Tascam iM2 Arrives

Here we go again… the never-ending search for a hi-quality usable/sharable audio file recorded on a smartphone or tablet computer leads us to this:  The Tascam iM2.

Up to this point, the Alesis iODock is the only device this reviewer evaluated that really met the minimum recording quality most voice acting pros would be comfortable sending to client…and it’s not that portable.

A caveat:  ANY $3,000 microphone will not fill the bill if your recording environment sucks.  So the Tascam iM2 is no panacea if you’re recording in the men’s bathroom at Target.

Having said that, though, the iM2 is the closest we’ve seen to making the grade with portable, on-the-fly, smartphone-device recording that you won’t be embarrassed to send to your best VO client.

Right now, it seems to be available only from B&H Photo.  $80.

See my video below for a quick look at the device itself.  My previous blog on the iM2 gives the specs.  Most importantly:  this device plugs into the 30-pin connector on the bottom of the iOS device (works with iPhone 4 & 4s, iPad, iPad2, and iPod), giving it the best possible shot at a decent recording since the Blue Mikey.  Apple changed the internal wiring when it moved from the 3Gs to the iPhone 4, rendering the Mikey unusable going forward.

(ed. note:  see a similar review of this device by Beau Weaver in the comment section of this blog)

Match the iM2 with Twisted Wave’s iPhone/iPad app for the optimal recording.  Twisted Wave also gives you powerful editing and post-production tools, and lets you share by FTP, iTunes, DropBox, email, or Wi-Fi, but does not record in .mp3.  Instead you can convert it to mp3 through a service online TW supports. Save in .wav, AIFF, CAF, or AAC.   Not quite as good, but getting close in quality are the apps:  FiReMonle and  MultiTrack.

  • The dual-positioned mics rotate so you can direct these condensers to the direction of sound.
  • The unit works best when you set your iPhone to Airplane Mode, avoiding any interruptions.
  • The unit is also very sensitive to movement, so you need to get a comfortable grip and not move the phone around, nor move your fingers on the unit while recording.
  • To listen to what you’ve recorded, you must then UN-plug the iM2 to hear the speakers.
  • The iM2 does not come with it’s own headphone jack.
  • If you have the Apple-supplied earphones plugged in the phone will prioritize the built-in mic on the headset cord, and not record through the iM2.

Now the mic comparison.

I simultaneously recorded a couple of sentences holding the Tascam iM2/iPhone4 as pictured.

The saved .wav file on the iPhone, I uploaded to DropBox, opened in AA3.0 and converted to .mp3.

The Studio Projects C-1 recording was into the AA3.0 DAW through a Steinberg CI2 USB interface.  That recording was a  native mp3.

The ONLY tweak was a boost to the gain in AA3.0 for the Tascam recording.  Even though I had the volume control on the iM2 at max, the two comparison sound waves were not equal in gain.  I had to boost the Tascam recording by about 30%.

Below are the two comparison sound files.  I think you’ll agree that while they are not equal, the Tascam recording — standing on its own — would probably pass muster for an acceptable audition, or even a final cut.

The first soundfile is the Tascam iM2/iPhone4 recording.  The lower soundfile is the Studio Projects C-1 recording.

Tascam-iM2 against StudioProjectsC-1 by CourVO

 

StudioProjectsC-1 against Tascam-iM2 by CourVO

Pretty close, eh?

LA voice acting pro Beau Weaver has also previewed this device extensively, and his analysis is included below in the comment section.  Absolutely a must-read if you are interested in the deeper technical side of this issue.  Beau is very thorough in his critique.

CourVO

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Comments

  1. says

    Here is the review I sent to some friends yesterday:

    Hello from Nerdville;

    Finally a super portable microphone for iOS that, with some care, and in a decent sonic environment can produce voice tracks on your iPhone or iPad that are actually air-able.  In fact, if you take time to listen to my line by line comparison audio file I have posted here, you will be pretty damn impressed.  You can hear the difference, but by the time they finish with post, it will be more than adequate.

    The mic is the Tascam iM2 for iOS. It’s about 80 bucks!  It connects via the 30 pin connector.  http://tascam.com/product/im2/    The only online outlet that has it at this time is Beverly Hills Photo http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/829391-REG   Limited quantities shipping, so get it soon, if you are interested.

    Caution: there is another Tascam product that you do not want (the Tascam iXZ) an iOS audio interface with XLR and phantom power….. but sends analog audio through the 1/8th inch mic/headphone port.  Bad bad bad!  That mic port has a radical “telephone filter” eq baked in, so there is no way to get broadcast quality audio through it.  No no no, fluffy.  You want the Tascam iM2!

    The audio app you use to record is Twisted Wave Mobile for iOS.  http://twistedwave.com/mobile

    It makes rough editing quite easy, and it will export to Dropbox, memorized FTP folders, and, using a nifty workaround, allows you to send a link to an .mp3 file on Twisted Waves webserver.   Apple will not allow native export of .mp3 due to their contracts with record companies, and their general control-freak nature!
    So, Twisted Wave allows you to send an uncompressed file up to their server, and creates an email with the link from which your client can download the .mp3.   However, remember, uncompressed audiofiles are huge……so, you will want to upload only the buy takes, or plan to sit there forever, especially on a 3G connection.  Hopefully, you have found a Starbucks.   I think a better option is using AAC files…which are better quality than .mp3……..and most digital audio workstations will read them.  Email or FTP.

    I have posted a line by line comparison audio file of a couple of scripts, recorded simultaneously in the studio on the 416 and the Tascam.  I compare my home studio with the 416 to the Tascam iM2, and the built in iphone mic.  I did no processing, except clipping out breaths.  

                                            https://beauweaver.box.com/s/p9m9dzx8j7m9b8qx147u – .wav (to download to your desktop)

                                            https://beauweaver.box.com/s/pl0hxs27qmjnccjidz4z – .mp3  (this one will stream in your browser)

    After the line by line comparision, you will hear the complete reads all the way through…..  1:   416  2:   Tascam iM2  3:   iphone built in mic.    I am favorably impressed.

    I set the volume almost wide open……with the limiter on the iM2 switched off.  I worked it about 5 inches away to the side, at about a 75 degree angle, to minimize plosives and wind.   I have ordered an extension cable, so that I will be able to read a script off the iPhone while recording:

    http://www.amazon.com/RadTech-ProCable-Extender-19-Inch-iPhones/dp/B002V0SSC4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323911202&sr=8-1

    You really  have to be careful to hold the mic very still….it is very sensitive to movement and wind.  Note: switch the iphone to “airplane mode” or you may pick up some RF noise, and be disturbed by notifications.   

    In either case, iPhone or iPad, you can start recording and multi-task…….that is, switch to the email client…..by double clicking the home button, and selecting the email icon.  Twisted Wave will continue recording in the background with no problem, and will indicate this by the red bar notification at the top of the screen.  You then return to TW  at the end of your read by double clicking on the home button and selecting the TW icon.

    You will not want to try to narrate a documentary with this, but certainly for tags and short promos…….it’s not bad at all.  And it may save your client’s bacon when you are nowhere near a studio and they have an emergency.   I had equally good results on the original iPad.

    There are a couple of other interfaces in the pipeline that will allow us to use the 416 in the field with iOS ……but the ship dates keep getting pushed back. 

    In the meantime, for 80 bucks, and something that is truly pocketable, this is not bad at all.

    Lads,

    One note.  Because iOS “sees” this iM2 mic as an “digital audio interface” you will not be able to monitor yourself as you record….as the iM2 does not have an earphone jack. You 
    will get nothing through the iphone earphones.  And, while the iM2 is plugged in, iOS will try to play back through the “interface” so you will not hear playback until you disconnect the microphone.

    After disconnecting the iM2 you can playback either through the internal speaker or headphones.  note: be awareIf you are using earbuds with a microphone built in….
    iOS defaults to using the earbud mic!  So, make sure the headphone/mic is unplugged as you record.

    Again, adjust your expectations: this mic is not an ideal solution for voice talent…….but can be made to work in a pinch, with some care and practice.

    Geekingly yours,

    Beauregard

    • says

      Jim,

      I know you’re kidding…you really oughta try the iM2. It’d probably sound good from the men’s wear section at Target, at least ! :)

      Thanks for visiting, big guy… have a great holiday!

      Dave Courvoisier

  2. says

    Thanks Dave… read Beau’s preview and ordered one… should have it in hand on Monday! So, you can press record on twisted wave and them open word or email and read form the iphone as you record? Gotta love it!
    All the best during the holidays and very happy and prosperous new year!
    Dave

  3. Rick Young says

    The iM2 actually sounds better to me (less sibilance). But this is thru some crappy PC speakers …

    I will certainly be getting this at some point, to record live choral and symphonic concerts … too bad it doesn’t have a stereo line in connection (as someone else commented elsewhere). Would be great as a portable ‘needledrop’ (vinyl archiving) recorder …

    Limited to 16/44.1 stereo, but that ain’t bad! esp. for the price. They are ‘closing out’ the DR-2d apparently, is on sale for $125 … that’s tempting as well, and can do 24/96 recording. But, one would then want to get a larger memory card (comes with 2GB card), external PS, etc..

    • says

      Hey Rick!

      Thanks for taking the time to get down to the samples. I’d agree…the iM2 is probably the best thing to come down the pike for a while…but there will always “something else”.
      ‘Problem is…that’s never stopped me from jumping in when the water’s fine…and the water almost always seems to be fine. :)

      Have a great holiday, my friend!

      Dave C

    • says

      Chip,

      Thanks for the kind words in your blog, and for tracking-back to it there. I also appreciate your comments and enjoyed listening to your recording samples. Quite a difference to my ears!

      Stop by anytime!

      dave c

    • says

      Jim,

      Good point, but of course, we voice-actors are not likely to use this device primarily for producing music. Many of us never use headphones when recording anyway, as it leads to an affected delivery.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      dave c

  4. Daniel says

    What’s that all famous line from the movie-”Big”.. They were sitting in a conference room discussing new features on the toys they were going to market. The one sales rep kept saying– I don’t get it. I love that movie.. Ah would you use the tascam to let you have more range of freedom while talking on a your iphone?
    I think that’s what you were saying. ( Excuse me, I just got in, . I work night shift and I’m starting to grog). So if your in a garage doing something you plug all this stuff in and resume your chores?

    • says

      Daniel,

      Thanks for commenting. Part of my madness is that I just love gizmos for the progress that their presence proves. I have not yet found a real-world reason to whip out my iPhone/TascamiM2 and record something, but I probably will, if for no other reason than to prove it really works! :)

      Dave c

  5. says

    Hey Dave, finally got around to getting my hands on the iM2 and I recorded some sounds over the holidays to familiarize myself with this seemingly cool little gadget. I found the interface straightforward and easy to use although the gain up/gain down seems backward to me. The mics come across with good clarity, certainly better than I expected. Unfortunately the handling noise on this rig is a deal breaker; the way it fits into the iPhone 4 is flimsy at best and I found that I needed to hold the iM2 to keep from unseating it whenever I wanted to adjust level. As you’re aware, my focus is on recording sfx and ambience and this combination would require a suspension in order to make it usable. At that point I’m better off carrying one of my portable recorders so I’ll be returning the iM2. I also feel the need to point out that, as a producer of voiceovers, if I received a VO audition from a talent that had the kind of handling noise on it that the iM2 delivers I would have to reject that audition, can’t be sending such a poor quality demo to the client. Caveat emptor and your mileage may vary. John.

    • says

      John,

      Thanks for that input. Did you try it with the 30-pin connector extension cord? That at least affords you a little more flexibility in holding the thing, and at least with my cord, the iM2 seems to fit more securely.

      I DO appreciate your chiming in, here.

      Dave c

  6. says

    You certainly can monitor the audio and playback over headphones. I have been using the Blue FiRe app to record, which has a on/off setting for monitoring. If you use normal headphones (without a mic) and plug them in AFTER connecting the iM2 then monitoring does indeed work.

    The iPhone 4 and 4S seem to exhibit quite different behaviours. With the iM2 and iPhone 4S, launching Blue Fire or any recording app (I suppose) will kill the phone signal and even the wifi. I find it necessary to go into Airplane mode to restore connectivity. But with iPhone 4 I don’t lose the phone signal at all and it works better – I have also seen this happen with the Digital AV connector so I am hoping Apple will fix that particular bug.

    • says

      John,

      Thanks for this…I didn’t jump onboard the 4S, so that’s good to know. It’s been having phone-call issues too.

      I appreciate your stopping in to add your comments.

      Dave Courvoisier

    • Robert says

      Also in my iphone 4s when i connect the mic, the wifi and the telephone signal die.
      When i disconnect the mic, wifi restart but not the telephone signal and i have to switch on and off the airplane mode.
      I have also tried in another iphone 4s with no problem.
      So, why in two iphone 4s the mic works different? And also in the iphone 4 works perfect
      Very very strange
      Bye bye

      • says

        Robert,

        Sounds like it’s time to contact TasCam with some questions. Kinda makes me glad I didn’t jump to the 4S, though. Thanks for stopping by to contribute that.

        Dave Courvoisier

  7. Brett says

    I am using the Tascam IM2 with an iPhone 4, jailbroken. First try I was getting horrible digital distortion. I didn’t figure out it was the phone and not the hardware until I did a complete restore. Then it would work but I have to manage which apps are running and ideally kill all running apps. But now it seems to have settled down and will record well even with apps still in the background. This is with airplane mode on. Maybe its because its jailbroken. Anyway, I looked at Twisted Wave and I don’t like it at all. My preference is for Fire 2 which is cheaper anyway. Fire 2 has a really nice user interface and suite of features. Take a look at Fire Blue which is free – it will give you a sense of what Fire 2 is like.

    • Aldous says

      Brett, was there any trick to get it working in iPhone 4…? so far no success here, not on jailbroken, not after a complete restore. blue led lights up after connecting but Tascam’s recorder app captures Mono from built-in mic, so does Fire 2… no ideas here, would it be issue with my particular iPhone 4 or with my particular iM2… thank you all for your input

      • konstantin says

        Hey I am having the same issue with mine. With both the ipad 2 and iphone 4. Went to B&H tried 3 different IM2 all having the same problem. Works fine on Ipad 1 though. So strange.

  8. Sumbi says

    I really liked your video and the samples you put up to listen. You may have answered this question somewhere but I may have over looked the answer, can this mic work with the videos shot on the iPhone 4/4S and iPad 2?

    Thanks

  9. Richard Thomsen says

    I contacted Tascam and they said you can’t monitor recording on an iPod/iPhone only an iPad. I was hoping with a dock extension cable it would work. Has anyone had success with monitoring on an iPod/iPhone 4?

    • Rod says

      Hi Richard,

      You received incorrect info from Tascam support. You probably have figured this out by now, so this is for anybody else still having this issue. I have an iPhone 4S and I can certainly monitor with earphones while recording with the iM2 in both the Tascam PCM Recorder and Blue FiRe apps (both free). My experience is with the iPhone 4S only, and I have just two simple keys to success:

      1 – Use earphones without a built-in mic. That means you can’t use your stock iPhone earbuds. Your iPhone defers to the earbud mic as the audio input and the iM2 is left out in the cold.
      2 – Plug the iM2 in first, followed by your earphones (the type with out a mic, of course!)

      The Tascam app will allow monitoring and playback through the earphones by default. With the BlueFiRe app, you may have to turn “Playthrough” on in the settings, but it will remember your choice next time.

      There’s actually a very good reason to use earphones with the iM2: The iPhone won’t play back your recording (or anything else) through its built-in speaker while the iM2 in plugged into it. This is a real hassle when trying to record-listen-record-listen a lot, so just use earphones and then you can leave the iM2 plugged in throughout your session.

      Happy recording….and monitoring!

  10. onipsu says

    Same here: you can monitor input on an iPad but the iM2 shuts down any audio output on an iPhone. I’m also suffering from the phone/WiFi disconnect bug on my iPhone 4S. Seems to me like an issue with the iM2 firmware, not the iPhone software.

    Anybody had any luck contacting Tascam about a solution to all tgis?

  11. Rod says

    Hi Dave,

    I enjoy reading your blog, and thanks for your review of the iM2. I’ve had one since they first came out and find it to be a really useful little bugger. However, I’m eager to get my paws on the once-again delayed Blue Mikey Digital for 3 reasons: I think it will sound better ’cause its from Blue, the connector will probably work better with my iPhone in its case, and it has a stereo line input (Yes!) Perhaps you’ll review it first?

    Rod

    • says

      Rod,

      Thanks for stopping by with your comment. I’ve got a promise from the folks at Blue to send me an advance unit so I can do a review…so, yes, I hope I can come through for ya.

      I think their release is imminent.

      All the best!

      Dave C

  12. Jorge Velasco says

    I was searching the web for Tascam IM2 reviews and yours came first on Google. A helpful review, by the way.

    I’ve already seen a few VO colleagues here in Bogotá (Colombia) using this device, but I was skeptical about it’s sound quality because I never had the chance to test it or listening actual samples recorded in a studio environment.

    Now I’m convinced to get one these! I’ll be in NYC next week, so B&H seems to be a mandatory stop… I’ll probably leave the credit cards at the hotel and take out just the exact cash for the IM2 because, you know… for us, B&H is like a Lego store for a kid!

    Cheers,
    J.

    • says

      Jorge,

      Thanks for finding me on the web, and I’m glad my comparison was helpful to you.

      B&H is like crack…so is Fry’s Electronics and Best Buy…I try to steer clear!

      I appreciate your taking the time to comment!

      Dave Courvoisier

  13. Bob says

    Hello all, and like many others, found this review when hunting for a viable mobile, time-sensitive VO microphone option while traveling.

    One question specific to Twisted Wave: When working with the iM2, can anyone post their recommended Compressor settings? It would benefit me to learn how people have chosen to use the app to get desired quality, noise gating, etc.

    Thanks for any tips or suggestions you may have. It’s sounding great (for the money and portability) so far! :)

    Bob

    • says

      Bob,

      Did anyone reply with an answer to your question? I know the Twisted Wave app for iPad recently offered an upgrade, but that still doesn’t answer your question probably.

      Let me know if you find any resolution to your question…I’d publish that on my blog for sure.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Dave Courvoisier

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