If you’ve been paying attention to the iPad 2 news you already know that there are several differences between the various iPad 2 models (WiFi, GSM / AT&T, CDMA / Verizon). But, did you know that not all iPad 2s are equal when it comes to audio quality?
Based on a recent report from iLounge, the microphone on the WiFi and 3G (AT&T and Verizon) versions of the iPad 2 each exhibit different audio characteristics. According to their tests, the iPad 2 WiFi produces “markedly cleaner audio” then both the Verizon and AT&T versions of the 3G iPad 2.
What comes as an even bigger surprise is that iLounge noticed distinct audio difference between the nearly identical iPad 2 3G for AT&T and the 3G iPad 2 model made to run on Verizon’s network. They found that the microphone in both the AT&T and Verizon iPad 2 models sounded “slightly muffled and echo-prone” and that these flaws were more evident on the CDMA model.
The difference in audio quality may have to do with the different placement of the microphone on the WiFi and 3G models. On the WiFi version, the microphone is located above the iPad’s front facing camera towards the edge of the aluminum body. The microphone is located in the same spot on the 3G version but due to the slightly redesigned body, it sits in the iPad’s plastic cellular antenna shield. The different materials around the microphone opening, and the fact that the 3G version has additional components located by the microphone, may be to blame for the difference in audio characteristics.
So, can the fact that the iPad 2′s microphone is housed in plastic or aluminum make that much difference to the sound quality? Based on tests iLounge conducted, they found “the 3G iPad 2’s mic a little inferior to the others, particularly when the screen’s facing you for FaceTime and many other apps, a difference that appears to be related to the acoustic differences in the plastic used in the 3G model versus the fully metal top of the Wi-Fi iPads.”
If you’re planning to use an iPad 2 as a remote recording device, you might want to go with the WiFi only version. If you need to get even better sound input, we recommend using a higher quality external microphone like Blue Microphone’s Snowball or Snowflake. Combine one of these great stereo mics with Apple’s Camera Connection Kit and their new Garageband iPad app and you’ll have a serious mobile recording studio that’s ready to hit the road.