Tips for Better Audio Recordings on your Phone
If you’ve got a phone then you’ve got a passable video and audio recorder in your pocket. But here are some tips to make the audio quality better at source
The audio and video capabilities of modern phones is incredible and many content creators use them for recording their videos and voiceovers
In this article we’re going to look at ways to make the highest quality recordings with your phone including choosing your location and how you position your phone for recording. We’ll finish up with a quick look at phone specific external mics and how easily they can integrate into your phone recorder set up.
Incoming messages, notifications or calls can easily disrupt your audio recording adding interference, clicks, rings and vibration noise. The simplest solution is to temporarily disable all connectivity using airplane mode. Just remember to deactivate this when you’ve finished recording.
Phones have multiple microphones and they are used to perform different functions including noise cancellation, phone calls and of course audio recording. However, it is important to establish which mic is used by which app. For example, on an iPhone video recording uses the mic alongside the camera, meanwhile the voice recorder uses the mic at the bottom. When you’ve established which is being used, direct it accordingly.
The microphone on your phone picks up a combination of direct and background sound and this balance affects the overall outcome. Try to position your phone nearer to the source sound. This will achieve a more usable balance between background noise or reverb and the subject audio.
Indoor ambience may seem insignificant at the time, but when you listen back later it can be unpleasant and dominate the sound you’ve recorded, particularly if you’re trying to record dialogue or spot sounds. Check the ambience of the space you’re recording in by clapping your hands. If the space is too reverberant, seek out areas that are upholstered or carpeted as they may deliver a better overall balance.
To save storage space phones often use data compressed formats such as mp3 and this compromises your audio at source. Check your audio settings and look for WAV or lossless. Select the highest quality available.
Integrated microphones are susceptible to handling noises such as rustling and bumps. They can also be accidentally covered resulting in muffled audio. Both can be tricky to fix later but are thankfully easy to avoid. As mentioned phones use multiple mics, so first check which mic is used for the recordings you’re making. Then ensure that you don’t cover up the mic or touch it during recording.
Although phone microphones seem less susceptible to windy conditions than studio microphones, strong wind can still compromise your recording. Normally we’d reduce this by using a fluffy windshield, but you’ll struggle finding one to fit your phone. As an alternative try shielding the mic, either with your hands or simply by positioning yourself between the oncoming wind and the phone.
Some phones now include quite advanced audio options designed to improve the audio captured when videoing. The latest is audio zoom, a feature that attempts to match the audio focus to the zoomed focus of the video. Take time to investigate your phone’s advanced audio features and make sure you know in advance if they are activated or not.
There are many recording apps available for phones, offering enhanced flexibility and control over performance. Options include more control over the recording format including type, sample rate and bit depth, selection of which mic is used, manual adjustment of recording levels, pre-processing and and even automatic recording based on the input level.
Whether you want to record in mono or stereo depends on the purpose of your recording. Mono is okay for dialogue and stereo more suitable for capturing overall location sound. Different recording apps on your phone are designed for different purposes, and to this end may record in either mono or stereo and may default to one of those settings. What’s more, many phones only have mono microphones onboard, and stereo recordings will require an external mic. So, check your phone’s capabilities and plan your approach accordingly.
Although your phone is a handheld device, as mentioned in tip 6, handling noise can be an issue. For consistent recording it’s often better to sit the phone somewhere stable and the temptation is to leave it flat on a tabletop. However, for the best fidelity try using a mount. There are various options available including handheld, tabletop and gooseneck designs that provide both stability and isolation from contact noises.
In addition to wind, other inclement weather conditions can jeopardise your audio track. Recording in stormy conditions such as heavy rain and thunder is best avoided as it is both unpredictable and may damage your device. Thunder in particular can be very loud, will dominate your audio track and is hard to remove later. However, if you have no choice, be aware that taking cover could create further issues as rain on umbrellas and canopies can be very noisy. If possible, stay out in the open and create a temporary shield just for your phone.
Location noise both indoors and outside can seriously compromise the audio you record. When you’re setting up to record, assess both the general background noise and the potential for spot noise interference. Urban examples may include traffic and building site noise, while rural problems could include birdsong and aircraft. Indoors typical issues would be bells, bleeps and notifications. Finding somewhere quieter to record at the time is often much easier than trying to resolve the issues later.
Most phones include plug in headphones with an incorporated microphone and although the sound of this microphone isn’t particularly great, if you want to capture speech up close in a noisy environment it can be handy. For better fidelity there are a number of phone specific microphones that can provide directional or adjustable stereo audio and often conveniently attach to your phone.
Here are some of our top picks for external mics to suit all budgets:
Joby, the company that brought you the GorillaPod phone tripod now has a range of mics and the best value is the Wavo Mobile. It clips to your phone using an isolating clip and delivers an impressive frequency response (35Hz to 18kHz). The clip incorporates a Rycote shock protection mount, and the bundle also includes a fluffy dead cat windshield for windy conditions.
Available in both jack or lightning connector versions, VideoMic Me is a directional mic that clips onto the body of your smartphone. It includes a mini jack headphone output for monitoring and comes with a fluffy windshield to help cope with windy conditions.
The frequency response is slightly tailored to avoid rumble (100Hz to 20kHz) however at 8cm long and just 34 grams the mic is very discreet.
Shure’s MV88+ mic is a high quality stereo design that connects to your phone via either Lightning or USB-C. The kit includes a phone clamp, mini tripod stand, cables, windscreen and pouch. It uses Shure’s MOTIV audio app for settings including manual gain, and there’s a headphone mini jack on the mic for real time monitoring. It’s the least discreet of our three designs, but delivers the biggest audio improvement.
If you’re looking to upgrade to a standalone mic then check out our guide on which mic is best for you.