Back in 2014, I reviewed the original <US$130 iRig Mic HD handheld digital microphone, which IK Multimedia released at that time. With the included cables, it worked directly with iOS devices via Lightning, and with another included cable via USB-A with Chromebook, Mac and Windows computers. The same Italian company later released a different bundle of the same handheld digital microphone that came with cables for Android phones with OTG-Micro USB connections, plus the same USB-A for the same other computers. Now, I am finally reviewing the second generation of this handheld digital microphone, the iRig Mic HD 2, which is available today. Ahead you’ll learn the improvements and new features in the <US$130 iRig Mic HD 2, see photos and a test recording.
Prior reviews of the two predecessors
- Initial review: iRig Mic HD from IK Multimedia (2014)
- Review: iRig Mic HD-A for Android from IK Multimedia (2015)
What do we mean by a digital microphone?
When we say a digital microphone, we mean that it has a built-in preamplifier, A-to-D (analog-to-digital) converter, and a digital output. We don’t mean that the actual microphone element is digital (which it is not), just as when we talk about a digital speaker, we don’t mean that the cone is digital… or when we talk about a USB printer, we don’t mean that the actual print head is USB. In the case of the iRig Mic HD 2, there is also a D-to-A (digital-to-analog) converter for monitoring from the host device.
By having a built-in preamplifier and A-to-D converter, a digital microphone can bypass the often inferior ones built into the device you are using, delivering a pure digital signal. Many modern mobile phones no longer offer any inboard analog audio input anyway, including the:
- Android Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
- iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone X
Now there is even more benefit for having a microphone that delivers an already digital signal, especially when there will be a single microphone, not several connected into a mixer.
Gain adjustment and measurement
Like its predecessor, the iRig Mic HD 2 has a built-in gain control adjustment. Fortunately, it is stiff, and therefore unlikely to be moved by mistake. On the opposite side of the iRig Mic HD 2 there is a multicolor LED that you’ll use to set a proper level.
Slightly different physical shape/colors
While the original iRig Mic HD (and the iRig Mic HD-A, the silver one in the above picture) have a cylindrical shape, the new iRig Mic HD 2 (the black one in the above photo) is slightly longer has a slightly squarish shape which facilitates the grip and prevents it from rolling when placed on a table.
While the original iRig Mic HD are (or were) available either in black or silver color, the new iRig Mic HD 2 is only available in black to my knowledge.
Expanded sampling frequencies and monitor output
Expanded sampling frequency up to 96 kHz and “direct” monitoring seem to be the main focus of the second generation model, since the original iRig Mic HD models stopped at 48 kHz/24-bit and offered no inboard monitoring capability. You may enjoy my related articles All audio production & distribution should go 48 kHz. Learn why. and Understanding 24-bit vs 16-bit audio production & distribution. In order to set the sampling frequency and resolution of the iRig Mic HD 2 on Android or iOS, simply make the adjustment in the recording app (if it offers such an adjustment). In the case of Mac or Windows, you must first set the sampling frequency in the operating system and then in the application. In the case of macOS, that setting is done in the Audio MIDI Setup application first and later in the recording application.
I am very glad to know that iRig Mic HD 2 now has an inboard headphone output, although sadly it is not latency-free. Instead, as in the case of the iRig Mic Studio (reviewed in 2013) it is software-dependent and delayed. The amount of latency depends upon the hardware host. When I say “software-dependent”, I mean that the application you use to record must offer a live monitor option, for example:
- Auphonic for iOS
- FiLMiC Pro for Android or iOS
- IK Multimedia’s own iRig Recorder 3 for Android or iOS
- MoviePro for iOS
Please note that although Auphonic for Android doesn’t currently offer live audio monitoring, it can indeed record from the iRig Mic HD 2 and offers excellent visual confidence. Then it can play back recorded clips through the iRig Mic HD 2.
The headphone output on the iRig Mic HD 2 also works to play back clips already recorded on your device, and to hear the other person if you use the iRig Mic HD 2 live with a software like Allo, FaceTime, Hangouts or Skype. In the case of Android or iOS, it should simply work, except in those apps where it offers selecting among different microphones. In those cases, select the iRig Mic HD 2 as your desired microphone. In the case of using the iRig Mic HD 2 with a Chromebook, Mac or Windows, you need to adjust the operating system to monitor through the iRig Mic HD 2.
So far, IK Multimedia has only announced a single iRig Mic HD 2 model, without any separate bundle with different cabling. IK Multimedia has also mentioned its own optional USB-OTG cable, which is great for use with an OTG-compatible Android device with Micro USB port, but not appropriate if your Android uses the newer USB-C. In that case, you can go with a third-party solution to USB-C, as I have done, since so far, I find no USB-C cables or adapters of any type in IK Multimedia’s store.
I made the below recording by connecting the iRig Mic HD 2 to my Google Pixel XL microphone. I recorded at 48 kHz using the Auphonic app in WAV mono. I later normalized to -16 LUFS before uploading the WAV file.
About the cardioid pickup pattern in the iRig Mic HD 2
Having a cardioid pickup pattern on a microphone has the advantage of reducing much of the background sound, making the voice(s) more intelligible. However, when doing an interactive news interview with a single handheld cardioid microphone, no matter how experienced or agile the reporter is in toggling the mic’s position between the two people, there is almost always an unexpected interruption by either side which causes one of the two parties to sound “off mic” (much quieter) or sometimes almost inaudible. As a result, some ENG (Electronic News Gathering) crews prefer to use an omnidirectional pattern, since neither party will sound “off mic”. However, this is not an issue with documentaries (or news done in the documentary style), where the interviewer is not expected to be heard, and questions are asked in such a way that responses are given in complete sentences. This is also not an issue if two separate microphones are used.
Use a branded windscreen with the iRig Mic HD 2, not a mic flag
Because of the iRig Mic HD2’s now two potentiometer knobs (one for mic gain, one for monitoring) and its sensitivity to plosives when close to the subject, I continue to recommend the use of a branded windscreen. That’s how you’ll see it in the photo above, with the branded windscreen showing my CapicúaFM show. Unlike a mic flag, a branded windscreen won’t interfere with the adjustment of the potentiometers or impede seeing the LED level.
See my 2016 article Branded windscreen vs mic flag: let’s compare (illustrated above).
More bundled software than before
iRig Mic HD 2 comes with downloadable versions of Mac and PC software including Ableton Live Lite, a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) application; T-RackS Classiccollection of audio processing plug-ins; and Mic Room, with what IK Multimedia describes as: “incredibly realistic virtual models of some of the most desirable microphones of all time”. Also included are iOS apps such as the Mic Pack for VocalLive, that adds a collection of virtual microphone models to the real-time vocal effects processing and multitrack recorder app; Pro Bundle for iRig Recorder, which adds processing like equalization and compression to the pro-audio recording and editing app with video; and Mic Room, the microphone modeling app.
What comes in the box?
- IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD 2 digital condenser microphone
- Lightning iOS cable
- USB-A cable
- Table tripod
- Mic clip (stand adapter)
- 5/8 to 3/8″ thread adapter
- Carrying pouch
- Limited 1-Year warranty for parts
- Limited 90-Day warranty for labor
If you are looking for a single handheld microphone to connect to a mobile device like an Android or iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch) digitally, the new iRig Mic HD 2 (Amazon • B&H) is likely to be one of your best and simplest choice, especially if you like the cardioid pattern for its advantages. The new iRig Mic HD 2 is also a very good choice if you are looking for one to connect directly to a Chromebook, Mac or Windows computer, especially if you plan to connect only one. I only hope that IK Multimedia will eventually make a version with true latency-free monitoring. In the future, I would also like to see the alternative of one with an omnidirectional pickup pattern for interviews, or one with a switchable pattern, for the reasons indicated earlier.
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