By Mike Riley on Fri, 03/25/2011
IK Multimedia, a company with the tag line "Musicians First" has recently released two products geared toward the aspiring and professional musician market. The iRig Mic is billed as "the first handheld microphone for your iPhone" and the iKlip is a microphone stand adapter for the iPad. Do these two products truly make creating and performing music easier? Read on to find out.
Of the two products, the iRig Mic is more exciting, especially since its an active accessory that turns an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch into a powerful, portable audio recording studio. Coupled with IK Multimedia's Vocalive, AmpliTube or iRig Recorder apps, the iRig Mic can be used by vocalists, podcasters, conference speakers, acoustic instrumentalists and anyone else seeking a high fidelity mobile recording studio.
The Mic itself is made with pleasingly solid construction with a nice weighty feel to its metal base. Its condenser-electret unidirectional head captures a wide dynamic range of audio, and the the adapter that plugs into the headphone jack of the iOS device features a dual in/out mini-jack for real-time headset monitoring of the audio being recorded. Also on the microphone is a three level gain switch used to optimize recording for the type of audio (low, medium, high) being captured.
While I suspect some musicians will use the iRig Mic attached to an iPad, the real liberating experience for me was using it with an iPhone, especially for audio interview and high quality event recording. I've used purpose-built audio recorders in the past, but they always felt like a third wheel, especially since I knew I had a more powerful audio recording computer, the iPhone, by my side at all times. Granted, the iRig Mic is indeed another purpose-built recording device, but it's not something I have to keep charged or remember to bring another set of batteries to power it. It's also just plain cool to be walking around a convention or at a band practice with the Mic attached to such a small, multi-function recorder. People will inevitably ask how is the Mic able to capture such high-quality audio using something as small and lightweight as an iPhone. With the iRig Mic, you can say goodbye to bulky recording devices and roam conferences, stages and other performance areas with unburdened ease.
IK Multimedia offers several applications available via Apple's App Store that are optimized for the iRig Mic, the most notable of these being their Vocalive application. While the free version will allow the most basic record/playback and simple real-time effects processing, their somewhat pricey ($19.95) full version offers several vocal effects (including choir, morph, double and the ever helpful pitch fix) and studio effects (including reverb, delay, compressor, hazer and envelope filter and more).
Using the Vocalive app is easy, intuitive and downright fun. For those oldschool vocalists, IK have even used the metaphor of a spooling cassette tape image as a way to show off recording activity. Multi-track recording is available as an optional in-app purchase (though this functionality really should have been included given the high price of the app), and the real-time effects give any spoken or sung words an enhanced boost of professional quality polish.
While the application performs all these wonderful functions flawlessly, there were times when I wanted to multitask these to other iOS applications like Skype and Garageband. Alas, due to the iOS multitasking limitations and strict application security model, this is not yet and may never be possible. Still, if it could be done, it would make the iRig Mic and Vocalive application combination that much more potent. Yet even without this dream feature, the iRig Mic combined with Vocalive is a must-have product for any audio enthusiast and musician seeking a high quality, ultra portable and liberating recording solution.
Product: iRig Mic
Manufacturer: IK Multimedia
Price: $59.99 US
Rating: 5/5 stars
Developer: IK Multimedia
Rating: 4/5 stars
Until the iKlip came along, playing guitar tabs and sheet music displayed on the iPad was cumbersome at best, impossible at worst. No matter how I tried to prop up the iPad, it was rarely angled just right, or my guitar neck would bang into the table holding the iPad and reverberate a cacophony of noise through my acoustic (not to mention raising worry alarms of dings and dents along the wood body). Seems that at least some of the IK Multimedia designers encountered the same problems, since the iKlip overcomes these constraints.
The iKlip is designed to be attached to a microphone stand, preferably one that has a wide base to keep from tipping over. This is especially important given the costly mistake that would arise should such an episode occur. It took about 10 minutes of fiddling with the iKlip and positioning it just right to raise it to a comfortable level without risking a top-heavy situation. I had to remove my iPad from its case to get it to clip securely into the iKlip. The iPad sits snugly in the iKlip, not painfully so (i.e., you don't have to struggle with removing the iPad from the iKlip).
The iKlip can be angled up and down as well as rotated for portrait or landscape iPad orientation. While I was unable to test the iKlip with an iPad 2, IK Multimedia's compatibility page states that "a version compatible with iPad 2 will be announced shortly", so it's probably best for iPad 2 owners to hold off on buying the iKlip until a version specifically designed for the iPad 2 is available. Still, for the progressive musician, student of music or folks like me who like to play an instrument and read musical notation on the iPad without being encumbered by finding a table low enough to hold the iPad but high enough to stay out of the way of hands and strings. And coupled with the iRig Mic, the iKlip combined with a mic stand (see below) offer a powerful, portable vocalist or instrumentalist rig. Coupled with IK Multimedia's iOS apps, presenters, musicians and orators have a complete audio recording setup that works as good as it looks.
Manufacturer: IK Multimedia
Price: $39.99 US
Rating: 4/5 stars