Review: RODE smartLav iPhone Microphone

Jeff's Rating: 5/5

tl;dr: The iPhone microphone I've been waiting for, just a little more expensive than I'd hoped!

RØDE smartLav

[Note: You can win a FREE smartLav, courtesy of Server Check.in (an awesome website monitoring service), by posting a comment on this blog post.]

For a long time, I've carried around an Audio-Technica ATR-3350 lavalier mic and a special adapter (TRS to TRRS) that allows the 3350 to be plugged into my iPhone, and this works pretty well, but doesn't give me the audio level I would like for a radio-quality audio recording, and it's slightly inconvenient, since I need to carry the 3350, the adapter, and some spare batteries. (See my article External Microphones for iPhone 5, 4S, iPad and iPod Touch Audio input for more notes!)

The RØDE smartLav is pretty much exactly what I've been looking for since I first started recording videos and podcasts on the iPhone. It is well-built, matches the input impedance of the iPhone's headset jack (~600 ohms) well, and it fits in the pocket without requiring a little bag to hold any extra adapters/batteries.

Video Review

Sound Quality

The sound is very good—as good as I get with any other mic through the headset jack. Listening to a recording with this mic and a Shure SM58 through a VeriCorder XLR adapter cable yields almost no discernible difference (from 6-8" from my mouth)—there's just a little more background noise with the smartLav. It's much better than the built-in iPhone mic (which is only useful if you're within a couple inches of the iPhone... which is awkward if you're giving a speech and holding the iPhone right by your mouth!).

Listen to a sample .m4a audio recording here.

Build Quality and Physical Characteristics

The cable feels solid, as does the mic capsule and connector. The only downside to the cable is its length; it's only really long enough for recording with the iPhone in your pocket, or, for video, being pretty close to your iPhone. I like how other lavs have longer cables that let me mic talent on-camera 5-10' away, comfortably.

If you want to extend the length of this mic's cable, buy the StarTech 2m TRRS Headset Extension Cable and plug it into your iPhone, then the smartLav into it. It won't degrade the sound quality at all, and it looks nice!

Software

I use FiRe 2 (Field Audio Recorder) for most of my audio recording, and either FilMic Pro or the built in Camera app for video recording. This mic works with all of these apps, as well as Rode's own recording app, equally well (though some apps don't allow you to change the input level). Since it uses the headset jack, you should be able to use the mic with pretty much any audio/video recording app. You don't need any special kind of recording software or hardware to use it.

One note: If you don't want your recording interrupted by a phone call, make sure you switch your phone to airplane mode before you start recording!

Price and Recommendation

Finally, the price. It's a little high, I think, for a microphone that can only really be used with certain smartphones (especially since the headset jack's input has a reduced range, compared to what you can get through the dock/lightning connector). But it's not outlandish, and for the convenience, I'm fine paying $60. If the mic were closer to $40, this would be a no-brainer.

I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who's trying to mic someone with a smartphone for podcasting, interviews, at a wedding (have each of the main participants clip one on and record with the iPhone), etc. I received a free smartLav from RØDE for this review, and if it counts for anything, I bought another one.

Buy the RØDE smartLav on Amazon for $60. (Note: As of 3/28/13, it looks like the smartLav is selling out about every other day, FYI. Just be patient, and it will be restocked!)

Read my review on Amazon.com »

Comments

Can you use 2 RODE SmartLavs at once on the same iPhone and can they be used while capturing audio while filming video on the iPhone or only for recording audio?

Yes, you can, presuming you can find a TRRS Y-adapter cable. I've made one for myself, but I'm not able to make a bunch of them and sell them, so if you can't find them readily available, you could buy the proper parts and solder up a cable yourself. You'd need two female TRRS 1/8" jacks, one TRRS male 1/8" jack, and some audio cable with four conductors.

Since everything goes through the headset jack, you should be able to use this setup with any normal recording app on the iPhone—audio or video.

Hi, I just got one, when I record using the video app or filmic pro, mic at 8 inches from my face, it's distorted, too loud, it's 'hot' ... any ideas? thanks

FiLMiC Pro should have an adjustment for the audio input level/gain somewhere. Make sure you turn that down, and hopefully the level should be a bit more palatable!

I would love to have your opinion on the EIM-001 in conjunction with the ESL-001 and how they compare to the Rode smartlav. Here is a link: http://www.amazon.com/Edutige-EIM-001-i-Microphone-Voice-Recorder/dp/B00...

Hey, I'm not a tec guy. Was told by a sales person that I could shoot a video directly with the smartlav without using the rode app but the sound quality isn't the greatest. Any ideas without having to revert to an app?

Thanks

Jeff - I just purchased the Rode Smartlav and extension cable for use in making my YouTube videos. I use my iPhone 4 and Filmic Pro to record and edit the video. I did a quick test of the Smartlav and a short video and there was no sound when I played back the video. Should I be able to use the Smartlav directly with Film Pro or do I need to use a recording app and sync the video during editing? If I can use the mic without a recording app do I need to make adjustments to the settings on the phone or in Filmic Pro? I'm new to making videos and would appreciate any assistance. I appreciate your reviews. They were very helpful during my research.

SmartLav is an exceptional product, for its quality, and output.
The only problem is its wire length, specially with video recording, needs an extension wire.

Hi Jeff,

Took your reco and purchased the mic. I love it. Thank you. Question.... Can I use a splitter and get another one of these lav mics and record two people at the same time on the same iPhone? If yes, do you have an Amazon link of what I need to purchase?
Thanks!
Rob

Nice review Jeff! I was given one of these mics by a friend, and would like to buy another and conduct interviews using the iPhone as the recorder. Please can you tell me what cabling I need to be able to run this set up? I'll happily buy via your aff links ;-)

Also, do you think this cheaper alternative is any good? http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00S5T3DES/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=U...

Thanks!