Good external microphones for the iPhone/iPad are expensive – not the kind of thing you want to buy and find out they are no good! Here’s a comparison of three external iPhone microphones: The Apogee MiC, Fostex AR-4i and Tascam iM2.
They were all tested on my iPhone 4s by recording into the FiRE iPhone recording app at full quality. On the microphones that had a volume adjustment, I adjusted it to be at the top of the green range in FiRE, quite conservative, no chance of clipping. I had the mic placed approx 20cm in front of my guitar sound-hole at the same height in all the tests. The Tascam doesn’t give any indication of levels, the Fostex has 4 LEDs on top to show the levels and the Apogee has a single LED on the front. The single LED on the Apogee seemed to give a better indication of input level than the three LED’s on the FOSTEX because the difference in brightness was easier to discern on the Apogee LED.
The three microphones I tested were:
The Apogee Mic for $219 from Apple Australia. I couldn’t find it significantly cheaper anywhere else.
The Fostex AR-4i for $110 from ebay.
The Tascam iM2 for $69.56 from ebay.
I’ve included the uncompressed (AIFF) audio files so you can hear them for yourself – press the play button.
FIRST PLACE : Apogee MiC (mono)
Comment: Very clear on the speech, sounds slightly boomy with guitar but I think this is more about mic placement than anything. Almost no background hiss.
SECOND: FOSTEX AR-4i (stereo)
Voice sounds a bit distant/muffled. Guitar not as clear. Some background hiss.
tascam no limiter (aiff) (with limiter turned off)
Vocal sounds thin, Guitar sounds compressed/almost distorted. This might because I had the ‘limit’ button set to on, I turned it off and things improved, but still there is some change in the tone or something – not just a poor frequency response but it’s colouring the sound somehow.Very little background hiss.
FOURTH: The iPhone 4s built in mic. (mono)
Vocals sound boxy and lows are missing. Guitar clear on the highs, lacking some bass. Toss up between this and the external headphone mic (below). Lots of hiss.
FIFTH: The iPhone 4s with headphone mic. (mono)
Vocals and guitar crystal clear on the highs but lacking more bass than the internal mic I think. Hard to distinguish from the internal iPhone mic! Lots of hiss.
I was after a good quality external microphone to record vocals or guitar onto my iPhone and to use for skype conference calls (to pick up people speaking across a table) and to use for video interviews. Initially I was going to limit myself to models under $100 but the Apogee looked too good not to try – I’m glad I included it. The Apogee sounds the best by far, and it words very well for skype calls.
Have a listen for yourself though – I’m keen to hear other people’s comments!