tabletop
and picking up the reflected voice of our performer. Done a second
time with a jacket under the tripod fixed everything.
Our second recording
was done on a small boom to avoid the tabletop reflection, directly
into Garage Band on one of our iMac video editors. Here we had
greater control over processing (EQ, compression etc.). Same result:
wonderfully accurate and airy tracks that we could further process
into Billy Big Voice for the radio.
One last recording
was a two-person interview sitting close together in a V-pattern in
front of the mic. The big concern was that the cardioid pattern would
be too tight to cleanly capture both of our participants without
getting an off-axis sound and some roominess. But the pattern is
somewhat generous and we did fine.
It is worth
mentioning that, directly on-axis, the MiC is prone to plosives, as
are nearly all condenser mics. Good practice dictates angling the
microphone or using a pop filter. No doubt you already own one.
We did not attempt
to record anything at the highest resolution settings, since our end
users are affiliate radio stations, and the FM affiliates wouldn’t
reproduce much above 15 kHz anyway. Still, it’s nice to know it’s
there when it’s time for a critical recording.
+ Apogee guts inside, hard shell outside
+ Up to 96 kHz sample rate
+ Cables, stand and adapter are standard accessories
~ Exclusively for modern Mac hardware, but tests indicate it could work with Win or Lin machines
– Finish may scratch under
For information, contact
Apogee Electronics in California
at (310) 584-9394 or visit www.apogeedigital.com.
is positioning the MiC 96k for musicians, voiceover folks and
multimedia creators; all you need to do is check out the company
website and see the demonstration videos. But I am finding the MiC to
be a valuable addition to the arsenal of any broadcaster using Mac
Yes, we can record
the mayor at a news conference via phone and send it back to the
studio, but those recordings are thin and indistinct. Get a MiC
up-front and get the best recording in the house.
can simplify their rigs by using just a MiC and a Mac laptop at home,
then switch gears and cut tracks in Pro Tools for agency ads, all on
the same laptop.
And that band that
can’t meet you at the studio for the morning show? Hit their hotel
room and grab an impromptu acoustic performance, without sounding
like its being recorded with a 1980s vintage dynamic mic into a Uher.
I’ve discovered a
bit about Mac hardware this time out, and how to make one sound
really good with an Apogee MiC. And for what it’s worth, I got it
to work on my clunky old Windows XP machine. But this is one for the
Apple crowd. I definitely recommend this mic: It is inexpensive,
durable, and it sounds really good. Plus, it’s American-made by
Apogee Electronics, and that says plenty.
Peterson has been the production director at the Radio America
Network, Arlington Va., for ten years, and is a familiar name to
long-time RW readers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.