Review: iRig mic for iOS and Android

Jeff's Rating: 4/5

tl;dr: Great-sounding, reasonably-priced microphone, purpose-built for the smartphones and tablets, with few downsides.

iRig mic with HTC Evo 4G LTE

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:

iRig mic Review on YouTube

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.

iRig mic with iPhone 4 recording on stand
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.

Other Niceties

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)
  • Ustreamers

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.

Conclusion

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!).

More Information / Purchase

Comments

Thanks for the review. I too received an iRig Mic to review, and went to IK Multimedia's website to get the specs. True, the Macbook Pro is not compatible, but other Apple devices are. I was surprised to find that the iRig Mic could work for more than my mobile podcasting/filming needs. http://www.ikmultimedia.com/irigmic/specs/

Ok, you are my newest brother! Are you at Covenant Seminary? ( you are catholic, right?) B/c if so, that would just be too small of a world! Or rather, providencial ;) The problem that brought me to your blog via youtube is this: I need to record interviews on my MacBook 10.4 iMovie HD. My kids know how to use this app better than I do. That knowledge gap cost me a very important interview a few days ago.
My dear video-pro friend wants me to use all this equipment but that's just not realistic for this, ahem, broadcasting home-educating mom!
Thank you, thank you, thank you and bless you for posting your videos!
Katie

Unfortunately, I haven't found a solution like that; instead, you'll need to buy two lavaliere microphones, and you might be able to use a y-adapter to get them into the mac. But definitely test everything a lot before recording another interview...

Here are some recommendations (that are inexpensive):

Get two Lavalieres:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002HJ9PTO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=...

And one y-adapter:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000HHHGSK/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=...

Also, I am Catholic, but was at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary... however, I'm now married and living in St. Louis, MO.

I've been searching for an external mic for my iPhone. I live in Florida and the plan is to wander around the Everglades, recording the natural environment.

Thanks for your efforts.

Hi Jeff,
I came across your site while trying to source an answer to my problem. I work as a voice over artist and whilst I record on my mac, I want to record on the iphone through garageband. I bought an irig as it was recommended, however, the sound quality is hissy and crackly, the iphone built in mic is actually much better quality. I can't figure out what I may be doing wrong. Could you point me in the right direction.....??? I would appreciate any advice you can give. Thank you, Sarah

It could be that the iRig is not plugged in all the way; make sure its plug is flush with your iPhone. Try spinning it or wiggling it while recording, and also try switching the level switch to different positions, and see if the static gets better or worse while doing that. If so, it could be a connection problem.

Sometimes, it's just a loose plug; other times, you'll need to contact IK Multimedia and ask for service or a replacement. Sometimes things just go bad :(

Hi Jeff
Thank you for all information you provide. I am singing in a boys choir in bordeaux . I am looking for an efficient solution for registering choir concerts. I am buying today the fostex AR-4i, thanks to your advices .
Now I am wondering which mics for an efficient and well priced microphone with iPhone 4s + AR-4i. What should be your recommendation.?
Merci beau coup
Arnaud

For large groups, two microphones are almost an absolute must, and using an X/Y configuration (where the microphones point towards each other forming a 90° angle) is typically the best for a good stereo sound.

You could try the mics that come with the AR-4i, of course, but for better sound, getting two condenser shotgun mics like this one would be much better. I like the Audio-Technica ATR-6550 Video Camera Condenser Shotgun Microphone because of the price, but you could go much more expensive/fancier if it's important. With these shotguns, you could place them a few feet apart and point them straight into the choir.

I picked one up and tried it with the iPhone5. Unless it was just broken out of the store, it did not work with the native irecorder app or iTalk. I didn't load the iRig apps to try it.
I returned it. Need something simple and quick. May default to your lav mic recommendation with jack. Great site, thanks.

Interesting; it should work with the iPhone 5 (according to iRig's website), but I don't have my iRig Mic anymore to test it on my iPhone.