The iXY-L consists of a Matched Pair of 1/2″ cardioid condenser microphones in the fixed stereo XY configuration. The iXY-L is solidly built using a metal casing that feels durable. As a result of the solid build, the iXY-L fits securely to your phone, and includes a rubberized button cover so you retain full functionality of the button on your iPhone (with the exception the fingerprint feature).There are no physical bells and whistles on the Rode iXY-L so there is nothing to turn on or engage. When you fit the microphone onto the iPhone it powers up as indicated by the green LED lights. The Rode Rec app is where you control the recording.
The app comes in two versions: free and for a small charge on the app store. Since I wanted the full experience, I chose the paid app which was just a few dollars. Once I looked around, I found this app to be intuitive to use.The Rode Rec app really excels in its user interface. It is very easy to set up, it is simple to operate. I especially like the level meter and the visual rendering of the waveform as you are recording. Rode Rec app gives you a great deal of control over the iXY-L. Typical adjustments you can make include:
- Select bit depth and sample rate up to 24-bit/96kHz.
- Choose file formats including Broadcast Wave.
- Configure or adjust settings such as the microphone gain, enabling or disabling the high pass filter, disable iOS processing, digital gain, as well as enable dynamics processing powered by Izotope processing engine that includes a variety of limiters, as well as rumble and hiss filters.
- Advanced configuration of effects such as EQ and manual compression parameters.
In terms of settings, you have to experiment a bit to optimize your recording. I found that if you disable “iOS processing” setting, you will get a much better recording.
Here are some sample recordings:
iOS processing enabled, high pass filter enabled, soft-clip limiter engaged
iOS processing disabled, high pass filter on, soft-clip limiter enabled
iOS processing disabled, high pass filter on, hiss reducer enabled
Smartphone recording apps are notorious for having clunky workflows for getting your audio off of the device. When it comes to options for transferring your files, the Rode Rec app is one of the best I have worked with . You can share directly to SoundCloud, you can integrate your Dropbox account, you can do a direct file transfer via web browser that works very well, FTP, and if you the file is small enough email. It really is a very powerful app from that perspective.
Overall, I am thrilled with the performance with the Rode iXY-L, however, it is not the perfect recording option. The amount of distinguishable noise floor or hiss present in the recordings is fairly comparable to digital audio recorders that are in the same price range. The headphone jack is right next to the microphone which drove me crazy. There also seems to be pretty substantial delay or “latency” if you monitor with headphones while recording. The app did crash on me throughout the testing process, however, it never crashed while I was actually recording. I have full confidence in Rode to continue to develop and stabilize the app.
As with all smartphone Microphone/App combinations, be sure you know how your battery will react with the microphone attachment, be aware of how much storage space you have free before beginning a lengthy recording, I would put the phone in airplane mode, and disable the feature where the screen times out and locks.
The single point Stereo recording method can be limited when it comes to recording oral history where you want both voices to be recorded, so yo have to sit pretty close to achieve a good recording of of both voices. I typically mount my phone/microphone on a little tripod to get the microphones a little closer to the source, and definitely practice with positioning the microphones. It excels at recording a single source, but it takes a bit of practice to record two voices in an interview setting.
Overall, I think this is one of the better microphones for iOS devices. It is solidly built and delivers a pretty good recording quality. It comes with a sturdy and useful case, as well as a foam windscreen. For the price I felt the recording quality was pretty good…I don’t think it is as good as some of the dedicated recorders starting at $300, but it is still pretty good, especially if you tweak the settings The convenience and portability factors of iOS recording is very tempting, but with the Rode iXY-L you don’t feel like you are sacrificing recording quality too much. For a visual look, see my video review of this recorder above.