Mikme-Microphone-Push-Button

Being simple and mobile has its advantages. I bet at least once, you’ve recorded some audio sample on your phone. But simplicity often comes at the expense of audio quality – the phone being a perfect example.

An upstart hardware project wants to change that, with a crowd funding campaign that’s winding up its final days now. The Mikme is a small rectangular box, with a single button for recording. It’s wireless, with the ability to connect to mobile apps for tweaking and sharing.

Now, your first impression, then, might be that this is a consumer product – convenient, but delivering sub-par audio. It’s still a bit too soon to judge as the hardware is in prototype phase, but Mikme want to build something that stands up to the demands of pros and musicians. They’ve drawn on talent from professional audio engineering, with a 1″ true condenser capsule – one they say bests the little capsules in current mobile recording solutions from the likes of Zoom. Those rely on smaller electret condensers. (Side note: I won’t knock the electret condensers; I’ve gotten a lot of good results from them. But the bottom line is, you have something here that’s more mobile but doesn’t sacrifice the quality of your recordings to get there – quite the opposite.)

I got to meet founder Philipp Sonnleitner from Vienna when he presented the project at Tech Open Air in Berlin, and even tried the prototype hands-on. Here are more details.

The physical unit. Mikme itself is a small box – part of the reason they’re able to use such a big capsule is that the capsule is practically the size of the whole unit. Rather than a lot of controls, you get one button to start recording on the top – nice in those moments when you want to get recording quickly.

What you don’t need is any wires. There’s an internal battery with a promised 7 hours of recording time. You don’t get removable memory – no SD slots here – but 16 GB of memory is built in. (That was upgraded from the original 8 GB after crowd funders helped the hardware reach its “stretch” goal; now there’s both a 16 GB model or 8 GB if you don’t need all the space and want to save some cash.)

There’s a gold-plated, 1-inch (25 mm) condenser capsule with a cardioid pattern, which compares to 1/2″ (13 mm) electret capsules in USB mics and mobile recorders from Zoom, Tascam, Sony, Blue, Apogee, and so on. You can record at 24-bit and 44.1, 48, or 96 kHz. It’s in a shock mount, and remarkably, I didn’t notice any handling noise.

The unit really is simplicity itself. Tap once to capture, twice to play back the last capture. Tap and hold for a “sound check” feature. The same button lights red if input is clipping.

Along the front, there are simple green LEDs with power/battery and Bluetooth indication, USB for charging or using the unit as a USB mic, headphone out minijack, and volume up/down controls.

Unfortunately, they didn’t add a minijack input, which is too bad. The one thing that would allow me to replace my Zoom H4n with this would be if it could do 4-channel line + mic mixes – and it’d be great to record through the apparently high-quality converters. (Mikme 2 feature request?)

On the bottom, you’ll find a mounting hole, and they’ve thoughtfully included 3/8″ and 1/4″ threads for mic stands and DSLR tripods, respectively. So you can easily stick this on a stand or attach it to a camera. The whole package weighs just 200 grams (less than half a pound), and it’s 70x70x35 mm – you can stick it in your pocket.

Recording modes. The mic can operate in one of three modes:

1. Standalone. Record on the unit, then offload later over Bluetooth or USB.

2. USB mic. Connect it to your device/computer and record over USB.

3. Bluetooth mic. Don’t have a wire/adapter handy? Use Bluetooth instead. Now, this may make you cringe, but that’s because you’re used to mics that transmit an inferior 8 kHz signal; the Mikme uses a full-bandwidth 48 kHz. Philipp showed off the audio quality, and it’s actually hard to tell the Bluetooth stream from the wired stream.

The unit records either in MP4 (if you need more recording time) or lossless raw WAV (that’s still 32 hours at 16 GB). Also, you can record both MP4 and WAV simultaneously, so you have a compact file ready to go without conversion.

mikemediagram

Engineering pedigree. Founder Philipp comes from 8 years at AKG, but so, too, does the team’s mechanical construction engineer. Josef Schneider has a 25-year history including work on the C214, C414, C12VR, K271, K812, and K701. Richard Pribyl, who did acoustic tuning and engineering for Mikme, worked over 40 years in acoustic research and development at AKG and holds over 70 patents.

Of course, that’s just resumes. The explanation Philipp gave me for why you should consider the Mikme is a combination of the capsule and all-in-one design. The capsule he says is what you would normally find in 350€+ XLR mics. Analog and digital input stage and storage are all in a single housing, so that gain staging (which is also transmitted to the app) is performed in a single place.

Now, I didn’t get to properly evaluate the gain controls, again, because I had a prototype. Hardware gain was working, but not software gain controls. The finished model promises 0-30 dB gain settings in increments of 1 dB. Using the Soundcheck feature on the hardware, you can also measure 7 seconds of input and let the hardware adjust gain automatically.

This is interesting, too, for anyone who has cursed the horrible automatic compression on some mobile recorders. The gain is fixed. You can optionally switch on 3 dB-stepped decreases at an overload, but even that will leave the rest of your recording untouched – good news for anyone who has ruined recordings in the past. (Cough. Uh, I mean, no, I never did that.)

Use cases / hands on. On the software side, an app gives you additional controls – useful since there’s no display and limited feedback on the unit. (It’s ready for iOS now, with Android coming by the end of the year.) So you get recording, gain controls, and more.

Part of the vision of the app is also rapid sharing. There’s a clever UI that organizes by pictures – though I sort of hate the use of parallax visual effects. And you also get “Instagram”-style “filter” settings for reverb and the like, which I’m surprised haven’t shown up on apps before.

I have to say, I think this is a mic I’d use a lot more than other mics. There are plenty of times where I just haven’t bothered with cables and the like. The Zoom is relatively terrific, but this is more compact and might in fact sound better. Plus, Bluetooth pairing makes it more of a natural for use with the iPhone (and video), and it’s easier to fit atop a camera.

Case in point: while at Tech Open Air, I dragged one of the people doing demos into a room of the conference and recorded a quick vocal sample that I wound up spinning into a finished track, dumping the recording into Ableton Live and making a fast drum rack. (That track isn’t out yet, but as you can hear from the samples here, the mic’s output is terrific.)

Now, get ready for the investor pitch – Philipp stressed that “mikme is not a microphone manufacturer.” Instead, he says, “we want to enable creatives to capture, produce and publish content such as music, video, podcasts, and interviews within minutes instead hours and in better quality and with less effort.”

I suppose a company like AKG could see their mission in a similar way – it’s really down to how you view an object like a mic. But it’s an interesting mission. Still, I’m most impressed with the mic itself, especially since you can count on various solutions for sharing.

Crowd funding campaign Mikme has raised already a quarter million dollars as I write this, or ten times its funding goal. That means you can preorder a unit starting at US$189 (while supplies last).

First deliveries are set for October, with the public launch in January 2016.

The app is available now.

More:

Mikme – Wireless Recording Microphone

http://www.mikme.com/

I’m definitely impressed, and it’s encouraging that crowd funding is making this a reality. I’ll keep in touch with the makers and let you know how the progress progresses.

  • jeremywen
    • Interesting. But yeah, not really a studio mic as near as I can tell – I’m unsure on sound quality there.

      • Ciccio

        I think that a studio audio mic like Mikme should not be compared with an iphone but with a Neumann, Shoeps or AKG ;-). Instamic can definitely be defined as the GoPro for microphones, since it has multiple mounting options and it’s waterproof too. My two cents.

  • jeremywen
    • Interesting. But yeah, not really a studio mic as near as I can tell – I’m unsure on sound quality there.

      • Ciccio

        I think that a studio audio mic like Mikme should not be compared with an iphone but with a Neumann, Shoeps or AKG ;-). Instamic can definitely be defined as the GoPro for microphones, since it has multiple mounting options and it’s waterproof too. My two cents.

  • RichardL

    Didn’t Line 6 used to make this as the BackTrack?

    • Also an interesting product… I mean, there are many portable recorders. The difference here: Bluetooth wireless operation (definitely not on the Line 6), full condenser capsule (pretty sure the Line 6 had electret).

      The Line 6 earns points for having a line input, though – but it’s really having the ability to record from both at once in 4-channel that I like, which is why I still suspect I’m not dumping my H4n just yet.

      • RichardL

        Don’t get me wrong. The MikMe looks very nice.

        Also I’m pretty sure the Line6 BackTrack and BackTrack Mic are discontinued at this point. But it was an interesting product.

  • RichardL

    Didn’t Line 6 used to make this as the BackTrack?

    • Also an interesting product… I mean, there are many portable recorders. The difference here: Bluetooth wireless operation (definitely not on the Line 6), full condenser capsule (pretty sure the Line 6 had electret).

      The Line 6 earns points for having a line input, though – but it’s really having the ability to record from both at once in 4-channel that I like, which is why I still suspect I’m not dumping my H4n just yet.

      • RichardL

        Don’t get me wrong. The MikMe looks very nice.

        Also I’m pretty sure the Line6 BackTrack and BackTrack Mic are discontinued at this point. But it was an interesting product.

  • NRGuest

    No line input seems like a ridiculous oversight. It can’t be that hard to add one. Then I would be sold on this.

    • I badly want one, too. *However* —

      “It can’t be that hard to add one.” Uh, yes it can. Look at the exploded diagrams of just how much is packed into the hardware. The jack, the mount for the jack, and the associated circuitry do take up some space. 😉 “Hard” is exactly what making hardware is.

      • DJ Hombre

        If line input was there I would snap this up in an instant. The Blue Mikey Digital is OK, but relies on my iPhone for recording. Line input would allow me as a DJ to record sets – especially for transitions between DJs during an evening.

      • foljs

        So what exactly would be hard about making it half an inch taller to fit a line jack in?

        • Nicolas

          what if increasing the size of the container disrupts the quality of the microphone and increases handling noise? “hard” is subjective.. sure it’s not hard but what’s the result?

          • foljs

            “””what if increasing the size of the container disrupts the quality of the microphone and increases handling noise? “””

            That would be a valid concern in a universe where this holds true. Unfortunately ours isn’t one, and acoustics don’t work that way.

    • Nicolas

      I think if the absence of line-in is your deal breaker then this form factor is obviously not something you are looking for. There are so many different options for mobile recording and there’s no lack of things for you to spend your money on

  • NRGuest

    No line input seems like a ridiculous oversight. It can’t be that hard to add one. Then I would be sold on this.

    • I badly want one, too. *However* —

      “It can’t be that hard to add one.” Uh, yes it can. Look at the exploded diagrams of just how much is packed into the hardware. The jack, the mount for the jack, and the associated circuitry do take up some space. 😉 “Hard” is exactly what making hardware is.

      • DJ Hombre

        If line input was there I would snap this up in an instant. The Blue Mikey Digital is OK, but relies on my iPhone for recording. Line input would allow me as a DJ to record sets – especially for transitions between DJs during an evening.

      • foljs

        So what exactly would be hard about making it half an inch taller to fit a line jack in?

        • Nicolas

          what if increasing the size of the container disrupts the quality of the microphone and increases handling noise? “hard” is subjective.. sure it’s not hard but what’s the result?

          • foljs

            “””what if increasing the size of the container disrupts the quality of the microphone and increases handling noise? “””

            That would be a valid concern in a universe where this holds true. Unfortunately ours isn’t one, and acoustics don’t work that way.

    • Nicolas

      I think if the absence of line-in is your deal breaker then this form factor is obviously not something you are looking for. There are so many different options for mobile recording and there’s no lack of things for you to spend your money on

  • edisonSF

    been using my old H1 for a long time… i can always tell it’s the H1… ordered and excited to hear what this thing can do. also, i’d kinda call this the jawbone of microphones. handy like that.

  • edisonSF

    been using my old H1 for a long time… i can always tell it’s the H1… ordered and excited to hear what this thing can do. also, i’d kinda call this the jawbone of microphones. handy like that.

  • DPrty

    I use the H1, its really surprisising how good it sounds considering you can find it on craigslist for $80.

  • DPrty

    I use the H1, its really surprisising how good it sounds considering you can find it on craigslist for $80.

  • itchy

    sounds like super cardiod with noise reduction if you ask me. def sounds better.
    makes is more worth it.

  • itchy

    sounds like super cardiod with noise reduction if you ask me. def sounds better.
    makes is more worth it.

  • Bruno de Chenerilles

    Surprised that nobody points out that it’s a mono recorder. So you can’t compare to a Zoom stereo recorder. Considering the 1inch capsule, it could be nice to test two of them in a stereo couple setup . (nearly the same price as the excellent Rode NT5 couple with half-inch capsules).
    Used as a mono mic in the studio could be very interesting if you don’t have good condenser mics … Interesting because you don’t need any audio interface , too …
    But of course, the main interest for me : it’s a stand alone quick mono recording solution.
    More than often, a good mono recording is better than a not so good stereo one.
    NB : I doubt that the zoom (or equivalent little recorders) capsules are 1/2 inch ones : look more like 1/4 inch, no ?
    Bruno de Chenerilles at Audiorama

    • Will

      ^ This. It does sound awfully good as a mic and it obviously has many many other merits but that it records in mono puts it into a different league from the Zooms and its spin-offs.

      • Aaron Z

        A different league—more like another level. Whenever you’re doing serious field recording work for sound design, sample collection, or anything else—you’re most likely going to be using a mono mic. the simplicity of mono eliminates any worries about phasing, and, honestly, any time I’ve used a stereo recorder, even a nice one, I generally split my audio files into separate L/R — to allow for greater control during the mixdown process.

        before the advent of prosumer recorders made by companies like Zoom, people would record in stereo the old-fashioned way, rocking an X/Y near-coincident pair.

        granted some high-end stereo recorders exist, but unless you’re dropping close to a grand on one, this Mikme thing is pretty damn dope.

        just make sure you remember to enable higher quality bluetooth audio in the terminal on a mac 😉

    • foljs

      “””Surprised that nobody points out that it’s a mono recorder. So you can’t compare to a Zoom stereo recorder.”””

      Then again, you don’t need to. “Stereo” according at such small sizes and with the mikes so nearby as in the Zoom and similar products is a gimmick anyway…

      Professional stero recordings are not done with small portable recorders in the first place (and usually involve multiple mikes and mixing desks anyway).

  • Bruno de Chenerilles

    Surprised that nobody points out that it’s a mono recorder. So you can’t compare to a Zoom stereo recorder. Considering the 1inch capsule, it could be nice to test two of them in a stereo couple setup . (nearly the same price as the excellent Rode NT5 couple with half-inch capsules).
    Used as a mono mic in the studio could be very interesting if you don’t have good condenser mics … Interesting because you don’t need any audio interface , too …
    But of course, the main interest for me : it’s a stand alone quick mono recording solution.
    More than often, a good mono recording is better than a not so good stereo one.
    NB : I doubt that the zoom (or equivalent little recorders) capsules are 1/2 inch ones : look more like 1/4 inch, no ?
    Bruno de Chenerilles at Audiorama

    • Will

      ^ This. It does sound awfully good as a mic and it obviously has many many other merits but that it records in mono puts it into a different league from the Zooms and its spin-offs.

      • Aaron Z

        A different league—more like another level. Whenever you’re doing serious field recording work for sound design, sample collection, or anything else—you’re most likely going to be using a mono mic. the simplicity of mono eliminates any worries about phasing, and, honestly, any time I’ve used a stereo recorder, even a nice one, I generally split my audio files into separate L/R — to allow for greater control during the mixdown process.

        before the advent of prosumer recorders made by companies like Zoom, people would record in stereo the old-fashioned way, rocking an X/Y near-coincident pair.

        granted some high-end stereo recorders exist, but unless you’re dropping close to a grand on one, this Mikme thing is pretty damn dope.

        just make sure you remember to enable higher quality bluetooth audio in the terminal on a mac 😉

    • foljs

      “””Surprised that nobody points out that it’s a mono recorder. So you can’t compare to a Zoom stereo recorder.”””

      Then again, you don’t need to. “Stereo” according at such small sizes and with the mikes so nearby as in the Zoom and similar products is a gimmick anyway…

      Professional stero recordings are not done with small portable recorders in the first place (and usually involve multiple mikes and mixing desks anyway).

  • Bruno de Chenerilles

    sorry to see that the price will be $300 for one mic. so my price comparison with Rode NT5 couple was wrong. You can find this couple for $400 only …
    What I did right now : i bought a mikme in advance : agood price and a good way to contribute …
    Bruno de Chenerilles at Audiorama

  • Bruno de Chenerilles

    sorry to see that the price will be $300 for one mic. so my price comparison with Rode NT5 couple was wrong. You can find this couple for $400 only …
    What I did right now : i bought a mikme in advance : agood price and a good way to contribute …
    Bruno de Chenerilles at Audiorama

  • James Husted

    When i first saw that shape I thought it was going to use Pressure Zone technology but it doesn’t. A stereo PZM mic that had the record guts like that would be a great mic to have. Just stick it to a wall to other large fast surface (for the boundary effects) and hit record.

  • James Husted

    When i first saw that shape I thought it was going to use Pressure Zone technology but it doesn’t. A stereo PZM mic that had the record guts like that would be a great mic to have. Just stick it to a wall to other large fast surface (for the boundary effects) and hit record.

  • Frikandel

    Perhaps interesting if it can be selected to replace the iPhones internal mic during live video recording. Then no need for cable runs and iit saves you time because you don’t need to sync audio and video later just to get decent dialogue from a distance. If it can’t do that, then any Zoom will do.

  • Frikandel

    Perhaps interesting if it can be selected to replace the iPhones internal mic during live video recording. Then no need for cable runs and iit saves you time because you don’t need to sync audio and video later just to get decent dialogue from a distance. If it can’t do that, then any Zoom will do.

  • Robin Parmar

    You can get a stereo pair of superior-sounding electrets (based on Primo cap) for under 100 clams. Plug these into an existing recorder that costs 200. Job done.

    Or you can spend the same amount for a mono mic and recorder with no features, that is also much larger than it needs to be. And is an inconvenient form factor for holding, though people do so in their promo videos. Their audio comparisons are with an iPhone internal microphone, which sets the bar about as low as possible.

    Comparing this to other existing solutions reveals that the only benefit is convenience, and that only for people who don’t want to use a computer.

    • TheDalaiSputnik

      Actually, it’s a bit of a relief to see something that isn’t the size of a fly’s eye, and is a bit more substantial to hold. The ultra-miniaturized tools certainly have their uses, but speaking as a six-foot five country boy with hands like canoe paddles, there’s something to be said for gear that doesn’t get lost in the bottom of the equipment bag or the seat cushions when you’re looking for it. Lots of clients tend to fumble around with nearly invisible lav mics; a mic the size of a hamburger may be a bit more “handy” in many situations.

  • Robin Parmar

    You can get a stereo pair of superior-sounding electrets (based on Primo cap) for under 100 clams. Plug these into an existing recorder that costs 200. Job done.

    Or you can spend the same amount for a mono mic and recorder with no features, that is also much larger than it needs to be. And is an inconvenient form factor for holding, though people do so in their promo videos. Their audio comparisons are with an iPhone internal microphone, which sets the bar about as low as possible.

    Comparing this to other existing solutions reveals that the only benefit is convenience, and that only for people who don’t want to use a computer.

    • TheDalaiSputnik

      Actually, it’s a bit of a relief to see something that isn’t the size of a fly’s eye, and is a bit more substantial to hold. The ultra-miniaturized tools certainly have their uses, but speaking as a six-foot five country boy with hands like canoe paddles, there’s something to be said for gear that doesn’t get lost in the bottom of the equipment bag or the seat cushions when you’re looking for it. Lots of clients tend to fumble around with nearly invisible lav mics; a mic the size of a hamburger may be a bit more “handy” in many situations.

  • James

    Hey up there, I like your boundary mic idea.

    And for a clarification above, this is a standard cardioid pattern. If it was super, you’d hear much more roll off in the example video where he’s talking with it side by side.

    Key features for me are
    the quality element
    the multi-mic support on the remote/recording app
    labeling and uploading takes directly from the app

    Some constraints:
    no figure-8
    bluetooth limited range for field work or videography

    Key questions from me would be:

    what is the accrued latency for recording of the collective mics into the iPhone device?
    if it can be used for iPhone videography how does the chosen codex keep image locked? Is the video done in the dedicated app, or can you then open a separate video app? I’d actually prefer if bluetooth exchange was entirely in packets and happened after a take, not during. Then a unit could be slated, go out of range and then resync when it comes back home. On that note, it would be great if the app could send a bloop to all the devices at once (including the one you might have going straight into the jack of your camera)

    The transmission to the iPhone/android is designed for web distribution, yes, but is it also designed for round-trip editing? Analogous would be putting film through a telecine process, editing on video (and monitoring from a quicktime file) but nonetheless reconstructing the edits back into film. In this case, the mic sends MP3 files to your smart device, which then allows you to multitrack, edit, bounce, and print effects. All nonetheless at a lossy format different from your discrete recording. But then after all the edits were made, it might be nice to send that as an xml file back to the mic/recorder in order to reconstruct a version at the original format/resolution.

  • James

    Hey up there, I like your boundary mic idea.

    And for a clarification above, this is a standard cardioid pattern. If it was super, you’d hear much more roll off in the example video where he’s talking with it side by side.

    Key features for me are
    the quality element
    the multi-mic support on the remote/recording app
    labeling and uploading takes directly from the app

    Some constraints:
    no figure-8
    bluetooth limited range for field work or videography

    Key questions from me would be:

    what is the accrued latency for recording of the collective mics into the iPhone device?
    if it can be used for iPhone videography how does the chosen codex keep image locked? Is the video done in the dedicated app, or can you then open a separate video app? I’d actually prefer if bluetooth exchange was entirely in packets and happened after a take, not during. Then a unit could be slated, go out of range and then resync when it comes back home. On that note, it would be great if the app could send a bloop to all the devices at once (including the one you might have going straight into the jack of your camera)

    The transmission to the iPhone/android is designed for web distribution, yes, but is it also designed for round-trip editing? Analogous would be putting film through a telecine process, editing on video (and monitoring from a quicktime file) but nonetheless reconstructing the edits back into film. In this case, the mic sends MP3 files to your smart device, which then allows you to multitrack, edit, bounce, and print effects. All nonetheless at a lossy format different from your discrete recording. But then after all the edits were made, it might be nice to send that as an xml file back to the mic/recorder in order to reconstruct a version at the original format/resolution.