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An audio interface again?! Ah, but this one is for your phone. Or your iPad. Android fans can move on to the next review.
Very simple to set-up and use
Lets you choose your mic
For Apple devices only
An audio interface again?! Ah, but this one is for your phone. Or your iPad. Android fans can move on to the next review... Andi Picker explains.
Ever since Apple started its i-Domination plan, other manufacturers have been inventing things to add to your ‘phone or tablet to turn it into a music making machine. Some ideas may be more novel than useful, but sometimes a piece of kit arrives that simply takes what your device does well and then adds something better onto it.
The Rode i-XLR is an XLR plug combined with a compact audio interface, attached to a 3m cable with a lightning connector on the other end. You can use the i-XLR with any standard microphone that doesn’t require phantom power (so you can use dynamic and self powered mics, and the unit will supply 'plugin power' which is often used for headset or lavalier mics), and has a 3.5 mm zero-latency headphone output with a level control for monitoring.
Set-up is dead simple, and if you use the free Rode Reporter app on your device you can switch in a 20dB pad (in the hardware) to help it deal with shouty people, and start & stop recording by pressing the one touch recording button built-into the headphone level control. (I’ll just mention that I have seen pictures of the i-XLR with an additional hardware switch for a 20dB gain boost; the review model I was sent doesn’t have that.)
What I like about the i-XLR is that like the i-XY that we reviewed back in issue 30, it takes care of the audio quality before it gets near the consumer electronics in the ‘phone or tablet, and then simply uses that as a storage device with some built-in control and file-sharing software. Analogue to digital conversion (up to 24 bit/96 kHz) seems to be clear and transparent, leaving you to just select the best of your microphones for the job in hand.
The i-XLR/Reporter combo is largely positioned in the Rode marketing material as a tool for reporters & interviewers and I can see it working well in this setting, but after making sure no one was looking I tried it on some music. The Reporter app supports both compressed and non-compressed audio file formats, and the recordings I made were of quite surprisingly high quality. If you want to use a different application (perhaps a video + audio package) then you can do that too, though you may miss that 20 dB pad and one touch record feature that works with Reporter. As the unit is powered by the device its attached to you do have to expect the battery life to be reduced, but this really didn’t seem to be too bad and is probably something to be aware of rather than worried about for most uses, although an additional socket to allow in-use charging would be a very nice addition to a future model for anyone wanting to record long sessions.
Recording music is usually going to be a more planned activity than sticking a microphone in someone’s face for a sound bite – if only because you need musicians and music gear to do it, but to be able to pack your ‘phone and a mic with an i-XLR and make good sounding recordings of song ideas, practice sessions, rehearsals, gigs…that actually sounds like something useful to me.
Overall, a simple and effective way to use your iOS device as a tape recorder with a proper mic.
Hey Rode – how about a stereo version? Oh, and one for Android?