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Smartphones are a masterpiece of technical engineering that allow us to take an HD (or 4K) video camera, GPS, media streamer, and computer in our pocket everywhere we go. But by being a jack-of-all-trades, it ends up being a master of none — at least when you’re trying to get more serious work done.
If you use your smartphone to record podcasts, take a lot of phone calls, or want to use it as a one-stop-shop for music recording (there are very powerful apps for that), you’ll want a better microphone. Full disclosure: You can connect almost any USB microphone and many USB audio interfaces to an iPhone or Android phone with the right accessory. If you already have a microphone or interface you like, there’s a good chance all you’ll need is an Apple Camera Connection Kit or USB-A to USB-C cable to get started.
This guide is designed to help you if you’re starting from scratch, and need a higher quality microphone now. As a bonus, many of the microphones we’re recommending in this guide also work when they’re plugged into a PC or Mac, so you don’t have to get separate recording equipment for both. This is especially useful because you’ll get consistent results with all of your recordings.
Whether you’re making audio notes, recording voiceover work for a video or school project, or making music, the best smartphone microphones will help you sound a lot better than the one built into your phone.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Smartphone Microphone
There are many factors to think about when choosing the right smartphone microphone for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Size: Our guide features microphones of different shapes and sizes; some are better suited for home use, while others can be thrown into a bag, or even kept in your pocket for recording on-the-go.
Connector: Smartphone microphones can be connected USB, or a 3.5mm audio cable; you’ll need an adapter in both cases. The microphone’s connector doesn’t impact its compatibility because both USB and 3.5mm audio cables are open standards designed to work with as many devices as possible.
Microphone Type: Different microphones are best suited for different scenarios. For instance, a lavalier microphone is really small, and meant for people recording audio during video shoots. This makes the a great choice for vloggers. On the other hand, a condenser microphone is better for recording vocals, so it’s a better fit for musicians. Our guide was written to accommodate a wide range of use cases.
1. Samson Go Mic
This smartphone microphone is a great all-around option if you want to record interviews, improve your presence on conference calls, or want to make basic music demos. I’ve had a chance to try it out in place of a lavalier microphone while making videos, and the recordings are all very clear.
This microphone’s standout feature is its unique design. The three-inch microphone is attached to a clip, which allows you to attach it to the top, bottom, or side of your phone. The clip also has a hole you can use to screw it onto a microphone stand with a 3/8 inch adapter.
My favorite touch is that this microphone has a headphone jack on it, so you can listen to yourself while you record. This spares you the annoyance of getting to the end of a long recording only to realize the mic picked up ambient noise in the background. Because it’s a condenser microphone, it can be used for both broadcast and musical voice recordings. It’ll definitely stick out on-camera, though, so it may not be the best pick for vloggers.
When it’s not in use, this microphone slips back into the clip, which makes it easy to store — a hard-shell carrying case is included to prevent damage in transit. Unfortunately, it has to be attached to the clip at all times; you can’t use it as a standalone microphone.
Connecting this microphone to your smartphone is easy: plug the Mini-USB cable it comes with into Apple’s Camera Connection Kit (for iPhones) or use a Mini USB to USB-C cable (for Android). Once it’s plugged into your smartphone, a small light will turn on to let you know it has power. There are no drivers or extra software necessary to use the microphone once it’s connected to your smartphone. Open up an audio recording app, hit record, and you’ll be good to go.
Pros: This smartphone is attached to a clip that allows you to keep it stable while you record. It has a headphone jack that lets you listen to yourself while recording.
Cons: It cannot be detached from its clip
2. Rode SmartLav+
Vloggers and video journalists need a smartphone microphone that’s heard, not seen. If that sounds like you, this lavalier mic is your best choice.
The ultra-small mic is attached to a 3.5mm audio cable that terminates into a connector designed to fit into a headphone jack. Most smartphones don’t have a headphone jack anymore, so you’ll need an adapter to plug this microphone in. Once connected, you can snake the microphone under your shirt, and clip it onto your shirt, facing your mouth. Your audience won’t be able to see the cable, and the microphone is easy to hide if you’re wearing darker clothing.
This smartphone microphone comes with a little wind screen to prevent wind from interfering with your recording if you’re outdoors, and reduce some sibilance (an annoying sound made when you say words with the letter “S”). Lavalier microphones are great for recording audio when you’re on-camera, but they’re not well suited for much else. This isn’t the smartphone microphone for musicians, or journalists recording in-person interviews.
Pros: Its thin cable and small microphone make this the ideal choice for vloggers and video journalists. Its pop filter can prevent some ambient sounds from leaking in.
Cons: Not the right fit for off-camera audio recordings.
3. Audio-Technica AT2005USB
I mentioned earlier that most USB microphones can work with smartphones; if you’re a musician who wants to use the same mic on and off the stage, this is our pick.
It’s a traditional dynamic microphone, which is primarily used to record a musician’s vocals. It’s larger than the other options on our list, but It has both an XLR and USB connector on the bottom. That means you can connect it to your smartphone (via an adapter, of course), or an amp, mixer, and high-end audio interface. This flexibility lets you use a single microphone for several different applications, saving you space.
Because it’s designed for musicians, this microphone comes with accessories useful for mobile recording. It has a clip, so you can attach it to a microphone stand or a mini tripod, so you can use it on a desk. You can also use a USB cable to connect it to your smartphone (or computer), and an XLR cable to connect it to an amp or mixer. These are welcome extras that allow you to use this microphone in several applications right out of the box.
Most smartphones don’t have headphone jacks, but this microphone does, so you can listen to the sounds in your room before you record, to scan for ambient noise. You can adjust the volume going to your headphones via a small dial on the bottom of the microphone, which is another nice touch.
It may be larger than the other smartphone microphones we’ve recommended, but its sheer versatility makes it a great choice for musicians or podcasters who want an easy way to make demos or full-length recordings on their phone from inside their home and on the road.
Pros: This dynamic microphone has both USB and XLR ports on it, so you can make studio-quality recordings on your phone, and use the same mic when playing live.
Cons: It’s bigger than the other microphones on this list.