Sep 18

 

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.

 

THE RESULTS!

I’ve included the uncompressed (AIFF) audio files so you can hear them for yourself – press the play button.

FIRST PLACE : Apogee MiC (mono)

Apogee MiC (AIFF)

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)

fostex (aiff)

Voice sounds a bit distant/muffled. Guitar not as clear. Some background hiss.

 

THIRD: Tascam iM2 (stereo)

tascam (aiff)

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)

iPhone (aiff)

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)

iPhone external headset mic (aiff)

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!

 

10 Responses to “What’s the best external iPhone Microphone?”

  1. Søren says:

    Hi,

    At which sound(pressure) level did you test the mic’s?

    I’m looking to replace the Tascam (http://www.solidstatesound.co.uk/tascam_dr-07_mk2.htm) I use to recording my band (drums, bass, guitar, vocal) at full volume in the rehearsing room?

    Thx,
    Søren

  2. Niko says:

    +1 with Soren, what is the result with highs volumes? rehearsal, gigs?, your “bests” results with the Apogee Mic will be the same in that case ?? not sure…
    You can easily record a human voice with an unplugged instrument but for a gig thats really different.

  3. Great overview of some options here; I just wanted to point out that, using some adapters, I’ve also reviewed a lot of other microphones and audio devices with the iPhone/iPad, and posted the results on my website here: http://www.lifeisaprayer.com/articles/photography/iphone-4-ipad-external-mic-audio-input

    I haven’t tested the Apogee mic; might have to buy one and try it out!

    • steve says:

      We do video interviews at events with our iphone that we post online. We need wired, handheld mics so they can display our flag.

      We all have iphone 5’s. We were using the IRig mics with our iphone 4’s (which are uneven at best and broke a lot) but they only seem to work sometimes iwth the iphone 5, even when we do suggested workarounds – like plugging in the headset.

      What would be your suggestion for a wired, handheld mic for the iphone 5 to meet our needs. We are able to pay up to about
      $150 for a good soltuion.

      Thank you!

  4. Elena says:

    My hostile neighbors play deep, very low-bass music and TV at all hours. My iPhone5s app, HT Recorder, doesn’t work well. I feel the vibrations, which the app doesn’t pick up and the recording sounds quieter than it really is. They wake me up in the morning, not to mention intrude at all hours. I can’t spend much, but it’d be worth it to get an app or a mic that WORKS. Have you tried the Rode mic, yet?
    Anything you can recommend to pick up these low vibration noises for a simple plain old person like me? (Not a giant techie.) – Thanks! – Sleepless in New York

    • Wayne says:

      I’d grab an SPL meter off eBay. Then you can take measurements that an authority will listen to. And you can check recommended dB levels for sleeping times.

  5. Elena says:

    Just read about the Rode … it’s designed “for rejection of wind and other low frequency environmental noises.” and “rejects frequencies below 70Hz.” Doesn’t sound like a mic to pick up low-frequency vibration noises from a stereo or TV.

    I’m desperate! Anyone out there with a suggestion?
    Thanks!!!

  6. Russ says:

    Can I record video with my iPhone but use one of these microphones to record the audio?

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