Mikme: The Best Wireless Microphone?

Mikme wireless microphone

In the world of microphones and pro audio in general, it often feels like there hasn't been any new tech or innovation for a long time. 

Classic industry standard shotgun microphones like the Sennheiser MKH-416 are still the industry standard today, and it was developed in the 1970s. Preamps and mixer boards have adapted into all sorts of computer and tablet interfaces, but recording professionals still look to age-old analog pre's as the very best in the field.

Some companies are figuring out how to merge the classic, time-proven audio standards with current digital needs. Chameleon Labs, for example, is a company that's creating original analog preamps and mixers for a digital industry.

And microphones like the Schoeps SuperCMIT are combining industry microphone workhorses with totally innovative noise reduction and directivity technology built in.

One day we will get our hands on the SuperCMIT for a real review - we've tested it at a trade show and it's amazing. But it's also over $4000.

schoeps supercmit microphone

So what about the rest of us mere mortals? What's happening in the audio world that can improve the lives and workflows of us everyday documentary filmmakers and corporate videographers?

Using a Wireless Microphone in Video Production

In this article we take a look at the Mikme, a brand new microphone that was first launched as a highly successful Indiegogo campaign about two years ago. It was completed recently and is now available on B&H Photo Video.

mikme wireless microphone recording videography

For a few years now, we've been predicting a major shift in the way that audio will be captured in factual video production. Yes, you can get amazing microphones that can reach farther and farther, and their ability to reduce unwanted off-axis noise is getting better, but the truth is there's no substituting for mic placement.

The most amazing and expensive mics in the world - placed far away from a subject - will never be as good as a cheap run of the mill mic placed inches from the a sound source. 

So even if you have a $4000 SuperCMIT sitting on your camera, or a very nifty Sound Shark Parabolic Microphone (which we reviewed here), you won't get nearly as good of an audio recording as you would with a $20 lavaliere mic placed on your subject.

It's simple physics. Either move the camera and on-camera mic close to the subject, or attach a wireless microphone.

long-shotgun-parabolic-microphone-review

Wireless/Wired Lavs vs Standalone Recorders

If you're attaching a wireless microphone to a human subject, ​then the standard wireless transmitter attached to a lav continues to be the go-to for most documentary and corporate shooters. A Sennheiser G3 kit, or a Rode RODELink, or a Sony UWP-D11 if you shoot on a Sony camera, are seen in just about every gear bag. 

​But what if you want to place a microphone on a subject, and not monitor it with a wireless receiver? Or what if you want to place a small microphone near the sound source that isn't a person. Even if you're using a standalone non-wireless recorder like the Tascam DR-10L, it can seem a little absurd to wrap an expensive lav around a transmitter or recorder, just to record some audio remotely.

tascam-recorder

​For situations when you simply want to place a microphone somewhere and record some sound, it's better to skip the Lav wraparound and just use a  Zoom or Tascam recorder that has built in mics.

The small Zoom H1 or Tascam DR05 would work, or the bigger and more widely used Zoom H4N and Tascam DR100.

But these units are a little over complicated for what we're trying to achieve - can't there just be a record button, physical level button, and that's it?

The GoPro of Audio

What we're getting at is, we're moving to a time where video producers will simply place a little mic with a built-in recorder somewhere near a sound source, press record, and walk away. That's very useful for event shooters, of course, where you could place a few microphones around a conference table, near a podium, in the audience, and so on. But the more exciting development would be using these little microphone/recorders in the field, shooting B-roll on a documentary for example.

Imagine if you had 5 or 10 of these little devices, and you placed them inches from a variety of noise makers in a documentary scene anywhere. You would now have 5 or 10 sound-rich audio clips for B-roll, even while your camera was busy shooting something else.

instamic

For a while we thought that little piece of gear would be the Instamic, actually billed as the "GoPro of Audio". It's also an Indiegogo crowdfunded project like the Mikme. The Instamic is tiny and can be attached or hidden just about anywhere. You could stick one on a skateboard, for example, or under an umbrella in a downfall. What other mic or recorder would you ever do that with?

​As attractive as it seems, the Instamic does have some issues. Well for starters, it's still not available, years after the succesful crowdfund campaign. But even when it does deliver, the issue with Instamic is there's no physical gain button. It listens to a few seconds of audio to determine an appropriate level. You can adjust gain with a smartphone of course, but that gets a little complicated, especially if you have to struggle through Bluetooth pairing/unpairing with multiple Instamics.

There's also the fact that in such a tiny package, the battery life is very limited, and the microphone can only be so good. It'll still be amazing to place a little mic that much closer to sound sources, but the overall audio quality of the Instamic seems like it will be a little disappointment. Time (and reviews) will tell.

What can the Mikme do?

​In lieu of the (still unavailable) Instamic, we bought a Mikme for the express purpose of having a super simple, portable microphone/recorder that we can use for a variety of shooting scenarios.

Can it serve that purpose? Yes, and we'll talk more about that in a minute. But what we've found is the Mikme is actually so much more than we initially thought. It's actually incredibly useful and innovative, which is a saying a lot in the audio field, where hardly anything new really has the power to change the way we approach audio recording.

The Mikme is one of those pieces of gear where you wonder, why hasn't this already been a thing?

Mikme microphone

Mikme specs

Here are the essentials that make up the Mikme:

  • It features a 1-inch gold-plated, phantom powered true-condenser capsule.​
  • It records 24Bit 96kHz studio-grade audio to built-in 16gb of storage. 
  • There's one button on top to start/stop recording, and buttons on the back for level adjustment as well as power on/off and bluetooth pairing. And there's a headphone jack for monitoring or line out. And there's a 3/8" and a 1/4-20" accessory thread on the bottom.
  • It has a USB micro jack for powering and recharging. It also connects to a computer for access to the recorded clips. A future update will enable the Mikme to be used as a USB microphone as well.
  • There's a Mikme app that syncs with an iPhone and automatically replaces the internal microphone, for both audio and video recording.
  • The battery lasts up to 3.5 hours of continued recording, and the internal storage space can record 34 hours of WAV files.
  • It's about the size of a pack of playing cards, if playing cards were square and thicker. More specifically, 2.75 x 2.8 inches, and less than 6 ounces. 
  • The housing around the microphone capsule is itself a shock-mount, enabling handheld and mobile recording on the fly. This thing is meant to be used without requiring any additional accessories.
mikme studio microphone

Mikme was founded by Philipp Sonnleitner, an Austrian sound engineer who worked at AKG previously. He partnered with a few other former AKG colleagues to design the microphone. So unlike many other crowdfund projects, the Mikme is actually made by sound professionals rather than popup design companies.

The story is they wanted to build a simple and elegant microphone/recorder for musicians, journalists, filmmakers, and podcasters to be able to use on the go, but still record studio quality audio. 

Mikme as a Studio and Voiceover Microphone

One of our favorite things about the Mikme is the simplicity of the setup. Anytime we need to record voice overs, or something for Youtube, it always seems like overkill to get out the mixer, mic stand, shock mount, pop filter, XLR cables, the microphone itself, and then a computer or handheld recorder unit. 

Our favorite place to record voice overs is in the closet, among a lot of clothes. The noise proofing is really good, despite how absurd you look. But bringing in all the gear inside a closet is impractical, if not utterly frustrating. 

mikme voice over podcast audio recording

That's why the Mikme is so attractive to us, even if we never pair it with an iPhone to utilize that feature. Just having a really good studio condenser microphone we can pick up, monitor with headphones, and start recording in a matter of seconds - in a closet or otherwise - is a huge relief.

The real boost to the Mikme will be when a firmware update adds USB recording in the future. Right now you can use the 3.5mm headphone/line-out​ jack to go into a mixer or computer, but many computers don't have dedicated mic inputs anymore. Even our iMac 5k Retinas have a combo headphone/mic jack that requires additional accessories to make work.

But being able to plug the Mikme into a computer via USB, and have the constant power so there's no battery limitation, that will make the Mikme an even more desirable microphone for podcasters and filmmakers who need an easy way to mic themselves in a home studio environment.​ No accessories needed.

mikme usb microphone podcast

​Mikme as an IPhone Wireless Microphone

The true power of the Mikme is in its ability to sync with an iPhone. It uses a patented Bluetooth protocol that securely streams and syncs the audio with the phone.

So if you ​are someone who shoots videos with your iPhone, you can simply pair the Mikme, place it near your subject, and then walk away and shoot from a distance. Meanwhile, you're getting audio capture that is very close to the source.

Mikme video iphone

That's such a neat plug and play way of adding professional audio to the iPhone, it kind of makes us want to start shooting more video with our phones. Even if it's just family events, concerts, or vacation videos, the simplicity of bringing along just the Mikme along with the phone is tempting. 

Here's a video demonstrating what this iPhone/Mikme combination looks and sounds like:

Now, what about more professional cinema cameras, or DSLR and mirrorless cameras? Bluetooth audio input are not built into any of these cameras yet, but there are Bluetooth receivers out there that could plug into your camera's 3.5mm mic input.

We haven't had a chance to test if that works yet, but all that would need to happen is a Bluetooth pairing between the Mikme and a Bluetooth receiver.

However, that's probably not entirely necessary, because most DSLR/mirrorless and cinema camera shooters are capable of editing their videos. So you can always record scratch camera audio and then sync the Mikme track in post production. The reason why the iPhone combination is attractive is many smartphone shooters - both hobbyists and vloggers - upload their videos directly online without editing them first.

mikme journalist

Conclusion

We are very excited about keeping a Mikme in our kit at all times, and we believe many other videographers and filmmakers would find it very handy to have around.

Of course, it's most useful for musicians, journalists, and podcasters, but anyone who records audio for a living should be interested in something new and innovative like the Mikme.

mikme iphone

Beyond the quality of the audio, the ease of use, and the overall design, what we really like about Mikme is the support. You can go to the Mikme website and there's a chat that instantly pops up. We've taken advantage of that chat several times, and the Mikme people have been quick to respond.

Crowdfunded projects have a tendancy to be really exciting at first, and then turn sour when customer support is lacking. So it's a relief to see this product not only succesfully deliver to its crowdfund early adopters, but also make it's way to online retailers and build an excellent customer support team in a short amount of time.

You can find the Mikme at B&H Photo Video