Apogee MiC Review
Capturing sound in a digital recording environment usually requires several components: a microphone, a preamplifier, an analog-to-digital converter, and a computer interface. For home recording, assembling all this gear along with the cables to connect everything can be a daunting proposition. One relatively recent development that greatly simplifies the task is the USB mic, a microphone that plugs into a computer’s USB port, essentially providing all of the required components in the mic itself. Apogee Electronics, a highly regarded manufacturer of high-quality audio equipment, has gone a step further with the MiC—a USB condenser microphone that can also plug directly in to Apple iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) using the dock connector. With the MiC and a Mac computer (the MiC isn’t compatible with Windows computers), iPhone, or iPad, you can record by simply connecting the MiC and launching a recording program or app.
Solid Feel, Simple Connection
The MiC looks like a large-diaphragm side-address mic, but the tiny microphone is just 43/4 inches tall and roughly 13/4 inches wide. The MiC is surprisingly heavy and feels substantial and well-built. Its metal mesh grill is attached to a black body that contains a multicolor LED, gain dial, and small jack for the connecting cable. The back of the mic contains a screw hole to mount the MiC on either the supplied miniature tripod or a standard microphone stand (with an optional adaptor). The MiC comes with a pair of cables, each of which have a special connector for the MiC on one end and either a USB connector (for use with a Mac) or an iOS connector for connecting to the iPhone or iPad on the opposite end. Using the MiC with either platform is simply a matter of plugging in. The MiC needs no special drivers and is powered from the USB or iOS port.
Convenient and Easy to Use
Using the MiC is straightforward and simple, and it will seem like a small miracle to anyone used to configuring more complex recording setups. I plugged the MiC into my iPad 2, fired up GarageBand ($4.95 in the Apple App store), and was ready to go. The LED on the front of the MiC glowed green as soon as I started GarageBand and then responded to sound by changing color: a brighter green indicates a signal, orange warns of a near-maximum level, and red indicates clipping. Although the LED provides a fairly rough indication of level, in practice, adjusting the gain and position so that I saw only occasional orange flashes produced appropriate levels.
The desktop tripod proved to be a useful tool for casual recording. Placing the MiC and iPad on a table in front of me was an improvement over the sound of the built-in iPad mics. But I was able to achieve a much better sound by switching to the optional mic stand adaptor and using a boom mic stand, which let me position the MiC much more carefully.
Recording sound quality is dependent on many things besides the microphone itself, including room acoustics, microphone placement, the instrument being recorded, and much more, but the MiC delivered a sound that was more than adequate for home recording—especially impressive given that for less than $200, the MiC is not just a microphone, but the entire digital signal chain. Although iOS devices only accommodate a single MiC, it is possible to use multiple MiCs with a Mac for stereo recording, or for recording additional sound sources, such as recording guitar and vocals at the same time. But even as a single mono mic, the MiC handles its duties quite well. I was especially pleased with the results I got using the MiC to record multiple tracks on my iPad, and I appreciated the simplicity of just plugging the MiC in to the iPad dock connector, with no additional gear required.
Although Apogee suggests GarageBand for recording, the MiC also works with several other iOS recording apps. Besides GarageBand, I used it with Tascam’s Portastudio app even though the app is not on Apogee’s compatibility list. On the Mac, the MiC should work with any application that uses Apple’s Core Audio, and it worked well with Logic on a Mac Pro. The MiC works with GarageBand on an iPhone, but requires at least an iPhone 4—my aging iPhone 3 did not recognize it—and will need an adaptor to work with the lightning connector on the new iPhone 5, which was not available at press time.
Combining a MiC and an iPhone or iPad can easily change your perspective on recording. The MiC fits in your pocket or a guitar case’s accessory compartment when stored in its optional carrying bag. You can pull your phone and MiC out of your pocket and start recording in seconds anywhere, any time the mood strikes you, with surprisingly good sound quality. The MiC should especially appeal to those who want a portable recording solution, and it would also be a great addition to a practice setup at home. But it’s also an easy-to-use, inexpensive, and foolproof way to take the first steps toward a home studio.
SPECS: Cardioid condenser microphone with USB connector. Built-in preamp with 40 dB gain. LED level indicator. Gain control. 24-bit, 44.1/48 kHz analog-to-digital conversion. Cables for iPad/iPhone and Mac. Desktop tripod. Requires iPad or iPad 2, iPhone 4 or greater, with iOS 4.3 or later or a Mac. Works with GarageBand and many other recording applications. Optional carrying case ($19.95) and mic stand adaptor ($9.95). Made in USA.
PRICE: $199 street.
MAKER: Apogee Electronics: (310) 584-9394; apogeedigital.com.
Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar February 2013