The Zoom iQ7 amplifies ambient sound, which makes it wonderful for recording music and the sound of visiting a beach, but not so great for focused things like conversations.
I’ve been using a Zoom H4n to record my audiobooks for years. It’s a pro-level device, used by many field reporters and musicians to capture audio outside of the studio, and to record multiple instruments on different tracks for later production.
I used it with its built-in mic, and that alone was a high-quality experience. That said, it’s a chunky, slightly old-fashioned piece of hardware for such a limited use-case. While looking for alternatives that would take us less room in my bag, I came across two mics from the same company: the iQ6 and the iQ7.
These two mics are minuscule, and plug into the Lightning ports latent in all modern iOS devices (which for me means it works with both my iPhone 6s Plus and my iPad Mini 3). They both have the same weakness — that they take up the Lightning port, making it impossible to charge your device while using them — but I found that not to be an issue while using them. Yes, they drain the batteries on your devices a little faster than usual, but if you’re recording with a full charge and for less than five or six hours, you probably won’t even notice the difference.
It’s important to understand what these devices do and don’t do, however, because otherwise it can seem that they’re not much of an upgrade from the already impressive internal mic of most modern phones (especially the iPhone, I’ve found). The iQ7 is meant to record an area, not one source, so it’s not great for interviews or audiobook recordings. It is, however, an upgrade from the standard mic when it comes to music and other environmental sounds. I’ve also tried it as a backup mic alongside a lavalier attached to my interviewee, which allowed me to bring in the background audio as a separate track in post-production, so I could include some of what was going on around the person on camera, while controlling it so that it didn’t distract from or overwhelm the main audio.
This little mic is a wee-bit bulky for something that attaches to the bottom of your phone, but it’s also super light, and not as obtrusive as you might think. In any case, it’s easy to throw into your bag and have as an additional option should you want to capture more atmospheric sound while recording.
Zoom iQ6 (for interviews, podcasts, and audiobook recording)