With audio recording finally moving down into the home after years of being largely confined to studios, Blue Microphones has decided to follow suit by launching one of its first sub-$100 dedicated audio devices. But can piggybacking on an iPod provide a complete, properly high quality means of getting audio for a company used to providing the whole solution?
design and compatibility
What's notable from the outset is the Mikey's adjustable design. Unlike most microphones that simply sit bolt upright at all times, Blue's peripheral swivels at many angles and is arguably much better at capturing audio in real-world situations. It's possible to tilt the mic directly upwards when the iPod is laying flat on a table to capture more of the environment, for example, but it's also possible to keep the mic flush when it's being held.
The Mikey also has three gain settings that will allow users to record volumes ranging from a relatively quiet source, such as a conversation, to a (legally recorded) rock show. Changing this sensitivity is relatively easy, too, with a toggle switch on the back. There are three blue LED indicators on the front of the unit that shows which gain setting is active. Our only tangible concern here is a small gain selector switch that has relatively mild resistance between settings. While unlikely, it's easier than it should be to accidentally switch to the wrong setting if you brush against the add-on.
The design is effective on just about any compatible iPod, but it's here that Blue falls down somewhat. Every click wheel iPod that supports audio recording is an option -- including second- through fourth-generation iPod nano, fifth-generation iPods, and the iPod classic -- but there's no support at all for the second-generation iPod touch, which could clearly stand to benefit from having more than Apple's earbud and mic combo for its own audio input. In our case, the Mikey also seemed a bit loose when connected to our fifth-generation iPod, but it's possible this was more the fault of the iPod having seen lots of use than the Mikey being poorly designed.
For testing we recorded a variety of sounds ranging from in-room conversations to holding the Mikey up to a set of loud speakers with the volume up high, simulating a concert. We varied the gain levels in each situation to see how effective they are in each circumstance. For playback, we listened to the recording on some quality headphones and from a desktop surround sound system.
As long as gain levels aren't distinctly out of line, such as trying high sensitivity in a loud environment, playback is overall good. It's just artificial enough to sound recorded but never clearly suffering from being overwhelmed by its input as you might see on a simpler mic.
Once the audio has been recorded, the Mikey doubles as a speaker to play back that audio. We found the quality of recordings put through the speaker to be lackluster at best, though this is more a virtue of size limitations rather than quality concerns.
It's hard to fault the Mikey given a fundamentally solid design. As such, the Mikey should be kept on your short list as long as you own a conventional iPod. It produces quality audio, and the hinged design and gain settings are genuinely helpful. This is a product that would work just as well for recording a meeting in a conference room as it would for a rock band having a jam session in a garage; it's not professional, but at $80 it doesn't have to be.