I’ve been an audio professional for 20+ years. Since the early 90′s I’ve done hundreds of audio transfers to CD. Back in 1993 I was charging $100 per CD with no mastering or editing at all. Back then I had a digidesign system in my old Mac IIvx with a nubus sound card. Getting the system working correctly was a chore and editing took forever. Running a special process on a 5 minute audio file would take anywhere from 15-45 minutes. That audio system alone without the computer was thousands of bucks and it didn’t even work very well or sound that good. Today my Dual G5 crunches much more complex jobs in a few seconds and that expensive audio interface can be replaced by a $39.99 iMic.
I had this little iMic (from Griffin Technology) to do a review on, and coincidentally had to do an audio to CD transfer for a client. In the confusion of getting this unit I received no documentation or software of any kind. I thought “hey, this is the Mac. You don’t need instructions!” I thought correctly.
The first thing I liked about the iMic when I plugged it in was that it uses the USB bus power so it doesn’t have a power cord. I even ran the iMic from the USB on my keyboard. All I need is my 127th unit to plug in power somewhere. I also like the fact that I can move the unit from computer to computer.
The 2nd thing I liked was that I didn’t need to install any software since the driver is built into the OS. In my case: OSX 10.3.9. Using the sound control under the system preferences I was able to select the iMic as my input and output. I was also able to adjust the input level which is very important for good recordings. The iMic has 2 1/8″ jacks, one for a line out and one for mic/line in. There’s a little black switch that changes the iMic between mic and line. Trust me, you don’t want to select mic when using a line input! It will distort like crazy.
I chose to use Cubase SX to be my recording software. I was able to configure SX to utilize the audio ins and outs of the iMic in just a few seconds. I started the recording and heard this terrible crackling. I thought the iMic was distorting or having problems. I checked all my settings and levels and all was right. So I ran a different signal into the iMic there was no crackle. As it turns out, this audio cassette I was transferring was originally a recording from vinyl. You remember vinyl don’t you? Those big black disc shaped things that sounded like popcorn?
The sound quality of the iMic was easily equal to that of my USB Audio Duo by M-Audio. According to Griffin Technology they use the same USB audio “codec” (code/decode) found in many “professional” USB audio devices. The Duo does have many more “pro” features but is also about 10 times bigger and costs about 8 times as much. The iMic also samples at 24 bit which gives it a much wider dynamic range and better signal to noise (S/N) ratio.
I did have a few problems when I tried to use the iMic with Bias’ Peak 4.Peak would boot up and display an error stating that it couldn’t use core audio. I tried a few times to switch Peak to the iMic but alas, no sound and then Peak locked up. On my particular machine this does not happen very often.
Griffin Technology also states that they isolate the noise of the computer from the unit. In my case I did have noise problems through the iMic. But this noise was due to the problem that I and many dual G5 owners have with processor cycling and power supplies. There is some glitch in the design of many G5′s that sends strange static and chirping noises through all audio devices. The resolution I found after tons of research was to turn off napping in the system prefs. To do that you must have the Apple Developer Tools and CHUD installed.
I really like the iMic. The quality and convenience you get for $39.99 is worth every penny.