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January 30, 2012

Apogee ‘Mic’ Review

Apogee Mic Review

I finally bought an iPhone. I’d been on the fence for a while, and in the end it was not so much the iPhone itself that convinced me (I really like my Android, which has a few features the iPhone would do well to copy) as it was the fact that I needed one in order to use Apogee’s new ‘Mic’.

Apogee Electronics is one of the best known makers of high-end studio converters and interfaces around. (That  means they make the hardware that allows audio to get into a computer, be manipulated in the digital realm, and then come back out again as audio). So when they announced that they were making a USB microphone I sort of thought ‘cool’, but when I heard that it also worked with the iPad/iPhone I knew I’d be looking into it. I’ve used the Blue Mikey with my iPod for years now, and while it’s incredibly convenient, and amazing for the money, the audio I get is only really useful for the audio equivalent of jotting down an idea – it’s much better than the internal mic in a digital camera, for example, but not nearly as good as a decent microphone.

Apogee’s ‘Mic’ (the name is a wee bit generic) is a cardioid mic made to work with Apple products –iPad/iPhones and Mac computers – and it comes with a USB cable and a 30-pin cable that plugs directly into your iPhone or iPad (the mic end of both cables is a proprietary connector, so don’t lose it). Plugged into your mac it’ll work like any other USB microphone, and with Mac’s aggregate driver (which I just learned about), you can actually plug two of them into your computer and record a stereo track or two separate mono tracks in Garage Band or any other DAW. Plugged into you iPhone or iPad You can actually make good, useable recordings wherever you are.

If you look at the photo you’ll see that the form factor of Apogee’s mic is a little on the cute side, but not in a bad way. It’s a small diaphragm mic housed in manner of a large diaphragm mic, so that it looks like a miniature large diaphragm mic. The mic comes with a mini tripod that screws into the back of the mic, and you can also buy a little adapter that will allow you to connect the mic to a regular mic stand to give you more placement options. There’s a gain control wheel on the mic itself as well as a single blue/green/yellow/red light that signals connection/signal/peak. The mic is made out of metal and actually feels reassuringly hefty for its size.

The fact that the mic attaches via a cable and not directly to your device allows you to actually consider mic placement when recording. This is also really useful when shooting videos (if you plug the mic into your iPhone it automatically becomes your audio input for any videos you shoot), as your mic can now be separate from your phone. The mic ships with a 1 meter USB cable and a .5 meter 30-pin cable and you will be able to buy a 3 meter cables separately.

Most mic’s (if not all) that work with iPod/iPad/iPhone only work with those devices, and not as a USB mic that’ll interface with you computer as well, so it’s pretty handy that Apogee’s ‘Mic’ does both, as there are times you’ll want to use Garage Band or some other DAW on your laptop, even though recording apps for the iPhone are starting to have more and more features. The ability to turn your iPhone into a full -blown high-quality field recorder is kind of a game changer, though, and what sets the ‘Mic’ apart at the end of the day is the sound quality.

Most USB mics and iPod/iPad/iPhone mics are a compromise of some sort: How do you make a good microphone that is also a good D/A converter and a USB device without having it cost more than the iPad/iPhone? Apogee has been so good at making converters for so long that it seems like an obvious choice for them, and the only thing they could have screwed up was the capsule or the mic’s electronics before it hits the converter. Fortunately, they didn’t screw it up, as you can hear in the MP3s at the bottom of this review.

I’m not going to tell you that this little $199 mic is going to replace all of your studio mics, but even without considering the price and functionality this is a clear, natural sounding mic, and the fact that you can play with placement means that you can get some proximity effect if you want it. It doesn’t feel hyped at the top or the bottom. It just sounds like a good mic. For someone like me who is constantly recording video lessons for students, location recordings, interviews and rehearsals this is huge. It’s a little like how excited a lot of us were when portable mini disk recorders came out with that Sony stereo mic – except now it syncs to video and you can email or ftp audio files directly from your phone. And it sounds even better.

In the MP3s I recorded I decided to make a patently unfair comparison: a Neumann U89 through a custom-made preamp into a Digidesign 192 interface against Apogee’s $199 mic plugged straight into an iPhone. See what you think.

Neumann U89

Apogee Mic

We also shot some really cool videos at Apogee’s studio in Santa Monica with guitarist Yury Nugmanov using a stereo pair of Apogee mics, and I’ll post those as soon as they’re edited.

Comments (42)

I think I am going to buy this, really like the way they work with iPhone / iPad without another complexity. It sounds a bit harsh and cold on the comparison but it made a pretty good job for a mic which costs less than 1/15 of the U89 (not to consider the preamp and converter + recorder)

Thanks for the review !

I think musicians with some knowledge of home recording are becoming increasingly mystified at the enormous cost of high-end recording equipment but, not being sound engineers, we feel nervous about expressing our growing skepticism.
But the fact is that high end equipment is becoming more like the emperor’s new clothes as each day passes. (OK, I know you have to pay (very highly) for maximum versatility but most of us don’t need that.)
It would have helped if Kai had mentioned the price differential of the two mics: $3000+ vs $199!!

‘@quixsilver: I found the UB89 a bit muddy by comparison so there’s no accounting for taste. (Grado Labs SR80 headphones). Certainly I didn’t hear much between the two mics for which fairly ordinary software couldn’t adequately compensate.

Kai, Great job and I cant believe how good this mic is sounding. Great playing as well. Things sure are getting smaller and easy to carry. I think this mic will have lots of excellent usages. Looking forward to getting mine in the next day or so.

The U89 is hard to argue with, especially when needing to smooth out some treble sounding work. I think the Apogee makes a case for itself, but the U89 is the richer of the two, and justly so. You can hear it mostly in the picados halfway into the piece.

Nevertheless, nice article.

oh! dear!…did i hear a hissing sound on the Apogee Mic. it’s the same issue I had with my samson USB mic as well. I spoke an Apogee staff months back and was assured that there will be no hissing sound on the apogee mic. shame.

Hey Andrew – did you hear a hiss throughout the sample or in one part of it? I just listened back on my studio monitors and I don’t get any hiss.

it’s a truly unfair comparison. The recording with the U89 is crystal clear, beautifully sounding whereas the poor Apogee sounds just poor with a lot of background noise. Well at $199 is probably a bargain for a budget studio/recordings but it would be impossible for it to compete with the ‘big boys’ 🙂

Certainly the Neuman is deeper and slightly warmer that could also be the mic per and recorder but the little Mic really sounds good for the price and once in a mix the recorded track should blend nicely. To the guy who wrote that he heard hiss, I hear no hiss in the recording, you might want to check out your recording chain as the hiss is likely in your own equipment and not this recording. Well worth the price and a great addition to anyone’s iOS device. Cheers Apogee

An interesting comparison and not unduly unfair. Recording equipment, like the classical/flamenco guitar itself, is subject to the rule of diminishing returns. No doubt about the Neumann + pre-amp being more ‘forgiving’ but both those recordings would need some adjustment in the mix. Mixed, a blind test would be interesting – listeners might be split 50/50.

Wow!!! Thank you for the review! I’ve been waiting for the apogee mic since their first announcement and I am still waiting for it as apogee hasn’t shipped the mic to Germany yet. How does the mic work with vocals? Did you use a mono or pair setup for your samples?

Please post more samples! 🙂 I’m so excited!


I heard a hiss too. At the beginning before the guitar playing starts. At the end it seemed to have been faded out whereas the U89 was simply turned off.

I love the guitar playing, and the quality of the Mic is undoubtedly excellent, though it would be interesting to hear samples of how it fares with some field recording, such as bird song, where hiss is much more noticeable and intrusive.

Hey everyone! I got this mic yesterday and am loving the sound. Now I have to figure out some technical things and am seeking some help! I am a v/o artist and often mobile. I want to be able to record v/o’s with the Apogee Mic with my Iphone 4 and convert M4A’s to MP3’s. Is there a separate app I need for this? I’m trying to eliminate my laptop altogether (which is a PC, by the way). I’d like to hold off on getting an IPad for a while, if possible. So, should I use GarageBand to record? And then how do I convert to MP3 and email this more readily accepted (and often required) format? Thank you in advance for any guidance.

Hey Meghan – Look into an iPhone app called iAudition. It’s specifically made for what you’re looking for – record your v/o into your iPhone and then edit a little and send the MP3 directly to the client. It’s $4.99 and pretty highly rated.

Gotye recorded Somebody i used to know _on a macbook pro using garage band but he used a M147 ..if he would have used the apogee MIC would it be the hottest pop song on the planet earth right now ? lol

Thats right ..Somebody that i used to know is getting 10 million hits a week and it was recorded on a macbook pro using garage band ..lol ! amazing stuff ..anyway i just purchased a 17inch macbook pro for around 3000 bucks so i’m going to buy the apogee mic to get used to recording in garage band until i can buy the Neumann m-147 ..

good luck all

I went to the trouble to copy both samples over to my laptop and played them over my stereo which consists of McIntosh C38 preamp and MC402 amp coupled with Wilson Sophia speakers, $20k worth of top line stereo equipment, the speakers being about 2/3 the cost.

I didn’t hear any extraneous hiss or other noise from either microphone.

After playing both samples several times, the U89 has a fuller, richer (warmer) sound easily heard in the midrange and basses. To it’s credit, the Apogee has good sound and is very clean, but a bit dry (cooler) by comparison.

When you consider $200 for the Apogee vs $2,000 for the U89, I would say the average guitarist wouldn’t hurt themselves with the Apogee. But in a pro-recording session, I would definitely go with the U89.

One last thing, I think the the samples would be more distinctly comparable were they recorded to a wave file vs mp3. The mp3 does leave out certain tonal features in order to make the file smaller whereas a wave file does not. Typically, a mp3 is about 10-20% smaller when converted from wave, so you know it is dropping some signal information in the conversion. It’s possible that the conversion narrows the hear-able gap in the true sound between the two microphones.

I seem to be hearing significant distortion and loss of resolution at :09, the bass note and “hot” strum that follows. I don’t hear it on the U89. Of course, as the author points out, the comparison is essentially unrealistic but, I think, still useful in establishing an excellent baseline. Is this distortion just a matter of the input level being set too high? The quality of the MIC seems remarkable to me, far superior to my RODE studio mic. Thanks for the review.

Here’s a comment that was emailed to me:

Thanks for your review! I have one on order and can’t wait for it to arrive. I have been using a relatively inexpensive ($120) microphone, the MicW i436, with my iPhone, http://www.mic-w.com/showpro.asp?id=54&lb=13, and I am looking forward to comparing the two microphones.

By the way, I am the creator of http://www.practicemusic.com, a service that allows you track your practice sessions, manage your repertoire, make recordings, and share them with a community, from an iPhone or iPod Touch, and uploaded to a website. The iPhone app is named PracticeMusic. See http://www.practicemusic.com for more information.

I’m always looking for comments and feedback from users. I am a beginning classical guitar student, myself.


Larry Kellogg

Once again, it is usually best to think of microphones and preamps as something akin to flavours. They may all have applications where they exceed. Clearly the U89 is a silkier, warmer mic with much more presence in the low end, but you know, there are dozens of mics that are in the mid hundreds that have no audible, qualitative difference to that microphone if you blindfolded a bunch of engineers in a shootout. Something else to consider, there are engineers who swear they cannot get a better vocal track than they get out of a Shure SM7b (around $400) at ANY PRICE! Now, I have the SM7b, and the lowly but ubiquitous SM57, and there are instances when the little 57 sounds virtually identical. But now the SM7b has been relegated to God like status, even though I would bet a decade ago, anything by Shure would have been considered one of many manufactured from the MacDonalds of Microphones, except, now we know that…Shure makes amazing gear at any cost…Listen with your ears, not from spec sheets, and never from audiophile snobs if your objective is to create MUSIC…

Hi there and thanks for this helpful review.

I currently record on a mac using Garageband and the ONE (from Apogee… which I love) connected to a low end studio mike. This gives me a good enough quality for my purposes which is recording hypnotherapy sessions (voice and music) in real time that clients take home and use to practice relaxation skills.

I would LOVE to simplify the steps without losing quality. (Currently I go from Garageband to iTunes to mp3 file… this takes about 5 minutes. I would love to have an mp3 ready to go immediately after the recording process ends.) If I use the iPhone (which I do not yet own) can I plug the Mic into the iPhone and record directly on the “voice memo” function with a similar quality as I heard on your samples?

If not, and I use one of the apps you suggested above, how simple are they compared to Garageband and compared to “voice memo”?

I don’t know if my question is clear, but essentially, I am looking to save 5 minutes (8 times a day) by using the iPhone to record instead of my computer.

Any ideas would be SUPREMELY appreciated. I am not a “techie” and just cast around for simple “user-friendly” solutions. THANKS!

[…] Apogee ‘Mic‘ Review | Guitar Salon International | The BlogJan 30, 2012 … I finally bought an iPhone. I’d been on the fence for a while, and in the end it was not so much the iPhone itself that convinced me (I really like … […]

Woah damn I want this. I’ve always been finding reasons not to use a USB mic but if it would slot so easily into the iPad…

That said I’ve been looking towards moving my music production over to a Windows PC (learning from here: http://djtouchbeats.com/) rather than working with my failing Mac which would mean less use for GarageBand on the iPad but damn it is still so tempting…

I know we were supposed to be listening to the Apogee but Sheesh! That Neuman/pre/your playing setup was fantastic! I almost went to sweetwater on the spot to buy the Apogee and then I thought…wait…which one did I click? Now I have to figure out how to explain those extra zeros in my home recording budget. “Honey. You know I love you very much right? Remember when you said you just want me to be happy?”……

The Apogee sounds nice for $200. But the Neumann is musical, smooth, mellow, and beautiful. Actually the sound of the Apogee is a bit unpleasant. That the way it is in pro audio. It takes much more money to sound pro.

Bought the MIC and Im finding that with my voice theres a harsh element when I sing higher notes with medium to full blast (Im a baritone). There is some sort of cold metallic quality that doesnt appear when I sing the same passage with my rode nt1a, which ironically is notoriously a harsh mic. The harshness of the MIC is only there for when hitting certain vocal registers, maybe my voice just doesnt match it. Post eq cuts help, but dont eliminate the harsh element. A little disappointed, however if it works for your voice it really is the most portable and easy high quality setup that offers 24 bit recording.

I don’t hear a hiss with the Apogee Miv but I clearly hear more buzz from the guitar string?

We’re the 2 tracks recorded at the same time?

Was the Neuman track post processed to clean it?

I find the Apogee Mic is great for recording rehersals; the sound quality is very good and the ability to use it with portable devices makes it really handy. I like the DropVox app for iPhone — no length limitation (that I’ve found yet), and it automatically uploads to dropbox when it’s done, which makes it easy to share with bandmates.

I don’t think I would use it in the studio, as much better equipment is available, but I’m sure there are situations where it would hold its own well enough.

One criticism is that there are no numbers on the gain knob, which makes it difficult to adjust. I record in one of a few places, usually at the same levels, so I’d like to remember that I usually use “5” or “7” etc. I suppose I will paint some markers on instead.

I just bought Apogee Mic,but there is a very prominent hiss sound in the takes….any suggestion how i get rid of it.I am a voice actor and using it for speech mainly as of now.

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