iPhone Life magazine

RØDE iXY Review - Quality iPhone and iPod Recording Accessory

I often use my iPod touch for grabbing quick home recording tracks, and one of my favorite accessories used to be the Blue Mikey from Blue Microphones. But when an Apple iOS update killed analog input, my original Mikey became a thing of the past.
 
The RØDE iXY is a similar recording accessory, but is more specifically designed. While Blue makes great mics for music, RØDE is tailored to live broadcasting. The unique RØDE iXY can capture an outdoor live event or a basement recording jam at very high-quality sample rates!

To be clear, a new digital Mikey is now available, which requires an Apple A/V connector. Since my iPod 4G has its own internal microphone, the new Mikey didn't seem necessary for capturing quick guitar riffs or song ideas at home. But once you connect the iXY and start listening to the quality difference in your recordings, you may want to check this appcessory out, particularly if you own a 4G or older device.
 
The iXY different from Mikey in that it is configured like a miniature production quality version of a real broadcast microphone. The dual stereo mics boost the quality of your recordings, and the superior sturdy construction is obvious. The device is great for podcasting, catching an interview for the on-the-go journalist, or even for noodling around with a guitar in front of your computer. 
 
For simple recording tasks, you plug in the iXY, download the free Rec LE app, tweak a few settings, and hit the Record button. The app saves the sound input using your previously-selected settings. I ran into a minor annoyance when I learned in order to reset the quality settings, you have to re-connect the iXY and start a new recording session. According to the rep, using the iXY and app is the only current digital recording package that will give you the capability to sample at the highest digital sample rate available (24-bit / 96kHz).
I use the Blue FiRe app to transfer tracks to my PC (using Wi-Fi). I transcode the files to mp3 with Audacity, and email them out or post them to our church band website, etc. The RØDE LE app, made by the same developers (AudioFile Engineering) that coded Blue FiRe, makes it a snap to share your music, podcasts or interviews. You can even adjust the sample settings if file size is a problem. The app mostly behaved, but did crash in a few scenarios with my iPod touch, particularly when the app was running while plugging in or removing the iXY.
For a more sophisticated recording capabilty, which includes full waveform control over audio clips and editing features, you will need to pony up an additional $5.99 for the full app experience. The Rec app (non-LE version) also includes Dropbox integration, though the freebie LE lets you browse and download your shared files from your iDevice (through a dynamic web link) on your PC just like Blue FiRe does. You can also FTP and email your files. The Blue FiRe app made sharing a bit easier and in my opinion had a few better options and features, but the Rec LE app works at the basic level pretty much the same.
If you have an iPod touch 4G or newer, you don't need to use any accessory at all to capture home recordings. You can record basic mono through the built-in condensor mic inside the unit, and in most cases this will produce usable low-quality recordings. The iXY lets you record super high-qaulity stereo right to your device in a package that can be stuffed into a shirt pocket. The kit includes a handy carrying case, and even a foam cover to cut down outside ambient noise like wind. The iXY retails for $199 at the vendor's site.
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Nate Adcock's picture

Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.drupalgardens.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.