Disclosure: We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not influence our reviews or ratings. We endeavor to keep our opinions fair and balanced to help you make informed buying choices.
Looking for the best portable iOS microphones?
7 of the best external iPhone mics available on the market in 2020.
Achieve crisp, clear audio the way it’s meant to be heard.
Being alive in this day and age is a far shout from where we were 50 years or even 10 years ago, with people able to produce studio-quality content literally from the palms of their hands.
The current media landscape is full of people trying to get their ideas across to you.
One of the best ways to do this is via tangible media such as audio in the form of podcasts or videos on Youtube and Vimeo, showing tutorials and how-to’s on everything from makeup, to gardening to building computers and my personal favorite, music production tutorials.
Whatever your poison is, there’s almost no doubt in my mind that you’ve got a favorite content producer and have at one point or another wondered how they create all their content.
One of the main things to NEVER skimp on when it comes to content creation is sound quality.
The one thing that every content producer will have in common, regardless of whether they film unboxings or review potato chips (here’s looking at you, Leonard) – they will all have a solid focus on sound and ensure they are capturing it to the best of their ability.
In this article, we’ll be walking you through some basic features you’d want to look out for in your iOS/iPhone microphone as well as a list of some of the top-performing iPhone microphones currently on the market.
8 Best External Microphones For iOS In 2020
1. Rode VideoMic ME-L for iOS
Perfect for longer distance filming and recording audio in louder/public environments.
To kick the list off we have a directional microphone from Australian company RODE, designed specifically for functionality with iOS devices including the iPad and iPhone. With Plug-and-play functionality, it’s hard to beat this microphone for size and convenience.
It is a cardioid polar pattern microphone with a strong emphasis on front-facing directionality, meaning this microphone will pick up more of what’s directly in front of it and less of what’s surrounding it peripherally.
The mic comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack on the back of the microphone for direct audio monitoring. With the ability to record at 44.1kHz and 48kHz, this device is suitable for higher-level professional applications and uses, this mic comes with a clip and a professional windshield cover (also known as a dead cat) which will stop any buffeting and crackling sounds when filming in windy environments, helping you to protect the integrity of your audio recording.
2. JOBY Wavo Mobile Compact Microphone for Android/iOS
Super cheap and super versatile, this microphone won’t break the bank or itself.
Second, on the list, we have one of the more affordable and stripped-down microphones on the list, the Wavo Mobile from JOBY. This standard cardioid condenser microphone is definitely bare-bones but more than does the trick.
The mic includes a shock mount and tripod attachment suitable for any number of iPhones or camera tripods, both tabletop and full size, with a standard camera attachment thread included.
This microphone attaches to your iPhones and records signal using a 3.5mm jack for android users. However, users with an iPhone 7 or later models will have to use the special lightning to 3.5mm jack which is sold separately.
Although this package does skimp on extras and does not have the brand power of competitors such as Shure, Rode and Sennheiser, this little mic still packs a punch. JOBY also offers an all-in-one kit for vloggers, called the JOBY GorillaPod kit.
3. Zoom ‘IQ-Series’ for iOS
Famous for high-quality standalone field recording units, ZOOM has made their way into the smartphone market, and they haven’t been quiet about it.
Zoom have made waves (and also .wavs) in the industry of portable recording devices with their well-known range of field-recorders and portable audio solutions, especially those in the infamous ‘H-Series’ range. These devices such as the H6 often come with a lot of extra features and functionalities that might not be necessary for someone who just wants to capture high-quality audio in simple settings such as interviews, webinars, home studios or point-and-shoot filming scenarios.
The Zoom IQ series has two different models in the range; the IQ 6 and the IQ 7, the main difference between the two being their condenser capsule configuration. The IQ 7 features a Mid-side stereo mic setup (90°/120°) whereas the IQ 6 has a more standardised Unidirectional X/Y stereo set up like a lot more mics on this list and most in the range of mid to high-tier.
The IQ series mic both have standard 3.5mm zero-latency headphone jacks on them to allow the operator to hear the recording in real-time. While the IQ 6 is a fractionally cheaper device, the IQ 7 touts the Mid-side functionality which uses a three-way switch, allowing you to select between 90° (to focus on sounds coming from the centre) and 120° (for a wider image that includes ambience and room signal) and a third setting, labelled “M-S” which enables you to record the ‘raw audio‘ and adjust the stereo width and other aspects using Zoom’s free downloadable ‘Handy Recorder’ iOS app. Both devices use the app, and both the IQ 6 and the IQ 7 have 3-stage LED indicators to give you visual notification of any clipping or weak signal issues, and both devices connect to ANY iOS device with a standard apple lightning connector port. The features of this device range are a little bit above what some of the other devices on this list offer, and for a similar price to the rest, it’s really hard to beat them on the bang-for-buck scale.
4. RODE i-X/Y Stereo Condenser mic for iOS
A serious mic for a brilliant price, for those looking for more detail in their recordings
At number 4 again we have Rode with another one of their genius little inventions, this one being an XY stereo microphone for iOS.
Unlike its directional partner, this microphone captures a full stereo signal and it perfectly sets up in what is known as an XY configuration in a 90-degree placement or ‘near-coincident’ alignment.
This device is more suited to recording things like vocals, classical instruments, acoustic guitar or other more subtly detailed audio.
The Rode i-X/Y will pick up a lot more detail and a lot more of its surrounds. The trade-off is the potential signal compromise when using the device in loud environments like convention centers, shopping malls or bus stations.
Using the Rode apps will allow you to pull a whopping 96khz signal quality from this mic in a figuration of cardioid or paired cardioid polar patterns.
This microphone also has a built-in analogue to digital converter, ensuring that your recordings are rich and vibrant and transduced from an acoustic to a digital signal with the utmost level of quality.
5. IK Multimedia iRig Mic Cast
Pocket-sized but larger than life, this little mic is great for interviews and podcasts.
Featuring a unidirectional cardioid polar pattern, this mic is perfect for things like recording group discussions or meetings and would be a valuable asset in the hands of a frequent and travelling podcaster.
This mic has a small switch on the unit to adjust the input between low and high (limited albeit STILL better than the ‘Lolly Lightning’) plus the ability to monitor the audio passing through the mic via its 3.5mm jack output.
The device also records input via a 3.5mm standard headphone jack, making it suitable for iPhones 6 or older models. The iRig also comes with 2 free apps being iRig Recorder and VocaLive, which are some nifty little editing apps to help you curate and create more ideas on the go. For this low of a price, it would be hard to recommend anything else in this range.
6. Apogee ‘MiC+’ For iOS
A wild Apogee appears; with one of the best iOS microphones money can buy, most suited to studio use.
Apogee is a huge player in the world of audio and recording and has been around since the early days, being responsible for the creation of technological features such as the ‘soft limit’ tape emulation in their rosetta800 and other AD/DA analogue digital converters, amongst other huge innovations. Apogee has been around the block and it shows, in a good way of course.
The Apogee MiC Plus has been designed for more studio-related purposes, specifically with iOS devices in mind – but with the added functionality and connectivity necessary for use with windows or other android devices.
With high sensitivity, large-diaphragm capsule, this device is the perfect thing to use in a sonically isolated room or environment.
Producers of podcasts and recorded music who are looking to work in a more professional setting might be after this calibre of product as it can be left set-up in an office or recording space and easily maintained.
This device comes with a desktop stand and mic stand adapter, a USB type A and a USB type C cable, and the MiC+ itself – providing everything necessary to get stuck straight in and start getting creative.
7. Shure MV88 Stereo Condenser Mic for iOS
An industry staple, just like the SM57; this thing is rugged, portable and has brilliant detail
Shure has been renowned in the audio world as being one of the best purveyors of microphones up there with brands like Neumann, AKG and the like. In fact, this author would be willing to bet £100 that you’ve never in your life been at a gig that doesn’t have a Shure SM57 either available or in use. (Don’t hold me to that)
The mic we are talking about is the Shure MV88 for iOS. The MV88 comes with an iOS app that helps you to visualize your microphones settings and change things such as selecting one of the 5 various DSP (digital signal processing) settings or managing your video clips and imagery.
This device features plug and play functionality and has a rigged design that allows it to be treated (to some extent) accordingly. With the ability to swivel the microphone on 180-degree axis hinge plus its all-metal construction makes it a great choice for on-the-go recording. The device also comes with a foam windshield cover and a headphone monitor adapter cable for a 3.5mm jack.
An Accessory To Consider: Rode iXLR adapter
Not a mic itself, but an essential accessory for those looking to capture professional audio quality.
The Rode iXLR adapter is a new piece of technology from my favorite Aussie microphone manufacturer. This piece of kit is a Lightning to XLR adapter and as you would believe, it takes signal from a traditional XLR connected microphone and converts it to digital audio before gently placing the recording int he palm of your hand.
This means for broadcasters with access to more professional level microphones such as the Electrovoice RE-20 or the Shure SM7B, all you need is the iOS device of your choice and your mic of choice (not forgetting an XLR cable) and when combined with the free ‘Rode Reporter App’ you can get one-touch recording with zero hassle or fuss.
With the added functionality of a front-facing gain control knob, this device – although not a mic itself – barges its way onto this list through sheer innovation (and also because a lot of you own nice microphones).
iPhoneMics 101 (A Quick Buyer’s Guide)
For those who want to learn, here are some basic features for phones microphones you might want to pay close attention to.
Cardioid and Omnidirectional Microphones
Microphone Frequency Range
Cardioid vs Omnidirectional Microphones
A cardioid microphone has the most sensitivity at the front and is least sensitive at the back. This isolates it from unwanted background sound and gives much more resistance to feedback than omnidirectional microphones.
Cardioid microphones are particularly suitable for loud stages or recording defined sound sources within louder environments, whereas an omnidirectional microphone would be better for recording a conference, conversation or meeting and will pick up a lot more detail and surrounding noise.
Frequency range, frequency response, audible frequencies and how frequency itself relates to musical notes, etc. are critical to understanding how audio equipment makes, reproduces, and records sound. This also affects how that sound is related to the live sound produced by singers and instrumentalists in real-time in the environment they are recording in.
Frequency ranges can be affected by room size, proximity to objects of certain sizes or shapes, positioning next to walls and just about any physical element present in either the listening or recording environment.
For this reason, it is always recommended that you are aware of your surroundings and limitations when trying to record audio.
XY vs Mid-Side
The arrangement of separate microphone capsules presented together in different configurations can also be taken into account when thinking about the quality or parameters of your recording and environment. For example, it is common to capture stereo signals in XY format for a wider soundstage or to capture direct conversation in mid-side format to isolate the subjects and help reduce background noise.
These two common formats have a similar premise, and using XY as an example, will split the signal into a left and a right signal using two ‘separate’ microphones (often appearing as part of the same unit) that are placed directly next to each other in a manner that the diaphragms are close to each other as physically possible without touching and at a specific angle, in XY format this allows a much wider stereo image to be captured than would normally be possible when using a single or even two standard separated microphones.
The mid-side configuration is used commonly in broadcast, the main reason being that properly recorded mid-side tracks are always mono-compatible. Mid-side mic placement is also a popular technique for studio recording, and its overall flexibility makes it a good choice for live recording as well.
The main weakness of the XY microphone technique is that you cannot change the directionality of the microphones or their placement. In some cases, collapsing tracks recorded in XY format to mono can result in phase cancellation.
The mid-side setup gives you more control over the width of the stereo image than other microphone setups and allows you to make adjustments to your tracks with more confidence after the recording is completed or during the mixing stage.
A lot of mics do ship with varying forms of windscreens (since they are quite inexpensive to produce), mics that don’t come with windscreens, often aren’t for vocal recording, for example, you don’t need a windshield on a mic that you’ve slapped on a guitar amp.
They create dead air space around the ‘suspended’ microphone as it sits inside the sock or capsule.
The softer looking furry or fluffy windshields take a lot more wind noise out of your recording than a foam cover could. A foam cover works more as a pop shield to protect the microphone from the pops and sibilance (sizzly ‘s’ sounds) that occur when naturally speaking whereas a fluffy windshield might be more useful for recording in a field on a windy day or when recording at a significant distance or trying to capture audio from a moving target with say, a shotgun mic for example.
Last update on 2020-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API