IK Multimedia’s new iRig Mic Field ($100) is a stereo audio/video field microphone that plugs directly into the Lightning port of an iOS device. Though it looks a lot like IK’s previous iRig Mic Cast, that accessory was designed specifically for voice recordings. iRig Mic Field can handle stereo-quality audio or video recordings, including field and music recordings. The pocket-sized microphone can rotate 90 degrees for easy recording in portrait or landscape mode.
Compared to the similar $40 iRig Mic Cast, released more than two years ago, iRig Mic Field aims higher — the new mic is said to make professional-quality audio or video recordings. iRig Mic Field crams a 24-bit audiophile-grade A/D converter, a 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate, and a low-noise/high-definition pre-amp into a roughly 2” plastic square that’s about 0.69” thick at its thickest point.
A thumbwheel gain control is located on the side of the accessory, just below a headphone port. A small light turns different colors to act as an input level indicator. Moving the Lightning plug to switch between portrait and landscape mode is effortless.
Upon first use — or second or third — the appeal of iRig Mic Field may not be immediately apparent. When used with certain basic audio apps, such as the iOS Voice Memos app, you likely won’t notice enough of a difference to justify considering a purchase. When recording basic videos as many users do — recording your kids running around and talking, for instance — you’ll probably notice a difference in sound quality.
But picking up a bit more background noise or slightly louder sound won’t seem to matter much.
That being said, there is definitely a difference when compared to the iPhone’s microphone; we tested the mic on the iPhone 6 Plus. iRig Mic Field delivers better, louder sound than what an iOS device’s mic will offer, and it provides more distinct detail, as well. There’s no doubt that if you’re doing outdoor field recordings, iRig Mic Field will give you a much better result. IK Multimedia’s free iRig Recorder app does a good job when used in conjunction with the microphone, and the mic also performs pretty well with outdoor video recording. Users who are serious about iPhone or iPad video recording could benefit from the capabilities of iRig Mic Field.
It’s clear that iRig Mic Field offers some benefits over the iPhone’s microphone in a number of situations, but it’s still a niche product, as most users won’t need the upgrade — or notice enough a difference based on the audio or video they might record.