One of the problems with using the iPad in the classroom to record video is the poor quality of its built-in mic. If you want to record a video of your students introducing themselves, for example, using the built-in camera and mic on the iPad, the sound quality you will be able to achieve when standing far enough away from to frame them adequately will be disappointing. The solution is to add a better microphone to the iPad. The problem with most external microphones is that a) they must be placed near the student, requiring a longish cable connection to the iPad; b) they can be intimidating, even if they are not large; and c) in many cases external mics need to be powered through a powered USB hub, requiring access to a 120VAC outlet and even more cables and logistics hassles. The Blue Mikey Digital microphone solves all of these problems.
The Blue Mikey D, as we will call it from now on, because that’s what the folks at Blue Microphones call it, is a small, stereo microphone that fits directly into the 30-pin connector on the iPad (version 3 and before) or iPhone 4/4S. It can tilt 230 degrees, giving you the ability to speak directly into it when the camera is facing you, or tilt it around (choosing from 7 click/stop positions) to pick up the audio from your interviewee while still holding the front-facing iPad camera toward your subject. It does not tilt all the way forward, but far enough. It also has a 3.5mm port for directly recording from an instrument, like an electric guitar or piano, with a 1/4″ to 3.5mm adapter included; and a USB port for charging during operation, in case you want to use it to record a long lecture or a concert.
The most excellent feature of Mikey D is its ability to toggle between 3 positions of gain: low gain, intended for the recording of sounds up to 130dB; auto-gain, the center position that adjusts itself to sound source; and high gain, for quieter sound sources. Small green LED indicators on the face of the device indicate the gain position, which is controlled by sliding a switch on the back. The LED indicators flash red when the microphone is overloaded, and turn solid when it is controlled by an app running on the iPad. Our tests recording human voices at approximately 6 – 8 feet distant worked best at high gain, while recording directly into Garageband at about 2 feet worked best at the auto-gain middle position. In all cases the sound recorded with Blue Mikey D was far superior to the sound recorded with the built-in iPad microphone.
The one criticism I have of Mikey D is that it is easy to jar it out of the 30-pin iPad 2 & 3 connector. If it slides out even slightly the signal will be interrupted and recording will cease. Once in it will not ordinarily slide out, but when tilting it during operation it can and did in my tests. My recommendation is to set it before recording and do not try tilting it during recording. Some method of securing it might also not be amiss (tape?), depending on how mobile you might be while recording.
The Blue Mikey D is available from Amazon for $92.38. If you want to use the current model with the iPhone 5 or iPad 4 you will also need to purchase the Apple Lightning adapter ($29), to adapt down from the 30 pin to the Lightning port on the newer devices.
Overall this is an excellent, low-cost microphone (low as in low and adequate, not cheap and inadequate). The sound quality is great and the gain switch is very useful.