IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio and Mic Room
By Phil O'Keefe |
Digital condenser microphone with microphone modeling software for iOS devices
Some products just work so well together they really should be sold together as a set. Today we'll look at one such pairing - both from IK Multimedia.
- iRig Mic Studio is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone designed to interface with mobile devices via USB; it incorporates a built-in preamp, analog to digital converter, and headphone monitoring in the mic itself.
- IK's Mic Room software isn't included and is a separate App Store purchase, but it runs on iOS devices and extends the versatility of iRig Mic Studio by providing models of various classic microphones.
What You Need To Know
- iRig Mic Studio crams a large-diaphragm (1") back-electret condenser mic, a 24-bit 44.1/48 kHz converter, a low-noise, high-definition preamp and a headphone out into a physically compact metal body that measures roughly 1.77" in diameter and 4.61" long. Both black and silver-bodied versions are available.
- There's no analog out; the digital out is a micro USB port at the base of the microphone's "stem." The package includes micro USB cables that terminate with standard USB, Apple Lightning, and micro-USB OTG connectors for use with Android 5 and Samsung Professional Audio devices. A micro USB-to-Apple 30-pin cable is available as a extra-cost option for owners of older iOS devices.
- The top knob on the front of the iRig Mic Studio's body adjusts the onboard preamp's level. A multi-colored LED indicator in between the knobs glows blue when the mic is connected but levels are too low, green when levels are just right, orange when they're running hot, and red to show clipping. Up to 40 dB of gain is available, and the iRig Mic Studio can handle an impressive 133 dB SPL without distorting.
- The other knob controls the level coming out of the headphone jack that's located on the back side of the microphone body. Initially I was concerned that the jack's location might cause issues with adjustments with a headphone jack plugged in, but in actual use it was never a problem.
- A mic stand ring mount and small desktop tripod are included, as is a small drawstring felt bag that can hold the mic and cable when traveling (although it's just a bit too small to hold the tripod too).
- iRig Mic Studio comes bundled with a free version of IK Multimedia's VocaLive vocal effects app for iOS, and free versions of its EZ Voice and iRig Recorder apps for both iOS and Android. You can opt to upgrade them to the full versions for an extra cost if you want. iRig Mic Studio works great with Garageband; it's also compatible with Cubasis and Logic Pro X, as well as all of IK Multimedia's other audio and recording apps (not just Mic Room) that use a mic.
- Mic Room is an iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad app (iOS 7.0 or later) that works with a variety of source microphones. As you'd expect, all six of IK Multimedia's microphones are supported, as are the Apple Headset, the built-in mic, and there's also an "other analog input" option.
- The free version of Mic Room comes with 2 mic models, while the full version includes 9 models. In both cases, you can add more models via in-app purchases. In all, twenty microphone models are currently available, including an assortment of dynamic, ribbon and condenser models based on very popular microphones like the AKG C12, Royer 121, Neumann U67, Sennheiser MD 421, and Shure SM57.
- I own several of the microphones that were modeled, and for the most part the quality of the modeling ranges from pretty good to surprisingly close. I was less impressed with the sound of the Ribbon 160 model (which sounded thinner and weaker than my Beyer M160), but more impressed with the sound of the Ribbon 121 and Velo 8 models, although the Velo 8 is a bit darker than the mic on which it's modeled. The C12 and 414 models compared favorably to their physical counterparts, but the U67 lacked some of the midrange creaminess I expected to hear. On the other hand, I thought the TLM170 representation was very well done, as were the SM57 and RE20 models.
- The controls are pretty straightforward. Once you've selected the source mic you're using (and iRig Mic Studio is conveniently on the list), just slide from side to side to select the mic model you want, and while monitoring the level indicator, adjust the level control knob right below it. The red "In" button allows comparing the sound of the mic model with the unprocessed sound of the source microphone.
- Inter-app audio and Audiobus are both supported, which allows using the Mic Room emulations when recording to other applications, such as Garageband.
- There's no standard XLR output on the iRig Mic Studio, which means it can be used only as a USB mic - analog preamps and other analog recording gear need not apply.
- At about three feet long, the included cables are fairly short - you'll need an extension cable if you plan to place the mic further away from your mobile device or computer.
- Inexplicably, Mic Room has no U47 or ELA M251 models.
- Mic Room is somewhat less convincing when using the built-in mic on Apple's Headset or an onboard mic than when using iRig Mic Studio mic as the source.
The iRig Mic Studio hardware gives you everything you need for mobile recording: a solid and good-sounding microphone, preamp, converter, and headphone monitoring, all built into one compact, bus-powered unit. It's equally at home on iOS and Android devices, as well as Mac and PC computers. There are other high-quality microphones that work and play well with your mobile devices - Apogee's excellent MiC 96k comes to mind - but it's about $50 more expensive. The fact that the iRig Mic Studio compares well with it in many respects is high praise indeed. It does lack 96 kHz sample rate capabilities, but realistically 24-bit 44.1/48 kHz is probably as high res as most people need, and the iRig Mic Studio's sound quality is surprisingly good for a relatively inexpensive "USB mic."
Overall, the mic models in the Mic Room app are very good. You shouldn't delude yourself into thinking that it's going to replace a hundred thousand dollar mic locker, but it does give you some of the character and flavor of some of the microphones you might find in one. Although models of two of the most popular vintage mics are not available, and there are no models of non-character / small diaphragm condenser mic types, that's probably missing the point. Mic Room is designed to provide a choice of microphone "colors," and it does a very good job of giving your mic a range of tonal characteristics which no mic could provide by itself. When paired with iRig Mic Studio, the two provide excellent versatility in a small, affordable package that's well-suited to recording on the go.
IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio ($179.99 "street")
IK Multimedia's iRig Mic Studio product web page.
IK Multimedia Mic Room ($7.99 - Available from the iTunes app store. Microphones bundle is an additional $9.99 via in-app purchase; individual microphone models can also be purchased for $1.99 each)
IK Multimedia's Mic Room product web page.
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.