tl;dr: Great-sounding, reasonably-priced microphone, purpose-built for the smartphones and tablets, with few downsides.
The iRig mic was introduced in 2011, and promised to be one of the best ways to get sound from your mouth or instrument into the iPhone 4, iPod Touch or iPad/iPad 2. Since then, it has been tested to work with newer iOS devices like the iPhone 5, and many Android phones. I've updated this review (in 2013) to reflect my more extensive testing since I originally reviewed the microphone in 2011.
NOTE: Huge article explaining many different external microphone solutions for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPhone here.
iPhone 5 Compatibility: According to IK Multimedia, the iRig Mic is compatible with the iPhone 5. Some commenters have had trouble with the combo, however, saying that the microphone level is lower than with the iPhone 4/4S.
I received a review copy from IK multimedia, and spent a few hours comparing the iRig mic with some of my other mics—I've used anything from a little cheap lav mic to a relatively expensive Heil PR40 microphone with my iPhone. The good news? The iRig mic sounds very good for vocals and medium-range instruments. I didn't quantitatively measure frequency response, but the mic sounds similar to my Shure PG48, if a tiny bit 'raspier.'
Listen to a quick video recorded in the iPhone's default Camera app below:
Physical Build Quality
The mic is well weighted, though it is a tiny bit longer than the handheld mics I use most often (Shure SM58, SM57) - it's about the size and weight of a Shure Beta 57.
The cable is the main downside to the iRig mic. It's built-in/hard-wired, meaning (a) you can't use a different cable or extend the cable (without a special TRRS extension cable), and (b) if the cable frays or kinks, you're out of luck! I really wish they had made the actual mic an XLR mic or something comparable, but I understand why they'd want to make things as simple as possible.
The switch on the front of the mic controls the mic's built-in attenuation. You can set one of three levels (loud sound source - best for guitar amps or concerts, medium for standard voice, or quiet source for ambient sound or distant vocals), but the switch itself is relatively hard to use. I leave it on the middle setting, so I don't care too much that it takes a fingernail to change the switch position.
The iRig mic plugged into my iPhone 4, on a little mic stand.
The cable is quite thin, and many people report being able to hear radio stations or wireless phone calls while recording, but I think this should only be a problem if the person is using the highest sound level setting; I live within a mile of three FM transmit towers in St. Louis, and I didn't hear any interference on the medium level.
Built-In Headphone Jack
Since the iPhone (and most Android phones) has a single TRRS connector for headsets or headphones, you can't plug in both a microphone and headphones unless you have a special adapter (like those from KVConnection.com). The iRig mic takes care of this by including a headphone jack in the plug end. With apps like FiRe and Amplitube, you can monitor what you're recording (to make sure it's not too loud, or popping) by using the apps' playthrough options.
Update for Android: I will be adding in app recommendations for Android smartphones and tablets soon!
This also allows you to simply review a recorded sound or video clip in your headphones without having to unplug the mic, then plug in your headphones.
It's a nice convenience, but the size of the connector can be an issue with a few different iPhone cases. Since I use my iPhone caseless, it's not a huge deal for me.
As I mention in the video, the mic comes with a mic stand clip (with an adapter so you can screw the clip on different-thread-size mic stands), a black faux-leather soft pouch for travel (just like Shure!), and a little instruction manual.
None of these items are anything to write home about, but it's nice to know that iRig knows their audience: most people getting this mic will want to use it on-the-go, so including the soft pouch is a nice gesture.
Who the iRig Mic is for
Would I recommend the iRig mic to anyone wanting to record sound on the iPhone 4? Not necessarily. The target audience would be, in my mind:
- Mobile Podcasters
- Mobile Video Interviews
- Broadcasters (in the field)
Flaws / Downsides
I've already mentioned the cable as a major downside (it's not detachable, it's thin, etc.).
The only other downside I can think of is that this microphone can't easily be used with many other devices (since it has a TRRS plug, it only works with certain smartphones, tablets, and laptops)... and this is kinda related to the cable problems I mentioned above.
The iRig mic is a great and affordable microphone for iPhone, iPod Touch, Android smartphone and iPad sound recording. There are definitely times when this is not the right mic, but I'll probably be using this mic for interviews and podcast recordings for some time (at least until the cable breaks!).