As someone keen on recording voiceovers and podcasts from an iPad, I needed a Lightning-enabled microphone that could handle such a task. While it’s true that Apple’s Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter allows iOS to interface with a variety of microphones that it wasn’t able to before, I like the idea of keeping my setup as minimal and as dongle-free as possible.
Enter the Shure MV5 Digital Condenser Microphone. This is a MFi-certified Lightning-enabled microphone that works with the iPad or iPhone using a single microUSB to Lightning cable. By switching out the Lightning cable for a traditional USB cable, you can use the same microphone with your Mac or PC.
This microphone is a digital condenser that can be powered via Lightning or USB. It doesn’t require any special adapters or power supplies to work, just plug it in, launch an app, and start recording.
Size and build quality
Since I planned on using this microphone for podcasting on the go using Ferrite, it had to meet a few of my requirements. Most importantly, I needed something that was small and easy to travel with. At only 5.5-inches tall when mounted to the included stand, the Shure MV5 easily meets my needs in that area.
Build quality-wise, the Shure MV5 is a mixed bag. It does feature an all aluminum stand, but the stand is so lightweight that the setup is top-heavy when the microphone is mounted on the stand. The thread mount screw hole on the stand is wide, allowing you to move the position of the microphone forward or backward to achieve different firing angles.
The microphone itself is almost all plastic, and features a red windscreen underneath its plastic grill. I’ve dropped the MV5 several times off my desk, thanks to how lightweight the stand is. Even with those drops, the plastic didn’t crack, chip, or dent in any way.
Shure offers the MV5 in two flavors — a black version with a red windscreen, and a more understated grey version with a black windscreen — both for $99. I personally opted for the black+red combo, as it lends the microphone its own unique personality.
Mounting the microphone
Although the Shure MV5 comes with an aluminum stand that allows the position of the microphone to be slightly adjusted, as mentioned, I find that the stand is too light, making it easy for the microphone to tip over if you’re not careful. The good news is that the thread mount found on the bottom of the MV5 is a standard 1/4″ camera tripod thread, allowing it to connect to a variety of stands, booms, etc.
Headphone monitoring is super-important for recording, since it allows users to monitor their sound input and gauge whether they’re speaking to loud or too soft. Thankfully, the Shure MV5 features a 3.5mm headphone output to tap into, allowing me to use my Audio-Technica ATH-M50x cans for monitoring.
The microphone also features a headphone monitor volume adjustment that can help users to acquire just the right amount of volume in their headphones.
For comparison, the $229 Apogee MiC 96k is one of the best sounding portable microphones that money can buy, but it doesn’t include an output for headphone monitoring. Although the sound quality of the Apogee MiC 96k is superb for such a portable microphone, it can be challenging to record in some situations because it lacks the realtime monitoring ability.
Mute switches seem to be hard to come by on microphones, which is one reason why the best-selling Blue Yeti has always been a favorite of mine. That microphone features an easy to access mute switch that makes it simple to suppress coughs and other inevitable background noise that you encounter when podcasting or doing vocals.
The Shure MV5 features a mute switch, although it’s not in the most ideal area. The mute switch for the MV5 is found on the back of the microphone, right below the DSP button that lets you change the microphone’s recording modes. To be fair, Shure seems to have opted for the best spot available, it’s just that real estate is hard to come by on a microphone this small.
ShurePlus Motiv app
For iOS users, Shure offers its own ShurePlus Motiv app, which works specifically with the MV5 and other products in Shure’s iOS-enabled microphone lineup. With the Motiv app, you can adjust mic gain directly in app, change the sample rate, change DSP modes, and individually change compressor, limiter, and equalizer settings.
The physical DSP button lets you cycle through three preset modes — vocals, flat, or instrument — which helps mold the sound based on recording application.
Settings that you change inside of the Motiv app stay with the microphone, even when used within other apps or on your Mac. That means that you should use caution when adjusting compressor, gain and equalizer settings, because the changes can remain until you update them, or reset to defaults via the app’s settings.
Of course, the Motiv app lets you record directly in app as well, but I prefer to use third-party apps over Shure’s built-in recording option. Wooji Juice’s Ferrite Recording Studio is my favorite iOS app for recording podcasts and voiceovers, and it’s something that any iOS user who’s serious about recording on the go should be familiar with.
If the sound quality of the Shure MV5 was subpar, you might as well throw everything else out of the window. Fortunately that won’t be necessary. The sound quality afforded by the Shure MV5 is very good, and certainly many times better than using the built-in microphone on pretty much any device, Mac or iOS.
Sound is crisp, clear, and can be tuned to specific environments thanks to the hardware DSP settings and the in-app tuning made possible by Shure’s Motiv app. Depending on your recording style, and more importantly what you’re recording, you may not even need a pop filter. I’ve gone pop-filter-less over the last few weeks with the Shure MV5, and I’m satisfied with the results.
Obviously, the closer you are to the microphone, the warmer the sound, but it also means having to deal with plosives more frequently. As long as you keep your mouth at least 5-inches away from the microphone, I think that you’ll be fine without a pop filter, as the microphone does feature a built-in windscreen underneath its plastic grill. If you’re someone who does voiceovers and you enjoy having a warmer sound, then simply invest in an inexpensive pop filter if the need arrises.
For only $99, the Shure MV5 is a versatile microphone that’s easy to travel with. It works with iOS, Mac, and PC, and it only requires a single cable connection to start recording.
The build quality isn’t the greatest, as the microphone itself is made of plastic, but it’s hard plastic that has stood up to several drops and tumbles thus far. Get used to knocking this microphone over, though, especially when using the headphone monitoring, as the aluminum stand is frustratingly lightweight.
Sound quality, while not venturing into the area of some of the more pricier XLR condenser microphones fed with 48v of phantom power, is surprisingly good. If you’re looking for a way to improve the sound quality of your iOS recordings, or simply want a portable microphone that can be used on both your Mac and iOS devices without jumping through a bunch of hoops, the $99 Shure MV5 is a good microphone that’s easy to recommend.