Review by Andrew Kameka on Friday August 30, 2013.
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All of the many smartphones that I've used this year have some form of voice memo or recording application, and all have done a good enough job. Could a mobile device also be good enough to be a primary recording device? The iRig Mic Cast thinks that sounds like a good idea.
The iRig Mic Cast is a small accessory that plugs into a headphone jack and improves the sound quality of recordings. A front switch can adjust between Low and High sensitivity recordings, and another port for inserting headphones allows for real-time monitoring or private playback. Sound quality is pretty good for a mini-microphone because it captures very clear audio. Whether speaking or signing during my tests, the iRig delivered crisp audio. It also has less hiss and distortion heard with standard phone recordings. Background noise was present because the iRig lacks major filtering features, but it did manage to make my voice more audible despite an airplane flying overhead on high sensitivity. Though the hum of the airplane appeared on the recording, it was not as loud in the microphone as my own ears perceived the sound to be in real life. The iRig provides noise minimizing, not noise cancellation.
The external microphone is only a part of the equation. iRig Recorder works with the iRig Mic to turn a phone or tablet into a miniature studio that is capable of providing some light editing and optimization features. The paid app, $3.99 on iOS and $7.99 on Android, displays an editable wave that users can crop to shorten or highlight portions of the recording to be cut. There are also processing features in order to adjust sound quality. Recordings are naturally very clear with the standard recordings, but processing can enhance sound more by doing cleanup on audio files. An Optimize Tone feature can change the recording to sound "Warm," which has a slightly heavier tone, or "Crisp," which has a sharper and airy sound. Other options include adjusting speed, pitch, smoothness, or treble.
IK Multimedia, the company behind iRig, does well to power easy and enhanced audio recordings, but not without problems. While I love the iRig being able to flip the screen on an iPhone 5 with the headphone jack on the bottom, I hate having to manually stop the app from running whenever I use it. Though the recording process was reliably smooth on an iPhone 5, things may be a bit more complicated when attempting to use with Android because of hardware variations. Audio is not always as crisp and the app does not perform consistently across the board.
Both the original recording and the edited clip are stored in the app. Files can be exported directly to Soundclound, FTP, Wi-Fi, or iTunes on iOS; Android devices can also be shared via Bluetooth or the standard Android share function. Recordings are exported in 44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Mono WAV files. I wouldn't consider this good enough to start your new recording studio, but for above average audio quality for interviews, podcasts, lectures, basic vocal demos, or just goofing around, this meets the grade. The iRig Mic Cast provides smooth audio quality in rough situations, and its software does well to improve the experience further. The iRig Mic Cast costs $37, so someone can spend less than $45 and still see - or hear, actually - a difference in the audio recorded on a smartphone or tablet.
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.