Feeling Blue

Q I work at a small production company. We used to rent time at a local sound studio, but my boss has decided he wants to record our voice-over sessions here, so he has charged me with building a super-low budget, but decent-quality VO studio capability. I have a room that’s pretty quiet with decent sound, but I’d like the capability to easily grab the mic and my laptop or iPad and record voice-overs on location, as well. Any mic recommendations?
Emily M.
Via e-mail

A I One of the first factors in choosing the correct microphone for your needs is deciding which software program you’ll be using to record and which device. There’s a whole new crop of software programs that are designed to easily record audio using smartphones, iPads or your laptop.

Beginning at the low-end, low-cost side of the spectrum, Blue Microphones (www.bluemic.com) offers a microphone called MIKEY Digital, which is designed to plug directly into the iPhone 4 and 4S, and iPad first, second and third generation. The MIKEY also interfaces with the latest iPhone 5 and iPad Retina with the addition of Apple’s Lightning Adapter.

Blue sent me a copy of the MIKEY to review recently, and I have to say, for a simple, easy-to-use microphone designed for iDevices, it does a good job. The capsules on the MIKEY are custom-tuned for mobile recording, meaning that they have a high rejection of off-axis sound. The Mikey also features a line input into which you can plug a guitar or line-out device.

Blue Microphones’ MIKEY Digital for iOS devices.

Opening the Mikey box, the packaging contains the MIKEY itself, a 1⁄4-inch to 3.5mm adapter, a soft carrying case and an owner’s manual. The MIKEY is inserted into the 30-pin connector at the bottom of the iPhone or iPad (I tried it with an iPhone 4 and my third-generation iPad). If you have the latest iPhone 5 or iPad with the Retina display, it will work the same way except you’ll need the additional length of the Apple Lightning Adapter.

Upon plugging in the MIKEY to your iOS device, one of three green LEDs on the MIKEY illuminates to tell you that it’s receiving power from your device. All three of the LEDs will illuminate when MIKEY is operating in stand-alone mode. Once MIKEY is ready to use, only the LED that corresponds to the selected gain setting will illuminate green. MIKEY has a small sliding switch on the front that corresponds with three gain settings (Auto, Low and High) and a visual overload (clipping) indicator. I found in test recording with my iPhone and the MIKEY that I was able to record fairly high-quality audio if I selected the correct input level and if I was able to position the two devices close to the source being recorded.

The MIKEY retails for $99.99 and is a good match for small, quick and simple recording. If you don’t have an iDevice, unfortunately, the MIKEY isn’t for you, although Blue makes other USB-powered devices that will work with a laptop or other USB device.