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Review: RØDE iXY & RØDE REC

iXY, an accessory to your next iPhone hit.

By

14 July 2013

Rode has a knack for over-delivering. iXY is a case in point. While for some manufacturers the iDevices are just another opportunity to graft a few bucks from the general public with adjunct plastic bits ’n’ bobs. Rode has really bought into the design story of Apple’s devices and designed an accessory that would even satisfy Jonny Ives’ aesthetic sensibilities.

iXY turns your iPad (1st to 3rd gen), iPhone 4 or 4S, and 4th gen iPod Touch into a 24-bit/96k-capable stereo microphone/recorder with the help of the Rode REC app. Unfortunately Rode was shocked by the same Lightning connector update as every other accessory maker. So while we may see an iPhone 5 compatible version in the future, this one is not. But no matter, there’s plenty of out of contract iPhone 4’s floating about.

BETWEEN X & Y

Up top, iXY has two 1/2-inch cardioid capsules in a 90-degree, near-coincident stereo setup, onboard preamp and A/D converter, all packaged into a svelte metal unit that slips right into a 30-pin slot. It’s gorgeous.

When you plug iXY in, and boot Rode REC, you can choose any sample rate from 8-96k. And as well as stereo recording, you can use either mic in mono if you’re doing some voiceover work on the fly, or even sum the stereo pair to mono. 

The real magic is in the Rode REC app, which slaps DAW functionality into a phone-sized touchscreen. After you’re done recording, flip the phone on its side and with your finger, you can fade in/out, adjust the curve of the fades, pinch to zoom, adjust region lengths, change gain or normalise a selection, slice or create a region, move it, copy it, do just about anything with it.

THE META GAME

Once your track is manipulated into place, you can fill out metadata for AIFF, WAVE, Broadcast WAVE, CAF, Ogg Vorbis, iXML, Radio Traffic and Soundcloud. Use some compression, expansion and EQ, adjust playback speed, and share it straight to Soundcloud, link to Dropbox, FTP it, email it, share it via iTunes, or even access it via a web browser. After getting frustrated with the speed of Dropbox, which can be pretty slow, I tried the web access, and it’s fantastic. It quickly makes any recordings you’ve outputted available on your local network. Handy for downloading them to your computer if you couldn’t be bothered dealing with iTunes.

Rode has also included some handy preset processing from iZotope, with options for rumble and hiss reduction, compression and limiting, as well as situations you might find yourself in like a lecture or outdoor concert. You can also opt to monitor your signal, which is automatically turned off above 48k. Rode says it’s an iOS limitation, and seems to be the only thing holding Rode REC back.

NEED TO KNOW

  • PRICE

    iXY – $199
    Rode REC – $6.49

  • CONTACT

    Rode Microphones:
    (02) 9648 5855 or
    www.rodemic.com

  • PROS

    • Quality build, yet small
    • 24-bit/96k recording
    • App makes all the difference

  • CONS

    • 30-pin connector only at the moment

  • SUMMARY

    Calling iXY an iPhone accessory is almost an injustice. It’s a device that can hang off your keychain, but can turn the phone you already carry into a pocket recording studio. Genius. Just not for iPhone 5… yet.

BUMPER CROP

The manipulation doesn’t stop there, one of the most useful features of Rode REC is the ability to import ‘bumpers’ into the app via iTunes file sharing. Handy if you’re live podcasting and need to get your show online asap. Just add your pre-recorded show intro and it’s ready to go. You can also use the bumpers feature to add iXY recordings together in the app.

One of the only downsides is the labelling on the metering. There is none. You can change the ballistics between VU/Peak, VU/RMS and PPM Type 1, and scale between VU, K12, K14 and K20, which is great, but it gives you no indication of where you are on the scale till you hit orange, or red. Hopefully it’s something Rode can add in an update.

The combo of iXY and Rode REC is far more formidable than a phone ‘accessory’ and an app should be. Not to mention it comes in a miniature moulded, zip-up case you can carabiner to your key chain, and a custom windsock. Rode’s on a winner with these two.

TAKING THE HIGH RODE

One of the most compelling features of iXY is its ability to record at 24-bit/96k. But it’s only possible with the $6 Rode REC app, which some might see as a Catch-22. Not wanting any iXY owners to come up short, Rode also released Rode REC LE. It’s a free version that opens up the 96k recording, just with limited EQ and cloud output (half Soundcloud capabilities and no Dropbox).

RODE V ZOOM

Check out this video to hear the difference between our office staple Zoom H4n and the Rode iXY at a roundabout, cafe, and at the station. Obviously there’s a bit of compression on there that deflates the 24-bit/96k capture, but it should give you an idea. Each is directly above the camera, level-matched in post, no processing.

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