iMic, by Griffin
Posted: 26-Apr-2003

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Griffin Technology Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Description
The iMic Universal Audio Adapter is a USB device that allows the connection of virtually any microphone or sound input device to the iBook, G4 Cube, Titanium PowerBook G4 or any other Mac with USB ports. The iMic supports both line and Mic level input as well as line level output for any USB capable computer.

Features

  • Supports better than CD quality at up to 48 Khz sampling
  • Works with virtually any microphone including unpowered (Mic level) and powered (Line level)
  • Both 1/8" stereo inputs and outputs

System Requirements

  • Any Mac with built-in USB ports
  • Mac OS 9.1 or later, or any version of OS X


Reviewed On

  • G4 Quicksilver, 640 MB RAM, 867 Mhz, Mac OS 9.2.2, MacAlly USB Hub


Setup
My initial setup of the iMic was unsuccessful. Simply put: I couldn't get the iMic to work. Upon contacting Griffin Technology, I did learn much about the iMic which is not included with the product, such as the following recommendations:

  1. The iMic should be directly attached to the built-in USB ports, not the keyboard or a USB hub
  2. The switch on the iMic is an "amp" switch, not a toggle between the two ports (both the input and output ports are always active). The switch towards the output port (speaker icon) is the "ON" position, and towards the input port (microphone icon) is the "OFF" position. You want the amp on for a standard PC or headset microphone, and the amp off for a more microphone that is externally amplified.
  3. The old Apple microphones are not supported

However, even with this new information, I could not get it to work, and so I decided to do a fresh install of OS 9.2. After the clean install, the iMic worked no problem. My other USB devices worked fine before the clean install, but for some reason the iMic wouldn't (either an extension conflict or a system corruption that only affected USB audio in).

With the clean install, all I had to do to get the iMic to work is plug the iMic into the USB port, plug the microphone in to the microphone jack on the iMic, turn the iMic amp on, and go to the Sound control panel and change the input device from "CD/Internal CD" to "Line in/USB Audio".

As an added experiment, I also booted up under OS 10.2, and the iMic worked just fine there as well. Prior to the fresh install of OS 9.2, it didn't work under OS X, but that was because I had the iMic amp turned off.

In Use
With the iMic working, I was ecstatic to have sound input capabilities again. It is unfortunate that Apple decided to take this away from us in the first place, but it's a great relief to know there is a device out there that gives it back. I experimented with the settings and connections to see just what works and doesn't work. Although Griffin recommends using the USB port on the back of the computer, I decided to try plugging it into my USB hub on my desktop. This makes it easier for me to get to, especially considering the short 17" length of the iMic's USB cable. Lo and behold, the iMic worked flawlessly plugged into my USB hub.

I also tried using my old Apple microphone from my G3, and in this case, Griffin's recommendation holds true: the Apple microphone does not work on the iMic.

I used
Sound Studio to try some sample recordings, and the recordings were easily done and came out great. I also tried using the "New Sound" button under Apple's Sound control panel (alert tab), and that recorded just fine as well.

After a reboot, I found that the Sound input would switch back to the default of CD, so if you need to use the microphone on subsequent reboots, remember to go back into the Sound control panel and switch the input to "Line In" again. On occasion, I noticed that the Line In option would not show up, but I found that unplugging and replugging in the iMic would easily resolve that.

One of the settings I tried on the Sound control panel is the "Play sound through output device" checkbox. This is so you can hear the recording as it is being recorded. I had used this commonly when I used to record with the old Apple microphones using the built-in audio in ports. However, using this setting with the iMic proved to be a different experience. There is a definite lag between the audio in and the audio out when using the iMic to record sounds with a microphone. The sound goes in, and the output is delayed, therefore the microphone picks up the sound, thereby sending it back in for recording, and back out, and so on. The net result is a funky echo effect. As a novelty, it's kind of fun to play with, as you can make all kinds of interesting sounds through simple actions like clapping your hands. The novelty eventually wears off (sooner if your girlfriend is complaining about it). To eliminate the echo effect caused from the lag, simply turn off the "Play sound through" checkbox.

As mentioned earlier, the iMic sports both audio in and audio out ports. Although the audio out port worked fine, I didn't find a need for it. The new Macs still come with the built-in audio out port (knock on wood), and my port is already happily being used by my iSub and Sound Sticks setup.

Conclusion
Griffin's iMic is a welcome addition to the world of Macintosh add-ons. This small piece of hardware brings back the horribly missed audio in port for your Mac. It doesn't support the old Apple microphones, but there are plenty of inexpensive and better quality microphones around that work great with the iMic. Now you can record your personal "alert" sounds again, or use Sound Studio to make more elaborate recordings. If you have professional DJ needs, the lag in the iMic's input to output may be less than desireable; but for the less crucial demands, the iMic fills a gap for the everyday sound recording buffs (just be sure to turn off "play through" to eliminate the echo effect).

Pros

  • Brings back the Audio In port to the Macintosh
  • Supports standard desktop microphones as well as externally amped microphones
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Noticeable lag from input to output
  • Does not support the old Apple microphones
  • Poor documentation


Mac Rating

4 out of 5 Mice