There was once I time where I wrote album reviews for Vice, earning shit-tons of hipster credits that I have yet to turn in to get my free fixie. Some shit ruled, some shit sucked. One time I reviewed an album and thought “Wow, they actually have to TRY to sound this bad. You can record it better on your phone.” It turns out that that band was friends of an editor, which is why I don’t write for Vice anymore. That got me thinking, how easy is it now to record an album and not have it sound like shit and can you do it on your phone? The answer: pretty easy.
Now, I’m not talking “making it a pop-sensation,” I mean “it sounds like I am playing my guitar in front of you” and not “What do you mean my album sounds like a See-And-Say with low batteries?” Well, I went to the NAMM show in Anaheim to find the cheapest ways to sound like you know what you’re doing and found a couple stand-outs.
The Mikey Digital from Blue Microphones.
This is for iPhone peeps exclusively, but it rules enough where if you don’t have an iPhone, you might want to get one. This little fella will set you back less than a hundred bucks, and has the same condenser mic that the Snowball has, so you’re not getting ripped off.
There’s three gain settings, so you can adjust it when you’re doing an acoustic or electric jam sesh, or an auto-gain setting for your more dynamic sessions. The head tilts so you can face it towards you when you lay your phone down, which you’ll probably have to do if you’re actually playing an instrument. Which, speaking of instruments, the Mikey Digital also comes with a 1/8” plug and an adaptor for your ¼” cables, allowing a direct line for your guitars. There’s also a mini-USB adapter so you can keep your phone charged while using it as a portable DAW.
The biggest drawback that I’ve found is that it doesn’t come with any software itself, but since it works with everything from GarageBand to… uhh, stuff that sucks, that’s not a big deal. I recorded my neighbor’s surf-band jam session, and it sounded good enough to remind me that I was drunk as hell at my neighbor’s while his band was rocking out in the garage. Did I mention that my neighbor rules and has literally passed pints of beer over the fence to me? No. Well, now I did.
More info here: http://bluemic.com/mikey_digital/
The iRig Microphone
I suppose another downside to the Mikey is that it stays attached to your phone, which doesn’t offer the most flexibility in recording techniques. Well, say hello to the iRig Microphone, which seems to be a SM-57 on ‘roids. It plugs directly into your headphone port, but also has a spot to plug your headphones into and monitor your sound levels. And, like the Mikey Digital, has adjustable gain settings, albeit no automatic gain, so you DO need to check your settings before hitting record.
Now, since it’s an actual microphone-sized microphone, you can’t carry it tucked away in your pocket, but you can use the included clip to mount it to a mic stand and mess with angles and distances from your drums, amps or voice. Where Mikey doesn’t have software directly made for it, the iRig does, with the AmpliTube app being found for iPhone and Android for free (unless you want to unlock extra effects and amps and shit. Oh, and the Mikey w/ guitar adaptor works on this, too.). And, at $60 or less, the iRig Microphone is even easier on your wallet.
And finally, there’s GarageBand app for your iPhone. Seriously. It’s not too shabby when it comes to on the go recording.