Field Report: Yellowtec iXm

June 1, 2012


Yellowtec iXm

I remember the first time I read about a certain handheld recorder in a microphone package. I had just gotten my first real job in the industry, filling in over the summer as a mid-day regional radio host. A lover of field work, I was looking to invest in some pro-level equipment of my own, and the all-in-one form factor of that mic-style recorder really caught my eye. Here was a product that combined a pro-spec recorder and a mic, but not in a boxy enclosure, in an actual tube-shaped mic body.

Reading the spec sheet however, I quickly realized there were several drawbacks. First, there was no removable storage. Second, the capsule was fixed, resulting in a more limited unit overall. I ended up not buying that unit myself although I did use one quite a bit when the station where I worked eventually bought a couple.

Why mention all this? Because the Yellowtec iXm is a similar concept, except Yellowtec got it right.

Heavy metal

The iXm combines a digital recorder with a mono microphone, in a familiar handheld format. The unit itself is really well built - all metal by the looks and feel of it and everything feels really sturdy. It's a bit on the heavy side for extended sessions in handheld mode but that's a natural consequence of the all-metal body.

The controls are streamlined. On one side is the record section, comprised of one button for record and one for stop. There's a pre-record buffer that captures whatever has been said in the last 30 seconds.

There is no metering anywhere, and the only indication that you're recording is a solid red light. This is a bit uncomfortable at first, but once you realize the unit takes care of all the gain adjustments - and does a good job at it - you can stop worrying.

Performance at a glance
◊ All-in-one form factor
◊ Interchangeable mic heads
◊ Intelligent leveling
◊ Record buffer
◊ Removable storage

On the other side of the body is the playback section. Here we find the usual play, stop and skip buttons. All buttons also double as configuration controls, such as turning the unit on and off, and putting it in different modes. It may not be the most intuitive approach, but the manual explains it all fairly well.

On the bottom there's a line in and a headphone out, both on 3.5mm jacks. There's also the SD card slot and a battery section for three AA cells. The unit has a rechargeable battery built-in, but the ability to use regular alkaline cells as well could be a lifesaver when working away from a regular power source for long periods of time. Yellowtec claims a maximum total battery life of 14 hours.

- continued on page 2



Sounds "sehr gut"

Interchangeable mic heads from Yellowtec and Beyerdynamic are available.

Interchangeable mic heads from Yellowtec and Beyerdynamic are available.


Sound-wise, the iXm doesn't disappoint. Handling noise is minimal, and the built-in pop filter works fairly well although obviously a windsock is required for outdoor work. The headphone volume can be adjusted if the latest firmware release, which is available for download on the Yellowtec website.

There is a built-in leveler that seems to combine peak limiting with a pretty sophisticated automatic gain control (AGC). Yellowtec calls this "LEA engine," and it basically means you'll get consistent levels at all times as well as slightly increased intelligibility in human voices. It works really well and does not suffer from the "pumping" effect that can occur with lesser-quality AGCs, when recording in areas with a lot of background noise.

One of the main selling points of the iXm is the ability to change mic heads. The iXm is fitted with a system called TOTO, which is short for "twist on, twist off" which is self-explanatory.

There are six different heads to choose from, omnidirectional, cardioid and super cardioid, in a dynamic as well as a condenser version. The dynamic heads are made by Yellowtec themselves, while the condenser line is made by fellow Germans, Beyerdynamic.

I doubt anyone will need all six, but having at least one extra head will make for a more flexible unit overall. Since stations traditionally rely heavily on dynamic mics, the dynamic omni capsule will likely be a good choice. Perhaps a super cardioid would be suitable for working in extremely noisy places like a trade show or sporting event.

Yellowtec
◊ +49 2173 9673 0
yellowtec.com
info@yellowtec.com

All three dynamic heads are clear without sounding harsh, and voices come out sounding natural and focused. The Beyer condenser series is equally good but obviously sounds a bit more hi-fi. Whether that's good or bad is a question of personal taste, but the difference between the dynamic and condenser heads is pretty dramatic and a recording of regular street corner ambience is much more detailed through the omni condenser head than its dynamic counterpart.

The iXm is a really well built unit that sounds good and, for what it is, is really flexible. The automatic gain control works fine and the pre-record buffer will be appreciated by reporters. The iXm is made for mono handheld interview only. But if that's what you want to do, it doesn't get much better (or portable) than this.


Persson is a writer and radio journalist from Sweden.



Comments