When we reviewed the first generation IK Multimedia iRig Mic (not even the first generation HD!), we were impressed by its ease of use, good sound quality, and the bundled applications—so much so that many of our editors used it at NAMM for conducting video interviews. Now, IK Multimedia has updated the hardware and software, and the iRig Mic HD2 is better in every way than both the original iRig Mic as well as the iRig Mic HD.
This mic is a cardioid condenser digital microphone with a built-in windscreen. To better illustrate the improvements, here is a table comparing the iRig Mic HD and the new iRig Mic HD2:
|iRig Mic HD||iRig Mic HD 2|
|Conversion: 24 bit A/D/A||Conversion: 24-bit A/D/A|
|Sampling Rate:44.1kHz, 48kHz||Sampling Rate: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2kHz, and 96kHz|
|Frequency Response: 40Hz - 18kHz||Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz, -3 dB|
|Maximum Sound Pressure: 134 dB||Maximum Sound Pressure: 125 dB|
|No headphone jack, gain control knob||Headphone jack for direct monitoring with volume knob, gain control knob|
The mic comes with detachable cables, to allow you to connect to either an iOS device or a computer; Android users require an additional micro-USB adapter. The new mic sports a headphone jack at the base of the unit, and two controls: one for headphone volume and the other for input gain. Above these controls is a multicolor LED to show audio status (blue/green/amber), which is a nice touch to help you find a good recording level. Finally, the mic is completely bus-powered by whatever it is connected to—no batteries required.
To round it out, the mic includes a carry bag, a table-top stand, and a 5/8 inch to 3/8 inch thread adaptor to allow the mic to be mounted on both the included stand or a standard mic stand.
The apps present an interesting collection. For iOS devices, you get a MicPack for use within Vocalive (a multi-track recording app sold separately), a Pro Bundle (of effects) for use within iRig Recorder (audio and video recording app also available separately), and Mic Room, which is a mic modeling program. There are the ubiquitous in-app purchase options to expand your mic collection, but included are familiar friends, such as models of the Shure SM57, Shure SM58, Neuman U87, and even a telephone mic, to name a few.
We have explored these apps before, but we will review them briefly here:
The full version of VocaLive gave us access to all effects including a suite of five dedicated, real-time vocal effects (pitch correction, choir harmonizer, voice doubler, vocalmorpher and de-esser) plus seven effects tailored to vocal processing (reverb, EQ, compressor, delay, envelope filter, chorus, phaser). The numerous effects can be combined to form a three-effects vocal chain. VocaLive also includes a number of presets to help you get started.
The iRig mic and VocaLive were rather simple to use—and definitely fun. All the effects sounded good, and the harmonizer worked better than expected. If you want your vocals to sound like an alien, the morph effect works great! We also liked the "glam" preset which gave the input voice a Queen/Bohemian Rhapsody sound.
It was an unexpected (and pleasant) surprise to find vocal warm-up exercises built into the app. We could change keys chromatically and alter the tempo. Vocalists will really appreciate this feature.
Of course, the focus of VocaLive for the iRig Mic is live, real-time use, and we think it does this quite well. However, an iPhone's screen size is a limiting factor for overall usability in the field, at least for some users. However, the iKlip mini helps facilitate this, allowing you to clamp your phone to a mic stand.
To make the iRig's software use clearer, think about it like this: you have an iPhone with iRig Mic/VocaLive on a mic stand on stage. The output of the iPhone goes to the mixing board and PA. Since you can set up your own custom presets, let's say you make Preset 1 a chorus plus one octave below harmonizing (say, for verses, similar to a U2 effect). Then, you set up Preset 2 with harmonizing at the 3rd, 5th, and octave above (for a full chorus sound). In real-time, the lead singer can just touch the screen and toggle these effects between verse and choruses. It doesn't get much easier than this! For another song, you might create presets that toggle between distorted/morphing effects and clean vocals. This is a really easy way to add some creative effects to your live performance, assuming you like the sound of the actual iRig Mic vs. your "standard" vocal mic.
The other app is free software, iRig Recorder. This is a neat little program for on-the-fly recording: interviews, podcasts, etc. Although the free version's capabilities are pretty basic, for just $4.99 you can purchase the full processing suite, which transforms iRig Recorder into a very competent, pro-level application. The full app allows you to cut/crop/loop your recordings (using a graphical waveform editor), and process your audio files including optimizing volume, tone, pitch shifting, speeding up or down without affecting pitch, brightening, and smoothing.
Further, iRig Recorder has the ability to transfer files via e-mail, WiFi, or iTunes File Sharing, as well as a large selection of online services and social media like Airdrop, Messages, SoundCloud, Facebook, WhatsApp, DropBox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive. It also exports files as compressed .m4a or uncompressed .wav files.
Recording time is limited only by the memory on your recording device, so even with 32 GB and 64 GB iOS devices, this should be plenty to get someone through the day. This could be very hand for journalists, as they don't need to pack an MP3 recorder in addition to their cell phone. We highly recommend the full app if you need to make recordings on location, though. iRig Recorder 3 is fully Audiobus and Inter-App Audio compatible.
While iRig Recorder can be used for recording musical performances, though, the one limiting factor is that this microphone is a monophonic audio device.
Moving on to the Mac/PC side, there's a version of the Mic Room, T-RackS CS Classic, and Abelton Live 9 Lite included. Just to clarify, T-RackS is a great suite of various audio processing plug-ins that IK Multimedia has marketed for quite some time (and will shortly release version 5), and the Mic Room is an "effect" with this suite. Once you register your iRig Mic HD 2, the IK Multimedia account you created will allow you to download the software's fuller versions and give access to T-RackS. It took a bit to understand this, but the message is simple: register your mic, then download the goodies!
In use, we liked the feel of the iRig Mic HD2. It felt sturdy, almost heavier than expected, but good to hold. We liked the sound of the mic, and handling noise was minimal. The one thing we didn't like—which we have mentioned regarding other IK Multimedia products—is that the volume dials are flush with the microphone. While we understand they shouldn't be jutting out so they accidentally get moved while recording or performing, they are hard to adjust without a bit of fiddling. Certainly, you could make the argument these are "set and forget" controls, but we still think it should be a little easier to adjust these. Other than this minor detail, we did like the overall performance of the mic.
All in all, IK Multimedia has made a good sounding mic even better, and it's quite flexible for a variety of applications. The included apps should get anyone started regardless of device or platform, and the modeling software, while outside of the scope of this review, should open a whole palette of colors to choose from. At $129 USD, we think this is a great deal for all that is included.