Better Audio for Your iPad: External Microphones

Can you use a microphone like this on an iPad? Indeed you can!
Can you use a microphone like this on an iPad? Indeed you can!

Moving Beyond Built-In Mics On iOS Devices

The built-in microphone on iOS devices definitely has its limitations. It does not always give you the range or depth of audio that you want, and the quality is mediocre at best. So, whether you are podcasting or recording video, there is no doubt that a good external microphone will greatly improve the quality of your recorded audio. What follows are some of the best wired and wireless mics for iPad and iPhone users.

Connecting USB Microphones to an iPad

Now you might be thinking that there is no way a USB microphone can work with an iPad, but you would be wrong. Many do, and they work very well. How? With the help of Apple's USB Camera Connector kit you can successfully connect a variety of USB devices to use with your iPad. USB microphones are one such device.

Not all USB microphones will necessarily work with an iPad. It just depends on how much power they draw from the device. However, a company called Blue makes a number of USB microphones that have been tested and confirmed to work with iOS devices via Apple's USB Camera Connector kit. The Blue Yeti and Snowball are two such mics that can be used to record audio on an iPad with exceptionally good results.

All you need to do is plug one end of the USB camera connector into the charging port of the iPad, and then connect the microphone to the USB adapter. Once connected you can open the app of your choice to record the audio you need. Just be sure to get the right Apple accessory for your iPad because there are two distinct versions - one for iOS devices that have a 30-pin connector, and one for iOS devices that have a lightning connector.

Note: You cannot connect a USB microphone to the iPad or iPhone without Apple's USB Camera Connector because these devices have no built-in USB ports.

Connect XLR Mics to iOS via the iRig Pre/Pro

If you already have microphones that use a standard XLR connector, you also have the option of using them with an iPad or iPhone provided you invest in the iRig Pre or the iRig Pro. Many schools and organizations already have XLR mics as part of a PA system, so the iRig Pre option can often be a very cost effective way to get some good quality audio recordings done on iOS devices.

The iRig Pre connects to the iPad or iPhone via the headphone jack. If you have a protective case on the device, be sure that the connection to the headphone jack is a good one and not obstructed in any way by the case. To connect the microphone, you plug it in to the bottom of the iRig Pre unit where the XLR connector is. You can adjust the gain by using the adjustment wheel on the side of the unit, and even plug in some headphones so that you can monitor the audio recording in real time.

The video below gives a demo of how this works in practice and provides a number of examples to show how this might work.

The iRig PRE Helps Connect XLR Mics to iOS Devices

Microphones That Connect Directly to iPads & iPhones

If you would prefer not deal with adapters and pre-amps, there are a variety of microphones that will plug directly into your iOS device so that you can record audio quickly and efficiently. Things like the iRig Mic, Blue Microphone's Mikey Digital, or iRig's Mic Cast plug directly into the headphone jack or the charging port of your iPad to record audio.

Some will inevitably work a little better than others, but they are almost always an improvement over built-in microphone recordings. They are better at isolating sound recorded in a noisy environment, and should give you recordings that are crisper sounding and more professional. Many of these microphones are also lighter and more portable than traditional microphones.

Mr. Drozd, a high school teacher from New York, put together the video below to show a before and after comparison of the iRig Mic when plugged into an iPod Touch. The difference in quality, as you will hear, is noticeable.

Before and After Audio Comparisons with the iRig Mic

Wireless Microphones for iPads and iPhones

So, can you go wireless with your iOS audio? Yes, and the quality is still very good. All you really need is a compatible Bluetooth microphone and receiver. This is a popular accessory for camcorders because it gives you the flexibility to record your audio at greater distances. However, with only a small adaptation, you can do the very same thing on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

To get started, you need to turn on the microphone and the receiver and make sure that they are paired over Bluetooth. The microphone should then be attached, or placed near, to the sound source you want to record. The receiver gets plugged into the headphone jack of the iOS device with the aid of a 3.5mm four-pin audio splitter.

The audio you get may not be quite as good as the audio you get with a wired microphone solution, but it is still much better than what you would get from the built-in microphone, and you have the added bonus of being up to 150 feet away from your iOS device. This makes it a very useful solution for video work on an iPad or iPhone.

Check out the video below for a demonstration of how this works in practice.

Decisions, Decision, Decisions!

So, which one is best? The short answer is, it depends. I know that sounds like I am sitting on the fence, but it's true. It depends on your budget, the type of audio you are recording, the environment you are in, and the quality that you need. All of them offer better sound than Apple's built-in microphone, but each have their pros and cons depending on your needs.

However, whether you are recording green screen movies on your iPad, capturing audio from a musical instrument, or building segments for a podcast, an external microphone for the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch is definitely the way to go.

Cast Your Vote in the iOS Microphone Poll

Which method do you prefer for capturing audio on an iOS device?

  • The built-in microphone
  • USB microphones connected via the camera connector kit
  • XLR microphones connected via the iRig Pre/Pro
  • Microphones that connect directly to the headphone jack or charging port
  • A wireless Bluetooth microphone and receiver
See results without voting

© 2014 Jonathan Wylie

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    Jonathan Wylie profile image

    Jonathan Wylie59 Followers
    35 Articles

    Jonathan is a certified teacher who taught in the UK & the US. He now works as an instructional technology consultant for Grant Wood AEA.

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