Want to make great sounding live recordings but don’t have the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording truck in your back pocket? By Peter Hodgson
It’s a visual world. Facebook posts perform better if there’s an image associated with it; YouTube is ubiquitous. People don’t just want to hear music, they want to see it – and they want to see lots of it. You have to keep coming up with new content, over and over again, especially if you’re a band trying to rise above the din.
That’s what struck me when I first tried out the iRig Mic Field: it’s such a simple little device, and yet it opens up your rehearsal, your studio session, your recording session and your concert as sharable content to engage with your audience. Here’s how.
TWO MICS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
iRig Mic Field is a stereo microphone for iOS devices which plugs directly into the Lightning port. It has a swivel adjustment so you can use it either in portrait or landscape mode, and it’s designed with live music in mind. For some, that means, “Oh cool, I can get better-sounding videos when I go to concerts.” For musicians, it means an easy method of getting a usable, full-frequency audio recording free of distortion, that you can then use for all sorts of things. The unit includes a 24-bit audiophile-grade A/D converter, a 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate, a 115 dB maximum SPL rating (that’s ridiculously high) and a low-noise/high-definition pre-amp. There’s a gain control on the side and a colour-changing LED that lets you know when you’re at the ideal gain range, and there’s also a headphone jack for real-time monitoring (depending on the app you’re recording with). What that means, then, is that you can use your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to capture great sounding video of your concert, rehearsal, studio session – pretty much anything – and then import the audio into your DAW for further editing, processing or enhancement.
I tested an iRig Mic Field in a variety of situations, including gear demos at NAMM, playing to backing tracks in my music room, at the Periphery concert, and to record an interview with an artist. I was struck by how clear everything sounded compared to the built-in iPhone 7 Plus mic, but more than that, I was really impressed by the liveliness of the stereo field. It’s amazing just how realistic and detailed the sense of depth is. In a world where everyone is doing playthrough videos where it’s clear they’re just miming to a Pro Tools-saturated backing track, this is a great way to prove to everyone that you can really play those sweet eight-octave sweep arpeggios. But above that, think of the ability to capture great-quality audio at shows which you can then provide to your audience via formats like Patreon.
Are there limitations? A couple. The headphone jack doesn’t work in every application, which is a bit of a bummer, although the LED does give you a clear read of what’s happening to the signal level. And if you’re shooting in portrait mode, it’s a good idea to hold your phone upside down so the mic is at the top – that way there’s no risk of gravity doing its thing and making it fall out. The other problem is one of steadiness: if you’re going to be using this device to make videos for your audience, you’ll want to invest in a tripod mount – you don’t want to sabotage your nice clear stereo sound with shaky, wobbly video.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Given the high-quality video of the current crop of iPhones, the iRig Mic Field is a great way of turning your phone into a full multimedia broadcast suite for livestreamed video, which is great for musicians. It also gives you the ability to capture a gig in high quality when a multitrack recording setup isn’t available, so you can then take that raw audio back to your DAW for editing, overdubs, mastering or whatever you like. It’s a hugely powerful creative tool.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• iOS compatible
• Lightweight and pocket-sized design
• Integrated headphone output
• Gain control and multi-colour LED indicators
• Rotates 90 degrees
• Great sound
• Nice stereo depth
• Headphone jack is app-dependent