Production

Review: iRig Mic HD-A for Android from IK Multimedia

iRig Mic HD is a handheld digital mic for Android or Windows.

iRig Mic HD-A

Like the original iRig Mic HD I reviewed back in August 2014, iRig Mic HD-A is a handheld digital-exclusive mic. The original one is still available for use with iOS (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch), Mac or Windows, while the new iRig Mic HD-A is for Android or Windows.

At the same official price as the original iRig Mic HD (reviewed here), the new Android-positioned iRig Mic HD-A costs US$129.99 and includes a USB cable (for Windows computers) and a special USB OTG cable (to connect to many Android phones and tablets that have a micro USB connection and support OTG), together with some other accessories I’ll cover ahead. Unlike other microphones I have covered that are analog or hybrid (meaning that they offer both analog and digital outputs), the iRig Mic HD-A is digital only, meaning that it has no analog outputs.

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.

What are the advantages of a digital mic?

Thanks to its inboard built-in preamplifier and A-to-D (analog-to-digital) converter, a digital mic completely bypasses the often inferior and noisy audio input circuit of a computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

What are the disadvantages of a digital mic?

A mic that only has a digital output cannot be connected to an audio mixer that only has analog audio inputs.

iRig Mic HD-A construction

The iRig Mic HD-A is silver in color. The actual element is electret condenser. This is something that is likely to excite musicians and simultaneously turn off some seasoned ENG (Electronic News Gathering) professionals. For those of you who have worked in television sports or news production for many years,

please read my recent article called Handheld vocal microphones: a trend towards condenser electret? and also understand that the iRig Mic HD-A features a metal body which is likely to be much more resistant to bangs than the Android smartphone or tablet where you are likely to connect it. The iRig Mic HD-A feels good and sturdy in my hand.

Gain adjustment and measurement

The iRig Mic HD-A has a built-in gain control adjustment, which I like for the same reason I like the one on the iRig Pro preamp/A-to-D converter I reviewed in July 2014: it is stiff, and therefore unlikely to be moved by mistake. Evidently due to space constraints, it is smaller than the one in the iRig Pro converter. On the opposite side of the iRig Mic HD-A there is a multicolor LED that you’ll use to set a proper level. For the recordings you are going to hear ahead in this article, I had the gain set to about 2:00 on the potentiometer (in clock nomenclature).

May I use a mic flag with the iRig Mic HD-A?

After trying it myself, I don’t recommend the use of a traditional mic flag with the iRig Mic HD-A. Unlike the situation with some other mics, it is not only a question of the mic being too short to hold the microphone comfortably without part of your hand touching the cable below. The other issue with the iRig Mic HD-A is that the mic flag will block both the gain adjustment and the LED. But I have a better solution for you:

The above image is from my recent article, called RT and DirecTV Sports go beyond conventional mic flags. This article goes in detail about several advantages of using a branded windscreen instead of a traditional mic flag. Although the iRig Mic HD-A does include a built-in windscreen, adding another branded one will give you extra protection against plosives while giving you superior branding, since your logo will be much closer to the speaker’s face.

First audio recording

Below you’ll find an audio recording I made with the iRig Mic HD-A microphone connected via the included special micro USB OTA cable to my OnePlus One Android phone. Of course, I made the recording at the audio-for-video standard of 48 kHz (and at 24-bit, see my recent article Understanding 24-bit vs 16-bit audio production & distribution). I did not use any software from IK Multimedia (since IK Multimedia’s software is unfortunately still limited to 44.1 kHz). Instead, I used another Android audio app I’ll be reviewing soon. I only applied normalization to this clip and the other one that appears ahead, no compression or equalization.

To download the original WAVE file, and/or if you have difficulty hearing the streaming files here on this page, click on the SoundCloud logo in the corner of the player. You’ll be brought to the recording on the SoundCloud site, where you can stream the compressed MP3, or download the uncompressed mono WAVE file at 48 kHz/24-bit.

About cardioid pickup patterns

Having a cardioid pickup pattern (i.e. heart-shaped and directional) 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. 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.

Test audio to demonstrate the pros and cons of the cardioid pattern

To demonstrate both the advantages and disadvantages of the cardioid pattern on the iRig Mic HD-A microphone, I made the following recording at 48 kHz/24-bit in an extremely noisy restaurant. I purposely did not point the mic back to me when I asked the subsequent questions to demonstrate exactly how “off mic” I might sound, so the mic is only pointed at me at the very beginning and the very end. If I had not been particularly focused on demonstrating that, obviously I would have toggled the microphone back and forth as I interjected more questions. Please pay no attention to the content being discussed, and only analyze the audio quality, how the strong background was suppressed, and how off-mic I sound in the middle sections.

To download the original WAVE file, and/or if you have difficulty hearing the streaming files here on this page, click on the SoundCloud logo in the corner of the player. You’ll be brought to the recording on the SoundCloud site, where you can stream the compressed MP3, or download the uncompressed mono WAVE file at 48 kHz/24-bit.

Other included accessories

In addition to the USB cable (for a Windows computer) and the special OTG micro USB cable for certain Android devices that support OTG, the iRig Mic HD-A also includes a mic clip, a zippered storage bag, and a 5/8” to 3/8” thread adapter.

Applications from IK Multimedia

IK Multimedia offers several music production apps, some for Android, some for iOS, and some for Mac. I didn’t used any of them since I am not a musician. IK Multimedia also offers two versions of an audio recording application called iRig Recorder. Unfortunately (just as I stated back in my 2012 review of the original iRig Pre) I still cannot recommend either version of the iRig Recorder, since neither the free nor the paid version yet supports 48 kHz. Instead, the iRig Recorder app is still limited to 44.1 kHz only. As stated in many prior articles, 48 kHz is the absolute standard for audio sampling for digital video. Whether we are talking about DVD, Blu-ray, or HD videotape formats (like HDV, Panasonic’s DVCProHD, Sony’s HDCAM or HDCAM-SR), or DCP, the standard sampling rate is 48 kHz. Although online video services like Vimeo Pro and YouTube will accept non-standard video with audio sampling incorrectly sampled at 44.1 kHz, nothing is gained by sampling the audio at a non-standard rate, since Vimeo Pro and YouTube will also accept videos with the standard 48 kHz audio. Until IK Multimedia adds support for 48 kHz, I must recommend a different Android audio app which I’ll be reviewing soon. Fortunately, the designers of the iRig Mic HD-A made the hardware to support 48 kHz/24-bit, as I verified, and it works.

What’s missing in the iRig Mic HD-A?

The iRig Mic HD-A does not have any hardware limiter built-in, so the solution is to be conservative with the level and record at 24-bit when possible, to be able to normalize later without perceptible loss. The other missing thing is a headphone output directly on the iRig Mic HD-A.

Conclusions

With a windscreen on it, the iRig Mic HD-A sounds great for the price and is directly compatible with many newer Android phones and tablets, and Windows computers after installing a driver. The iRig Mic HD-A is especially ideal when it is going to be the only mic used, or when it is used with other mics, creating independent recordings of each, with later synchronization.

Upcoming articles, reviews, and books

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Books, consulting, articles, seminars & audio programs

Contact Allan Tépper for consulting, or find a full listing of his books, articles and upcoming seminars and webinars at AllanTepper.com. Listen to his CapicúaFM and TecnoTur programs. Search for CapicúaFM TecnoTur in iTunes or Stitcher Radio.

My latest book (paperback + ebook)

My most recent book is available in two languages, and in paperback as well as an ebook. The ebook format is Kindle, but even if you don’t have a Kindle device, you can read Kindle books on many other devices using a free Kindle app. That includes iPad, Android tablets, Mac computers, and Windows computers. Although generally speaking, Kindle books are readable on smartphones like Androids and iPhones, I don’t recommend it for this particular book since it contains both color photos and color comparison charts. The ebook is also DRM-free.

In English:

In English, it is currently available in the following Amazon stores, depending upon your region:

Or in your favorite bookstore by requesting ISBN–10: 1456310232 or ISBN–13: 978–1456310233.

En castellano:

En castellano, está disponible actualmente en las siguientes tiendas Amazon, según tu región:

o en tu librería preferida al solicitar el ISBN–10: 1492783390 ó el ISBN–13: 978–1492783398.

FTC disclosure

No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs.

Copyright and use of this article

The articles contained in the TecnoTur channel in ProVideo Coalition magazine are copyright Allan Tépper/TecnoTur LLC, except where otherwise attributed. Unauthorized use is prohibited without prior approval, except for short quotes which link back to this page, which are encouraged!

 


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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…

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