Friday, May 18, 2012

Apogee MiC Review

The first good quality USB microphone I ever owned (by good quality I mean a condenser mic with a large diaphragm, or a mic that cost more than $40!) wasn’t a very happy experience. The microphone didn’t work without drivers installed, and even then it often had conflicts with one thing or another. After struggling with it for a month or two I found it was easier to go back to the XLR mic and a USB audio interface.

Then I bought an Audio-Technica AT2020 USB microphone, and that was a great improvement. No more problems with drivers and interfaces, and the audio quality was close enough to what I had been getting with the XLR mic that the ease of use - and lack of extra parts - made it my go-to mic.

But here comes Apogee with the “MiC,” and not only is it a high-quality USB condenser microphone that works with your Mac, it also works with your iPad and iPhone too. Infact, one of the key selling points is that it works with the iPad, and it comes with both a regular USB and a Dock connector cable. The only real downside; it doesn’t appear to work with Windows computers.

The Apogee MiC is 4.5 inches long and 1.52 inches wide and it’s about half the size of the AT2020. It also comes with a tiny tripod that screws into a 1/4 inch screw mount on the back of the MiC. For comparison, the AT2020 also came with a little tripod, but it’s also physically the same size/shape as other condenser microphones and fits in the shock mounts I already have; the Apogee MiC is an odd shape which might make it a little more difficult to mount. Apogee does sells a separate MiC Stand Adapter for attaching the MiC to a standard microphone stand for $9.95.

The MiC is well built; it feels very solid and looks well made. Another difference about the MiC; it has a physical gain wheel on the side - the first time I used the MiC it took me a couple of minutes to realize the reason why I wasn’t getting much volume was because the gain was way down!

In Use
Functionally, you plug the MiC into your iPad, launch GarageBand and start recording. The included booklet said that the MiC displays a blue light when no software is accessing it but it’s connected to hardware. I thought the booklet was wrong at first because I never noticed it glowing blue; until I’d had it for a few days and finally saw it; it’s a very dim blue! The MiC does glow bright green when it’s connected to audio software, and the light flashes giving an indication of level.

I use the AT2020 primarily for voice overs and instructional video narration, and have been very happy with it. But in comparing it to the MiC, the MiC seems to have a much richer, fuller sound. I’d be happy to switch to the MiC, but to be honest I think I’d still use it with GarageBand on the Mac rather than the iPad because I find it a little easier to edit and manipulate audio with a mouse, than with my fingers! Also, you don't have to deal with transferring the audio from the iPad to your Mac.

But if you need to be able to go portable, and make a quality recording of voice talent, or a live music performance, an iPad and the MiC might be the perfect solution.

Almost Wrapped Up
While the MiC works with GarageBand on the iPad, and also works with the Voice Memo app on the iPhone, it won’t work with every audio recording app you have; it only works with MFi compatable apps. A list of these apps can be found at Apogee’s site here: Apogee | What iPad/iPhone apps are compatible with MiC?

I did find that when I launched another iPad audio app that didn't work with the MiC, it seemed to prevent GarageBand from communicating with the MiC. I had to force quite the other app before GarageBand would see the MiC again. i was also a bit surprised that given its “ready-to-go” size and iPad compatibility, the MiC doesn’t come with a case.

Finally, at $199 and double the price of the AT2020, you have to weigh the cost vs. improvement in sound quality, but if you want the best sound you’ll go for the MiC. That’s independent of it's iPad compatibility and it’s much smaller size which is very attractive for those not recording in large studios.

I made a very short sample recording of the MiC used with different recording hardware, and also the AT2020 by way of comparison. Since everything I do pretty much ends up on YouTube, I figure putting them in a YouTube clip is a good indication of the final results I’ll get. But if you really need to, you can hear better quality audio samples on Apogees home page! ApogeeMiC Sound Samples

B&H: Apogee MiC [$199.00]
B & H: Audio-Technica AT2020USB [$99.00]

Thanks to:
B & H Photo Video, who provided a loner unit for this review.


Ethan Wang 王越泰 said...

On the plus side, 1/4 mount is perfect for camera mounts. I intend to use it on a flexible mount designed for cameras. Why bother with big mic when the small mic does the job just as well if not better. The future is small not big.

Leanne said...
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