This week's column was totally unintentional — at first it was just three separate roundups of some of the latest devices I've found interesting. But after I completed the reviews, I realized a common thread between all of them — these devices are really small (in fact, the M39p even has "Tiny" as part of its name). While some things in the world are getting larger (displays, smartphones, TVs, etc.), there's still room in the world for smaller gadgets that provide big performance.
The scoop: iRig MIC Cast and iRig Mic, by IK Multimedia, about $40 (MIC Cast) and $60 (Mic)
What are they: These two devices are microphones (the iRig Mic is clearly a stick-style mic, the MIC Cast is tinier) that plug into the headphone jack on your phone or tablet (iOS and Android devices supported) to give you a better microphone experience than with the built-in microphones on those devices. Both devices include a few different volume settings to record audio either close up or from far away, and they each include an additional headphone jack that lets you listen with headphones (or, in the case of the iRig Mic, you can plug into an amplifier or mixer) while recording.
Why it's cool: Recording audio and/or the audio portion of video with a smartphone or tablet can be troublesome with the built-in microphone, especially if you're in a noisy (any more than one person, basically) environment. The tiny MIC Cast is very portable and produces much better sound than the built-in microphone on our test iPhone 5 unit. The larger iRig Mic includes a longer cord (as well as a mic stand adapter) and would likely be used for musicians or if you had a reporter doing an interview. Another nice touch with the MIC Cast device is a very handy stand that you can place your phone/tablet on, which makes it good for FaceTime or other video chats.
Some caveats: It takes a bit of time to find the proper audio setting to use on the microphone to find one that doesn't give you silent audio or way-too-loud audio; practice makes perfect in this case. The Free apps provided by IK Multimedia aren't as useful as free apps; in order to get any good functionality (such as emailing/exporting audio recordings), you have to pony up some cash. You can use these devices with other apps (such as the iPhone's Voice Memo or SoundCloud, for example), but you have to test the settings again with that app in terms of finding the right audio levels.
Grade: 4 stars (each)
The scoop: ThinkCentre M93p (aka "Tiny"), by Lenovo, starting at $650.
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