Podcasting is all about intriguing and entertaining your listeners. What matters most is what you say, how you say it, and how you sound. Although I’m not going to tell you what you should say or how you should say it, I’m happy to relay helpful information that can assist you in your pursuit of high-quality sound. In this article, I’d like to focus on products intended to turn your iOS device into your podcasting production center. Let’s break these down into two categories: simple single mic solutions and audio interfaces for use with XLR-equipped microphones.
Simple Single Mic Solutions
When you want the ultimate in simplicity and ease of setup, go with a single USB microphone that connects directly to your iOS device. Doing so will bypass the need for drivers, additional audio devices and cabling, and the task of learning how to operate multiple new components. With each of the following microphones, the configuration is identical:
- Connect the microphone to your iPhone or iPad with the supplied Lightning cable
- Connect your headphones to the 3.5mm headphone jack on the mic
- Open your preferred audio recording app
The Shure Motiv MV51 is a large-diaphragm condenser with a vintage look and modern convenience. It has a built-in stand and an on-board touch panel, which allows you to access headphone volume, gain, mute, and DSP presets. Its five DSP presets reconfigure settings for level, EQ, compression, and limiting for different applications such as speech, singing, and more. The maximum digital resolution with the MV51 is 24-bit/48 kHz.
Like the MV51, the Blue Raspberry is a condenser microphone with plug-and-play functionality and digital resolution up to 24-bit/48 kHz. Styled as a retro mic from the future, it features a removable stand that collapses for compact storage and transport. Side-mounted dials provide quick control of mute and headphone and mic levels. Rather than incorporating DSP presets for tone optimization, it features Blue’s Internal Acoustic Diffuser (IAD) to minimize reflections before they are picked up by the diaphragm.
Apogee’s MiC 96k is another condenser mic with similar standard features—a removable stand, plug-and-play operation, and on-board input level adjustment. What sets the MiC 96k apart is the built-in Apogee mic preamp and A/D converter, which supports resolutions up to 24-bit/96 kHz.
A couple more mics worthy of mention are the Audio-Technica AT2020USBi and the Sennheiser MK4 Digital. The Sennheiser utilizes Apogee ADC and preamp components, but both offer up to 24-bit/96 kHz resolution and focus on the capsule quality. The trade-off is that neither the AT2020USBi nor the MK4 Digital has a headphone output jack, which means that you don’t have the luxury of connecting your headphones directly to the mic for real-time monitoring prior to or during a recording.
Thankfully, the setup is straightforward and fast with any of these mics, enabling you to invest more time into your content and performance!
Audio Interfaces for XLR-Equipped Microphones
Another route is to use a standard XLR-equipped microphone connected to an audio interface designed for use with iOS devices. Although this approach involves more components and a slightly more complicated setup, it allows you to use high-end mics that would otherwise be incompatible with your iPhone or iPad. Also, some audio interfaces support simultaneous use of multiple microphones, which is ideal for podcasting with guests! With each of the following audio interfaces, the configuration is identical:
- Connect your microphone to the audio interface via an XLR cable
- Connect the audio interface to your iOS device via a Lightning cable
- Apply 48V phantom power from the audio interface if your mic requires it
- Connect your headphones to the audio interface
- Open your preferred audio recording app
The IK Multimedia iRig Pro I/O is an ultra-compact, single-channel audio interface. Featuring dedicated rotary controls for microphone gain and headphone level, and multicolor LEDs for gain, MIDI, and phantom power indication, it’s as easy to use as a USB mic. Its combo jack input supports devices with XLR or 1/4" outputs.
The Focusrite iTrack Solo Lightning is a 2-channel tabletop audio interface with a single Focusrite mic preamp. It offers XLR and 1/4" inputs on separate channels, each with its own gain control and multicolor LED indicator. Phantom power and zero-latency direct monitoring are selectable. A nice bonus is the set of stereo RCA outputs, which allow easy hook-up of monitors.
If you need a complete recording package for your iPhone or iPad, Focusrite’s iTrack Solo Studio bundles the iTrack Solo Lightning with a condenser mic, closed-back reference headphones, and an XLR mic cable. You’ll just need a mic stand, then you’re good to go!
To accommodate mics for you and your guest, the IK Multimedia iRig Pro DUO 2-channel audio interface offers two XLR-1/4” combo jack inputs. Each channel features dedicated multicolor LEDs and a front-panel gain control. A single 48V switch supplies phantom power for both mic inputs. Additionally, you can easily connect your studio monitors via two 1/4" outputs.
Like the iRig Pro DUO, the Tascam iXR provides two XLR-1/4” combo jack inputs for simultaneous use of two microphones. It also features separate signal and peak indicators for each channel, selectable phantom power, and variable input/device monitoring blend. Its 3.5mm headphone jack and stereo 1/4" line outputs have dedicated level controls, making it ideal for use with headphones and reference monitors.
Each of the previously mentioned audio interfaces operates at up to 24-bit/96 kHz resolution and includes the necessary cabling to connect to the Lightning port on your iPhone or iPad. In terms of mics that are compatible with these interfaces, rest easy knowing that any mic with an XLR 3-pin output will work! That means that anything from a Shure SM58 to a Neumann U87 or Telefunken U47 will flow through just fine.
Whether you use a single USB microphone or a traditional mic with an audio interface, there are a few routines you should adopt to maximize the sound quality when recording to your iOS device. First, mic placement matters. Ideally, your microphone will be a few inches to a foot from your mouth—the difference is audible. Second, don’t distort the recording. Adjust your input level carefully and avoid clipping in the quest for loudness. Third, do a test recording. Record a few sentences, then listen back to confirm that you like the tone and it is free of distortion. For further investigation into your options, stop by the B&H SuperStore or visit our website. Feel welcome to share your findings in the comments!