February 11, 2021 4 min read
Have you ever tried shooting a video with your smartphone, only to be disappointed with the quality of your audio afterward? Smartphone cameras can now capture crystal clear footage - some directors in Hollywood now even shoot movies on them - but the technology for built-in microphones hasn’t caught up to that same standard yet.
If you want your smartphone videos to sound as good as they look, the reality is that you’ll have to record with an external microphone that can work around - or eliminate - background noise. With the right microphone for iPhone or Android smartphones, even attentive viewers will be surprised that your footage was shot on a phone.
Smartphones and Background Noise
Background noise refers to the variety of outside factors that cause audio interference during a recording. Wind, traffic, your handling of the mic, and other activity, all of which can usually be identified by ear, can often be heard in the background of a recording as a constant fluctuating din that washes over the source you are trying to capture.
Smartphone microphones do not distinguish between your subject’s audio and background noise, typically resulting in distorted audio when shooting outdoors. An Android or iPhone external microphone can offer one or more solutions for background noise:
Windscreens: Almost all external microphones are packaged with either removable or built-in windscreens. Windscreens, which come in both foam and furry “deadcat” varieties, protect sensitive mics from fluctuations in the air.
Shock Mounts: External microphones are usually attached to their parent recording device via a shock mount, a balanced cradle that absorbs vibrations caused by movement. A microphone with a shock mount will prevent handling noise from being picked up, ideal for those trying to record on the go.
Directional Pickup: Smartphone mics use omnidirectional pickup patterns, meaning they capture audio in all directions. External microphones, particularly shotgun mics, capture audio through a cardioid polar pattern, which only records directly where the mic is pointed. Cardioid mics discriminate between your subject and background interference, and are recommended for recording outdoors.
All Movo microphones are designed with at least one of these features, and sometimes with all three. Depending on the kind of content you’re capturing, certain microphone attributes will be more important than others, so keep that in mind when considering which of the following models you’ll be using for your project:
The Movo EDGE-DI is a wireless lavalier microphone system designed for Apple smart devices with Lightning input jacks. It’s compact receiver plugs directly into your iPhone’s Lightning port and features a headphone monitoring port that will allow you to catch mistakes before they make it to the editing room.
The EDGE-DI’s lav mic conceals easily on camera, perfect for actors in films. The included foam windscreen and sturdy lapel clip reduce audio interference, making this iPhone microphone ideal for capturing dialogue as well as presenting to live audiences.
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The Movo EDGE-UC sports all of the same features as the EDGE-DI, but is designed for Android smartphones and devices. The EDGE-UC receiver comes with a USB Type-C plug, meaning it’s compatible with phones like the Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel, as well as other Type-C devices like the iPad Pro.
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The Movo VXR10 is a cardioid shotgun microphone designed for use with DSLR cameras and smartphones with 3.5mm TRRS input. The cardioid polar pattern ensures accurate audio capture, making it ideal for outdoor shoots and loud environments.
Also included with the VXR10 is a shock mount, which eliminates handling noise, as well as a furry “deadcat” windscreen that shields the mic from wind and vocal plosives. The shock mount features a built-in cold shoe that makes it easy to attach to rigs and stabilizers.
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Before you start recording anything with your phone, you might want to set it to Airplane mode first. Nothing feels worse than having a perfect take ruined by an incoming call from a telemarketer.
Lavalier mics tend to be best for recording dialogue. Their pickup range isn’t designed to capture audio further than a few inches away, meaning a lav positioned near your mouth will get your speech, but not much from your surroundings. If you want to record some sound from the environment, consider a shotgun mic instead.
Check the weather before your shoot. External iPhone microphone windscreens will cancel out an average strength breeze, but a particularly windy day will make it very difficult to salvage your audio, even with the best equipment.
Watch your sound levels during recording to make sure they’re remaining stable. Headphone monitoring helps out a lot here, but there are also third-party apps you could download for free, such as Decibel X and Decibel Sound Meter Pro, to help you keep tabs on your audio.
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