iRig Mic Lav review – IK Multimedia bring an iOS-friendly lavalier mic to their product line

iRig Mic Lav Promo shot 8As I’ve commented here a few times, IK Multimedia are one of the music technology companies that have embraced iOS is wholehearted fashion. This has included apps such as AmpliTube, VocaLive, SampleTank, iGrand, iLectric and, more recently, Mic Room. However, it has also included hardware devices aimed at the iOS musician and I’ve reviewed a number of these devices here on the Music App Blog over the last couple of years including the iRig PRO, iRig BlueBoard, iRig 2, iRig PadsiRig Mic Studio and the iRig Keys Pro.

IK Multimedia are not just catering for the musician market though and their latest offering – the iRig Mic Lav – while potentially very useful for the musician, is perhaps more obviously aimed at spoken-word recording whether that’s for audio-only commentary (such as podcasts) or for those looking for a simple way to capture spoken audio as part of a video recording setup (maybe for a YouTube channel).

The iRig Mic Lav - a compact lavalier mic designed for iOS and supplied with a neat carry case.

The iRig Mic Lav – a compact lavalier mic designed for iOS and supplied with a neat carry case.

Keep your shirt on

As can be seen from the various images shown here, the iRig Mic Lav provides a very compact lavalier-style microphone with a robust lapel-mounting clip for fastening to a shirt or jacket. The mic connects to your iDevice via a small breakout box that also provides a headphone jack and routes power to the omnidirectional condenser microphone itself. Also supplied is a small foam windshield and a rather nice zip-fastened carrying case. The latter is a very useful touch as the small size of the mic, and the necessity of having a light-weight cable on this kind of mic, means it could easily be damaged in transit. The case would do a good job of protecting the hardware.

The mode switch is mounted on the top edge of the breakout box.

The mode switch is mounted on the top edge of the breakout box.

This breakout box is actually quite clever as it has a single switch that allows you to toggle the headphone socket between two modes. In ‘headphone’ mode it does exactly what you would expect. However, flip the switch to ‘2nd mic’ mode and you can actually daisy-chain a second iRig Mic Lav unit. You could, therefore, easily record a two-person conversation to a single iDevice if required. As well as the mic cable itself, the breakout box has a short cable that then plugs into the headphone socket of your iPhone or iPad.

The clip is sturdy and will hold the mic in place very firmly.

The clip is sturdy and will hold the mic in place very firmly.

To reflect this option, there is both a single iRig Mic Lav pack and a ‘2 mic’ pack and this have a suggested selling price of €49.99 and €79.99 respectively. The 2-pack version is to be released soon so, for review purposes, I just had a single unit to work with.

Plug and play

In terms of setting up, there really isn’t much to worry about with the iRig Mic Lav. The mode switch needs settings correctly (1 mic or 2) and you decide whether you need the headphones connected for personal monitoring. Otherwise, it is just a case of plugging in and firing up whatever app it is that you need to record audio with.

The mic is supplied with about 150 cm of cable so there is plenty if you want to mount your iDevice in front of yourself for video/audio recording but not so much that you end up tripping over it if you are just recording audio and have your iDevice tucked in a jacket pocket (for example). In use, as with any lavalier mic, you need to take a bit of care with the counting on your clothes so as to avoid any rustling of collars or clanking of medallion chains but, that aside, this is pretty simple stuff to use.

The mic can, of course, be used with the supplied windshield.

The mic can, of course, be used with the supplied windshield.

Red light on

I tried the iRig Mic Lav with a number of iOS apps using my iPhone 5 and they all recognised the presence of the ‘headphone mic’ (it does, after all, plug in to your iDevice’s headphone socket). Used with the standard Camera app in video recording mode, the quality of the captured audio was very good. No, it’s not in quite the same class as a half-decent large diaphragm, condenser mic (for example the iRic Mic Studio – and you can compare the theoretical specs of the two mics on IKM’s website if you are particular about these things) so I’m not sure I’d use the Mic Lav for mission-critical music recording, but then that’s not really what a lavalier mic is for in the first place. For spoken voice recording, however, it is plenty good enough and, if your target is something like voice recording for video ‘talking heads’, it does a very respectable job.

IK Multimedia's Mic Room app includes a preset input for the Mic Lav to best match the input with the subsequent mic modelling.

IK Multimedia’s Mic Room app includes a preset input for the Mic Lav to best match the input with the subsequent mic modelling.

I did, however, try the mic with a number of other app. For example, used with Multitrack DAW on my iPhone 5, as a means of recording a ‘demo’ vocal (you know, the kind of ‘I need to capture this idea now before I forget it’ moment), the results seemed better that the built-in microphone of the Apple’s hardware. There seemed to be more level recorded and much less by way of noise/hiss in the resulting audio. I even managed to record a bit of ‘singer-guitar player’ without too much difficulty (a little bit of experimentation was required to correctly position the mic for the best balance between the two sources). Again, as a means of capturing musical ideas, the Mic Lav does a decent job.

Of course, when it comes to microphones, you can also use ‘virtual’ ones under iOS now with apps like MicSwap and IK Multimedia’s own Mic Room providing microphone modelling of some of the more common (and some of the more expensive) studio microphones that you can buy.

Mic Room can be used to adjust the character of the recorded audio if you want to experiment.... but for spoken-word applications, I thought the Mic Lav did a very decent job.

Mic Room can be used to adjust the character of the recorded audio if you want to experiment…. but for spoken-word applications, I thought the Mic Lav did a very decent job.

OK, so a budget mic, no matter how good the modelling is, it not really going to deliver the pristine audio quality of a more expensive high-end studio mic, but you might get a sense of the ‘character’ of these high-end mics via the software. Anyway, using Mic Room as an IAA plugin within Multitrack DAW, it was actually quite interesting to ‘switch’ between the various virtual mics to experiment with the sound. The Mic Lav also worked fine as a direct input to Mic Room when the app was run in standalone mode. Anyway, in both routes, you could ‘sweeten’ the audio coming from the Mic Lav using the mic models… but the bottom line is that the mic itself is capable of very decent results in it’s design-specific task; spoken voice recording.

In summary

As with studio microphones, you can pay almost as much as you like for a top-end lavalier microphone for professional use (€, £ or $200+). Equally, you can pick up a budget model via Amazon for less than £20. The iRig Mic Lav is obviously sat towards the lower end of that price range but, for the budget-conscious audio recording fan or iOS-based video maker, it may well be in just the right sweet spot, both in terms of price and performance.

As those of you who have hung around the blog for some time will know, I do have a Music App Blog video channel. That has, admittedly, gathered some dust since I underwent my UK to France relocation last year as I lost my ‘video making space’ when we moved. However, as building work has just got underway on the space that is eventually going to replace that (yay!), I’m hoping that I can pick that up again in a few months time. And, if so, I think the iRig Mic Lav would be just about spot-on for recording my own spoken word audio. I suspect it might not get picked for ‘pro TV studio’ use, but for location-based lav recording or slightly less mission-critical work, I think IK Multimedia have got it just about right. Neat, easy to use, decent quality and sensible price….

IK Multimedia iRig Mic Lav

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    Comments

    1. Tom Watson says:

      Thanks for the review. Here’s a vote for you to do a demo video as I’m very interested in this product for podcast interviews and YouTube type videos. I also wonder if the 2 mic set up is used does it record 2 tracks or are they fused into 1? I reckon the latter but one can hope. Thanks again.

      • Hi Tom, thanks for this. I’m hoping to get back into some video work for the blog as soon as my new workspace is completed…. Fingers crossed that will be early in the new year…. best wishes, John

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