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iQ5 microphone review: iOS accessory delivers solid sound from a small package

Christopher Breen | Aug. 20, 2014
Today's iOS devices include mono microphones that are good enough for general-purpose recording--making voice and video calls, capturing audio notes, and identifying tunes with Soundhound. But they're not ideal for situations where you need higher-quality audio, such as when recording podcasts, lectures, or musical performances. In such situations, an external microphone is the way to go, and Zoom's $125 iQ5 Professional Stereo Microphone captures good sounding stereo audio.

Today's iOS devices include mono microphones that are good enough for general-purpose recording — making voice and video calls, capturing audio notes, and identifying tunes with Soundhound. But they're not ideal for situations where you need higher-quality audio, such as when recording podcasts, lectures, or musical performances. In such situations, an external microphone is the way to go, and Zoom's $125 iQ5 Professional Stereo Microphone captures good sounding stereo audio.

The design

The iQ5 is a Lightning-connector microphone, which means that it's compatible with the iPhone 5 and later, the 5th-generation iPod touch, the 4th-generation and later iPad, and all iPad mini models. It comes from the same company that makes the well regarded H5 Four-Track Portable Recorder, and you can see the similarities in the design of the iQ5 as well as the free HandyRecorder app that works with it. However, unlike with the H5, which has two crossed microphones, the iQ5 bears a single perforated ball that contains the two microphone capsules. The ball sits atop the main unit, which hosts controls for adjusting mic gain and the width of the stereo field.

The point of the ball design is that it allows you to rotate the microphone, which you can do in two ways. Hold your iOS device so that its screen is facing you, and you can position the business end of the microphone so that it's either pointed directly at you or directly away from you (depending on how you've oriented the iQ5 in the Lighting-connector port). In this position you can then rotate the ball 90 degrees so that it's pointing straight up. You might use this orientation when you're pointing the microphone at an interview subject. If you want to record yourself, you'd rotate the ball down so that it's pointing at you. (There's a small red dot on the ball's face that tells you where the mid-point is between the left and right microphones.)

You can also swivel the ball 90 degrees. You'd do this when recording a movie of a performance, so that the mic's elements are pointing away from you while holding the iOS device in landscape orientation.

Beyond the ball, the iQ5 bears a number of other features. On the "back" are two switches. The one on the left controls the stereo width and offers three settings: 90 degrees, 120 degrees, and M-S. This M-S setting is a little confusing: It essentially disables the stereo-width setting when using the HandyRecorder app, letting you adjust the width in the app, instead; however, if you record from within with a different app, the stereo width is set at 120 degrees.

 

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