Following the release of iRig Voice (iLounge rating: B), iRig Mic HD ($130) is the high-end successor to IK Multimedia’s 2011 iRig Mic (iLounge rating: B), offering a completely digital interface for modern iOS devices via Apple’s Lightning connector. Inside a metallic body that’s available in black or silver, IK has included a low-noise, high-definition pre-amp, a high-grade 24-bit A/D converter, and a 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate. The silver model is notably an Apple Store exclusive.
The microphone interfaces to Lightning-equipped iOS devices via an included micro-USB to Lightning cable, while users of older iOS devices can purchase a Dock Connector cable separately. A USB cable is also included for connecting to a Mac or PC. The package also includes a microphone stand clip and carrying case. The micro-USB end of the cable simply plugs into the bottom of the mic, with a plastic collar that fits over the cable and screws on to secure the connection.
Rather than requiring phantom power like most condenser mics do, iRig Mic HD draws its needed power from the connected iOS device. An LED on the front of the mic provides connection/power status as well as a level indicator that can be used in conjunction with the gain control on the rear of the mic; the LED flashes red when distortion or clipping is likely to occur, and you can easily adjust downward to get back into the proper range.
Since iRig Mic HD connects to the Lightning port on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, monitoring can be accomplished through the standard headphone jack — no additional headphone monitoring port is provided. Standard Core Audio compatibility allows iRig Mic HD to work with any iOS recording app, ranging from the iPhone’s built-in Voice Recorder, to apps such as GarageBand, or IK Multimedia’s own suite of apps such as VocaLive or SampleTank.
To check out the overall sound quality, we put the iRig Mic HD up against a Shure Beta 87C connected via IK’s iRig PRO Audio Interface (iLounge Rating: A), and Blue Microphones’ Spark Digital Studio mic (iLounge Rating: A-. The results were impressive, with the iRig Mic HD easily holding its own against both more expensive options, although we should note the Spark Digital Studio mic still clearly wins out for desktop studio applications due to its more focused feature set; iRig Mic HD is really first and foremost a vocalist’s mic. The noise floor was virtually undetectable, and recording quality was crisp and clear for spoken audio, music vocalist recording, and even as an instrument mic. While mic placement and gain adjustments play a factor, iRig Mic HD was able to record great-sounding audio with only a minimal—and perfectly reasonable—level of tweaking, especially for vocal audio, which pretty much worked right out of the box. The low-frequency recording was surprisingly good as well, picking up a crisp electric bass sound without distortion.
Although $130 may seem on the pricey side for an iOS recording accessory, it’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking about a professional-grade microphone. More casual users will definitely want to look to something like IK Multimedia’s iRig Voice (iLounge rating: B) instead. iRig Mic HD is a pro-grade mic that can hold its own against considerably more expensive professional mics at half the price, with the bonus of direct and easy iOS integration. The only real caveat here is that this is a purely digital microphone, so serious musicians and audio engineers will need to ask if $130 is worth it for a dedicated mic that can only be used with a computer or iOS device as compared to picking up something like an iRig PRO or iRig PRE for an analog condenser mic. That said, if you’re looking for a versatile mic to record professional-grade audio in a digital studio environment, it’s hard to go wrong with this one, and it’s worthy of our high recommendation.
Company and Price
Company: IK Multimedia
Model: iRig Mic HD
Compatibility: All Lightning iPads, iPad minis, iPhones + iPod touches, Other iOS Devices*