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Zoom iQ5 Review: The Handy Smartphone Microphone

The Zoom iQ5 is a microphone that has the potential to simplify your podcast equipment set-up.

This small attachment (£50/$70) plugs into your iPhone or iPad's lightning port and offers you quite a bit of control over your recording settings.

In this review we're going to take a look at its main features.

Who Would Use The Zoom iQ5?

Apple device users, first and foremost. It's ideal for (but not exclusively confined to) people who aren't overly technical. By this I mean there's an attraction in not having to set up mics, mixers, figure out what cable plugs in to what port etc.

Most people are familiar with their own smartphone and, on top of that, your iPhone is probably one of the most expensive and powerful devices you own. This makes the iQ5 a good option for someone who wants an inexpensive and simplistic set-up for recording their podcast episodes.

If you're someone who shoots a lot of video on your iPhone then the iQ5 is a handy way to improve your audio quality. In fact, that's probably why it was designed and developed in the first place. If you work in both video and audio then you'll get double the value for your purchase here.

Where Would You Use The Zoom iQ5?

It's a pocket-sized device, so the answer is pretty much “anywhere you want”.

This is a big selling point if you're someone with an erratic schedule who needs to record as and when you get the chance.

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You can easily stick the iQ5 onto your phone and record a podcast episode sitting in your car. Alternatively you might bump into someone at an event and be in the position to do a quick interview with them for your show. You can be plugged in and set up ready to record in seconds.

The Handy Recorder App

Zoom Handy Recorder

You don't need Zoom's free Handy Recorder app to use the Zoom iQ5, but it gives you a lot more flexibility, both during and after the recording of audio. Here are its main features.

  • Waveform view – enables you to monitor your levels more carefully
  • Formats – options to record at rates and formats other than 44100 WAV (although in speech podcasting, you shouldn't need to)
  • Editing – you can top, tail and perform basic dialogue editing within the app's waveform view
  • Effects – you can apply EQ, reverb, normalisation, as well as some mastering presets to your recordings
  • Sharing – you can attach your audio to an e-mail or upload it directly to Soundcloud

What are the Zoom iQ5's Features?

Microphone

You can turn the mic to set it in two different positions, one designed purely for audio, and the other designed to capture audio for any video you're filming.

There's a stereo width setting switch on the iQ5 where you can set the mic to record at a stereo width of 90 degrees or 120 degrees. Alternatively you can click this switch to ‘M-S' which allows you to customise all your settings inside the Handy Recorder app.

Gain

There's both a switch and a dial on the body of the iQ5. The dial lets you control your gain manually and set your levels between 0 and 10.

The switch offers you 3 options.

  • IMG_1696Auto Gain – this overrides the gain dial and enables the iQ5 to automatically decide your recording levels based on the volume of the sounds it is recording.
  • Limit – selecting this option means the iQ5 will try to prevent clipping and distortion if your gain dial is set high while recording loud source material.
  • Off – this enables you to use the gain dial to set your levels without the limiter kicking in.

There's an LED light on the front of the iQ5 which lights up when you connect it to your device. It also flashes repeatedly when your input level is too high, prompting you to turn down your gain.

Other Features

  • There's a small shock pad on the housing of the mic, allowing you to set it down on a table and minimise unwanted movement noises.
  • There's both a headphone port (3.5mm) and a USB port on the side of the iQ5. The headphone port lets you monitor your recordings and listen to their playback, as connecting the iQ5 to your phone may cover up your phone's own headphone port.

What Does It Sound Like?

The iQ5 sounds pretty good as long as you're close enough to it, but this causes two minor problems.

Firstly, being really close up can cause you to ‘pop' the mic, and there's not really a conventional way of introducing a pop shield to this setup.

Secondly, you can get a bit of handling noise if you hold your phone during recording. It's designed to be set down on a flat surface, but most tables and desks will be too low, meaning you're potentially going to be hunched over doing your recordings.

Minor Annoyances

I couldn't get the iQ5 to click onto my iPhone 5 until I removed the cover, as it wouldn't sit flush with the phone's base. Also, as small and light as the iQ5 is, it's still a lot to be held in place by a small lightning connector. Just be aware, you need to be careful to make sure it doesn't fall off during recording.

How Much Does It Cost?

The Zoom iQ5 can be bought new on Amazon.com for $70, and Amazon.co.uk for £50.

Summary

IMG_1693If you already have a suitable home recording set-up like a mixer, or even a decent USB headset, and you never record anywhere else, then buying an iQ5 is unnecessary. Although they're handy for location interviews, you can't record a Skype interview through one, so bear that in mind too.

If you're looking for a home recording microphone as part of your permanent or semi-permanent podcasting set-up, I'd go with something like the Samson Q2U.

But if you're recording episodes on the fly in unpredictable locations, and are looking for a quick and hassle free set-up, then the Zoom iQ5 is a great option.

For more podcast equipment, from mics to mixers, check out our Podcast Equipment guide.

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Written by:

Matthew McLean

Matthew is an audio drama writer and producer who enjoys talking about podcasts. He makes the tea at The Podcast Host, and is a loyal servant of adopted house rabbits.

May 25th 2016