Review: CableJive ProJive XLR
CableJive has made a solid name for itself over the past few years, thanks in part to Dock Connector-based cables and adapters that were useful to iPod, iPhone, and iPad users despite lacking Apple's official seal of approval -- a fact that helped the Massachusetts-based company keep its prices down while occasionally compromising on performance or build quality. The company recently shipped a new cable called ProJive XLR ($35), which notably uses a 3.5mm headphone plug rather than a Dock Connector to connect to iPods, iPhones, and iPads, while featuring an XLR plug on the other end. With this cable, some XLR port-equipped microphones can be connected to Apple's devices, though results appear to vary somewhat between the mic and iOS device you connect.
ProJive XLR’s design is pretty straightforward: you get a four-foot-long cable with a male 3.5mm plug on one end—notably tapered for connection to encased devices—and a substantially metal male XLR plug on the other, split off with several inches of cabling to accommodate a female 3.5mm port. The male 3.5mm plug goes into your iPhone, iPod, or iPad, while the female 3.5mm port lets you connect your choice of monitoring headphones, and the XLR connector goes into an XLR port-equipped microphone.
It’s worth underscoring a critical point here: because this connection goes from XLR to a 3.5mm headphone port, no power is passed between the microphone and the iOS device, so unless your mic is self-powered, you’ll need to find another way to supply energy to it. Given our very limited stable of XLR microphones for testing—we have only an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB available—this led us to an odd scenario: regardless of the iOS device we were using for recording, we had to supply the mic with power through its own USB port, using either a computer or, nonsensically, the iPad Camera Connection Kit. We say “nonsensically” because the same iPad Camera Connection Kit can be used to connect the microphone purely through USB without having to use ProJive XLR at all, and actually worked better with the iPad when we did.
For reasons unknown, ProJive XLR didn’t want to play well with the ATR2100-USB mic we were using with it, particularly when we connected them to the iPad and loaded GarageBand. Under the best circumstances, a manually set maximum input setting, audio running from the mic to the app suffered from both a low volume and high static level, while using GarageBand’s automatic input setting reduced the volume level further while static continued. We connected the same cable and mic to an iPhone, and the input volume level improved dramatically, but still didn’t sound fantastic. It’s worth noting that while the iPad could power the mic via the roundabout method described above, the iPhone could not; again, a computer, another external power source, or a self-powered mic will be necessary.
After testing thousands of different Apple accessories, our experience with ProJive XLR frankly didn’t make a lot of sense to us—variable but never great performance with different iOS devices, iffy external power considerations, and so on. Though it would be easy to blame this accessory, there are surely many different XLR microphones out there, and some may work just fine; we just haven’t seen them, and have had good, trouble-free experiences with directly iOS compatible mics such as iK Multimedia’s iRig Mic. For the time being, we’re going to leave ProJive XLR’s compatibility and rating as “unresolved;” consider it as a low-cost option if you have an older XLR mic that you really feel you need to use with your iOS device, rather than finding a newer and guaranteed iOS-ready replacement.