Product Review - iRig Mic Studio is a USB Recording Wonder!

The iRig Mic Studio ($179.99) has recently been released, and we were sent a review unit from the folks at IK Multimedia. The latest in a long line of music recording enablers for mobile-minded musicians, it is clear that IK took the gloves off a bit this time. While not a true studio microphone (which could cost you a lot more), the Studio does feel like a step up for a USB microphone. Read on for our full review.

The key specs on the Studio indicate a large 1-inch diameter condensor mic, and the internal digital converter samples at 24-bit/41-48kHz range. While my impression of the mic was very positive, I will remain cagey in saying that this mic competes with professional equipment, though it certainly competes with the Blue Microphones Yeti products I have tested. However, the Yeti Pro model supports sample rates as high as 24-bit/192kHz (though this high of a rate may actually be detrimental to sound quality) an XLR output option, 3 condensors with pattern settings, giving it an edge over the Studio in some regards (though that is offset by a bit higher pricetag also). 

In the end, I think it really comes down to how serious you are about recording or live-streaming your audio. For practice/jam recording, grabbing daily thoughts or audio notes, the fancier USB mics might actually be overkill. If you need a USB microphone that can connect to practically any mobile gadget, I think this is a good fit for someone who still doesn't want to spend a fortune. For vocals or voice, a condensor mic is preferred to a dynamic mic, so in that regard, the Studio is also a good choice.

The Studio has digital connection options right out of the box for connecting to PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad (microUSB to USB, Lightning and microUSB). I tested it on all of the above and even an old Linux PC in the basement that I use to transcode and record music with (using Audacity). The Studio worked fine in all cases. The Studio has useful gain and output controls on the side as well as an input level LED indicator (much like the iRig), not to mention a built-in headphone port. The little tripod stand and adjustable mount feel sturdy and well-made like the Studio itself.

The Mic modelling app (called Mic Room) that comes as a free download (you can also download a few other free and not-so-free recording apps to use with the Studio), is a head-scratcher in that it models different mics, which is cool, but that's all it does. Many of the other mic model patches cost money too. In my opinion, Garage Band is probably a better overall tool/investment in this regard because it has a track recording suite too. I suggest that you experiment by trying GB and some of the free recording apps first. Mostly the free apps get the job done, and if you want more special effects and filtering, then you might find it useful to grab a few of the "not free" patches. The Studio is flexible in that it works with several music-oriented apps on the App Store, and like I said, even worked fine with Audacity on an old Linux computer.

The Verdict
I give props to IK Multimedia for the iRig Mic Studio. The overall construction and performance of the unit is solid. Sound/tone preservation in our test recordings was also good, in my opinion. When you connect it to your Mac with Garage Band or a PC with Pro Tools, you have a serious home or mobile studio input contender.  The free iPhone/iPad apps will serve for most requirements. It's my old saw that I would like more free recording apps/features from IK, but Garage Band fills that niche too. We give the iRig Mic Studio our top recommendations.

Pros:
Flexible output options and compatibility
Superb clarity of sound

Minor Con:
Semi-Expensive apps or IAPs

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Nate Adcock's picture

Author Details

Nate Adcock

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.tumblr.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.