When it comes to vlogging with just your phone, the first thing you should buy is a microphone. The native audio from the iPhone is not stellar, to say the least. And a good microphone is the fastest way to bump the quality of a phone video. While for work we use RODE’s $289 Videomic Pro Plus, we got to test its little vlogging buddy, the $79 RODE ME-L.
If you are a TL;DR kind of person, here is the short version, the ME-L is a stellar microphone for $80. Heck, it was still a stellar piece if it was costing $100, but hey! Rode decided to leave some money on the table. Good for us! (If you are not an iPhone person, there is a similar mic, the Videomic-ME that connects to a standard Android/TRRS/headphones connector, and it even costs less money!)
We tested the microphone in various “vlogging” conditions and were quite happy. It handled most situations very well, and when you take into account the small price tag, there are really no complains. (no, RODE are not paying me to say this, I just love this little guy).
Rode ME-L is a bit sensitive to wind noise, as you can see in the “road test”. If you are recording without manual controls (we used the “native” iPhone camera), the compressor in the phone is trying to balance between my voice and the wind. It sounds pretty good for such a small microphone, but you can still hear it. The supplied dead cat handles the wind pretty well. (Now, talking to a phone will not get you any looks, nowadays, but talking to a medium sized fur-ball may, so… Up to you).
The ME-L is just the right amount of directional, you can hear that when we are comparing to the internal iPhone microphone. Instead of mainly picking up my voice it picks up everything at once, in relatively the same loudness.
Just for comparison sake, I also included the Videomic Pro Plus ($289), which illustrates what you’d get for X3.5 the money. It’s an impressive piece of kit and provides super-clean, distinct, clear sounds.
Moving on to two other tests where I was pleasantly surprised. The Airconditioning test, and the small room test. In both tests, the sound was very decent with very little room eco or AC picking up. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a few small touches in Premier or Audition. But even without touching it, the sound it’s probably good enough for iPhone vlogging.
The only test that did not go 100% well was the car test and the sound in that recording was a bit too flat for me, but even that would probably be considered “OKish” for an iPhone blog.
I found two competitors to the ME-L in this price range: Shure MV88 ($149) and Zoom’s IQ6 and IQ7 ($99). While I did not test them, I can say that they are not optimized for vlogging. They point (or down) rather than towards the vlogger. They are also a bit more expensive. I am listing them here, so you can see what’s out there.
The ME-L costs $79.90 over at B&H and feels like a no-brainer if you vlog on an apple device.
P.S. the review itself was recorded on RODE’s Filmmaker Kit, so when you are not seeing any caption, this is the microphone you are hearing.