For one-man-band journalists doing basic newsgathering or interviews, the Apple iPhone offers a lot of advantages. Third parties have made accessories that can transform the iPhone into a high-quality 4K video recording system. Now, Samson has joined the club by making the first wireless mic system for iPhones.
Samson sent us their Go Mic Mobile wireless system, billed as the first professional wireless microphone system that connects directly to smartphones without the need for adaptors or interfaces. It’s a dual-channel, digital wireless system operating in the 2.4GHz band. It is designed to work over short distances — up to 100-feet between the transmitter and receiver.
Samson’s system automatically selects the clearest operating channel for the location, while uncompressed, low latency audio transmission prevents audio sync issues. The basic system with receiver and belt-pack transmitter and lav is priced at $299.00, while the Go Pro Q8 hand mic is priced at $99.00. That is a very low price and one wonders if the system is as reliable as more expensive competitors such as the Sennheiser AVX ($699) or the Rode Rodelink Wireless Filmmaker ($399) kits.
One unique feature is that the Go Mic Mobile receiver mounts directly to smartphones, tablets, digital cameras and tripods using the included mounting accessories (bracket arms, hook-and-loop fasteners, ¼-inch–20 adapter and shoe mount adapter).
From there, plug the receiver into the iOS device via the included Lightning cable. Outside of audio interfaces, I know of no other wireless mic that’s as small and connects to the Lightning connector. The included USB Micro B or USB-C cables can be used to connect to Android (5.0 Lollipop or later) devices, digital cameras, camcorder or computers. There is also a provided cable for older iPhones with mic jacks and a 3.5-inch cable for audio recorders and cameras.
Samson Q8 Hand Mic.
The Go Mic Mobile offers two microphone transmitter configurations. The Q8 dynamic handheld and the LM8 omnidirectional lavalier with belt-pack. Each system can pair and operate up to two transmitters simultaneously with its receiver. The two signals can be mixed together or recorded separately for additional post-production flexibility.
Though the design of Samson Go Mic Mobile system is excellent, the technology is less so. We found pairing the system simple, but setting levels more difficult. Each transmitter has a tiny control to adjust the input sensitivity and it takes a equally small screwdriver mounted inside each mic or transmitter to adjust the control. Though it was supposed to be set at the factory, we found the adjustments necessary to make the transmitters work optimally.
Samson Go Mic Mobile receiver
There are small LEDs on the receiver that include peak and overload when the signal sent from the transmitter is too high. The idea is to adjust the screw until the level turns read and then back off a little. Then you are to do a test recording. This adjustment is awkward and perhaps too difficult for the intended audience for this low-cost system. I suspect it could result in some poor audio.
Perhaps the biggest downside to the Go Mic Mobile system is random dropout. We found this more prone to happen with the LM8 transmitter than the Q8 hand mic. If the user stays close, the system is pretty reliable. But occasional dropout can occur at less than 100-feet. This means users must always monitor the sound with headphones and be aware that dropout may occur at any time.
Audio quality is OK, but not the best available. The lav mic included with the transmitter is a low-cost, unbranded model. This should be expected in such an inexpensive system, but a better mic would no doubt improve the audio. The hand mic sounds better, especially for interviews. But it should be used with a windscreen, which is not included.
Samson LM8 belt-pack
Samson deserves high marks for designing a new system that looks good on paper for iPhone videographers. The iPhone mounting and Lightning connector are first rate ideas. But to keep the retail price low, I’m afraid Samson may have cut some corners that could make the system less desirable for users needing professional quality results.
Yes, the Rode and Sennheiser systems cost more, but they are more reliable and easier to use. The Sennheiser AVX requires no user adjustment at all. That’s a breakthrough in itself. However, the AVX system doesn’t have a Lightning connector for iPhones.
As with all audio gear, the buyer gets what he pays for. On the low end, the Samson system offers a lot, if the user pays attention to the details. That, of course, is a big “gotcha.”
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