The cameras on smartphones are continuously improving while the microphones remain functional but low-quality. When recording a video with your phone, it's nice to have excellent audio to go with the amazing picture, which is where external microphones come into play.
So how do we connect an external microphone to a smartphone? Connecting an external mic to a smartphone must be down wirelessly (Bluetooth) or through one of the connectors (typically the headphone jack or the charger port). Additionally, some drivers/software may be required to complete the connection.
In this article, we'll go through the various methods of connecting external microphones to smartphones and some recommended smartphone microphones.
Note that this article features links to products on Amazon that will help you connect your external microphone to your smartphone. Buying any product through the following links will give me a commission (and help support this blog) at no extra cost to you!
Related My New Microphone articles:
• Why Do Cell Phone/Telephone Microphones Sound So Bad?
• Top 4 Best External Microphones For Android Smartphones
• Top 4 Best External (Lightning) Microphones For iPhone
• How Do Microphones Work? (The Ultimate Illustrated Guide)
Connecting An External Microphone To A Smartphone
So we've decided that the internal smartphone microphone just won't cut it, and we'll require an external mic for our phone's audio recording. Let's get into the details of connecting.
For more information on internal smartphone microphones, check out my article What Kind Of Microphones Are Used In Cell Phones?
First, it's important to note that smartphones, like computers, are digital devices and work with digital audio. Whether internal or external, microphones produce analog signals that require analog-to-digital conversion to properly connect and send information to a smartphone.
These analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), as we'll discuss later, are found within the smartphone (just inside the TRRS headphone jack or within the Bluetooth chip) or, alternatively, in adapters that allow us to digitally connect our mics directly to the phone (often via the charging port).
To read about analog and digital signals and microphones in more detail, check out my article Are Microphones Analog Or Digital Devices? (Mic Output Designs).
Now that we've established the need for digital audio let's look at the methods of connecting external mics to smartphones.
There are 4 basic methods of connecting an external microphone to a smartphone:
- Connecting wirelessly via Bluetooth
- Connecting directly via the TRRS headphone jack
- Connecting wirelessly via the TRRS headphone jack
- Connecting via the charger port
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Connecting An External Microphone To A Smartphone Via Bluetooth
Bluetooth technology has been available in mobile devices since 2001 and has since seen a massive increase in popularity. Now, all smartphone comes with Bluetooth capability.
Bluetooth is simply a wireless data protocol that uses short-wavelength UHF radio waves (in the 2.400 to 2.485 GHz range) to transfer data and signals over short distances.
Bluetooth mics work like any other wireless mic system: with a transmitter (either within a Bluetooth microphone or externally connected to a microphone) and a receiver (a “Bluetooth chip” found inside Bluetooth devices/receivers).
Connecting a Bluetooth mic to a smartphone is easy. Take the following steps:
- Turn the Bluetooth microphone or Bluetooth mic transmitter on
- Open the Bluetooth menu of your smartphone and ensure the phone is discoverable
- If the devices are within range of one another, the mic should show up as a device
- Click the microphone in the Bluetooth devices list to connect the mic to the smartphone
With Bluetooth connections, there are two main ways to connect microphones to smartphones:
- With a Bluetooth microphone (with the Bluetooth technology designed into it).
- With a Bluetooth microphone transmitter (which allows a regular wired mic to transmit wirelessly via Bluetooth).
Bluetooth microphones are relatively new on the market. These mics have built-in Bluetooth transmitters and are often inexpensive mics with electret mic capsules.
Bluetooth mics make it easy to connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to smartphones and other Bluetooth devices.
At a Buskers festival I had recently attended, I noticed that every performer was using a Bluetooth clip-on mic or headset.
Bluetooth microphone example: Hey Mic!
You can purchase the Hey Mic! directly from their online store at a 10% discount by using the promo code mynewmicrophone
The Hey Mic! (pictured above) is one example of a Bluetooth microphone. This miniature microphone is compatible with any Bluetooth device and offers up to 65 feet of range.
Note that, while Bluetooth microphones are an excellent idea, the technology isn't quite perfect just yet (the audio industry is always behind on technology). That being said, the Hey Mic has decent reviews and works largely how we'd expect a Bluetooth mic to work.
If we want to use a professional microphone via Bluetooth, there are XLR-Bluetooth adapters/transmitters on the market.
With these transmitters, we can combine the high-quality mic capsules of our favourite mics with the simplicity of a Bluetooth wireless connection. Connect your XLR microphone to the Bluetooth transmitter and then link the transmitter and the smartphone.
We must assume that these transmitters do not supply any DC bias voltage or phantom power to our microphones unless noted so (I have not found any on the market that do). Therefore, using passive dynamic mics is the safest bet when connecting an XLR mic to a Bluetooth microphone transmitter.
XLR-Bluetooth adapter/transmitter example: JK Audio BlueDriver-F3.
The JK Audio BlueDriver-F3 is a simple XLR-Bluetooth adapter/transmitter. We connect our mic to it; turn it on; adjust the connection settings (to phone), and make the Bluetooth connection.
The BlueDriver-F3, as I alluded to earlier, does not supply DC bias or phantom power, so it should only be used with passive microphones (think dynamic mics).
Connecting An External Microphone To A Smartphone Directly Via TRRS Headphone Jack
Using the jack of a smartphone is perhaps the most obvious method of connecting an external microphone.
But wait, the headphone jack outputs signal while a microphone inputs signal. Let's take a closer look at the wiring.
Smartphone headphone jacks are typically designed as 3.5mm (1/8″) TRRS (Tip-Ring-Ring-Sleeve) female phone connections.
Though there are two wiring standards (CTIA and OMTP), these 4 connections (TRRS) are typically wired as CTIA. Apple was a major player in developing the CTIA standard (with CTIA, the wireless industry association), and now the vast majority of smartphones follow the CTIA standard.
The CTIA standard has the TRRS connection configured as follows:
- Tip: Audio (left)
- Ring: Audio (right)
- Ring: Ground
- Sleeve: Microphone
The OMTP has the microphone and ground switched, and so it's important to know the difference. That being said, the vast majority of devices with TRRS designed to work with smartphones follow CTIA.
All this is to say that if we want to connect a microphone to a smartphone headphone jack, we need to use a 3.5mm (1/8″) TRRS male phone connector. Because the microphone signal is carried on the sleeve, 3.5mm (1/8″) TS and TRS cable will not work (though they will physically fit into the jack). This is because TS and TRS cables are wired with S (sleeve) as ground.
To convert a 1/8″ TS or TRS mic connection to a 1/8″ TRRS connection, I'd recommend a headsets splitter adapter, like this one from DuKabel.
The Dukabel headphone splitter is wired as CTIA and has a microphone and headphone input that adapts to a TRRS for connecting to the smartphone.
The 1/8″ TRS microphone jack will accept mics with TS and TRS connections. The 1/8″ TRS headphone jack will allow you to monitor the microphone (the smartphone will likely use the TRRS connection as the audio input and output).
But there are TRRS microphones on the market that will easily bypass all the adapters require in connecting a regular mic to a smartphone via the headphone jack.
For more information on the different headphone jack sizes and wiring standards, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• Differences Between 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 6.35mm Headphone Jacks
• How Do Headphone Jacks And Plugs Work? (+ Wiring Diagrams)
TRRS microphones are designed to plug into and send audio through headphone jacks. These mics, therefore, work wonderfully with smartphones.
TRRS microphone example: Rode smartLav+.
The Rode smartLav+ is a relatively high-quality lavalier microphone for use with smartphones. It follows the CTIA standard, powers itself from the smartphone's TRRS jack (2.7V), and works well with any recording software.
The Rode smartLav+ is featured in My New Microphone's Top 4 Best External Microphones For Android Smartphones.
If we want to use our professional XLR microphones with our smartphones, we'll need an XLR-TRRS adapter.
XLR-TRRS adapter example: Saramonic XLR 19.5′ XLR-TRRS Adapter Cable
This simple adapter does exactly what it's supposed to do: adapt a 3-pin XLR signal to a 4-pin TRRS signal.
It's critical to note that this adapter cable does not pass power (DC bias or phantom), so it will not work with active microphones (think condensers). Therefore, it's imperative that we use passive (think dynamic) mics with this adapter.
For an XLR-TRRS adapter with a phantom power supply option, check out the Saramonic Smartrig II XLR. With this relatively inexpensive adapter, we can supply our active microphones with the full +48V phantom power. This is possible with just one 9V battery.
For everything you need to know about headphone jacks, check out my in-depth article How Do Headphone Jacks And Plugs Work? (+ Wiring Diagrams).
Connecting An External Microphone To A Smartphone Wirelessly Via TRRS Headphone Jack
It's also possible to connect a wireless external microphone to a computer without Bluetooth, so long as the wireless receiver can make the proper physical connection with the phone's headphone jack (or charger port, which we'll discuss shortly).
Wireless microphone systems, including the aforementioned Bluetooth systems, use radio waves to transmit audio information wirelessly.
A microphone transmitter embeds the microphone audio into a radio signal at a specified frequency (VHF or UHF). The transmitter then sends the radio wave wirelessly for the receiver to pick up. Once received, the receiver decodes the radio signal, taking the audio signal and outputting it.
For a detailed read on the inner workings of wireless microphone systems, check out my article How Do Wireless Microphones Work?
So as long as the receiver can plug into the smartphone via the TRRS headphone jack, we can effectively connect any microphone to a smartphone.
Wireless Microphone Systems With TRRS Connections
Let's take a look at a popular example of a wireless mic system with a TRRS connector:
Wireless mic system with TRRS example: Movo WMIC50
The Movo WMIC50 system comes with a wireless transmitter and receiver that work on the popular 2.4GHz radio frequency band. On top of the headphones, this pack comes with a lavalier mic and a TRRS connector to connect the receiver to the smartphone.
Note that the lav mic also has a TRRS connector and may be connected directly to the smartphone if that's preferred!
Note that any professional wireless mic system could connect to a smartphone if the receiver's output signal can be adapted to connect to the smartphone jack.
Connecting An External Microphone To A Smartphone Via Charging Port
Lastly, some microphones can connect to a smartphone via the charging port of the smartphone.
USB microphones have become very common for their ease of use with computers. Smartphone “charger port” microphones work in similar ways.
For more information on USB and digital microphones, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• How To Connect A Microphone To A Computer (A Detailed Guide)
• Do Microphones Need Drivers To Work Properly With Computers?
• Are Microphones Analog Or Digital Devices? (Mic Output Designs)
To properly connect to a smartphone's charging port, the microphone's signal must be converted to digital audio. This is done via an ADC between the mic capsule and the charger port connector.
Let's look at some microphone examples:
USB-C And Lightning Connection Microphones
The two most common smartphone charger ports are the USB-C (Android and others) and the Lightning (Apple). There are digital microphones on the market that connect to both.
An example is the Boya BY-DM2
The Boya BY-DM2 is a lavalier mic that connects directly to a smartphone via USB-C (Android and others).
The BY-DM2 has an ADC built within the cable (the relatively large box between the mic and the connector).
Another example: Shure MV5
The Shure MV5 is more flexible with its ADC built into the mic body and its female micro-USB output. In the case of the MV5, any male micro-USB to male (insert charger port type here) will effectively connect the mic to your smartphone (or another digital device).
The Shure MV5 comes with both a micro-USB to Lightning and a micro-USB to USB cable, though micro-USB to USB-C adapters are available on the market.
As mentioned earlier, it's sometimes desirable to connect our XLR microphones to our smartphones. We can connect XLR mics to our smartphone charger ports with the following adapters:
A simple XLR to USB-C adapter with a built-in analog-to-digital converter. Note that this cable does not provide or pass phantom power.
A simple XLR to Lightning adapter with a built-in analog-to-digital converter. Note that this cable does not provide or pass phantom power.
Phantom Power Supply
If you want to use your active condenser mics (that require phantom power) with the above adapters, you'll need to power them properly. This is where in-line phantom power supplies come into play.
Although I don't typically recommend Neewer products, their in-line phantom power supplies do work well:
This simple 1-channel phantom power supply will effectively power your condenser microphones if they need the +48V.
Connect your XLR to the PS input and your XLR-charger port adapter to the PS output, connecting the adapted end of the cable to your smartphone.
Note that these power supplies are relatively bulky and require external powering to function.
This phantom PS works the same as the one above, except it is powered via USB rather than from a wall plug.
Note that the USB acts only to power the PS and that this device is not a digital audio interface! The USB does not send any digital audio.
To learn more about phantom power, check out my article What Is Phantom Power And How Does It Work With Microphones?
Smartphone Audio Software For External Microphones
In general, a smartphone will automatically switch its audio input over to a plugged-in microphone when a connection is made (just like it switches from its built-in speakers to headphones once those headphones are plugged in).
Once this connection is made, the external microphone can be used with any audio recording software and as the primary microphone of the smartphone.
Recap On Connecting External Mics To Smartphones
So we've gone through many methods of connecting external microphones to smartphones. Some of these methods are clean and simple, while others are complicated and require in-line devices and adapters.
Let's quickly recap the methods provided in this article, dividing them up by microphone type:
Turn the Bluetooth microphone transmitter on and pair the devices within the smartphone settings.
1/8″ TRRS Microphones
Assuming the microphone follows the CTIA standard, connect the male TRRS microphone connector into the headphone port of the microphone.
1/8″ TRRS Wireless Microphones
If the receiver of a wireless mic system has a 1/8″ TRRS (CTIA) connection, set up the wireless system properly and connect the receiver directly to the smartphone.
USB-C And Lightning Connection Microphones
For these microphones, plug the compatible connector into the smartphone's charger port.
XLR (And Other Connection Type Microphones)
There are plenty of methods to connect XLR microphones to smartphones.
Ensure you have the proper adapters and, if needed, the proper power supplies and/or analog-to-digital converters.
Can you use a microphone in a headphone jack? Headphone jacks are wired to output signals by default, so microphones typically do not work with them. However, some microphones (like external smartphone mics) are wired to properly input signals through a headphone jack. So yes, in some cases, mics can be used with headphone jacks.
For more information on headphone jacks, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• How Do Headphone Jacks And Plugs Work? (+ Wiring Diagrams)
• Are AUX (Auxiliary) Connectors & Headphone Jacks The Same?
• Differences Between 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 6.35mm Headphone Jacks
Where is the microphone in a smartphone? Smartphones typically have several built-in microphones. They are generally found at the ends of the smartphone (near the top and bottom) though they may be found elsewhere.
Related article: What Kind Of Microphones Are Used In Cell Phones?
Choosing the right microphone(s) for your applications and budget can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Microphone Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next microphone purchase.