Professional Audio in Your Smartphone

In recent years, some companies have aimed at using a smartphone as a portable sound recorder, in their efforts to improve audio quality (telephone quality originally) through microphones and recording apps.

IK Multimedia, a company founded in Italy, offers one of the smallest broadcast-quality sound microphones on the market and at a very affordable price of $39.99, allowing for smartphone recordings everywhere.

FORM FACTOR

The iRig Mic Cast, weighing in at about half an ounce, is an ultra-compact microphone (1.18-inch x 1.85-inch x 0.39-inch) that connects to a iOS or Android smartphone or tablet TRRS jack.

iRig Mic Cast is a condenser electret microphone featuring a cardioid polar pattern, two different sensitivity settings (low and high) and an internal built-in windscreen. It also features a mini-jack headphone output enabling real-time monitoring of what is being recorded.

Regarding apps, it includes two free ones for iOS: iRig Recorder, an easy-to-use voice recording/editing app also available for Android; and VocaLive, a multieffects processing app for singers. It also works with all regular phone calls and any voice-over-IP app such as Skype.

iRig Mic Cast is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac computers, besides Android smartphones and tablets. Finally, to offer ease of use at a desk, it features an adjustable tabletop stand for convenient smartphone positioning during recording.

The three main challenges faced by a microphone in the field are ambient noise rejection in up-close recordings, acceptable quality of sound sources that are not close in silent environments and the need to provide broadcast-quality sound.

While in some cases built-in smartphone microphones provide a sound quality journalists can use on some of their tasks, they typically feature an omnidirectional polar pattern that makes them unable to respond to the first two challenges mentioned above.

Due to its feature set, IK Multimedia iRig Mic Cast can rise to these challenges. To reach the first challenge it takes a microphone with a directional pattern that is high enough to reject off-axis sound effectively. iRig Mic Cast sports a cardioid polar pattern that allows for the much-needed ambient noise rejection.

The second challenge can be reached by a directional pattern and a sensitivity that are high enough: iRig Mic Cast has a sensitivity mini switch that, in its low setting (LO) is good for close-up sound sources, and in its high setting (HI) can pick up distant sound sources with a logic reverberation level in relation to the characteristics of the environment (more or less reverberant) and the distance from the source.

As regards the third challenge, the microphone can reach it with its own feature set: a condenser electret microphone with a frequency response of 100 Hz to 15 kHz that is enough to pick up certain details in high frequencies and to reject low frequency “rumble.” Besides, its built-in windscreen is an outstanding feature when compared to smartphone built-in microphones. Try to record with a smartphone in a windy outdoor setting and you will see what I mean.

Product Capsule

IK Multimedia
iRig Mic Cast Microphone

Thumbs Up
+ Small footprint
+ Quality sound for its size
+ Sensitivity settings
+ Comes with useful app

Thumbs Down
– Not high fidelity

Price: $39.99

For information, contact IK Multimedia in Florida at
(954) 846-9101 or visit
www.ikmultimedia.com.

The iRig Recorder app that comes with the microphone is appropriate for the minimal needs: export files as compressed M4A (MP3 would have been better if you ask me), transfer files via iTunes, Wi-Fi and share files with easy upload to an FTP server or SoundCloud (I would add the extremely popular Dropbox).

This microphone, aimed at students and journalists, with features designed with outdoor tasks in mind (mainly practicality, broadcast-quality sound and portability) and at a reasonable price, deserves to be taken into account by all kinds of journalists on the field. You can go to YouTube and check the features and sound quality of the microphone demonstrated in quite a few video clips available.

Carlos Martin Schwab is a sound engineer, column writer, and public accountant that owns his own recording studio Tribal Tech, in Rosario, Argentina. Reach him at tribaltch@gmail.com.



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