Review & Video: Blue Mikey Digital for iPhone & iPad

Review Summary:

The Blue Mikey Digital is much more flexible than a simple microphone because of the line input and the near-universal compatibility with a range of different apps. It's a useful addition for DJs who want to record their mixes or as a way of getting great quality audio for your videos.

Mikey Digital
  • Mikey Digital
  • Rating: 4
  • From: Blue
  • Price: $66
  • Reviewed by:
  • On May 23, 2013
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014
The Blue Mikey is a small microphone for iOS that gives you stereo line input.

The Blue Mikey is a small microphone for iOS that gives you stereo line input.

Review: Blue Mikey Digital for iPhone & iPad

A while ago we were asked by a reader, “How can I record my DJ set on my iPhone?” The initial answer was that this is not possible (iOS devices don’t have a line input). Plus, we reasoned, dedicated audio recorders are coming down in price all the time, so why would you want to record on your iPhone or iPad?

But if it were possible then there are indeed advantages to recording your sets this way. One of the possible workarounds we identified in our first article was the Blue Mikey Digital which incorporates a stereo line input into the unit. It wasn't available yet back then, but now we've been able to get our hands on one. Let’s take a look and see if this tiny little microphone/line input could be the answer...

First impressions

The Blue Mikey Digital is small and incredibly lightweight, perfect for popping into your pocket along with your iPhone or iPod Touch on the way to a gig. The microphone part can be rotated to capture audio when recording external sound - particularly useful for field recordings (if you want to sample crowd noise, passing traffic, train announcements and the like). On the back of the Blue Mikey Digital is a small switch that controls the gain adjustments. There are three settings, kept simple for ease of use and speed:

  • Left: Loud source - this will drop the gain to reduce the risk of audio clipping (good news if you’re recording a live band at a gig)
  • Centre: Auto gain - this should detect the volume coming in and adjust the gain accordingly
  • Right: Quiet source - this will boost the gain to pick up the quietest of sounds, such as distant bird song or perhaps a lecture (useful for students or spies!)

On the top of the Blue Mikey Digital is the answer to our reader’s question: the stereo line input jack. It’s a single 3.5mm input socket, which means if you want to record directly from a mixer you will need a stereo RCA to 3.5mm cable – these are cheap and easy to find.

On the base of the unit is a 30-pin connector which connects to the base of your iOS device. I was using a new iPhone and as such I needed a 30-pin-to-lightning adapter. (By the way, the Blue Mikey Digital also comes with a tiny soft pouch, along with a guitar jack adaptor in case you wanted to record instruments directly into your iOS device.)

If you want to monitor (on headphones) what you're recording via the Blue Mikey Digital using an iPhone or iPod Touch it is a little tricky because the unit overhangs the headphone socket. This isn't an issue on an iPad since the headphone socket is on the other end of the device. A point to note is that not all audio recording apps support this type of "pass-through" monitoring. It is a setting tucked away on the FiRe 2 app that I used to conduct this review, and I believe something similar maybe possible with the GarageBand app.

There’s also a mini USB socket, so you can choose to charge your iOS device at the same time as recording. You would need to be doing some lengthy recording session to need this feature though.

Using the microphone

iPhone and Blue Mikey Digital

The Blue Mikey Digital is perfect for audio capture using the camera app as well.

There are so many audio recording apps available to choose from and the Blue Mikey Digital should work nicely with all of them without issue. I chose to use FiRe 2, a field recording app, which has a decent number of settings and adjustments available, including a wealth of file formats. You can edit the recording afterwards and upload it to SoundCloud and Dropbox within the app which is particularly handy.

A couple of important points to remember when recording using an iOS device:

  • Always close down any background apps...you don't want them interfering with your recording or draining resource
  • Always switch to Airplane mode...otherwise you'll also record your iOS device searching for WiFi networks

I started by recording my voice in a quiet room, using the iPhone’s built in mic at first (audio here), then with the Blue Mikey Digital on each of the three settings (Auto, Quiet and Loud). There is a noticeable difference between the built-in mic and the Blue Mikey Digital. It sounds as if there’s some EQ adjustments or filtering going on with the latter contributing to vastly superior results, whereas with the built-in mic the result was harsh and almost metallic.

I soon decided that recording my voice on the “Loud” setting wasn’t going to be a good enough test, so one Sunday I sat among six heavy, swinging bells in the belfry of our local church recording the sound of some method ringing. The end result was surprisingly good, the sound inside the belfry is incredibly loud so recording those on an iPhone with the built-in mic would have been impossible without a huge amount of audio clipping.

To counter this test, I recorded my daughter singing as quietly as she could using the “Quiet” setting on the Blue Mikey Digital. This worked as expected, picking up surrounding sounds as well. The three LEDs near the base of the unit give you an indicator of how loud the recording is; if it flashes red then it's too loud!

Using the stereo line input

Of course, the line input is going to be the feature of most interest to DJs wantig to record their sets. For using this feature I opted to record using the Auto setting. In retrospect, it would be good if the Blue Mikey Digital came with the option of switching all gain adjustments off completely.

Blue Mikey Digital being used to record a vinyl set

DJ Hombre in the mix on vinyl, recorded using the camera app and Blue Mikey Digital.

I was worried that the Auto setting would result in my line recording bobbing up and down throughout, but it didn’t seem to make a difference during the mix. After playing for a while with vinyl and recording directly into the FiRe app, I got to wondering...if the Blue Mikey Digital works with this app, what else can I do with it?

I started using the Blue Mikey Digital as a cheeky way of streaming my vinyl mixes live via Spreaker. I also found that it works fine with the regular Camera app on iOS, so I could record a video of my DJ mixes with crystal clear sound and not via the speakers (as so many YouTube clips of DJs do, including one or two my earlier ones). Prior to this, I would have had to record the video and audio separately then match them up on a host machine before uploading. With the Blue Mikey Digital I can record both at once and upload directly from my iOS device - so more time to spend on having fun behind the decks.

Most digital DJs will be asking why record on an external device when my software can do all of this this for me? A fair and valid point, but perhaps you don't want to put that extra pressure on your laptop during a live gig and would rather have it dedicated solely for handling the wealth of complex functionality at your fingertips.

Some DJs maybe using several different sources to mix with (a laptop, CDJ, sampler and maybe an external FX box). In order to record your set you would need to do this directly from the mixer. The same would also apply if you're trying to record a number of different DJs on one night; each could be using something different and will certainly be using their own laptop so a centralised approach to recording the event makes sense. This is where the Blue Mikey Digital would be incredibly handy to have, especially if it was a last-minute request to record the gig.

Conclusion

The Blue Mikey Digital is much more flexible than a simple microphone because of the line input and the near-universal compatibility with a range of different apps. It is most likely to be used by musicians recording vocals or guitars (and other instruments) into iOS DAW like apps such as GarageBand, but for DJs it is a useful addition for recording mixes - either just the audio, or as a way of getting great quality audio for your videos.

Priced at around US$66 it is getting expensive, given that you may be using it simply to overcome an Apple-enforced restriction. Unfortunately for non-US buyers, the price is even higher. You could purchase a dedicated audio recorder to achieve the same quality stereo results for not much more, although if you want to do all your audio recording (and possibly video) and upload using a single device, then the Blue Mikey Digital is certainly a portable, reliable single-stop solution.

If you're thinking of buying, there's a compatibility chart for you to double check whether your iOS device can be used with the Blue Mikey Digital or not.

Product Summary

Review Summary:

The Blue Mikey Digital is much more flexible than a simple microphone because of the line input and the near-universal compatibility with a range of different apps. It's a useful addition for DJs who want to record their mixes or as a way of getting great quality audio for your videos.

Mikey Digital
  • Mikey Digital
  • Rating: 4
  • From: Blue
  • Price: $66
  • Reviewed by:
  • On May 23, 2013
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014

Video Review

 

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Comments

  1. Great review. What are the recording formats and export options? Or is this all app dependent?

    • Hi Kevin,

      The recording formats are all app dependent. So in FiRe2 you get a slew of options (including AIFF, WAV, CAF, AAC, Apple lossless, FLAC and Ogg Vorbis). I suspect the recording is stored locally as one (high quality – probably wav) format and then gets converted by the app when you come to share it to iTunes filesharing, Dropbox, Ftp or soundcloud.

      This could all work differently for other apps though.

  2. King of Snake says:

    Hi Hombre,

    tricky question, can the mic and line-in be used in the same time?
    quite often i record my gigs but fail to record the fans going crazy (lol….)
    but you gave me some good ideas, i could use a separate mixer to record line input (the music) and a separate mic (the crowd/venue) together to a recorder/ipad.
    do you have experience with that?
    or should i record both inputs separate and mix them together in a DAW to be able to adjust levels?
    more to carry and lots of work though, this way…

    regards,
    KoS

    • Hi King of Snake (Underworld fan per chance?!)

      Unfortunately it’s one or the other with the Blue Mikey Digital. Either you record via the mic or you record via line input.

      Recording crowd noise and your master audio is quite a challenge, sounds like a serious setup. Your best bet is probably (as you suggested) to record both separately and mix together in a DAW….that way you can adjust the levels of the crowd noise accordingly so as not to drown out the mix.

      • King of Snake says:

        good guess.. ;) got my dj name from underworld..

        i gues the DAW solution will suit me best..
        regards,
        KoS

  3. It has been possible to connect an audio interface to an iOS device via a camera connection kit for a couple years now, so using your iOS device as a line-in recording device has been possible for quite a while.

    You’ll need a Camera Connection Kit – which converts your 30 pin or lightning connector into a USB Type A connector. You can buy the official kit from Apple, and that will set you back $30. But you can choose to buy non-Apple connectors for as cheap as $10. The great thing about having the CCK is that it allows you to also interface your iOS device with external devices like MIDI controllers.

    Now that you have your CCK, you’ll need an audio interface. The class compliant Behringer UCA222 gives you RCA in and out, optical out, headphones out, and volume control for about $30. It works with the CCK and an iPhone or iPad extremely well, and can be used to record or play back audio (or both). And like the CCK, this gives you a lot of utility in other applications as well.

    And like the article, I highly recommend the FiRe2 recording app. it’s fantastic.

    So worst case total cost for this setup is around $66, and you get something with a lot more flexibility than the Blue mic. So another alternative for those of you looking for this kind of thing…

    • Thanks Craig!

      You can always rely on a product manager to provide alternatives! Now, if the UCA222 were Apple approved (with a 30pin/lightning connector) and could charge your iOS device then things really would be interesting!

  4. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Sounds like a handy thing for line recording into an iphone. If you are aiming at high quality field recording with a (stereo) mic, the Rode iXY would be my first choice.

    Greetinx,
    C.

  5. does somebody know, why pro rec apps like fire2 not have option to rec in mp3. Is this problem with paying mp3 codec or something ? i check for instance audio editor app auria and they have option to record out source direct in mp3 format.

  6. djflyer says:

    Hello, whats the problem? Every dj software have a recording option, don’t they?
    Been using VDJ for ages and the recording works perfect. Resently tryed Serato dj, got it with my DDJ-SX, works, but not directly to mp3.

    Often see articles here saying “how to record, how to mix in key, how to gain my mp3’s” etc in serato and traktor. But it’s easy, just switch to VDJ and all problems will be solved.
    By the way, the effects in Serato dj are great, but all the manuel shit made it feel like going back to cd, so I stay with Virtual DJ!

  7. I think there should be a review in the best portable audio recording devices best suited for DJs. I’ve been looking for one for a while now, and have totally given up on using my iPhone/iPad as I normally need them for other purposes during the event/mix recording.

    Bula from Fiji, love your work DDJT! :)

  8. I wonder where this device or the iphone itself weighs in as far as a/d converters compared to devices that practically consider them their main selling point, ie, apogee. For a web-ready mp3 file that can be uploaded from a phone, how much of sound quality can you reasonably gloss over?

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