MyTools: RØDE iXY Microphone for iPhone/iPad

A few days ago I promised a series of posts covering the tools that I use in Collaboration Matters on a day-to-day basis.

Some will be must-have applications, others will be gadgets or accessories and others just a bit left-field!  All take an important role in how I go about doing business.  I’m calling this series ‘MyTools’…

First up, the RØDE iXY Microphone for iPhone/iPad.

Zoom ZH4N
Zoom ZH4N

At previous conferences you may have seen me using the ever popular Zoom H4N digital recorder to record snippets of audio or entire podcast episodes.  The Zoom gets amazing quality stereo audio, runs for hours on a set of AAs and allows a wide range of adjustments for audio quality, tone and recording size.  However, it’s both too heavy and rather too bulky to carry in a backpack on a regular basis.

So I’ve always looking for a more lightweight replacement that retains the audio quality and flexibility.  Back at the start of the year, I found one in the form of the RØDE iXY mic for iPhone and iPad.

RØDE iXY Microphone for iPhone/iPad
RØDE iXY

This retains the dual recording mics of the Zoom, but dispenses with the rest of the recording hardware in favour of using the iPhone or iPad that you already carry.  This significantly reduces the weight and bulk of the device and thus means that I can carry the mic all-day every-day.  Just as the smartphone becomes ‘the camera you always carry’, the iXY means that iPhone is also the high-quality digital recorder I always have with me.

The iXY package contains four key components:

  • The dual microphone accessory, including 30-pin dock connector and LED to indicate recording activity
  • A small but robust case for the microphone including clip to allow attaching to a belt or backpack
  • A foam wind muffler
  • User Guide containing a complimentary download key for the RØDE Rec digital recording app

At this juncture you’ll have spotted one of the key points to note – the RØDE iXY currently ships only with a 30-pin dock connector, so is ideal for connecting to iPhones up to the 4S and the iPad 3 and early models.  It does work with the Lightning to 30-pin dock connector and so can be used on the iPhone 5/5s/5c, the iPad Mini and the iPad 4, however this isn’t ideal.  RØDE say that they are working on a Lightning-equipped model of the iXY so this issue should be resolved soon.

iXY on iPad and iPhone
RØDE iXY on iPad and iPhone

So what does the iXY give you?  A really high quality recording device that is excellent at capturing both music and vocals at a short- to medium-range, with exception noise cancellation abilities.  A great example of this was my recording of podcast-quality interviews at the Connect 2013 conference.  Nothing unusual about that, except that those recordings were made in the Kimonos bar during the final evening of the conference, whilst Karaoke was being ‘sung’ about 3m away!  Truly, the recordings were both clear and suffered from remarkably little background noise.

It’s a tiny and beautifully-manufatured piece of hardware that records full 24-bit 96khz stereo audio.  The mic weighs just 41g.

Whilst the iXY can be used with any iOS recording app, it does work best with the RØDE Rec app.  This app combines professional audio features with an intuitive and easy-to-learn interface, making it straightforward to record, edit and publish broadcast-quality audio directly from your iOS device.

The app features real-time waveforms, a pretty cool suite of non-linear editing capabilities and powerful EQ and gain controls.  It even allows sharing to the popular social networks direct from the device.  The app itself works with the onboard mic in the iPhone/iPad as well as the iXY so if you regularly record audio from your device, this might be a useful purchase in its own right.  RØDE Rec costs $5.99/£3.99 from the App Store if you don’t have an iXY.

The iXY costs $199/£149 from Amazon and other retailers.

I’ve found it to be an excellent investment, using it for podcasts as well as for recording customer reference interviews, meetings and workshops.  In addition, using a mount that I’ll mention on this blog next week, I’ve often attached my iPhone and this mic to the top of a DSLR or camcorder to capture an additional audio source when recording video.

I’d definitely recommend the iXY for anyone that has a suitable device quipped with a 30-pin dock connector and needs to record quality audio on the move.  If you have a newer iPhone or iPad then I’d suggest waiting for a few more weeks for the Lightning-equipped iXY.  Either way, it’s a great device.

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!