Last year I reviewed Blue Microphone’s Yeti. It is a great microphone for using at home, and I have read of some folks hacking things so that it works with their iPad, but it is not really a portable solution. For that, Blue released the Mikey.
The Mikey is designed to work with the iPhone and iPod Touch (except for the latest versions). It plugs into the standard iPhone/Touch connector and can be used by with Blue’s Blue FiRe application, or a number of other applications. Blue FiRe is available for free in the iTunes store.
What’s in The Box
Not much. But that’s a compliment. This is designed to be portable, and it is very minimalistic:
Again, the Mikey is about portability, so it is designed to be light. This means, plastic. It doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy, but it is light. The technical specs include:
- Condenser, Pressure Gradient
- Cardiod pattern
- 35Hz – 20kHz frequency response
- 44.1 kHz/16 bit Sample/Word
- 2.5″ by 2.5″ by .5″
The stats are not that far off of the Yeti. It doesn’t have the multiple patterns, or go quite as low in frequency, but it is an impressive set of stats for a portable microphone.
The Mikey has a mini-USB connector and a standard 3.5 mm stereo input. The USB port allows you to power and charge your iPod or iPhone while using the microphone. It will not let you sync your iPod, it only provides power. The stereo port allows you to connect typical audio sources to record on your device. When connected, the microphone is automatically turned off.
Now, if you pay attention to the bylines here, you will know that I am an Android guy. I have to admit, however, that one of the advantages of the iOS system is standard hardware (for the most part, but I’ll cover that later). As much as I wish there was a Mikey for Android, I recognize the difficulty that Blue would face making one that would work with all the Android hardware, or the headache of stocking various versions. However, if they could make a Droid X version, I would be thrilled.
The Mikey works with most iPod devices. It even works with the iPod Nano 2G-5G, the iPod classic and the iPod 5G. However, since they are not iOS devices, you are limited to the capabilities of the built-in recording features. To really unlock the Mikey, you need an iOS device. Remember how I said an advantage of the iOS environment is standards? Well, unfortunately, Apple change physical connector with the latest iPhone 4 and iPod Touch. This means that the Mikey only works with iPod Touch 1G-3G and iPhone 3GS and earlier. Again, this is a physical change to the hardware, so this Mikey will not work with the current devices, there will need to be a new design.
Fortunately, I own an iPod Touch second generation, and this gave me a reason to upgrade the iOS on it, and download the application. I had no problems finding and loading the application, and was up and running in no time.
Mikey and iPod Touch
Attaching the Mikey is very simple. I did not even have to remove the protective case for the iPod Touch:
The Mikey rotates to a number of positions. It is very flexible. Here is an example of how you might use the Mikey on a table:
Here is another picture with the Mikey attach to my old Nano:
The only control on the Mikey itself is the sensitivity switch. This is a 3-position switch that controls how sensitive the microphone is. The blue LED indicates which sensitivity the Mikey is set to. The label for the lights show 1, 2, or 3 wavy lines. Think of the lines as representing how loud the source is. They suggest the following:
- 1 Wave: most sensitive, for recording soft sound sources like un-amplified lectures or distant sources.
- 2 Waves: medium sensitivity, for recording speaking voices in interviews and meetings, or acoustic instruments,
- 3 Waves: low sensitivity, for recording loud sound sources.
It is easy to experiment with, and you will want to try different settings to see what works best for you. I found the lowest setting (3 waves) best for me when talking into the microphone since I was talking close to the microphone, and frankly, I have a loud voice.
Since you are recording on a device designed to play, playback is straightforward. The only issue I had was that the headphone jack on my iPod Touch is next to the connector, so I was unable to use the headphones while the Mikey was attached. This was not a big issue for me, but is an inconvenience.
You can download Blue Microphones BluFiRe app on any iOS device for free. It is a fairly simple, straightforward application that has some really nice features. I will cover that in more details in a moment. For more sophisticated needs, the Mikey is compatible with FourTrack from Sonoma Wire Works. It is a $10 app in the App store, and looks like a great tool for musicians. If your interest lies there, check out the demos on Blue’s web site.
Since I am cheap, and my primary application is voice, I stuck to the BluFiRe application.
It is not the most intuitive application I have used, but after spending only a little time with it, it is easy to pick up. Here is a look at the main screen:
In addition to listing the current recordings, the bottom of the screen provides quick links to browser access (more on that later), playing, and a plus sign to start a new recording.
The recording screen displays control buttons, and sound meters. I found this really easy to use, especially when determining which of the 3 settings to use. Right from the recording, you use an FTP link to FTP the file to a web site.
This is a nice feature, but the applications provides in even nicer, in my opinion, way to get recordings off of your device. They call it browser access.
Once you click on the Browser access icon from the main screen, you get this screen:
If you iOS device is connected to the same wireless network, you can then use your browser to access the recordings. Here is an example of what that page looks like:
You can choose MP3 or AIFF from the format drop-down and then download the file. The number after the “:” in the address changes each time. If you look closely, you can see I took the screen shot from the iPod Touch (:49316) at a different time than the browser window (:49315). So you can’t bookmark the address for later, but it is still an excellent way to download the recordings quickly.
I found the sound quality to be very good. As a sample, I recorded myself on my Yeti and Mikey at the same time, and combined the two tracks in Garageband to demo. It’s basic, I did no tweaking, but I think it will give you an idea. Most is from the Yeti, when I talk about the Mikey, it is from the Mikey.
It is an unfair comparison, but the Mikey does pretty well. I find the Yeti to be a little crisper and clearer, but am impressed by the Mikey.
Who is it for?
It seems to me, this is a great product for a musician who wants to do some impromptu recording. The Four Track demo on the Blue Microphone site shows how flexible it can be. For myself, this will make an excellent portable recording option.