RODE iXY microphone for iPhone

This plug-in stereo mic for your iPhone or iPad is brilliant for high quality recordings

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RODE iXY
  • RODE iXY
  • RODE iXY
  • RODE iXY

Pros

  • Excellent quality audio recording
  • Excellent stereo reproduction

Cons

  • Connector can feel flimsy
  • App costs extra

Bottom Line

RODE’s iXY microphone for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad is a fantastic way to boost the quality of audio recordings. If you record your university lectures, do any interview work, or want a cheap way to boost your YouTube voice-overs, this is a reasonably cheap way to get good audio with the convenience of your smartphone.

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RODE’s iXY microphone for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad is a fantastic way to boost the quality of audio recordings.

If you record your university lectures, do any interview work, or want a cheap way to boost your YouTube voice-overs, this is a reasonably cheap way to get good audio with the convenience of your smartphone.

RODE iXY: Design and setup

The RODE iXY is a nifty little thing. It’s built out of smooth, satin grey metal, and the microphone body is absolutely rock solid — we would seriously say it’s the best-built iPhone accessory we’ve ever come across.

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This isn’t true of the 30-pin iPhone 3G/3GS/4/4S connector, though — it’s long and thin and is prone to wobbling. This isn’t a slight on the iXY, rather on Apple’s connector. To be equally fair, any connector, be it Lightning or Thunderbolt or HDMI or DisplayPort, would struggle with a comparatively bulky device like the iXY if pressure was applied in the wrong direction. During our use we were wary of hitting the iXY and snapping either the male or female side of the Apple connector.

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Two Torx screws hold the base of the iXY, where the connector is, to the microphone section. Two half-inch cardoid condensor microphones are arranged in the distinctive X/Y pattern from which the iXY derives its name. Everything is all put together with exacting detail, and nothing feels out of place or unnecessary. The angular design means it is a bit of a strange shape to hold in your hand, but it’s perfectly fine when connected to your iDevice.

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To use the RODE iXY to its full potential, you’ve got to download and install the RODE Rec app from the App Store. There’s a basic version of the app available for free, but if you’re serious about getting the best quality recordings — and you should be, since you bought a $199 iPhone microphone — there is a fully-featured version that costs $6.49. It lets you do a lot more, like implementing an equaliser, changing gain and running a volume normaliser. We’d definitely use it, but it is an extra cost that we think should be included in the iXY’s price tag.

RODE bundles two extras with the iXY. There’s a spherical foam pop-sock that blocks out any wind noise, and a hard carry case to store the iXY (although there’s no room for the wind sock).

RODE iXY: Performance and sound quality

We tested the RODE iXY against the internal microphone of an iPhone 4. There are other iPhone-connecting microphones out there, but we didn’t have any available and we think that demonstrating the difference between the iXY and the iPhone’s internal mic best shows the advantage of buying any external high-quality microphone.

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What the RODE iXY has as its party piece is recording in 24-bit, 96KHz. There’s a lot of discussion about the advantage of recording in 96KHz versus a more reasonable sampling rate like 48Khz or 44.1KHz, but suffice to say the theory behind it is the ability to record a wider range of sounds, with more detail — no cut-off for any ultra-sonic frequencies that nonetheless contribute to the character of sound. In any case, the iXY can do it and other iPhone microphones can’t.

Regardless of bit depth and sampling rate, if you’re comparing the RODE iXY to the iPhone’s built-in microphone, the difference is significant. The huge differences come in the form of extra detail resolved, and the use of stereo recording. To demonstrate the difference, listen to these recordings.

The text passage dictated comes from RODE’s marketing materials for the iXY — sorry, but it’s what we had close to hand. We made our recording in near-ideal conditions — a quiet room, almost no ambient noise, and with the iPhone held directly in front of us at around 30 centimetres range. The first recording is using the iPhone’s internal microphone, mono audio at RODE Rec’s default settings:

By comparison, the audio that the RODE iXY picks up is far more well-rounded. It’s got a lot more bass to it, and doesn’t sound like it’s been recorded through a plastic tube. Listen for the (more accurate) deeper sound of our voice, and better recording of every sibilant noise (like S’s and Z’s):

We’ve got a couple more real-world recordings comparing the iPhone and the RODE iXY, and we’ll share those as soon as possible.

Where the RODE iXY is probably most valuable over the iPhone’s internal mic is that it’s a proper stereo setup versus the iPhone’s mono. Listen to this recording where the microphone is moved to the left and to the right of a phone speaker playing music:

Recording that kind of stereo audio is impossible with an iPhone’s internal mic — move it to either side of an audio source, and the overall recording volume just drops away.

Take wind noise as another example of the huge difference in quality between the RODE iXY and the internal iPhone mic. This is wind noise — held 10 centimetres from a small desk fan — with the iPhone’s internal microphone:

This is the wind noise in the same scenario that the RODE iXY picks up:

Put the wind sock on, and wind noise is massively reduced:

Sharing to Soundcloud and Dropbox, as well as through iTunes or via email, is incredibly easy with the RODE Rec app. If you’re trying to file a radio news story, capture some ambient audio, having instant Web access through your smartphone is a huge boost in convenience.

RODE iXY: Conclusion

If you’re doing any kind of audio recording with your iPhone, you’ve probably already come up against the brick wall that is the device’s internal microphone. RODE’s iXY is a revelation in quality, and its one-two punch with the RODE Rec app is hugely convenient. We think it’s well worth the asking price.

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Michael Decena

1

WOW!!! excellent microphone. I better buy one now ^_^

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