Field Recording

Up until now I’ve tended to use a desktop studio setup, with full size AKG microphone, mixer and any one of several pieces of PC software for scripts, suggestions and other hypnosis/NLP content. This has been all very fine, but it’s not without it’s limitations. Firstly, in my little world, the office/studio shares space with a living room, so getting quiet time isn’t always easy. Then there’s the not infrequent desire to capture nature and ambience tracks out in the wild.

My little HP iPaq has taken the field recording challenge a few times, and it’s not bad. It’s not good either.

Having acquired the iPod Touch, it didn’t take long to discover that there’s a good range of accessory microphones available. Essentially iPod mikes come in two flavours – mono, plugged into the earphone socket and stereo, plugged into the dock connector. The mono offerings didn’t appeal, so the choice was narrowed down to a cluster of units from Griffin, Belkin, Logitech and Blue all in the same price range, and the Alesis Protrack at three times the price.

The Alesis Protrack looks like a superb piece of equipment, but rather extravagant for my needs. It’s also powered by 4x AA cells and the iPod clips onto it, resulting in loss of the iPod’s svelt appearance and easy pocketability.

Out of the others Blue’s Mikey stood out head and shoulders. The others have the consumer look you’d expect from those companies. Blue, however, is a long standing microphone specialist, and their products have a distinctive style. In the case of the Mikey, it’s a somewhat retro broadcasting look.

The Blue Mikey is one of the first exotic products I’ve purchased from a New Zealand supplier. Blue supports their dealers by not shipping into their territories. Such practices usually annoy me, as I end up waiting twice as long and paying twice as much. Oceania Audio, based in Auckland, have been a pleasure! The product arrived next day, and I paid pretty much what I would have paid ex US, allowing exchange rates and shipping. Nigel, Oceania’s sales guy, was completely onto it – prompt, courteous and knowledgeable.

So here it is… 

BlueMikey

Cute, aren’t it. Plug it into the iPod dock connector and away you go. The connection is probably the only not-quite-wonderful point – it is very easy to knock it such that it partially disconnects and crashes the recording app. I suspect I’ll have a rubber band or two for use in the field. [Edit 20/01/10 – It’s the iPod docking connector, not the Mikey and I suspect the same problem will occur with any somewhat weighty accessory attached only by this connector. A docking connector extension cable solves the provlem completely. ]

Three little blue LEDs indicate the sensitivity level – high, medium and low, selectable via a small switch on the back. Many devices of this type use autogain to set recording level – with consistently average results. Mikey let’s you pick a level appropriate to your scenario, eliminating level hunting and other autogain artifacts.

Quality is beautiful. Obviously it’s not going to compete with super-high end studio equipment, but for any purpose that the iPod/Mikey combo is likely to be useful, it will be way more than adequate.

Mikey works just fine with the standard Voice Memo app, but I’ve just got to have a bit more editing control to make the combo really useful. FiRe is a great little app, from the App Store, that fits the bill perfectly. I love the user interface, with its moveable record/play head, the accuracy of the level meters and the Bonjour-supported Web Server for getting files of the iPod onto a PC. There’s also FTP and SoundCloud options.

In use, the Mikey obscures the Touch earphone socket, so post-recording checks are via the slightly-better-than-Touch-internal speaker built into the Mikey. With a little bit of fiddling, Bluetooth headphones can also be used.

All in all, I’m thrilled to bits with this little beasty. I strongly suspect my studio setup will get a lot less use now.

Cheers,
Craig

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