YellowTec iXm Recording Mic
About two years ago I purchased a YellowTec all-in-one recording microphone. Previously I had used a similar mic, the now-defunct HHB Flashmic. I find the YellowTec iXm mic to be perfect for doing interviews in non-studio situations. Recently the price of the iXm "package" (includes pouch, windscreen, wifi SD card, and mic holder) went down by about 25%. This is probably the best, and most affordable, time to every purchase an iXm.
What the iXm is Good For
The iXm is an all-in-one integrated microphone, preamp, and recorder. This means you can have a professional audio recording solution in your hands.
The primary feat accomplished by this product is that the preamp portion of the device does a fantastic job of auto-leveling or auto-gain. This is an important feature of an interviewing audio set up as people talk at very different volumes. With auto-leveling built into the device this means volume differences between voices are minimized, which also greatly reduces any editing needing to be done after the interview or conversation with a group of people.
Until the HHB FlashMic, developed several years ago, all auto-leveling implementations were done fairly poorly with noticeable background sounds when voices got louder or softer. With the older FlashMic, and now the new iXm, the auto-leveling is done completely transparently. It's simply stated: amaze-balls. In turn this means one doesn't need a sound person accompanying you to twiddle with gain and other settings during an interview. Just use the mic and the rest (or almost all the rest) will take care of itself.
This is a product mainly aimed at radio stations. The sound quality is great, easy to transport, you don't need a sound engineer to travel with the "talent" (i.e. interviewer). Because the product is aimed at radio stations the recordings are all done in mono.
I have found the iXm great for the following uses:
- interviews/conversations with one other person
- interviews/conversations with multiple people. It's easy to pass around the mic, easy to edit out unwanted extra silence (while passing the mic) after the conversation
- audio for screencasts. This audio will be better than that captured by your computer. The audio needs to be added to your screencasting editing app after a recording
- great for one person podcasts
- audio that will be added to a narrated slideshow/video presentation
Based on the above it seems like the iXm could be a recording solution for all your audio needs: especially if you are an educator. It's possible it may meet all your needs, but here's situations where it won't work nearly as well:
- capturing live music
- capturing ambient sounds where you want a stereo effect
Or, put differently, the iXm is not a good product when you need to be recording in stereo.
Improvements over HHB Flashmic
The iXm has several improvements over the old, now discontinued, HHB Flashmic. These improvements include:
- auto-leveling and auto-gain is better and cleaner (though it was very well done on the Flashmic as well)
- non-click buttons (this means when you press a button to "mark" a spot in a recording that there's no button-click sound to be audio recorded)
- works via wifi to transfer files to an iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch
- comes with twist-on twist-off microphone. This means it's possible to use up to 6 different mic heads with the device.
- works with SD cards: this means transfer of audio is much faster than the old Flashmic.
- comes with Administration software to tweak how the iXm works
In reality the iXm works with 6 different mics, but they fit into two categories:
- mics made by Yellowtec (very good, dynamic)
- mics made by BeyerDynamic (excellent, condenser)
I don't want to go into details about mics here, but the BeyerDynamic mics are more than twice the price. While the quality is a bit better, it's not nearly twice as good. Maybe 20% better. Maybe.
The Yellowtec dynamic mic heads will be more durable, since they are dynamic. This may, or may not, be an issue depending on the circumstances in which you work.
Within each category/maker three types of mics are offered:
When you buy the iXm you specific the type of mic you want. For most interview situations the cardiod type will be the best selection. Please read up on the differences between these three types of mics to get a better feel for what might fit your situation(s) best. But simply stated:
- omnidirectional is great for getting all around ambiance. Good when you want to pick up more than the speaker's voice
- cardiod is great for most interview situations as it will offer some decent rejection of unwanted sounds off-axis from where the mic is pointed
- supercardiod is great when you need maximum rejection of unwanted sounds (e.g. at a noisy conference). The downside of this type of mic is that your mic technique needs to be spot on or else you may not adequately record your voice, or the interviewee's voice.
The Admin software is a bit clunky, but works on both Macs and Windows. The main reason for using the software (for me) is that I can set how recorded files get named. Plus I can change some defaults. The only default I've changed is to require someone to double-click the stop button to end a recording. (I did this to avoid any possible accidental stoppage of a recording.)
iOS Companion App
The iOS app is pretty simple, and a little clunky. But if you are traveling to do an interview then it's really nice to transfer the interview/conversation to your iPhone. This allows you to easily listen to the recording while driving, riding a bus, and so on.
Current pricing is about $742 for the iXm packages which include carrying case, windscreen (highly recommended), and wifi enabled SD card. The best place to buy these mics in the US is currently at Broadcast Supply Warehouse. Here's direct links to the 3 different packages:
- iXm with omnidirectional Yellowtec mic
- iXm with cardiod Yellowtec mic
- iXm with supercardiod Yellowtec mic
BTW, extra Yellowtec mics to use with the iXm cost $173 each.
The iXm microphone is outstanding for those who want high quality audio recordings of human voice. If you are mainly interested in music, or ambient sounds, or stereo recordings of any sort, then this product is a poor choice. If you audio record a lot while capturing your computer screen, or via other uses combined with a computer, also make this a less-than-stellar choice. You can definitely use this product to audio record screencasts, and then blend with your screencast recording software (e.g. Camtasia or ScreenFlow) at the editing stage. But there is no good way (that I know of) to send the audio directly from the iXm into your microphone in real-time.
Despite the caveats listed above, the iXm is the best radio and news gathering recorder I've found. High quality and highly dependable. Only six months ago it would cost about $1400, so at $740 it's quite the deal.
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