There are a lot of great microphone choices out there for PC based Podcasters, but things get a little more complicated for the iOS Producer. We've spent the last year searching for the best Mics for use with our app bossjock studio, and we've got a list we stand behind as our recommended iOS Podcast Microphones.
The iPad has an unfair audio advantage compared to its smaller iOS siblings thanks to it's ability to use the Camera Connector Kit (30 pin dock equipped) or the USB Camera Adapter (Lightning Equipped models). These dongles greatly expand the I/O options to a huge selection of USB audio devices. Unfortunately these USB adapters do not work on the iPhone or iPod touch unless the device is Jailbroken, and that is not something that we recommend for reasons of stability and battery performance.
We believe in the freedom of mobile and it's ability to make you a more prolific audio producer. Just as bossjock studio works well on every device, we want microphones that work for iPad as well as iPhone and iPod touch.
So the qualifiers:
- We are focused on Microphones not interfaces.
- The Microphones must work with all 4th generation and newer iOS devices with proper adapters. So this includes the iPhone 4 and newer, iPod Touch 4th Gen and newer, and all the iPads including mini.
- We are not taking into consideration Jailbreaking solutions.
Disclaimers: These are the Mics we'd recommend to our Friends and Family, but please purchase from a place that has a good return policy in the event that you find the Mic is not serving your purpose. Links to purchase are affiliate links so we do get a kick back, but more importantly we want you to be happy with your gear choices.
The iOS Podcast Microphones:
We've ordered them by price to help you determine the best choice for your budget. Although, all of these microphones have their place in an iOS Podcaster's Kit.
$0 The Built In iOS
It's good enough to get the job done despite being a little noisy with both digital and ambient noise. It can sound very crisp and responds well if you make a point to direct your voice toward it. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. Same goes for microphones.
And it's even rumored that the upcoming bossjock studio update will support the disabling of the audio processing that iOS uses resulting in an even better sounding recording. No one will ever believe it's your phone!
Note: The mics built into the iOS device bodies are vastly superior to most headphone inline mics.
The iRig MIC Cast
It's tiny, pops right into the headphone jack of your device, and it sounds great. It has a focused AM radio sort of sound that cuts right through the mix. The Cast will also work with your older yet still very capable iPhone 3GS.
This VIP Microphone absolutely blew Podcasters' minds this year. It's the Mic heard round the Net. You may have seen it punching above its weight in the USB Dynamic Podcasting Mic Shootout on Recording Hacks, caught Ray Ortega's bossjock studio/ATR2100 video, or read about its praises on various online podcast communities. Well, add our endorsement to the pile.
It gives you a powerful radio broadcast quality recording and being a dynamic Mic is inherently less sensitive to room noise. You are less likely to hear your neighbor's AC unit. As a handheld type mic it can be used in the field to interview people on a show floor.
The ATR2100 has both a USB and XLR connector. Both cables are included in the box along with a Mic stand. The Mic itself only costs an amazing $35, but unlike the iRig MIC Cast you need an adaptor to connect it to your iOS device.
We recommend the following adaptors:
1) $40 iRig PRE XLR Adapter for the
iPhone and iPod Touch:
2) $30 Apple Camera Connector Kit for
$30 Lightning To USB Camera Adaptor for new
This Microphone makes a fantastic investment for your Podcasting Rig. You have a selection of adaptors compatible with all your devices. Another big plus comes with having XLR output as the ATR2100 can be used as part of a stellar Multi Mic setup if you bring a mixer into the equation. The analog and digital outputs make the ATR2100 so versatile.
There will be many people that argue that this is as far as you will need to read in this round up, and that the more expensive mic options are largely not worth it or as well suited for Podcasters. For some of you this may be the best solution and certainly the biggest bang for the buck. There are drawbacks to note:
The complexity of adaptors is a pain. You have to remember to pack cables and dongles, some that work with all devices and some that only work with the iPad. The build quality is not without it's flaws. The glossy gun metal paint on the grill of the Mic is an odd choice. The microphone emits the scent of motor oil which can be slightly off putting when up close and personal in the heat of a session. My first ATR2100 stopped working after the first few recordings, but luckily it was under the 30 day return policy of Amazon. A quick web search reveals that others have had similar issues with the Mic, but it does have a limited lifetime warranty and Audio Technica is a prestigious company that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I find it easy to overlook these drawbacks in lieu of the amazing audio quality and the astonishing $35 ticket price. It is worth any risk to have this crazy black swan piece of gear in your arsenal.
The Blue Mikey Digital
This is a Swiss Army knife of audio and the only stereo microphone in our list. While under most circumstances we recommend a mono device, there are exceptions to that rule. If you are interested in capturing soundscapes or ambience as a major part of your program material then a stereo mic can be instrumental in creating a compelling listen. We'll touch on it further a little later, but as literal New Media Producers we should be ready to throw the conventions out and get experimental. That said, the latest version of bossjock studio 1.5.1 and many other great audio apps out there can create a mono recording from this mic in software. So in a way you get the best of both worlds, like a… Swiss Army knife.
The Blue Mikey Digital is fully compatible with the 30-pin connector of iPhones and iPads, and also can be used with lightning equipped iOS devices if you get Apple's $30 Lightning to 30-pin adapter. You can also utilize the stereo effect for two speakers capturing the spatial positioning of each person. There are producers that have created this artificially with slight mixer pans in the stereo field, but with the Mikey you could be capturing this separation naturally. Part of it's Swiss Army feature set includes an 1/8th inch jack that can be used to capture instrument signals like from a guitar, external microphones or even the stereo output of a mixer. So the Blue Mikey Digital can essentially act as a sound card in addition to it's microphone duties.
The Mikey Digital was released around the same time that Apple began to transition their iOS devices to the Lightning Connector. There haven't been too many anouncements about native lightning connector microphones or audio devices at this point, but we do expect that to change very soon. Fortunately Apple has made a Lighning to 30-pin Adapter that works with audio devices like the Mikey Digital. Things can get a little cramped when using the iPhone 5 with the Mikey, Adapter and a pair of headphones. It's a doable setup, but it should be noted that bulkier headphone plugs may cause some problems.
This mic shouldn't be the first choice for the majority of Podcasters just looking to improve the quality of their voice recordings. However, It has some very specific features that none of the other Mics in this list can support. This is another fantastic piece of gear that every Podcaster would be thrilled to have in their possession.
The Apogee MiC
At the top end is this beautiful microphone that connects with all iOS devices using the same pristine digital connection. The Apogee MiC is a small Condenser Microphone that is superbly put together. It comes with a cable that will connect directly to your 30-pin iOS device. If you have a newer lightning equipped device you would need to purchase the $30 Apple Lightning to 30 Pin Adapter.
There is no zero latency headphone adaptor on the MiC so all monitoring of your voice will be done in software. For some people that makes the Apogee MiC a deal breaker especially at this price. We are used to monitoring via bossjock studio so this is not an issue for us, but you should be aware of our bias. At $200 you really need to audition this microphone or purchase from a place that will let you return it if it is not what you are looking for.
Then there is the fact that it is a condenser. Many people will share the opinion that $200 is a crazy price for a condenser mic when the ATR2100, a dynamic mic that is closer to the sound of broadcast radio mics can be had for significantly less. The good people of RecordingHacks.com, who provide some of the most in depth mic reviews you'll ever read, believe that dynamic mics are the better choice for podcasting and voice over work. I'd have to agree for most PC and Studio based podcast production. I just think the situation is different for the iOS Producers utilizing the iPhone or iPod in addition to an iPad for production. For those users I think the Apogee MiC is an almost perfect fit and well worth its $200 price tag.
I even think it can do a good impression of a dynamic microphone. You just have to make sure you use a Wind Screen or a Pop Filter. The Apogee MiC really needs it to help you get up and close with the MiC for a more conventional Radio Sound thanks to the Proximity Effect that the Apogee MiC exhibits. Basically if you get closer to the MiC it increases the amount of bass in your voice.
I also find the MiC to be quite flexible in capturing different types of sound. A less conventional style of audio production can really make your podcast stand out amongst many producers who aim to be more like radio. Podcasting Co-Creator Adam Curry's early Daily Source Code was stoic in the position that this new “Podcast” thing was most definitely not Radio but something all its own. You could hear the sounds of Adam's house, the echo of the room, the slurping of Tea and the chik chik of his lighter.
With the Apogee MiC you can sit it on a table on a back patio and crank it up to easily capture two speakers like in this episode of the non-affiliated yet blood related NSFW EMayhem Radio Podcast:
And here is a side by side test of an ATR2100 and an Apogee MiC:
For heavy iPhone and iPod Touch users I think the Apogee becomes a very compelling choice for it's outstanding mobile strengths. For those that predominantly use the iPad for production it may not be as much of a slam dunk depending on their taste in microphones. Although I doubt many people would suffer buyers remorse if they make the plunge. It really is a charmer in person. Smells good too.
While there will undoubtedly be new products on the horizon that will takeover as the kings of 2014, one has to admit this is a very classy crew. They each have their place and time when their individual strengths make them the best choice for a particular circumstance. Price, Portability and Use Case should all be taken into account when choosing between these Mics. However, none of these are a bad choice in our opinion. They all deserve a place in your Podcasting Kit.
Gonna Take the Plunge?
If you decide to purchase any of gear mentioned in this blog please consider using the affiliate links below.
$40 – The iRig MIC Cast: iRig MIC Cast – Ultra-compact microphone for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad
$35 – Audio-Technica ATR2100: Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone
$40 iRig PRE (Only way to Connect ATR2100 to iPhone and iPod touch): iRig PRE – XLR microphone interface for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad
$30 Apple Camera Connector Kit (for 30-pin iPad's Only): Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit (MC531ZM/A)
$30 Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (for lightning iPads only): Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (MD821ZM/A)
$100 (often less) Blue Mikey Digital: Blue Microphones Mikey Digital Recording Microphone for Apple iPhone and iPad
$200 Apogee MiC: MiC Studio quality microphone for iPad, iPhone, and Mac
Updates to Article:
July 26, 2013 added VoiceOver Issues note to iRig MIC Cast info and related Audioboo