MacDirectory Magazine

Summer-Fall 2009 (#42)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 109 of 147

REVIEW 108 MacDirectory PRO AUDIO IN YOUR POCKET > FIRE & MIKEY When I was taking film classes in college, I quickly became enamored of the little Nagra IV-L we used for sound. With this compact, reel-to-reel recorder slung over my shoulder and a small assortment of mics, I could go anywhere and bring back Hollywood-quality location sound. The first few recording applications for the iPhone caught my eye, but they were quite limited in capability and quality. But this spring, almost simultaneously, two products appeared that brought both to these devices. I was close to having my little Nagra back. The first out of the gate was FiRe by Audiofile Engineering, the first true stereo recording application for the iPhone. The words that best describe this program are "focused" and "feature rich." It does one thing and does it extremely well: it records sound. However, to accomplish that task, it includes a feature set that pros need as well as a couple they may have never dreamed of. The program offers three levels of recording quality with sampling rates from 11.025 kHz to a music-friendly 44.1 kHz. Before you start recording, you can check the sound levels with the VU Input meters and, once recording starts, the levels are mapped by a graphic waveform. The display flips 180 degrees when you turn the phone over. FiRe takes advantage of multi-touch gestures to navigate through a recording. The program lets you add markers to tracks while you're recording (like when you hear the instructor say, "…and this will probably be on the mid- term…") or insert them during playback. There's also an overdub mode and countdown feature (but you may want to opt for Sonoma Wire Works' FourTrack ). FiRe stores audio data in Broadcast WAV format, allowing you to add a wealth of metadata, including geo-location information via the iPhone's GPS. Using the program's Bonjour-friendly web/FTP server it's quite easy to export the audio files to your computer or you can choose to upload them to a account. The only limit on the size of your audio files is the amount of storage on your device. The fact that FiRe is designed as professional tool rather than an ultra- friendly iApp is apparent in some of its quirks, as well. Should your display go into sleep mode while the tape transport screen is up, the program keeps running whether recording is paused or active. Should this go unnoticed, you will find your phone warming and your battery depleting quite quickly. Hopefully an upcoming update will provide the option keep the phone awake while FiRe is recording. Also, when the program launches, the iPhone reports that the Mikey "is not made to work with your iPhone" and then considerately asks if you want to go into Airplane Mode to avoid interruptions and the likely electronic interference from the 3G phone circuitry. One thing that makes FiRe unique is the fact that it's the first recorder to support stereo. One of the two microphones it can use is the remarkable new Mikey from Blue Mic, a pro audio company that rose to fame with its ever-popular Snowball USB microphone, a virtual podcasting standard. Mikey is a powered condenser mic/speaker combination that plugs into the iPhone/iPod docking port (it also can be used with most current iPods). It's hinged so it can either lie flat or tilt down to face the music (so to speak). A switch on the back offers three sensitivity levels, a range that should take you from the back of a classroom to the expensive seats at a rock concert. Apple has a "don't- touch-me-there" policy with microphone circuitry so Mikey can offer some of the level control that FiRe lacks. Mikey does a wonderful job of capturing the subtle ambience of an outdoor environment, but I found it to be quite sensitive to wind noise (it would benefit greatly from a low- cut filter or wind screen). And even though the mic fits securely into the docking port, it won't tolerate much heavy jostling before coming loose. In spite of its modest price tag, this is a professional quality microphone, with sound quality comparable to anything in the sub-$200 price range. In a variety of environments the sound is rich, accurate and detailed, providing natural stereo separation. The ultimate test, moving the recording to an audio CD and playing it back on a good audio system, was quite impressive, considering that the entire studio fit in my pocket. The recording was precise and the sound was as clean as the acoustical environment permitted. And, it was nice to know that I could, once again, bring good sound back from just about anywhere. WORDS BY RIC GETTER Product Mikey Made by Blue Microphones. Price $79 Pros Excellent sound quality; "flexible" design; sensitivity adjustments Cons Prone to wind noise outdoors; disconnects a little too easily System Requirements iPhone 3G, iPod 5G; iPod Classic and iPod Nano 2G, 3G and 4G Rating ★★★★ Product FiRe 1.0 Made by Audiofile Engineering, LLC. Price $5.99 (iTunes App Store) Pros Stereo recording; pro-quality features; supports Broadcast WAV metadata Cons Doesn't block sleep mode; lack of input level control on 1.0 version System Requirements iPhone OS 2.1 Rating ★★★★

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of MacDirectory Magazine - Summer-Fall 2009 (#42)