I recently had a email from a reader needing advise about the best way of attaching an XLR microphone to an iPad (3).  So I though I’d create a post exploring this.

They want to be able to connect aa powered XLR condenser mic to their iPad, but don’t want bulky hardware, and also need a headphone output for monitoring.

So the brief is:

Suggest a lightweight and portable XLR microphone interface for iPad, which capable of providing phantom power.

Not as easy as one might think!  Whilst there are a number of XLR to USB adapters available that can be used with the Apple Camera Adapter Kit, most of these can’t supply the phantom power required to make the mic operate correctly, unless they’re used with a powered USB hub.  Not very portable I hear you say!  There’s clearly a gap in the marked for a battery powered/portable audio interfaces for iPad…….

My first thought was the Tascam iU2.  Sadly this unit can’t supply phantom power when used with iPad alone, it needs to be plugged into a powered USB bus such as a computer or powered USB hub (page 13 of the user manual confirms this).

Standalone devices that don’t require additional power (e.g. use internal batteries to supply phantom power)

Note: Unlike the hardware we usually feature here, these are non-USB types:

iXZ by Tascam

Mic & guitar interface for iOS

The iXZ from Tascam is a mic and guitar interface for iOS.  Instead of plugging into the dock connector (or messing about with Camera Adapter Kits) the iXZ uses the headphone/mic jack connector of your iOS device to inject its audio.

Check out this short video introduction, produced by Tascam:

Providing a high impedance 1/4″ guitar jack input, together with an XLR input with switchable phantom power and input gain control, the iXZ is a compact portable unit.

The supply of phantom power for the mic is made possible by the iXZ incorporated battery power.  The 2 AA batteries that are specified to last around 15 hrs.  There’s also a headphone jack so that you can monitor what you’re recording and playback.

The drawback with any device that inputs via the headphone jack is that audio will go through the standard apple filters and processing, which will affect the recorded sound.  But for the modest price tag the iXZ certainly provides a compact portable and affordable solution for recording on the move with your iPhone or iPad.

You can find the Tascam iXZ at Amazon or Play.com.

iRig PRE by IK Multimedia

iOS mic pre-ampAs with the iXZ, the iRig PRE uses the iOS devices headphone jack input to inject the XLR audio source plugged into it.  And with a compact form factor it’s very portable too.

+48v phantom power is provided by the integral 9v battery and is switchable.  Battery life is expected to be around 15 hours (40 if used without phantom power as a pre-amp with a dynamic mic) .  There’s also a gain control for setting appropriate levels.

Have a look at this short video introducing the iRig PRE:

The iRig PRE also provides a headphone output, so you can monitor what you’re recording. And there are 2 iOS apps to support to unit and are available to download for free from iTunes; iRig Recorder and VocaLive.

The iRig PRE isn’t available until June 2012.  But can currently be pre-ordered from the IK Multimedia online store.

Units that use USB (via Camera Kit) or iOS dock connection: 

 

ART USB Dual Pre

 

I’ve seen conflicting information regarding the use of the ART USB Dual Pre with iPad, but closer inspection of comments at Amazon from owners of the USB Dual Pre confirms that it can be used successfully with iPad (also check out the video further down this post).

The unit provides 2 inputs which will accept either XLR balanced or 1/4-inch TRS connections on the front and 2 balanced 1/4 TRS outputs on the rear for monitoring on speakers or connecting to other gear, together with a headphone output.  There’s also a set of comprehensive control pots for mic/input gain on the front and on the rear there are monitor level and mix control.

 

The Dual Pre isn’t the most compact of the units mentioned in this post, but it is still compact enough to be portable.  In fact, it’s designed to perform as a versatile mic pre amp and/or instrument mic pre amp in a wide range of scenarios such as remote field recording or just as a desktop interface.

The integrated 9V battery ensures that the phantom power capability can be used with XLR mics that require it, even when you dont have a somewhere to plug in your power adapter (there’s a 12v input available on the rear if needed).   Battery life is expected to be around 20 hrs with phantom power and around 50hrs without.  This feature is the one that is especially useful when used with the iPad, as it ensures that it doesn’t draw too much power to operate correctly with the Apple Camera Adapter Kit.

I’ll be trying to get hold of one of these to test to confirm iPad compatibility.  I’ll report my findings.  In the meantime here’s a video courtesy of Studio Mini TV (iPhone and iPad App) showing the ART USB Dual Pre being used with the iPad.

You can get hold of the ART USB Dual Pre over at Amazon.com.  UK shoppers can find one at Gear4Music.com.  A few also pop up on eBay.

You can read more about the ART USB Dual Pre over at the ART pro audio website.

Conclusion

There aren’t too many devices around (yet!) that can perform as a stand alone portable interface capable of supporting XLR and phantom power.  If anyone knows of other devices that can perform this task please add to the comments.

The obvious drawback with the jack input type is that they don’t offer optimal sound quality.  Having said that, I’m sure that many will find the quality of sound that they produce more than useable and quite satisfactory, especially if the intent is to quickly capture jam sessions, demos or track sketches.

It seems that the ART is probably the most suitable for the task, with battery power, flexible inputs, compatibility with the Apple Camera Adapter Kit and monitoring outputs.   It’s also not too expensive and produces great sound quality.

But if I was looking for a way to capture sound with a good quality condenser mic, I would definitely be inclined to consider cutting out the camera kit requirement entirely and go straight for the Blue Microphones Spark Digital (article coming soon) or the Apogee MIC.

It is also worth mentioning that one final option would be to get hold of an XLR condenser mic that has on-board battery power such as the AKG C1000s or Rode M3microphones.  This should reduce the current draw on the iPad (when the mic is getting it’s power from the battery internal to the mic) and enable you to use a simple and cheap XLR to USB adapter such as the Alesis Miclink - or the more expensive X2U adapter , although this may make the added features of this more expensive unit rather redundant (Here’s a link confirming that the X2U works with iPad and the camera kit until the Phantom power is engaged).


17 Responses to iPad – Plugging in an XLR microphone?

  1. Dennis says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been hunting around off and on for the last few weeks looking for a usable solution to the iPad VO recording problem. I was leaning toward the X2U, but was having problems finding a battery powered USB hub to power the X2U and phantom powered condenser mic. This solved my problem and my purchase of the ART USB Dual Pre is being processed. Thanks!

  2. Paul says:

    Thanks for the comment Dennis. Glad you found the post helpful. Have been looking for battery powered hub also, but haven’t seen one that can do the job yet, I will definately post about it on this site if I find one that’s suitable.

    It would be great if you could post a comment about your experiences with the ART once you get it home and running on your iPad.

    Thanks again Dennis

  3. Dennis says:

    Paul,

    The ART USB Dual Pre arrived quickly and so far I’m happy with it. I haven’t recorded an hour long narration yet, but in the tests I’ve done it sounds good. The entire audio chain is mic->ART->Camera connection kit->iPad2. I’ve tested my Rode NTG-3 and my Neumann TLM-103 and I get nice, crisp audio. This was the perfect solution for me. I did NOT want to deal with any of the XLR to headphone jack adapters out there because I want nice, clear digital audio. I don’t know what’s in the headphone jack circuitry, but with the Dual Pre and the Hokusai audio editor I get the option of recording at 44.1/32-bit floating point. And this is completely portable because of the Dual Pre’s 9v battery which can supply enough juice for phantom power for my condenser mics for 20 hours. I am very pleased that you wrote this post. I had not heard of the ART USB Dual Pre until until I read this and even if I had I wouldn’t have known that it was compatible with the iPad. All good news for me. Thanks for your site and keep up the good work.

    my best,
    Dennis

  4. Paul says:

    Dennis,

    Many thanks for the follow up reply.

    It’s great to here that the ART performs well with your iPad 2 and the great XLR mics you have (the Neumann is an especially good mic example – who’d have though it would be hooked to an iPad!).

    I’m so glad the site has helped you. Here’s wishing you the best of success in your recording endeavours.

    Paul

  5. Ron says:

    I spent days researching a suitable way to record on my iPad and a Shure SM57 dynamic mic. I ended up purchasing the Tascam IXZ. Seems fine. If you listen to your recording through high quality headphones you can hear a tiny amount of hiss but not bad.

  6. Paul says:

    I think there’s always going to be a small amount of background noise with the type of interfaces that use the headphone jack as an input.

    Do you find the recordings usable? Perhaps you could post some samples here?

  7. ward weis says:

    i bought a ART USB DUAL PRE and it works & sound great on my IPAD3 … but it is a discontinued product
    i could by one that still was in stock at THOMANN.DE but it seems to be not available anymore :-(

    grtz,

    w.

    please have a look at: http://planktone.dyndns.org/WASHING
    more recordings are welcome :-)

  8. Paul says:

    Ward, thanks for the comment.

    I love the washing machine site. When I get a moment, I’ll mail you some samples of mine. :O)

    I had a look over at Thomann and they do now appear to have units in stock now, the cheapest i’ve seen at just under £70. I noticed there’s also 4 currently available at gear4music.com.

    I’ve sent an email to ART to find out the production status of the Dual Pre, I’ll report back here with my findings.

    Paul

  9. Paul says:

    I had a response back from ART to tell me that the USB Dual Pre is still in production. They also said that the device had undergone a minor marketing change to incorporate it into their ‘Project Series’ instead of their ARTccessories range. I’m told this is effectively just a packaging and minor silkscreen artwork change to the unit.

    So the good news is that anyone who whats to get hold of one should still be able to.

  10. JMK says:

    Excellent article. Was wondering if anyone has any idea if the Terratec DMX 6Fire (http://www.terratec.net/en/products/DMX_6Fire_USB_2084.html) would be as seamlessly compatible as the ART USB Dual Pre? It appears it would be; the 6Fire pretty much looks like an ART with a few more in and outputs, and it is seamlessly compatible with my MacBook running GarageBand and Logic.

    (PS. The reason I’ve not tried yet is that I’m waiting for my camera connection kit coming through the mail.)

  11. JMK says:

    I have no idea why, in my post, it automatically provides a link to the 24/96 version of the 6Fire. To be clear, I’m talking about the external USB version as per the link I put in brackets.

  12. Paul says:

    Hi JMK,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Looking at the specs for the Terratec DMX 6Fire USB on their website it isn’t clear if the device is USB Core Audio Class Compliant (there’s no mention of it).

    Although, there are Mac and PC drivers that can be downloaded, which suggests that the unit isn’t USB Class Compliant out of the box and won’t operate without the bespoke drivers.

    For this reason, my hunch is that it isn’t iPad compatible, but please do keep us posted here with your experience, whether you do or don’t get it working with the iPad.

    Also, it’s important to remember multi-channel devices (e.g. more than stereo in and out) require appropriate software support to access them!

  13. Paul says:

    I see what you mean, I seem to have an issue with the skimlinks plug in I’m using on the site. I need to talk to them as I’ve noticed a couple of inappropriate links.

    Thanks for the spot!

  14. JMK says:

    Right. I can confirm that the DMX 6Fire USB is compatible with iPad and a CCK. First of all, I tried “FourTrack”, an iPhone app running on my iPad. When I armed the track, it just went into crazy feedback.

    So I tried it with a free iPad recorder called “Recorder Plus HD”, and it recorded pristine audio perfectly.

    Obviously, I’m reluctant to try Studio Mini, don’t want to pay £5.99 to find it doesn’t work.

    However, I’d love to know if an iPad recording app would be able to support multiple inputs. The 6Fire has four.

  15. Paul says:

    JMK,

    That’s excellent! Thanks so much for posting about your success here. That’s another one we can add to the list!

    If you have ‘multi channel’ success, please do let us know. I’ll do the same should I find any Apps that work properly with multi channel hardware.

  16. ward weis says:

    hi paul,

    did you get one art dua pre ?
    it works great … but maybe something bad of the unit … i have the impression it is quite sensitive for mobile phone interference …
    but, if you record, please switch (all) phones of … it is maybe a good tool to detect one still on :-)

    w.

  17. Paul says:

    Hey Ward,

    Thanks for the comment (sorry for the delayed reply).

    Haven’t managed to get hold of an Art Dual Pre yet, but know there are a number of people who have been using it with iPad successfully and with good results.

    Interesting to hear about mobile interference, but I’m not surprised. This is one of the drawbacks of using an iOS device for recording. But as you point out, it is remedied by ensuring that your mobile 2/3G data connection is off.

    It is definitely best practice to switch your device to Airplane mode whilst recording. This also stops phone calls and online alerts interrupting and/or interfering with your perfect recordings.

    Given the benefits, temporarily switching off mobile data is a small price to pay! Do you agree?

    How has the Art performed for you so far apart from mobile interference?

Please feel free to leave a comment!

%d bloggers like this: