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The iRig Mic HD2 is basically a small diaphragm condenser mic with a handheld design, that connects via a Lightning cable (included) to your iPhone or iPad (or via USB to your Mac or PC). The mic offers a sensitivity control on a small recessed knob, that can’t be bumped (you’ll have to move it deliberately) along with a blue LED indicating power that flashes green for moderate level, orange for nice hot level and red for too much level. Since the mic actually has a 1/8” stereo mini-plug headphone output, there’s also a volume control for that.
The HD2 comes with a clip that can be stand-mounted, but most folks will likely use it handheld or with the supplied mini-tripod desktop stand (there’s a carrying pouch too). I wanted to try the mic on my iPhone so I downloaded the free iRig Recorder software, which proved to work better than a couple of the other free apps I’ve tried. Turns out iRig Recorder isn’t exactly free as you’ll be wanting to download its optional Processors, or Creative, or All-Functionalities bundle(s), although they do at least give you a full-featured Compressor (attack, release, ratio, threshold and output), a Normalizer, a Mono-to-Stereo Imager and a rudimentary three-band EQ (frequency and Q).
IK offers a Mic Modeler app too, but the cool thing is that the iRig Mic HD2 actually sounds good on its own. It has a nice mid-forward presence to it, that is sufficiently bright as well as sufficiently deep, too. It’s neither harsh nor thin, with a useful fullness that is absent of excessive low-end rumble (evidence of some wise high-pass filtering on the mic’s signal processing). Acoustic guitar, Cajon drum and vocals all translated nicely, as I adjusted mic sensitivity appropriately for each source. Even so, as I did some loud vocals that must’ve gotten in the red or close to it, the mic absorbed the peak loudly and cleanly.▼ Article continues below ▼
My main grumble is the difficulty I faced trying to adjust the mic’s headphone and sensitivity levels, as they require a little bit of fingernail. The mic’s headphone amp isn’t particularly loud, but sufficient. I did get some noticeable latency even with it minimized within the app, so a direct monitoring feature would be very nice.
Seems to me the iRig Mic HD2 is quite good for some quick 4-tracking of music ideas on your iDevice but where it really shines will be for the run-n-gun ENG (electronic news gathering) content producer on-the go. Armed only with an iPhone, a pair of headphones and iRig Mic HD2, you could create broadcast quality content from anywhere on earth, as long as your batteries can last. Not bad for $129. Old media, meet the future.
So, let’s say that content requires special handling…it would be nice to have a mic preamp with 48 V phantom power for condensers, lots of clean gain for quiet sources and the convenience of iOS compatibility. That’s where the Pre HD steps in with that phantom power, 60 dB of gain, the same tri-color metering scheme as the iRig Mic HD2, the same 1/8” headphone output and Direct Monitoring so you can listen to the mic’s output prior to recording and without the distraction of latency.
I hooked the Pre HD up to my Mac Pro for a little music production and got predictably good results across a wide variety of inputs (acoustic guitar, tambos, Cajon, vocals, floor tom, piano) with very little self-noise from the Pre HD, wide frequency response, good dynamics and sufficient headroom. The Direct Monitor feature is a “must have” as a little latency is tolerable for ENG but a pain-in-the-ass for music production. My few complaints are a product of the unit’s portability … it’s small, will fall off a table top and the tiny rotary controls aren’t easy to carefully adjust. Of course, being small and light is the whole point here. Again, the headphone amp is a little too quiet, but just enough.
All in all, the Pre HD is an effective, low-cost tool for desktop and musical production, that is certainly worth all of its $99 price. I’d say that IK Multimedia has two products here that are a big part of the mobilizing and democratizing of music production and personal production in general.