Microphones and quality audio

You might have seen some people walking around with cameras that had large funny-looking microphones on them. Does having good audio actually matter?

Everyone seems to talk about the kind of cameras to get and how to increase your video resolution, yet the conversation about good audio isn’t as popular, oddly enough.

I’ve been making videos for years, and every single time the difference between an okay video and a great video is the quality of the audio.

There’s something about the viewing experience that changes drastically when it sounds good. As I have talked with people and observed how they consume video, it’s become very clear that people can forgive lower quality video more than they can forgive lower quality audio.

  • Good video + bad audio = mediocre video
  • Bad video + good audio = okay video
  • Good video + good audio = great video

If you can get the components right, you can help create an experience for your viewers that is comfortable and makes them want to come back.

Most cameras have okay microphones built into the device, but there’s plenty of improvement that can be had. If your camera or phone supports external microphones, I highly recommend investing in one.

RODE Video Micro

The RODE Video Micro is a great little microphone with a small footprint, requires no battery, and is pretty much plug and play. I use this almost exclusively on my camera.

Your camera will need to have a hotshoe on the top that will mount the microphone, as well as a 3.5mm input jack.

It also comes with a windshield that helps to protect against, you guessed it, the wind. This will help keep your audio quality nice and clean. There are no built-in features such as EQ or volume boosting so you won’t have to worry about getting any settings perfect on the microphone itself.

It’s a great entry option, and a great tool for on-the-go situations as well.

RODE VideoMic Pro

The VideoMic Pro is another great option from RODE. It requires a 9V battery to operate, but as long as you keep track of your battery level and have extras, you’ll be fine.

The VideoMic Pro gives several settings on the back, including a high-pass filter (it decreases the low-end sound that comes through the mic) and a volume level control.

There is much less audio noise in this microphone than the VideoMicro (which doesn’t have much to start with), thanks to the additional power provided by the battery. My only issue with this camera was that you need to make sure you turn the microphone on and off as you use it so you don’t drain the battery.

Another great option if your camera has the capability (a hotshoe and a 3.5mm jack).

RODE VideoMic Pro +

If you really want to crank it up another level, the VideoMic Pro + takes everything about the VideoMic Pro and makes significant improvements.

This mic will turn itself on and off based on if your camera is on or off, which is what I love about the VideoMicro. Managing the power state of your microphone isn’t something you want to mess up.

There are also a few more settings for the high-pass filter, and the audio cable is removable if you want to add a longer cable of your own.

The VideoMic Pro + is a much more expensive option, but if you’re looking to really take your video game up another level, you’ll want to take a good look at this option.

RODE smartLav+

A lavalier microphone is great for sit-and-talk videos, or if you’re moving closer to or further from the camera. This helps to keep your audio consistent no matter where you are in relation to the camera.

The RODE smartLav+ is a great mic that plugs directly into a smartphone. You can also buy an adapter that allows you to run it directly into your camera.

I know a lot of vloggers and video creators who use a lavalier mic, and if you’re looking to do audio that way, the smartLav+ is a fantastic microphone for you.

Shure MV88 (iPhone)

What about getting better audio on phones? If you have an iPhone, the Shure MV88 plugs directly into the Lightning port of your phone and gives you a great improvement to your audio.

The mic’s settings are set in an app you can download from the App Store, and gives you a great amount of control over how the microphone functions.

Depending on what you’re recording, you’ll get control over how stereo you want the input to be, EQ, polarity (if you’re a nerd like me), and more.

Since you won’t be walking around with the microphone on your phone at all times, you’ll have to carry it with you either in a purse, backpack, or even in your pocket. This might be a bit annoying at times, but if your iPhone is the main camera you’re using, it’s worth it.

RODE VideoMic Me (Android/iPhone)

I’ve talked a lot about RODE on this page and that’s because they’re great at what they do, and the RODE VideoMic Me is no exception.

This is small, extremely portable microphone that plugs right into your smartphone’s headphone jack. It’s nothing spectacular but is a great improvement over the built-in microphones on smartphones.

For the price, it’s a great entry-level microphone that is dead simple to use.

Note that newer smartphones are coming out without a headphone jack (yeah yeah...), but if you have a phone with that particular jack, this is a great option.

One of my desires for Vlogology is to try and stay away from what I call “the gear trap”. It’s so easy to get sucked into the research and watching reviews and trying to find “the best” of whatever you’re looking for.

That being said, I want this site to be a resource for you, and I hope that by sharing some of these tools it will give you a better idea of how to make any decisions going forward.