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Last week I rounded up a few of the best apps for capturing video and the accessories you might want to consider if you want to get the most out of your iPhone’s video capabilities. Today we’re turning our attention to audio, the achilles heel of any videographer.
It’s a widely regarded belief in the world of moving pictures that bad video can be rescued, edited and cleaned up somewhat, but very little can be done to purify bad audio. Sound quality can make or break your project, and that’s why it’s important to get it right first time.
Let’s take a look at the options.
The internal microphone found on every iPhone is great for phone calls and quick voice memos. Unfortunately when recording video this mic is facing to the right or left of the frame, not at your subject (or you, for that matter). To add frustration, the quality is not great and will leave you disappointed if you intend to do any serious filming with your phone.
Since the iPhone (particularly the 4S) shoots such great video, it’s reassuring to see plenty of solutions for bringing the audio up to scratch.
iPhone 1/8 inch Microphone Adapter – 3.5mm male (around $25)
Unfortunately you can’t just plug a mic straight into your iPhone’s headphone/microphone jack without an adapter. To do so you will need this relatively cheap adapter which will allow you to connect most standard standard 3.5mm microphones to your iPhone for direct recording.
It’s cheap, cheerful and works with a ton of mono and stereo mic solutions. If you’ve already got a suitable microphone then this is the missing link you’ll need to start using it with your iPhone.
Works with: Dynamic microphones, battery powered video/condenser microphones, battery powered lavalier microphones and wireless microphone systems. If your microphone is not powered (no batteries, PC-style mic), then you’ll need a condenser adapter instead.
Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Condenser Mic (around $25)
Coupled with the 3.5mm adapter above, the ATR-3350 clip-on lavalier microphone provides dramatically improved sound quality and comes in at under $50 for the whole kit. While it might seem cheap, the ability to position the mic makes all the difference, and reviews are positive on the whole.
This mono mic is ideal for interviews or narration, with a fairly generous 6 metre cable so you can maintain a sensible shooting distance, just be sure not to trip or tug at the cable too hard.
Audio-Technica ATR-6550 Shotgun Condenser Mic (around $60)
This particular shotgun mic is designed both for short and long-range audio capture. For around $60 this is an affordable kit comprising of a windscreen, jack adapter, stand clamp and battery. This type of mic is ideal if you’re going to be doing one-on-one interviews as its easy to hold and move around.
Prospective buyers might want to consider an additional extension cord as the mic only comes with a metre of cable. Coupled with the first adapter on this list you’ve got a complete mobile interviewing solution and good mid-range recording ability for around $80.
Tascam iM2 Stereo Condenser Microphone (around $60)
The Tascam iM2 is a stereo condenser microphone that sits comfortably at the top of your phone. At around $60, it’s not a bad all-in-one solution for capturing ambient sound, and Tascam claim it will record levels of up to 125 decibels without distorting.
The iM2 has a built-in microphone pre-amp and analog-to-digital converter for its dual microphones. Best of all you won’t need any adapters and it even comes with USB input for powering your iPhone during long recordings or shooting sessions.
Fostex AR-4i Audio Interface (around $200)
If you’re in need of a stereo solution that’s mounted directly on the camera, then the Fostex AR-4i will probably appeal to you. The system uses the dock connector as opposed to the 3.5mm stereo port, and comes with its own on-board analog-to-digital converter for better sound quality.
The iPhone sits in the adapter which has three stereo line-in ports and comes with two microphones which can be adjusted optimal range. The adapter can be used in landscape mode as a mobile shooter or in portrait mode as a mic stand – ideal for podcasting or voice-over work.
VeriCorder’s iPhone XLR adapter opens your phone to a world of professional sound recording possibilities. At $60 for just the adapter this isn’t a cheap solution, especially when you consider you’re going to have to buy an XLR mic too.
The adapter comes with a preamp circuit offering 6.1 decibels of gain as well as a headphone output port for monitoring sound recording levels. This adapter is ideal for bands or videographers who already have a decent XLR microphone ready to go and want to use it with their iPhones.
For an example of an entry-level shotgun microphone in XLR format, check out the Azden Barrell Shotgun Mic for $179 on Amazon. It won’t sing to you like a $1000 Shure or Sennheiser, but offers good performance for the money.
Sony ECM-AW3 Wireless Microphone System (around $200)
If you’re averse to wiring then you might want to think about a wireless microphone. The biggest drawback when it comes to wireless microphones is the cost, which is why for around $200 you can grab the Sony ECM-AW3 single wireless mic and receiver.
Paired with the $25 adapter (first on the list) the ECM-AW3 officially operates at up to 50 metres range, though there are reports that it can exceed this by almost double. You should get about 3 hours out of the Bluetooth system before a battery replacement is required, another price you pay for a wire-free existence.
The sound quality isn’t going to blow you out of the water, but then again $200 is a considerable chunk of your next indie flick budget. If you think you could benefit from a wire-free filming setup then the ECM-AW3 offers good performance without breaking the bank. Of course, if you would like to break the bank and ramp up the quality check out the Sony UWP-V1 instead.
Hopefully there are a few ideas here to help you plan how you’re going to shoot your next movie, documentary or interview with better sound. The adapters mentioned should cover most types of microphones, or if you’re after an all-in-one you might want to think about the AR-4i or iM2 instead. If you have any words of wisdom to share about getting the most out of your iPhone’s video capabilities, leave a comment below.
Have you got an external iPhone mic? Any recommendations? Sound-off in the comments below.
Image Credit: XLR Connectors