The Tascam iM2 — a set of stereo condenser mics with pre-amp that plug into iPhones and iPads — that I bought when it was first announced, arrived earlier this week but I didn’t get a chance to try it out until today, when I gave it a very quick workout.

First impressions are that while it appears to record nice audio, it’s a bit of a hassle to use and the included “manual” isn’t helpful. It didn’t, for instance, make any reference to the downloadable Tascam app.

I had to remove the case from my iPhone 4S in order to seat the mic. The phone needed to be in Airplane mode before it would record and, because I didn’t change my settings, the iPhone kept going to sleep in mid-recording. I was able to monitor the recording through earbuds, but not Apple’s earbuds which have a built-in mic.

Recording with the Tascam app was easy: press the record button once and set the levels and then once more to start the recording. Files were automatically saved.

Once the recordings were done, the only option under sharing in the Tascam app was to send the files to Soundcloud; I had to plug the iPhone in to my laptop and download the audio files to get them into an editor. I was, however, able to record directly into Monle, an audio-editing app on the phone, and then use a wireless connection to download that file.

The audio quality of the recordings is good, although there were differences in the volume of all three files I recorded (embedded below): the first one was relatively quiet, the second started much louder and distorted, and the third, recorded with Monle, was the the quietest of all. As much as anything, that may have been a problem of my mic technique. Handling noise was a problem, as it is with all handhelds.

The only changes I’ve made to these files was to open them in Amadeus Pro and normalize them. The first two, recorded in the Tascam app, were normalized to 0db; the third was normalized to -3db, because the 0db setting caused it to clip. (Warning: there are volume differences in the three: there first is very quiet and there is some distortion at the start of the second.) One note about the files: the low level hum at the start of the third clip is from the hot air duct that was about three feet away and that started pumping air when I started recording.
First test

Second test

Third test (with Monle)

Final thoughts: The iM2 is something I’ll throw into my bag for spur-of-the-moment use. If I set out to do serious audio recording, I’ll pack my Zoom H4. Given the set-up hassles, I’m not sure I would recommend it, especially for students. For about the same price, you can pick up a fairly capable low-end Olympus digital recorder which, while it doesn’t produce quite the quality of the iM2, does well enough with a little massaging in an audio editing program.

Product link: Tascam website; details on the Tascam app.