audio

Game-Changing DJ Scratch App for iPad

Every once in a while, I see a demo for an app that I truly believe will be a game-changing app for a certain field. This video is definitely like that, for the iPad and for DJs. Could you imagine ditching your laptop in favor of an iPad—not just out of convenience, but because the iPad actually does a primary computing function better than your laptop?

One can only hope for interesting and refreshing apps in every field (I'm personally waiting on Coda for the iPad...).

The New Blue Mikey will NOT work with iPhone 4, iPad

The new Blue Mikey (2.0) will not work with the iPhone 4 or iPad. It's a big letdown for me, as I don't really care if Blue can support previous-generation or outmoded equipment with their mics.

Blue Mikey 2.0

Their CEO, John Maier (no... not John Mayer...) said their engineers are hard at work increasing compatibility with iPhone 4 and iPad. Great. Maybe we'll see the Mikey 3.0 next year sometime. I'm not holding my breath.

I guess I'll stick to my own setup for recording audio on the iPhone 4. I was really hoping this Mikey revision would allow me to leave all my cables and mics behind, and stick with the Mikey alone, but that's not the case.

XLR over Cat5 - Balanced XLR Mic-Level & Line-Level Audio over Cat5 & Cat5e Cabling

Cat5 Cable with XLR Audio Jacks

The challenge: Run two 200' cable runs for VOX (2-way communication via headsets) and an ambient microphone. Mics and headsets to be used for broadcast of major event via satellite, web, and all major local news outlets.

Limitations: Extremely tight budget for cable + installation, two weeks to install and test, 100 year old stone/masonry building, skeleton crew of volunteers.

Solution:

  • Run readily-available Cat5e (shielded, solid) network cable to two VOX/mic locations (we had a box with a few hundred feet left inside, and we bought another 500' box (extra == always better) for $100. (Check Amazon for bulk Cat5e cable).
  • Use custom faceplates with two XLR jacks—female for VOX headsets, female for Mic input
  • Cross fingers, and hope it works.

Posts on Video and Audio Recording with iPhone and iPod Touch

If you've glanced over on my 'Articles' page lately, you'll no doubt notice my recent love affair (just kidding!) with the iPhone 4's audio and video recording capabilities. This blog post will offer a nice summary of all my blog posts and articles about A/V production on the iPhone (and, by extension, the new iPod Touch that was just announced today):

iPhone and iPod Touch - Professional Digital Audio Recorders

More info and recommendations: iPhone/iPad external microphones

Though my years as an audio recording engineer (I've worked with CBS and some local audio production groups—I even helped record an amateur rock album), I have used a wide variety of audio recording devices—8-tracks, professional reel-to-reel machines, cassette recorders, miniDisc recorders, even many current cream-of-the-crop digital audio recorders (like the Zoom H2, Zoom H4, and Marantz PMD-660 etc.).

Almost all of these recorders have one thing in common: they are inconvenient to have to lug around.

I have been experimenting with my iPhones (3G, 3Gs, and now the iPhone 4) over the years to see if I can finally find a great recording solution that will allow me to replace any need for a dedicated digital audio recorder. I think the time has finally come.

iPhone 4 portable professional audio recording setup

Portable, Professional HD Video Recording with the iPhone 4

Please read this article for background/more info: iPhone/iPad external microphones

I am now pretty confident in my portable video/audio recording solution using my iPhone 4. Everything I need to do on-the-spot interviews, B-roll filming, and even more advanced shooting, I can fit in my iPad's bag.

Portable Recording Studio with iPhone 4

Here's my basic setup - everything I need (with the exception of the iPhone 4), I put together for under $100:

External Microphones for iPhone 5s, 5, 4S, iPad and iPod Touch Audio input

iPhone 5 with Microphones and Input Adapters
A few of the many microphone options to make your mobile recordings better.

Note on iPhone 5: Right now the only confirmed way to record stereo on the iPhone 5 is with the GuitarJack Model 2 and an Apple 30-pin to lightning adapter. All other headset-jack based solutions work as well as the iPhone 4/4S!

To dramatically increase the quality of the sound you record on your iOS device, you should use an external microphone or mixer, or a direct line input.

You can use external microphones/inputs with any of the following iOS devices:

  • iPad (audio recording), iPad 2/new iPad/iPad mini (audio or video recording)
  • iPhone 3G, iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 (audio or video recording)
  • iPod Touch (3rd/4th/5th generation) (audio or video recording)

Skip to: Recommendations | Details

Video: iPhone External Mic Comparison

(See also: iPhone 4/4S External Microphone Comparison, listing of mics and adapters used in this video)


My Recommendations

Software - App Recommendations

  • iPad: Use GarageBand. It's not expensive, and is awesome for recording and editing.
  • iPhone/iPod Touch: Use FiRe, FourTrack, or even built-in Voice Memos.
  • Camera/iMovie (Built-in) - Quick and simple to use, can lock focus, but has very few settings/features. Handles different audio inputs, but without much configuration or level control, and no monitoring.
  • For Video: Although the built-in Camera app is pretty good, I prefer FiLMiC Pro, which allows focus, metering, and white balance lock/unlock, and has a built-in audio meter. No audio play-through yet (as far as I can tell).

Simple, one-mic setup (podcasts, one-person interviews)

Buy a RØDE smartLav, and plug it into your iPhone. If you need more than about 5' of cable (so you can record an interview with the iPhone's camera, for instance), buy a 2m TRRS extension cable as well.

Another option, which allows you to have a more flexible mic setup so your mic can be used with other equipment, is to buy a microphone and adapter to use together:

For better quality recordings

This setup will allow you to record a little nicer quality sound, especially since the VeriCorder cable or Tascam adapter boosts the signal a bit so it comes into the iPhone at the right level for more clarity and amplification:

For wireless mobility and great quality

Another option, for more freedom of movement, a perfect recording level, and much more flexibility with one mic (this is the kit I use most often now - plug the line/headphone output on the wireless receiver into the KVConnection line-level adapter):

For multiple-mic interviews/recordings

Buy a Dual 1/8" Microphone to iPhone adapter from KVConnection, and plug one Audio-Technica ATR-3350 into each jack. (If you use XLR mics, get this adapter instead).

Another couple of options include:

  • The GuitarJack Model 2, into which you can plug a stereo input source (or two microphones that go one in left, one in right channel).
  • You can get a Monster iSplitter and plug a lavaliere microphone into each side, then plug this into a KVConnection mic adapter. (See example video).
  • The Fostex AR-4i works great for the iPhone 4/4S (put one lavaliere microphone in on the left channel and one on the right), but doesn't work with the iPhone 5.
  • The Line 6 Mobile In, which also has a stereo input like the Guitar Jack.

For recording loud music, concerts, environmental sound

Right now, there aren't a lot of out-of-the-box options for recording sound in high SPL situations (loud rock concerts) or other environmental sounds. However, there are three solutions I recommend:

  1. The Tascam iM2 - a great stereo mic for the iPhone 4/4S/5 that provides a simple AB-pattern stereo microphone (that can handle up to 125 dB).
  2. The GuitarJack Model 2 (read my review of the GuitarJack Model 2) allows for padding and relatively high sound level input.
  3. A preamp or mixer in-line before the iPhone. This is more clumsy/less portable, but if you simply plug the output of a mixer or preamp into the iPhone (or a product like the AR-4i or GuitarJack), you can handle as loud of sound levels as your mixer/preamp can handle.

For line-level inputs (Guitars, Mixers, Sound Systems)

One option right now is the Apogee Jam, a nice interface for guitars and other 1/4" plug line-level inputs, that works through the Dock connector, and is specifically advertised for use with GarageBand on the iPad. Another simple option (if you want a little nicer build quality than the KVConnection adapters) is the iRig from Amplitube. Another inexpensive option is the iJAM cable from Ampridge.

KVConnection provides two nice adapters, though, which I use because they're cheap and reliable: Line-level 1/4" adapter w/ attenuation ($28), and Line-level 1/8" adapter w/ attenuation ($28)


The Details

I'll run through most of my kit for mobile recording, following along with the picture below:

Mobile iPhone 4 3G/3Gs video and audio external microphone podcasting kit

  1. iPhone 3G/3Gs/4 Tripod (instructions for building the tripod mount)
  2. Crown Sound Grabber II PZM Boundary microphone ($80)
  3. Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Powered Lavaliere Microphone ($20)
  4. KV Connection microphone-to-iPhone audio adapters (read more about them, and about available alternatives below)
  5. Spare batteries - you can never have too many
  6. Sony WCS-999 Wireless Microphone Adapter ($100 - Note: Throw out the included mic, and use the ATR-3350 with this. Only good for 10-50 ft., but nice and cheap, that's why I'm recommending it.)
  7. (NOT PICTURED: The following items have been added to my kit since I wrote this article)
    1. Rode VideoMic shotgun/condenser mic ($150)
    2. VeriCorder XLR Adapter Cable ($70)

One option for easy external audio in a pinch is to plug in your headset, hit record, and voila! You have a much better sound-isolating mic than the iPhone's built-in mic (especially over distance). The disadvantage here is that the iPhone's headset cable is pretty short.

Review: Sony MDR-XB40EX Extra Bass Earbuds

Jeff's Rating: 3/5

tl;dr: Solid performers for those wanting a bass-heavy aural experience and good isolation. The headphones can bring new life to some songs, but are often overbearing for those with sensitive ears.

Sony MDR-XB40EX Earbuds

Finding a good pair of headphones can be an lifelong vocation. In my short lifespan, I've probably given a good chance to about twelve different pairs, from earbuds to large cans used in professional/studio environments.

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