Review: Blue Microphone Mikey Digital for iPhone/iPad
If you've never used the Voice Memos app on your iPhone, you're missing out on one of the more useful hidden capabilities of the device: the ability to be a quite competent audio recorder. It's not like having a sound engineer on site, but if you're in a meeting and want to be able to capture the discussion and study it later, or you're on a Skype call and want to record it, or are at a live performance and want to enjoy it again later, that gadget in your pocket is definitely ready to do double duty.
Problem is, the mic on the iPhone works well if you're talking directly into it, but if you're laying it on a chair to record something that's 10' or further away, not much of the signal seems to get through!
Enter the Blue Microphone Mikey, an external mic that plugs directly into your iPhone and makes those recordings a whole lot better. This is their second external mic for an iOS device, but the first gen was only for early iPods and didn't work with iPhones or iPads. This new gen definitely does and even has a standard 30-pin connector.
Some of the examples I offered earlier have constraints around them from a legal perspective, so I should warn you that, for example, going into a concert and recording the performance for later sharing on Facebook or similarly is quite likely going to get you in hot water legally. Performances are copyrighted content and even for your own use most bands and performers get upset. And you know that you can't record even the audio portion of a movie in the theater, right?
On the other hand, I attend a lot of meetings where one or two people out of the group cannot make it. Last night, for example, was a parent night at my children's school and not all the parents in the class could be on campus at the appointed hour. A perfect use for my iPhone 4s + the Mikey and it worked perfectly.
To record the audio, I put the mic on Auto Mode -- it has three modes, Loud, Auto and Quiet, chosen by a sliding switch on the mic itself -- and used the Apple "Voice Memos" app for the recording itself. With the mic tilted up at 90-degrees, I put it a few feet from me in an outdoor setting where there were approximately 30 people sitting in a circle and the main speaker was about 18' from the iPhone.
The results, when I shared the mp3 file with another parent? "The recording sounds excellent!"
You can listen for yourself. The following is an audio sample recorded from about 10-feet away from the iPhone, first with just the built-in mic (which does a pretty decent job) then again with the Mikey plugged in:
When within a foot or two of the phone, the built-in mic on the iPhone 4s sounds quite good, but I can definitely hear a difference on the more distant audio source, and in general, I think that the Mikey recorded audio is more mellow, with more midtone and less harshness than the phone by itself. Oh, and though the Mikey Digital enables stereo recordings, the Voice Memo application only records mono, so if you are going to use it for tasks where that's important, an app like Garage Band for iPhone would be a good additional purchase.
The Mikey can double as a small speaker for your iPhone if you want something a bit better than the built-in speaker and even has a mini-USB port for remote power in situations where you're making really long recordings (it can charge your iOS device while recording too, since it takes up the 30-pin connector), and a 3.5mm input jack that lets you connect a wide variety of audio sources (think amps, speakers, mixer output) and then record directly from that signal onto your iOS device.
I'm already a big fan of the Blue Microphone product line, with a Tiki in my computer bag at all times, a Yeti Pro for webinars and a Snowflake for when I'm on the road. With the new Mikey Digital I have to say "they've done it again". If you're working with audio, it really is a must-have device and I strongly recommend it.
Then again, it's pricey at $99 (at Amazon.com for example) so it's not the cheapest external mic on the market. But quite possibly given its size and capabilities, it's the best. If you can justify the expense, I recommend you check it out!
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