As US$100 accessories for iPhones and iPads go, Blue Microphones' Mikey Digital is not the loveliest. Open the box and a lightweight, plasticky node plops out. "Why would anyone want to do that to their iPhone?" one self-confessed Apple fetishist quipped when I showed it to him. He has a point. The rounded corners, black faces with metallic edge are clearly a homage to the iPhone 4 and 4S, but the result doesn't quite come off. Luckily, Blue has spent more time on the Mikey Digital's condensor-filled innards than its shell. Gizmag got to grips with one to see what it could do.
The Mikey Digital connects to iPhones and iPads via a 30-pin connector: good for 3rd gen iPad and iPhones up to the 4S. Blue assures us that the device is "fully compatible" with iPhone 5 using the ($29) Lighting to 30-pin adapter, so should you be contemplating a Mikey Digital purchase with a new iPhone further down the line, compatibility shouldn't derail your plans.
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The microphone is straightforward to use. Connecting it to your iPhone and launching your recording app of choice is all that's required. The mic can be pivoted through 230 degrees to find the optimum angle should you wish to rest your iPhone on a table during recording. A slider on the back lets you adjust gain for both quiet (45–65 dB) and noisy (100–130 dB) environments, but leaving the slider centered selects an automatic setting that should be adequate for most circumstances.
The Mikey Digital has two useful ports. A mini-USB in the side allows charging of your iPhone when using the Mikey Digital. A 3.5-mm (1/8-in) stereo input allows recording from external devices, though this bypasses the mic so live mixing is impossible. A guitar jack adapter is included for direct recording from an electric guitar.
To get the most out of the Mikey Digital you'll want a decent recording app. Using a straightforward dictation app (Dictamus), there was very little difference in the resulting audio when recording voice with and without the device. But when testing with Garageband the difference was evident, though you'll want to listen through proper speakers or headphones rather than your iPhone's in-built squeaker to appreciate the difference.
Recording voice in a quiet environment at close range using the auto-gain setting, the Mikey Digital resulted in a fuller, richer and appreciably softer recording than using the in-built microphone of the iPhone 4S used for testing. With the included carry-pouch, the Mikey Digital could become indispensable for interviews from which the audio is to be used. It beats carrying around a separate dictaphone, certainly.
As for recording music vocals, again, the Mikey Digital is up to the job, considering that its likely target market are dedicated iOS audio-hobbyists rather than professional singers or sound engineers.
For $100 it would be nice if the Mikey Digital's build quality matched the iPhone that it's so obviously intended to accompany, but in respect of sound quality it's hard to fault.
Product page: Mikey DigitalView gallery - 7 images