Nowadays they make microphones for everything, even external devices to upgrade that terrible sound quality Apple still hasn’t managed to fix in their smart devices running the iOS (is that a bit harsh?). Not to sound negative, but we can all be honest about it — if you’re doing anything more than talking on the phone or recording voice memos that others aren’t going to hear, you’re going to need a better microphone. Especially with how popular iOS smart devices are beginning to become in terms of music production, podcasting, reporting, YouTube videos, interviews, vlogging, and other more advanced uses, it’s critical we have at least something closer to studio quality audio so we don’t sound unprofessional, right? To our luck, more and more mic creators have begun to come out with a new line of ‘iOS microphones’. Even better, they’re pretty affordable too. Let’s check out the top 10 best.
Benefits of an iOS microphone
Not that the quality of audio of the stock mic isn’t unlistenable, as we’ve all been able to successfully communicate with iPhones since they came out; however, we feel that even though the megapixels and video quality have been improved numerous times with all phone and tablet upgrades, the audio quality has just…stayed the same. I mean, listen to the FaceTime quality in iPads or iPhones — it sounds like a 1996 webcam (in our opinion).
As stated previously, the updated audio quality can be great for pretty much activity outside of speaking on the phone or FaceTime. Most of them are relatively small, so they fit in your pocket and are easy to travel with. There really aren’t any complaints or downsides to these things.
A con for these mics that some people may say is that you’re unable to achieve the quality and power USB microphones, condenser microphones (or even some computer microphones) found in studios give you, but our rebuttal is — what do you expect? These things are tiny (most are, at least), cost a lot less, and don’t need phantom power to operate. They’re also made for the field, not a professional room with sound proofing and power outlets everywhere.
Please also be aware that we’ve received quite a few messages, e-mails and comments about having to remove cases in order to use some of these microphones properly. It ultimately depends on not only the mic you go with but also your case. If it’s something like a larger and thicker Otterbox, you’re most likely going to have to take it off when you record. To us, it’s still worth upgrading the microphone and removing the case here and there when it’s time to use it. We at least wanted you to let you know just in case.
How to choose your microphone for iOS devices
- Your budget. As always, this will determine which price point you’ll be looking at. If you want one of the best models out there, it’ll be around a few hundred bucks, otherwise there are some decent quality mics for under hundred in this list as well.
- What type of mic make? There’s X-Y, mid-side, even a bit bigger and just a larger diaphragm condenser mic. There are benefits to all of these, but a majority of the popular iOS mic models are X-Y since it allows for a large pickup, as well as gives you the ability to manipulate the directions of the mic depending on if you’re recording video alongside the audio or not.
- Additional accessories. Some come with a carrying case and others will merely fit in your pocket. The more expensive mics come with a bundle of additional accessories, such as converters, wind screens, etc. It can quite possibly save you some money, or for others may be too excessive.
The top 10 best iOS microphones
We drank a bunch of coffee and researched through the new and popular models. The following is our list of the top 10 best mics available for smart devices running iOS. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, or be sure to tell us if we messed anything up!
If you know us well, Rode is one of our favorite microphone creators, period. When we heard they were joining the club in iOS mics, we needed to see what it was all about. The mic has built-in A/D conversion for lighting and 30-pin connectivity. The XY stereo build of the mic in itself is a mechanism we’re fans of — it’s basically two directional mics placed at 90 degrees from each other, with each mic having different sound pressure differences for increased clarity and less “space”. It allows you to capture a relatively wide area of recording.
Besides the great audio quality and mic build, the Rode i-XY comes with quite a few accessories. You get a foam wind shield and protective zip case, which is especially great for those traveling and\or recording out in the field. What’s even better is they have their own recording app, so you’re not forced to use the stock software that comes with iOS. Although it isn’t anything too crazy, it’s a bit more convenient for recording and visualizing your audio. It’s called the Rode Rec app. This is our top pick for our list for the best iOS microphone, albeit a tad bit more expensive than most, you’re getting what you pay for. With the Rode i-XY, you most importantly can record up to 24-bit / 96k audio quality, giving you the clarity of even most USB microphones out there.
Here’s another XY iOS mic (one of the more popular builds for iOS microphones) but around half the cost as our previously mentioned i-XY. Zoom is a huge player in the recording game, having a stake in video recorders as well. With the Zoom iQ6, it’s one of their better models in the market, coming with lightning connectivity, small enough to fit in your pocket, a MIC GAIN wheel to adjust the volume, and some LED lights to let you know if you’re recording or not. You also have a dedicated headphone jack (could also act as a line output) to help with monitoring. They also have their own recording app.
It’s a condenser microphone so the quality is high up there. It’s almost as good as the previous Rode model spoken about, and is around half the price. However, you’re sacrificing some audio quality here, so if that’s your concern, it may be what deters you to stick with the higher priced i-XY. The IQ6 only goes to 48 kHz / 16bit while the Rode is 96kHz / 24bit. This Zoom does come with a foam wind screen, but not a case like the Rode. However, they’re both built very solidly in the end. What’s important to you? Read AskAudio Mag’s iQ6 review for some more info.
Well, we’re all familiar with Blue Microphones by now, right? They’re slowly becoming a mogul in the mic game and for good reason. It’s even cheaper than the previous two spoken about, and it comes in at 44.1 kHz / 16-bit audio quality (a bit less than the iQ6), so pick your poison here. We’d say the build is almost as great as the iQ6 and i-XY, so if you’re concerned with stability, never second-guess Blue — all of the Blue mic products are highly reviewed all over the net.
Blue doesn’t have their own recording app for this (yet), but there are plenty of 3rd party apps to get you through (it’s compatible with them all). We’d definitely consider the Mikey another one of the best iOS microphones. They’ve also come out with a new model, the Blue Raspberry — it’s a bit more expensive, but a USB microphone that’s compatible with iOS devices. All in all, he Blue Mikey was one of the first of its kind, providing a super-compact build, condenser mic, connects via lightning, an input jack for instruments, swivel mount (goes 230 degrees), and some gain and auto-level sensing setting adjustments on the unit itself.
Shure microphones are exceptional as we all know, and their latest line of Motiv models has given us some quality options. This particular Shure MV88 is made specifically for iOS devices, with some pretty nifty features. You’re getting 24-bit \ 48 kHz audio quality which is very high up there, an all-metal construction, 90-degree hinge to rotate the single mic capsule, and most importantly, their awesome new app called the ShurePlus Motiv App. The app allows you to adjust through DSP modes (this one has five built-in — one for speech, singing, acoustic, loud, and flat) as well as gain and compression control, too.
Read our Shure MV88 review for some more information.
Here’s a Tascam appearance as another one of the best iOS mics and this particular model is an X-Y build, with a high-quality stereo condenser microphone as seen in some of their popular recorders. This one is particularly great for band practices or concerts because it can handle a high sound pressure level (SPL — up to 125dB). You can rotate the microphone up to 180 degrees, so to store it in your pocket you point them straight up to avoid damage. You can also check on the iM2 models for an even cheaper alternative, albeit less quality and a different mic build (A-B). This thing is solid for the price, hands down. It’s our pick for best budget-friendly iOS microphone. Just another option for us to include in here, and we love the Tascam iM2X because of the price being super low yet still decent in sample rate at 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
We wanted to give you another option in terms of the Rode XY since it’s such a solid mic. This particular version, the Rode i-XYL (with the L attached to the end) is merely a lighting-connector version of the previously mentioned i-XY. It’s a bit more expensive, but as opposed to the 30-pin original version, it may be what you’re looking at. You have the XT configuration for wide recording range, their Rode application to mess with some settings, and the same bundle of accessories (case and wind screen) to boot.
The benefits to a lightning connector pretty much comes down to preference, although there is a slight increase in speed to ultimately decrease your latency. It may be noticeable to some, or may not to others, which really comes down to preference. You’re still getting that clear quality of 24-bit / 96 kHz with this, which combined with the solid build, is why we love the Rode iOS mics.
We have Zoom’s higher-up model here as a candidate for the best iOS smart device microphone and for good reason. This particular Zoom iQ7 mic is rated highly because it has a bit of a different twist than we’re used to in this article thus far. It’s a called a condenser “mid-side” mic make, which acts like an XY as in being able to be rotated, but has a bit of a wider pickup. You can also use a three-way switch to select either a 90-degree (center-focused sounds) or 120-degree (wider, such as an entire room). Super cool for concentrating on your particular use of audio capturing.
It’s a bit cheaper than the Rode models, so going with this will also save you a few bucks. You just don’t get the cool case or wind screen, and the audio quality is a bit lower at 48 kHz / 16bit, but still nothing to complain about considering it definitely overpowers your stock audio quality. Here’s the iQ product video for a little more info and visualization of the models.
Apogee MiC 96k
So the Apogee MiC 96k seems like it doesn’t belong in here because it literally looks like a real mic, but technically it’s made for iOS devices because of its compatibility. Also, don’t think you have to be limited to small little mics to plug-in to your devices (this one is actually pretty small compared to popular condenser mics) since we know many who now either record music, vlog or even podcast on their iPads. Here’s a whopping and some of the highest we’ve seen at 24-bit / 96 kHz audio quality, up to 40dB of gain, plug-n-play, an LED for status notification, highly durable metal construction, and a control knob for input adjustment. It just isn’t as ‘small’ or ‘portable’ as some of the other models in here, but if you were concerned with quality, you’re going to have to sacrifice something.
The mic itself comes with a USB mac cable, the table-top stand shown in the photo, and a mic stand adapter, so you’re good to go right out of the box. As we said, it isn’t necessarily a pocket-sized mic like the others, but it’s relatively easy to travel with. It doesn’t come with a case so just be careful with it if you can. A definite go-to solution for those who want the table-top route, or a more rugged piece of machinery for their smart device. The Apogee MiC 96k is one of the best iOS microphones if you plan on being stationary for your intended application.
As we near the end of our article, we get some less popular solutions but still somethings to take into consideration because it may suit your needs. If you’re unfamiliar with lavalier mics, they’re the smaller microphones you see attached to somebody’s shirt during an interview or presentations of sorts. It’s an alternative to hands free mics since it’ll be conveniently near your mouth on a shirt. It connects via 3.5 mm, is “omnidirectional” (records all direction of sound), comes with a windscreen and clip, and of course their beloved Rode Rec App. What’s cool is this is compatible with all smart phones; not just iOS, so if you or somebody you know happen to have something Android, you can switch it or let them borrow. This may be exactly what you’re looking for (it was in our lavalier microphone guide as well). The Rode smartLav+ is actually a super useful microphone. However, if you want even cheaper solution to a lav mic, continue down for number 10.
Last but not least, we have a great, cheap solution for those who wanted something simple yet cost-effective. Another “Lav Mic” but super cheap here, and we wanted to give you the option to top off our list. Nothing too special here with the Movo PM10 besides the low-cost. Connect it via 3.5 mm, comes with a little case, windscreen and clip, and doesn’t require batteries so it’s truly the easiest and cheapest solution to an external microphone that’s a bit better in terms of quality of audio than the stock mechanism of phones and tablets but we’d say it’s worth grabbing if you want some versatility with the wire you’ll be providing (perhaps clip it to your shirt). It’s in our opinion the best iOS mic for those on an extremely strict budget.