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Stereo microphone for iOS devices

By Phil O'Keefe

 

Apple's iOS devices such as the iPhone 5 family and various iPads have been extremely popular with consumers, and their wide range of music and recording related apps have made them just as popular among musicians. Australia's RØDE Microphones has released an interesting stereo microphone into the world of iOS products with their i-XY. Is there anything that makes it different from other iOS add-on microphones? Let's take a look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Need To Know

  • The RØDE i-XY is a stereo microphone for use with iOS (iOS 6 or later) devices such as the iPhone 5/5S/5C. It features two .5" small diaphragm condenser capsules arranged in an XY stereo configuration. The signal from the microphone capsules is fed to an onboard preamp and A/D converter. While the version I tested features a Apple Lightning connector, a 30-pin version is also available for older iPhone and iPad models.
  • The i-XY is capable of high-resolution stereo recording. Rates of up to 24 bit / 96kHz are supported. Apple iOS devices do not currently support 96kHz sample rates natively, so you need to use one of the RØDE Rec apps for high-res recording, although the i-XY will work fine at lower sample rates with other apps, such as GarageBand.
  • The free (LE) version of the RØDE Rec app allows you to record in stereo or mono, transfer files via file sharing and email, and you can even post them directly to Soundcloud. The full version of the app costs $5.99 and adds Dropbox support and enhanced Soundcloud integration, as well as extensive nonlinear editing capabilities and several other features the LE version lacks. 
  • Because the i-XY connects to the Lightning port, you still have access to the headphone jack, and real time headphone monitoring is supported when using the RØDE Rec app.
  • There are no external controls on the i-XY. All level adjustments are handled within the software. The i-XY's 72Hz high pass filter can also be turned on or off only in software. Recording anything from quiet ambience to loud concerts is not a problem.
  • The i-XY comes with the rubber mounting clamp for the iPhone 5 and 5S pre-attached. If you have one of these phones, installation is as simple as plugging the i-XY's Lightning connecter in with the gold dot on the i-XY facing towards the phone's screen, and clicking the device on to your phone. For iPhone 5C owners, an alternate mounting clamp is included, along with a small tool to help you swap it for the one that is already installed.
  • With the correct mounting clamp installed for you device, the i-XY remains firmly attached until you deliberately remove it. It's not going to fall off accidentally.
  • While it doesn't say so on the box or in any of the included documentation, in my testing the i-XY appeared to be fully compatible with the iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina Display. Using the iPhone 5 / 5S mounting clamp the fit was great. Everything lined up properly, and it worked just as well for me on the iPads as it did on my iPhone 5. It may work equally well with the larger Lightning equipped iPads, but I did not have one available to test that.

 

 

  • In addition to the second mounting clamp and tool, RØDE also includes a couple of handy accessories as standard features, including a foam windscreen and a i-XY carrying case, complete with carabiner-style clip so you can attach it to your belt or bag.

 

 

  • RØDE also offers a couple of optional accessories, and sent them along for me to check out too. The first is the RØDE Dead Kitten ($29.99 MSRP, $24.99 "street"), which is a "furry" style windscreen designed for use in conjunction with the foam windscreen and provides even greater protection from wind noise than the foam windscreen alone. It works well, and if you plan on recording outdoors it is a must-have accessory.

 

 

  • The second optional accessory is the RØDEGrip ($40 MSRP), which is a multi-purpose mount for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S. It's cleverly designed and allows you to mount your iPhone and i-XY pair on a tripod or mic stand. It can also be configured as a desktop stand, or as a pistol grip style holder that aims the i-XY forward. This configuration would be great for those who are into field sampling and found sounds. It can also be used to mount the iPhone and attached i-XY to the hot shoe of your DSLR camera.

 


Limitations

  • The RØDE i-XY's mounting configuration means that the on-axis directional orientation of the stereo microphone and the iPhone's video camera are off from each other by 90 degrees, making the i-XY less than ideal as a microphone upgrade when simultaneously using the iPhone to record video.
  • You'll need to remove your iPhone or iPad from its case in order to use it with the i-XY.

 


Conclusions

While it's not well suited for use when recording videos, for high-res 24 bit / 96kHz audio recording in compact form on your iPhone 5, the i-XY simply can't be beat. Short of going with an external audio interface with two mikes plugged into it, no other iOS product that I am aware of offers high-resolution stereo recording, and certainly not in such a compact format. Unfortunately you do have to use one of the RØDE Rec apps if you want to record at 96kHz, but they are well designed and easy to use, and it's really not RØDE's fault if iOS with other apps doesn't support high resolution audio. 

 

The i-XY benefits from RØDE's experience building other highly-regarded small diaphragm and stereo microphones, and the i-XY bears similar sonic characteristics and a strong RØDE family resemblance in its sound. In other words, it's a solidly built product and it sounds great! RØDE offers all the necessary software and accessories you'll want to have, and with their help the i-XY turns your iPhone 5/5S/5C (or iPad mini) into a very high quality stereo recording rig that is capable of exceptional quality recordings while being small and convenient enough to take with you wherever you go.  

 


Resources

RØDE i-XY stereo microphone for iOS devices with Lightning connectors ($299.00 MSRP, $199.00 "street")

Musician's Friend RØDE i-XY (30-pin version) online catalog page ($299.00 MSRP, $149.00 "street")

RØDE Microphone's i-XY web page


Specifications

Capsules: .5" matched pair condenser capsules
Polar Pattern: Dual cardioid / XY stereo configuration
Address Type: End
Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
Maximum SPL: 120dB
Sensitivity: -42dB re 1V/pa (8.52mV@94dB) +/-3dB @ 1kHz.
Signal to Noise Ratio: 75.1dB
Output: 24 bit digital, up to 96kHz sample rate



 

Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines. 


 

 

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