How To Record Pro Audio on iPhone and iPad – Best Mics...

How To Record Pro Audio on iPhone and iPad – Best Mics for iOS Audio

Learn How To Record Pro Audio on iPhone and iPad with our Epic Tutorial:

Welcome to Epic Tutorials where you will learn how to record pro audio on iPhone and iPad using a variety of different iOS compatible microphones. In the above video and this accompanying article we will show you how to record truly stunning audio that sounds so good, you will have a hard time convincing others that it was done using your iPhone or iPad.

We also demo just a few of the best mics that are iOS compatible and allow you to capture great sounding audio such as the iRig Mic by IK Multimedia; the Rode Smartlav; the Apogee Mic and you will also learn how to record audio using a professional phantom powered microphone using an XLR connector by using the Behringer Q502USB powered mixing desk.

Finally we show you how to import audio captured using an external field recorder like the Zoom H4N onto your iPhone or iPad without using a computer wirelessly by using the incredible Maxell Airstash and how to sync of your audio in iMovie for iOS.

The App: RODE REC (iPhone)

Download Rode Rec from the App Store:
Download Rode Rec from the App Store:

download-on-the-app-store

Let’s start by looking at the app you need to record professional quality audio on the iPhone and iPad and that is Rode Rec available as a free lite version and as a fully featured paid version which we will be basing this article. Why is this app better for field recording on the iPhone and iPad than other apps with recording

capabilities like Garageband? Well the first reason is sample rates.

Now most high end recording apps on iPhone and iPad will use 44.1kHz as the high quality option and this is perfect for audio production, but for filmmaking you want the ability to record at the higher sample rate of 48kHz, and the Rode Rec app (paid version) allows you to select either.

The second reason is wide range of export options. Rode Rec allows you to export your audio in a variety of lossless formats including the popular AIFF, WAV and FLAC making it ideal for capturing audio of the highest quality and keeping that quality on export. These are the preferred formats for both film and music production.

This app is designed for the iPhone only which means that if you want to run it on your iPad, you will need to do so in 2x zoom mode, but it still works just as well.

iPhone & iPad Audio Inputs Explained

There are three ways to get audio into your iOS device:

  1. Using the 3.5mm headphone jack which is an audio input/output
  2. Using the digital in which is either the older 30-pin connector or the new Lightning connector
  3. Use an external field recorder like the Zoom H4N and import that audio via iTunes or wirelessly.

There are pros and cons for each of these three methods and reasons to choose any one of them over the others. Let’s start by looking at the 3.5mm headphone jack.

1. The Headphone Jack

The most important thing to realise about recording audio using a microphone that connects via the 3.5mm headphone jack, is that it is an analogue input. Without boring you with technicalities this means that your mic may be more prone to noise, hum and/or feedback than the digital input.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get good sounding audio, but it simply is not as good as using a mic that connects via the 30-pin or Lightning connector. It does have an advantage over microphones that connect to your iPhone or iPad via digital input and this is to do with power consumption. Mic’s connecting via the digital in on your iOS device require some sort of power and for most USB mics they draw this from the iOS device itself. Depending on the power needed, the iPhone may or may not be able to deliver enough, whereas the iPad has a higher power output and can therefore power more mics than the iPhone.

I have experienced that a USB mic that I used to use on my computer works fine on the iPad, but is unsupported by the iPhone. The beauty of using a 3.5mm microphone is that as it is an analogue device, it doesn’t require any power to operate and as a result you can be guaranteed it will work on all of your iOS devices.

2. The 30-pin and Lightning Digital Connector

This is your digital connector and it normally provides a much cleaner signal free from noise, hum and feedback when compared to the analogue in. As mentioned before, microphones connecting to your iPhone or iPad using the digital in require power from the device (or from an external power source in the case of the Behringer Q502 USB mixer). Before purchasing a microphone you need to make sure it is compatible with your device. Some will work with both like the Apogee Mic, but others may only work with the iPad as they draw more power than the iPhone can supply.

UPDATE: Since the release of iOS 7 the iPhone now supports the camera connection kit (now known as the Lightning to USB adaptor) and will power devices that were previously unsupported. We can confirm that our iPhone 5 (not 5s) works perfectly with the Behringer Q502 USB Mixer that was previously unsupported whilst we were shooting this video.

3. Using an external recorder and importing onto your iOS device

When it comes to filmmaking, this is probably the most popular choice. Devices like the Zoom H4N that record to an SD card are really affordable and offer professional features like XLR inputs, built in microphones, phantom power and are small and light enough to be slipped into your back pocket or clipped to your belt.

Whilst recording with them is easy, getting them onto your iPhone or iPad without the use of a computer with iTunes installed has be almost impossible until the release of the Maxell Airstash which will be looked at in more detail later in this article where we show you how to import audio files from your SD card wireless onto your iOS device and sync that audio in an editing app like iMove for iOS.

3.5mm Mics for the iPhone and iPad

The iRig Mic by IK Multimedia

irig-mic

This is a decent entry level mic that connects by 3.5mm headphone jack and is best suited to interviews and recording memos and ideas for archival purposes (ideally you would not want to use this for broadcast, short films etc). It has three sensitivity settings and it also has an audio output which means you can monitor the audio live which is very handy when it comes to recording audio.

The Rode Smartlav

Rode Smartlav

The Rode Smartlav is newly released and is the first affordable lavalier microphone designed exclusively for iOS and Android mobile devices. For the price this mic is impressive and perfect for recording interviews, lectures, speeches etc and ideal for documentaries, but as is to be expected from such an inexpensive mic with such a small capsule, this microphone is prone to a fair amount of noise as you can hear in our test.

Digital Mics for the iPhone and iPad

The Apogee Mic

apogee-mic

This mic by Apogee is incredible and the hike in price from the previous two 3.5mm microphones is well worth it. As you can hear in our demo this microphone sounds great and is virtually free from noise. It has a gain slider on the side of the Apogee Mic which means you can set your volume on the mic itself rather than relying on the Rode Rec app. It is also compatible with both the iPhone and iPad as well as your Mac or PC.

The only downside is that this mic comes with the older 30-pin connector so if you want to use it on an iOS device with a Lightning connector you will need to purchase the convertor made by Apple separately. The cable is also fairly short which means you will need to have the Apogee Mic positioned fairly closely to your iOS device making this ideal for things like narration and voice over as well as recording vocals, acoustic instruments etc.

How To Use XLR Phantom Powered Mics with the iPhone and iPad

Behringer Q502 USB Mixer

Behringer-Q502USB

The Behringer Q502 USB Powered Mixer is compatible with the iPad (and iPhone running iOS 7 – we have tested this desk with the iPhone 5 and it has worked perfectly) when connected via Apple’s Camera Connection Kit via USB. At only $59 on Amazon this is an incredible accessory for your iPad or iPad mini but is unsupported by the iPhone. This device has both XLR and 1/4 inch inputs and includes basic EQ and compression as well as providing 48v phantom power to your condensor microphone making it an essential device for anyone serious about professional iOS audio.

How To Import Audio From an External Field Recorder onto iPhone & iPad

Maxell Airstash

maxell-airstash

Whilst it’s always been fairly straight forward to import audio onto your iPhone or iPad using iTunes on a computer to sync it with your iOS device, if you wanted to remove your laptop or desktop from your iOS workflow it’s been quite a challenge. That is until Maxell released their incredible Airstash. This is a wireless flash drive that accepts an SD card. Turn it on and it broadcasts a wireless network that you can connect to on your iOS device or Android device and from there you can stream your content and easily open it in iMovie using the “Open in” feature.

46 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting update on some new audio kit, for which much thanks. Please can you tell me the make of the splendid-looking iPad stand in your video. Thanks!

  2. THNXaMillion!!
    But. . . .
    :( I have the Q502 mixer, but I can’t get any sound INTO the iPad :(
    The iPad’s output IS being heard thru the mixer’s outputs though. And, I can monitor the mixer’s inputs from it’s(the mixer’s)headphone jack,but am unable to route that sound INTO the iPad:(
    The apps I’m running are BeatMaker2, Xewton music studio, and nano studio.
    . . .Thank U in advance 4 your response(s) and have a blessed one!

    • Well I know it definitely does work with Beatmaker 2 as I have been recording a song using the Q502 and my iPad so let’s work through this methodically :)

      1. Are you using the Apple Camera Connection Kit (now known as Lightning to USB Camera Adapter) to connect the USB from your Q502 to your iPad?
      2. Your iPad’s output should not be heard through the Q502 unless you really want it to. Connect the desk to your iPad first, then plug in headphones to your iPad’s headphone jack to route the audio through your headphone jack.
      3. Make sure “to phones” and “to main mix” are turned off on the desk (phantom power will need to be on if you are using a condensor mic via XLR.
      4. Launch Beatmaker 2 and create an Audio Instrument and you should have a signal.

      Hope this helps you out.

  3. I own an iRig mic and have tried to use it with my 5C to record audio into the standard apple video recorder. I found the gain to be really poor- you have to put the iRig on the highest pickup to get any sound recorded. However, with other apps (i.e. voice memos) the recording is much better.

    If you want to record video and audio at once, and not sync later like a pro editor, is there a video recording app that works better with the iRig? Or are there settings to mac the native/standard video recording app make better use of the iRig?

    Thanks for any advice!

  4. Hi
    I’ve just purchased an iRig for my son..
    but i want try and record a band using it via there mixing desk
    can this be done??
    aaaaand what App would be best suited for the job if it is possible
    an advice greatly appreciated

    steve

      • Amplitude iRig guitar
        basically what i want to do is run a line out of a mixing desk to my iphone using the iRig ???
        just need to know the best App for the job if it can be done really
        many thanks

  5. Howdy! I would like to record video from my iPad and pull audio from a mixing board instead of the internal ipad microphone. Is there a lightning connector solution that works well?

    All the best!

    Tim

  6. One part that I was hoping you’d cover and need some help on is how to send a Zoom recording (audio file) from the Maxell Airstash to someone via email, Dropbox or Google Drive. Since connecting to the Airstash would disconnect you from other wireless networks and would disable your cellular connection.

    I’ll be recording some interviews in the field and need to get the audio back to my producer via email. Was hoping to do this from my iPad to avoid lugging around my laptop.

    Thanks.

    -Johanan

    • Yesterday Airstash released a new software update that allows simultaneous connections to the Airstash itself and your mobile data :) However this only works on iOS 7. Hope this info helps you out.

    • Also check out the SideLink feature. Instructions for the iOS AirStash+ App:

      Connect your device’s WiFi connection to your AirStash.
      Run the AirStash+ app and connect to (tap) your AirStash.
      Go to Settings > SideLink™
      Set the Enable SideLink switch to ON.
      Wait for the list of WiFi networks to show up below under “Choose a Network”. Tap to connect your AirStash to your preferred WiFi network and enter the password for that network. If the AirStash was unable to connect on the first try, please try again.
      Go to your iOS device’s WiFi Settings screen and change your WiFi connection back to your preferred WiFi network.
      Run AirStash+ app to access your AirStash.

  7. Hi there, great article!

    Just have one question, you mention that the Behringer Q502USB worked with an iOS7 iPhone but then later in the paragraph it says it is unsupported by the iPhone, which is correct? Also do you think the Q802USB would be similarly compatible as for the extra cash it has better phantom power capability (the Q502 only supports up to 25V phantom power whereas the majority of decent phantom powered mics require more than this, usually 48V) which interests me. Also the Q802 has two XLR inputs which I would imagine you would be able to send to the iPhone as a stereo track perhaps?

    I’m currently using an iPhone 5S on iOS7 and looking for the best way to get a controlled signal into the phone for rough live band recordings and also recording into Garageband.

    Cheers!
    Graham

  8. I’m trying to figure out a way to record my acoustic guitar in stereo using 2 XRL mic’s on “ALL” of my IOS devices (iPhone 5s, IPad Mini w/Retina, iPad 4th Gen and/iPad Air and/or my 2012 MacBook Pro). Of course the best recording & the “No Brainer” way to go is going through the MacBook Pro but I have allot of apps on the iPads & iPhone that I want to play around with that are not available on my MacBook Pro. I do have GarageBand on all of the devices and also MainStage 3 & more I my MacBook. It appears that the lightning to USB Camera Adaptor http://store.apple.com/us/product/MD821ZM/A/lightning-to-usb-camera-adapter will allow me to plug an audio interface or mixer into my iPhone 5s or iPads & of course a 2.0 standard USB cord directly into the MacBook Pro using the Behringer Q802 ($80.00) http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/Q802USB.aspx so that I could record in stereo via your comments with Graham. My question is: Do you think that the ART 2 channel USB/DualTubePre Audio Interface ($99.00) would work & would it be a better sound quality etc., etc., etc., than using a mixer? http://artproaudio.com/art_products/signal_processing/usb_audio_devices/product/usbdualtubepre/
    I realize that a mixer has more channels and other additional options than an audio interface, however I will never be using more than two mic’s or channels at any one given time and I think that the mic pre’s & the USB connect on the cheaper mixers are not as good as this ART product or the audio interfaces in general.
    I also saw a Lightning to USB Cable ($19) http://store.apple.com/us/product/MD818ZM/A/lightning-to-usb-cable is that also something that would work or do I still need the other one? Thank you for any info that you may be able to provide.

    • Hi Don,

      I couldn’t make a comparison between the Art 2 and Behringer as I have only used the Behringer (Q502, not the Q802 which as Graham pointed out, delivers higher phantom power for your mic than the 502). Have you seen this demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiAPgjPJWoY ? I do know that since the release of iOS 7 either of those mixers (definitely the Behringer, again have not test the other) will work on all of your iOS devices and again Rode Rec is great as you can record at high sample rates. And yes, all you need is that Lightning to USB cable from Apple to get up and running.

  9. Hi I’m trying to record using my RODE condenser VIDEO MIC (through the headphone jack) into my ipad running iOS7. I thought it would be simple but the app stays on “internal microphone” and when i record it records from the internal mic. I looked at the manual and it said ”iOS7+ must explicitly allow the RODE Rec app to use your devices internal microphone”. Any clue on getting it to work?

  10. Hi Eliot.

    First of all Fantastic tutorial on this microphones…… I see that you recorded the apogee mic audio using Rode Rec. Which video editor did you use with that audio?

    Thanks in advance

    • I used Adobe Premiere Pro CC on my Mac to sync in post although you can do the same on an iPad fairly easily using Pinnacle Studio. Thanks for the feedback. Glad it helped.

  11. Hi Eliot,

    great information! One question – I found infos that the Rode SmartLav will have more noise if not used with Rode Rec – I want to use it to make videos so I will use the camera app or something like filmic pro – any insights on that matter?

    Thanks!

    Markus

    • Sorry I’m yet to use it with the default camera app or filmic pro. If you are then going to edit on a computer you could apply noise reduction in something like Adobe Audition to remove any unwanted noise. I do find the SmartLav noisy even in Rode Rec and usually need to apply some noise reduction.

    • Well Rode Rec does allow you to turn off iOS Processing which when left on by default, does introduce additional noise (only slight increase) so I guess it’s good in that way, but it still works nicely with Filmic Pro and the like, especially if you use noise reduction software (like Adobe Audition) in post.

  12. WOW….the words PRO and IOS? Behringer in the same sentence….I have a condensor mic, I’m a master engineer now.

  13. Great review, thx! The Behringer Q502 might be my low-cost solution. I need to find a single Mic that can handle my drums w/o “too much distortion”. The Q502 might help equalize.

    Goal: Record via Ipad vid using a Mic and Q502 as the audio source. Can I do this? latency issues?
    If it does work, I might use iWebcam to Wifi to the feed to my Laptop for another purpose…

    Note: I know drums don’t record well with one mic (I’ve been trying to really poor mic solutions) but I saw a vid using a single Behringer Large Condenser Mic with a Avid Fast Track Solo to record drums. The Vid was obviously “helped” but the drums were quite clear. Wondering if the Q502 can be an “Avid Fast Track” substitute.

    • We don’t own one so can’t test but probably not as it does not have an external power supply like Behringer Q502 which is compatible. It’s possible that it might work with a powered USB hub (again, we can’t test this, it probably isn’t but it is possible) but by the time you purchase the 302USB with USB hub it’s more than the Q502.

  14. Hi Eliot,
    Thanks a lot for this great tutorial !
    I still have a few questions…
    Could you please specify the connections between the iphone /camera connection kit/Q502/microphone ? Do you need to power the Q502 (AC power in) or is the mixer only powered by USB ? What if you use a condenser microphone which requires 48V phantom power ?
    I am trying to find a recording solution with an Iphone (IOS 7.1) on Garageband and two condenser microphones that would record my acoustic guitar at the same time in different position. Do you think I can use a Q802 ?
    Have you heard of other devices, such as Alesis Multimix 4, Alesis IO Hub, Mackie Blackjack ? Do you think these products could work with an Iphone and CCK ?
    Thanks for your answer.
    Fred.

    • Hi Fred.

      The Q502 comes with it’s own power supply that connects to the Mixer to power it. You then plug the USB cable that comes with the Q502 mixer into Apple’s USB to Lightning connector which plugs into your iPad. The Q502 supplies the microphones with 48v phantom power if they require it (there is a button the mixer to turn it on and off).

      For two microphones you are correct in assuming you would need the Q802 (which I have not used myself). Keep in mind that on the iPad it still records all Mixer inputs as a stereo track, so you would have to get the mix right on the desk itself. Or if you pan each mic hard left and right, you can then import the recording from the iPad onto a computer and use Audacity to create to separate isolated mono tracks that you can mix.

      Hope this helps you out.

  15. Hi Eliot! I need to make a series of short (10-20 sec) instructional exercise videos. I’d like to use my iPhone 5 for the video and I’d like to concurrently record the audio as well, but with much greater quality than the device can pick up on its own. What would you recommend?

    Thanks in advance for your help!!

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