Tascam iM2 Stereo Microphone for iOS Review
TASCAM's iM2 sets out to turn your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch into a high-quality stereo recorder so you not only record with higher clarity but also in stereo and directional letting you record what you want and not everything else around you. On the Tascam website it's not quite clear who this is for so let's look at their claims and see how things sound.
In charge of recording duties is a pair of condenser microphones - the same high quality as TASCAM's best-selling DR-series recorders. Condenser microphones are more sensitive than normal ones (get more stuff in here) so this should result in clearer recordings with a better range and depth of sound. Think headphones but in reverse.
Weight wise you'd be hard pressed to notice it attached to your iPhone let alone when travelling around. Although constructed from plastic all over the finish is impressive and has stood up well to months of being placed into my courier bag and joining me on my journeys. So there's little to worry about with robustness.
Even the back of the unit as you can see had been designed to keep the profile of the phone as well as supporting it when placed down on a flat surface. Like most microphones out there you won't want to be knocking or clattering near the microphone as it will pick up thuds easily.
Operationally wise things are kept simple. Loud levels are kept in check using the slider on the right and that limiter does exactly that, sets a point where it wont record louder than what's audible without distortion. There's also a micro usb port so you can charge whilst you use.
All of these features are neat but only once you really understand them, something which the manual, covering a3 in size and many, many languages, provides no working help for. Seeing as the price point is just there where if you have a passing interest in recording for a podcast or similar some help would be appreciated. You don't see it much these days where you get an operational manual but not a user or help guide.
Usage wise, directional placement works just fine, speakers are held into place and won't move of their own accord. Again trying to move those microphones whilst recording will result in nothing but noise and distortion so it's all about setting up everything properly before starting to record.
Standard Sound Recording.
Initially I was beset with problems that caused a rather lengthy delay for this review. This turned out to be the recommended app for usage, Tascam PCM recorder and after we ditched that disaster of an application (reviewed here), we became more comfortable using the microphone, able to crack on with some real world testing,
Tascam iM2 and a Live Gig Recording.
Finding a local gig in my area was a bit of a trial and unfortunately meant hitting many pubs to find somewhere with music. Just as I was giving up my local had a live band on and what better was to test the iM2 out in the wild.
Recording 1 was just using the iPhones own internal microphone
Second of two recordings so you can hear the difference between the iPhone microphone and the Tascam iM2 portable condenser microphone for the iPhone
iM2 Sound Effects Gathering
One application for the iM2 featured on the website is : Record sounds in the outside world, then drop them into your productions or remixes. So setting up the iM2 4 feet away from my car I went about recording myself walking away, starting, revving and then shutting off. Someone would find those sounds effects helpful somewhere.
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Same setup, same car but this time with the Tascam iM2
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Tascam iM2 and Video Filming
Like most I tend to record any videos in landscape mode which gives the obvious problem. holding the iPhone and iM2 in landscape mode you end up recording up and down not left to right. With that being said like all the recordings I've done during testing stereo separation is very clear, especially when walking over a cobbled beach.
Speech Recognition Accuracy Test
Clearer sound without noise always equals a better experience when trying to use any speech recognition app (dragon) or Siri.
As with any recording, especially in the case of speech recognition, it's worth taking a few moments just tweak the sound levels for your recording environment. The VU meter should be stable when not talking and then hitting about mid to three quarters of maximum when recording.
So does it have an impact on accuracy? In our very unscientific tests, Yes. At times the accuracy was improved by a small percentage yet all this adds up, making for a better experience in the world of speech-recognition.
Garage Band Issues.
Using the iM2 with garageband at the first stage of testing lead me to think that at first the Tascam unit was faulty. The VU meter whilst recording barely moved with the iM2 in operation yet recording using the inbuilt microphone gave a fair representation of noise levels.
Although the VU meter does barely move, speaking directly at the microphone from a distance of 30cm away does sound better during our tests. There's less background noise, deeper sound levels are picked up
For best results get used to being closer to the source. As you can hear form the live gig being further away from your source will result in lower, more bass heavy levels being recorded.
There are a few hinderances when trying to get setup for recordings. When setting up no doubt you'll want to listen back to a few sample sounds to make sure everything is a-ok. To listen to anything you have to unplug the whole unit which when setting up is a pain in the backside. There's also no pass through either to hear what's being recorded.
You will end up with better sounding recordings but only if you take the time to set things up properly. WIth the iPhone microphone you pick up the entire room but with the Tascam iM2 you get what you want and deals with louder sounds extremely well With the limiter in action "clipping" isn't an issue.
The enclosed manual is vague and uninformative heading towards specification sheets and operations manual, rather than providing help or advice. That Garageband VU meter barely moves when recording voice unless you get close enough to the point where you start recording those moments where you breathe inwards or exhale.
Another small gripe is that don't expect any technical support or help if you struggle. We sent several e-mails to the company asking for help any advice during our reviewing process and we heard nothing back.
When you take into account the array of tests we put the Tascam iM2 under and perhaps not specifically designed for you soon see the potential and sits firmly in the handy gadgets territory. Small, compact and light enough to be carried around without noticing you have it with your kit.
If you invest the time getting to know the recorder and some recording practises like how far away to hold the device, you will be richly rewarded with some great sounding audio files.