iMic by Griffin Technology

77 Comments

iMicI’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.

77 Comments

Esther

Thank you for the input. Is it possible that this is a sound distortion (pitch)? If it’s possible would equalizers adj. would help?

I’ll look into your 2 suggestions for import alternatives.

Steve

The iMic can in no way change the “speed” of the incoming sound. If the casette deck plays a 60Hz wave, then the iMic will receive a 60Hz wave and transform it into a 60Hz digital wave. In order for the sound to sound speeded up, the iMic would have to be able to magically output sound that the casette deck has not yet played, because that sound is in the future. Hmm, have you checked for temporal anomalies around the iMic?

It could be that Final Vinyl is doing something goofy with the source. I never trusted that app very much – it’s not all that well-written. Try Cacophony or Audio Hijack.

Esther

Just bought an imic and am trying to use it to convert cassette to CD. My problem is when I listen using imic and final vinyl the cassette sound is speeded up almost like half-speed of FF>> (listened in preview mode, not record using final vinyl). Previous to using imic, I used SoundStudio to import and speed was normal. Playing from cassette unit, sound speed normal. Any solutions why using imic does this? What am I missing? Used the little black switch on imic and that only seemed to change volume. As you can tell, I’m a real newbie at this.

Owen

“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.”

Is there any chance you could explain on how to do this ? i have a mac mini, just got the imic and cubase SX can’t recognise the input ? – but it’s ok in garageband etc.

Thanks

Pierre

can anybody help with an imic problem? if i understand the instructions correctly, when recording the switch on the imic should be slid towards the mic icon -yet, when i do so i only get sound through the right channel of my speakers. if the switch is pointed towards the speaker icon, i get sound through both channels, but it is incredibly distorted (even with the input levels pulled right down).
surely i am missing something dead obvious here…

tony m, just tony m

Hey TK–
I’ve got CHUD, now what? I’m not a programmer, I’m using a Macintosh, y’know? 8-)
Can you guide me to which tool in CHUD to use to get to the “nap” prefs you’re talking about? Thanks.

kaputto

hi,

i use the imic on a g3 500 powerbook because the internal
audio is damaged.
im really satisfied with my imic, but i have one problem.
i can’t use the imic input source in cubase sx. you wrote
that it was no problem for you, perhaps you can help me.
under VST-Multitrack i can choose the imic audio, but under VST SYSTEM LINKS the popup for the input is empty.

thanks

Tony M, Just Tony M

Thanks for clearing up my distress over the “funny” little system noises. I’ll try to turn off the “nap” feature on my iMac. What puzzled me is how I didn’t hear the noices the other times I’ve used the iMic–I think I would have noticed?
Am I the only person who thinks Soundstudio is more reliable than Final Vinyl or Roxio?

eric

teekay, your input has been very helpful; I haven’t meant to imply that it’s not of value or impugn your veracity. You helped me make my decision, after all ;-). The iMic is overkill for me right now, anyway, for sure.

Now I’m really shutting up…

teekay

That’s certainly true too, and you’re also right that I’m just speaking from personal experience which so far has been good. (I also can’t comment on anything more demanding than Skype.)

eric

No, I follow you. At $25-$39, the iMic is in the same range as USB headsets — I know that now that I’ve actually seen some.

But there’s still risk involved. You’re telling me it can handle the line volume of an unpowered headset mic just fine — other sources say that the input from the boom mic on a headset is barely audible when input through the iMic.

The risk is much lower for me to spend $12 on a cheap audio adapter, like the one I just found at Geeks.com, that’s designed for mic volumes.

Thanks for the input, though.

teekay

Hold on, that’s exactly my point — I decided it was better to shell out the money for an iMic and then some more for a cheap non-USB, line-in headset than for a USB headset. The USB headset may have been overall cheaper than my combination but when it’s gone, it’s gone; when my cheap headset is gone, I go out and buy another one to plug into my iMic.

Of course an important factor is whether you’re on the road a lot. The iMic is *real* light but it’s still yet another item to shlep with you. And then there’s the issue of USB ports, of which my PowerBook only has two.

eric

Headsets and headphones, with their thin, friable wiring, are essentially disposable. So I shudder at the thought of paying a USB premium for them. And in fact, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever actually seen one… Bluetooth would be nice, if there were a good way to deal with the power issue, but I don’t see how you get a long talk-time out of your headset with Bluetooth. In my work, it has not been uncommon for me to spend several hours a day on conference calls.

Anyway, I’m cluttering the thread, so I’ll shut up now. The USB headset might be a better idea than this, so I’ll go look for one now.

teekay

Well, of course the far easier route is to get a USB headset, which gets its power directly from the USB — of course, these units are also more expensive.

eric

Good to hear. I’m getting confusing signals on this, and just poking around a little I have yet to find a simple way to just plain amplify the line-in to mic levels. Basically, this tells me that its infeasible to use a headset with a PowerBook (or any Mac, for that matter) — which kind of makes it a dead-loss for road warriors, as far as I can see, but then I’m not in Apple’s marketing and product development councils, so maybe they’ve got some mystical wisdom on this that I’m not privy to…

teekay

Eric, if you have one of these babies you *don’t* need a powered Mic, at least not on the PowerBook (dunno about the Mini). I use a cheap non-USB Logitech headset plugged into an iMic to do Skype, and it works like a charm. (17″ PB).

eric

Erg. Should have read at beginning of last paragraph, “If I’m not mistaken…”

eric

I’ve been looking at a lot of t Amazon reviews and a lot of professional and audiophile reviews, and there seems to be a real gap in understanding on what this unit does and does not do.

First, I see a lot of DIY folks who like it; it seems to hit a sweet-spot in cost and features for them.

But OTOH, I see a lot of people getting it, and expecting it to solve the basic problem with the Mini’s lack of a mic-in jack, or address the fact that PowerBooks only have a line-in jack, and no mic-in.

This doesn’t address either of those needs: You still need a powered microphone, apparently, at least from what I can see so far, in order to do something simple like hook up a headset to use Skype.

So, if I’m mistaken this really doesn’t do much for you unless you’re using it to do audio recording. It doesn’t address the need for a simple headset input on Mac laptops. Am I mistaken, here? I’d really like to know; this is the problem *I* need to solve, and was hoping this device could help me with.

teekay

Stupid newbie question: I bought a cheap Logitech headset to use for VoIP but neglected to consider that the mic needs to be powered, and this little unit doesn’t have a USB connector. Could it draw juice from an iMic?

mb

Love the iMic! I just got it for my podcast home studio.

I use it to hook up my Powerbook G4 to a Behringer UB802 Mixer with a Shure SM-58 mic, so that I can do better-sounding podcasts. Great little device.

Cap'n Ken

I’m also a fan of the iMic. It’s connected to my Mini and I use it a lot to make digital audio out of tunes broadcast over Sirius (Underground Garage rocks).

My trick is that I have Dish Network, which carries the Sirius channels in their digital audio content. So I record a few hours of Underground Garage on the DVR and then run Audacity on the Mini using the iMic input. I go PIP with the Mini and the recorded Sirius (Dish runs the song information ala MTV) and fast forward until I find a song I want. Then it’s pretty much like the old days of recording albums onto cassette. Play the tunes on the DVR and record them through iMic and Audacity. Clean up the intro and outro, save them and import into iTunes.

Only issue I’ve seen with iMic is that it doesn’t seem to work through the (cheap) USB expansion port I bought to give me more inputs to the Mini. I don’t think that’s the iMic’s fault, though.

mediaguru

CAP’N: I do the same thing with DTV. I love metal so I’ll record 2 hours of metal on my DVD-Ram drive. Then I scan through each artist and when I find something I like I record it and write the name onto my “bands I like list.”

Alboyjr

I love my iMic. Use it with a dual G5 (1.8) and system 10.3.9. I have converted a large vinyl library to CD using CD Spin Doctor 2, which is included with Toast. It works well with cassettes, too. A snap to set up and use. Beekeeper, have you thought of using GarageBand for recording?

Steve

I usually record with Cacophony (shareware). It’s a good app, but very slow post-processing large recordings. Record a 10-minute song and when you hit Stop, it will sit there churning for a few minutes. That’s uncalled for. There might be a newer version than what I have, which might address it. Hopefully.

But yeah, the iMic is a very nice little device. I’ve had one for, hmm, seems like a year or two. I used it to transfer a bunch of tapes and records.

The one thing I wish they’d do is put some sort of markings next to the input level switch. I can never remember which direction means mic and which means line.

beekeeper

I’ve been using one for about 6 months now to get decent recording of rehearsals with my band(s) straight to my iBook (G4 1.2Ghz, 768MB RAM) with a little Sony stereo mic.

I have noticed that the recording kinda freezes sometimes which results in a few seconds of sound not being recorded. No blank space either, the timline stops also, meaning I get skips in the recorded sound.

This happened on both my iBook, and my Dual G4 machine at home. It could be an issue with the app I’m using (Audacity) and not the iMic. Any ideas on another app (cheap/free preferred) I could try to hopefully eliminate the skip?

_cheers
_bkpr

Janette Gomez-winer

I have one. I love it. I used to do theatre and needed to convert cassette to cd. I also have had to do editing. I use Sound Studio and it works well for me.
8-)

Nick Santilli

got one myself. works great – but I’m not doing the pro level stuff you’re doing either. I like how OS X automatically switches from internal speakers to usb iMic speakers when I’m at home and plug my USB hub in. i like automatic.

Comments are closed.