Resources 3859414706_6883765893_z

Published on April 1st, 2015 | by EJC


A Basic Guide To Using Microphones With Mobiles

This article was written by Brian Conley and originally published at Small World News on 18 October, 2013. Republished with permission.

Small World News develops educational and training materials to support its core mission of expanding the reach of local storytellers in zones of crisis, conflict, and transition. Our guides are designed to make technology approachable for anyone motivated to capture a story, while providing information that has a demonstrable effect on raising the quality of production. We’ll be sharing tip-sheets we’ve put together here on the blog. Today, a short guide to using microphones with your mobile.

SWN’s Basic Tips For Using Mics With Mobiles

Remember that sound is half the story. Paying close attention to the quality of the sound you’re recording is an easy way to improve the overall quality of your video, and increase the impact of the story you have to tell.


You need a special type of microphone to connect to a mobile device. If you look at the plug at the end of any mobile headset you’ll notice it’s different from the plug at the end of a regular set of headphones.

Your mobile headset has 3 black stripes. These are: a connection for the microphone, a left ear channel, and a right ear channel. (A normal set of headphones has only ear channels.)

To use a mic, you’ll need one which is made to work with a mobile connection, such as the iRig Cast. If not, make sure to have an adapter, like one shown here:


Audio Adapters

4 Microphones: A Live Comparison

Since your equipment will determine the quality of what you capture, we’re going to talk about 4 types of microphones at your disposal:

  1. Built-in microphone
  2. Shotgun microphone
  3. Lapel microphone
  4. Hand-held microphone

Watch this video and listen to how each microphone records differently. Which mic would you choose to use to interview someone? What about if you wanted to keep a low profile?


Built-In Microphone


Mobile with no additional Microphone

This microphone is a part of any video recording device. Only depend on the built-in mic if you are concerned about safety and don’t wish to be observed.


  • Convenient because it is always ready to record.
  • Doesn’t call attention to your recording.


  • Even a slight wind may create a lot of noise with these microphones.
  • All ambient sound is recorded, so background noise may be very loud.
  • People’s voices, especially when speaking quietly, may not be recorded.

Shotgun Microphone


Shotgun Microphone

Called a “shotgun” due to its shape and its recording pattern, which picks up sound in a similar path to a shotgun blast (scattering outwards in a cone shape from the tip of the mic). The shotgun mic is great for recording the overall scene and background sounds.


  • Comes with a mount, and is ready to attach  to cameras with the corresponding shoe.
  • Recording volume of voices and sounds in front of the camera will  be greatly increased.
  • Recording volume of sounds outside the frame and behind the camera will be decreased.


  • Records background noise at a similar volume to voices speaking on-camera.
  • The mic may record sounds far in the distance at a similar  volume as sounds in front of the camera.
  • Shotgun mics are especially conspicuous and in conflict areas have been mistaken as weapons belonging to combatants.

Lapel Microphone


Lapel Microphone

This microphone takes its name from its placement. Lapel mics are placed on the lapel or collar of the subject you intend to record. Also known as a lav, lavalier, or neck mic, among other names. The lapel mic is perfect for sit-down interviews.


  • Great for recording an interview with a single subject.
  • Little background noise will be recorded.
  • Primarily records the subject’s voice.


  • The lapel mic can only record the voice of one subject.
  • Ambient noise may not be recorded.
  • Without a proper clip, the mic may record scratching noise from the subjects clothes.
  • May not record the voices of quiet speakers.

Handheld Microphone


Handheld Microphone

This microphone is commonly seen in the hand of correspondents reporting live at the scene of events. The handheld mic works well for correspondents reporting on-camera, or conducting interviews in a public area, on-camera.


  • Records ambient noise and the voice of people being interviewed.
  • Enables the correspondent to interact directly with their subject.


  • The correspondent must maintain control of the microphone at all times.
  • The mic can only record a limited area.
  • If background noise is too loud, the subject may not be audible.

So In Review:

Use a shotgun mic to capture the scene

Use a lapel mic to interview someone, documentary-style

Use a handheld mic to interview someone, news correspondent-style

Use a built-in mic when you don’t want to be noticed, or as a last resort

About the Author:

Brian Conley is the Founder of Small World News. He has been involved in media literacy and media democracy work for more than fifteen years and has trained journalists and citizen media makers in a dozen countries. Brian designed the program and training for India Unheard, a national community news service comprised of Indian community activists from all over the country, and led Small World News’ work assisting Pajhwok Afghan News to develop a video service and expand the capacity of their provincial journalists to produce quality multimedia journalism. He has also designed an array of projects leveraging new and innovating technology to support journalists and community media in conflict areas.

Photo: Rafe Blandford

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑