Smartphones have been a godsend for audio and video recording enthusiasts. They give people a way to record audio/video, edit clips, and post recordings to the internet… all while using one device.
But even though smartphones like the iPhone have built-in microphones for sound recording, the quality of these built-in mics is notoriously lacking.
In truth, if you want to record with your iPhone, you are going to need an upgrade… a high-quality microphone that will get the job done right and help you to level-up your iPhone’s recording performance capabilities!
The good part of this is that mic companies have hopped onto the smartphone train. Many recording mics manufactured nowadays are made to be compatible with smartphones… both iPhone and Android devices.
But how do you choose the best external mic for your project?
Well, that’s what we’re here for!
In This Article
Our Top Pick: Shure MV88
The Shure MV88 deserves our top-pick spot for external microphones for a number of reasons. It is easy to use, carries the very prestigious and trusted Shure brand, and does everything that a high quality condenser mic is supposed to do… but the Shure MV88 is scaled down to work perfectly with your iPhone or other iOS devices!
This high-fidelity condenser mic has 5 DSP preset modes for different applications (speech, singing, flat, instruments, and loud) and the onboard computer automatically adjusts the EQ for the particular sound.
The Shure MV88 is perfect for the iPhone recorder-on-the-go, and requires no extra installation. Just plug it in and record. The metal casing is durable and will stand up to even the most intrepid journalist activities.
Shure MV88 Key Features:
- lightning connector pin
- 3 options – cardiod, bidirectional, raw mid side
The Shure MV88 is a digital condenser mic, so it’s fairly sensitive.
Ideally, you should use this mic in a treated room. If you’re using it outside, a foam or furry windshield would be a smart idea.
Stereo/cardioid polar pattern
The Shure MV88 records using a mid side stereo operation, which is essentially two mic capsules, one cardioid, and one figure-8.
This interesting combination gives you great flexibility of the sound of your recording, with the ability to dial-up or down the volume of the sides, effectively varying stereo width.
MOTIV recording app
One of the best features included with this best external mic is Shure’s MOTIV recording app, which allows you to:
- Switch polar patterns
- Control stereo width
- Edit audio
- Share via AirPlay or Bluetooth
High SPL handling
The high quality Shure MV88 can handle up to 120dB SPL, which is damn loud.
For reference, it’s four times as loud as a screaming human, so it should be enough for whatever you’re recording!
Flat frequency response
The frequency response on the Shure MV88 is fairly flat, with some subtle bumps in the upper mids which will enhance vocal clarity and add sparkle to acoustic guitars.
Is the Shure MV88 Best for You?
If you need a mic that plugs right into the base of your iPhone with no clumsy cables, and you want something with some serious flexibility that you can control with an app, then the answer is a massive YES.
Best Budget iPhone Microphone: Rode VideoMic Me-L
The Rode VideoMic Me-L for the iPhone/iPad is designed to be a mic that you can use with your iPad or iPhone, and it works extremely well for this purpose.
The ‘L’ in the name stands for ‘Lightning,’ as that’s the connector that you use to connect the mic to your device, a lightning port connector. This is the main difference between the VideoMic Me L and the original VideoMic Me.
Alright. Now let’s get into the details of this cardioid condenser budget pick for external microphones.
Rode VideoMic Me-L Key Features:
- built-in headphone jack output
- 20Hz – 20000Hz
Built-In Headphone Jack Output
Just like the VideoMic Me, the VideoMic Me-L ships with a 3.5mm output on the back of the mic that you can use for headphone monitoring.
Quality Frequency Response
Boasting a 20Hz-20kHz frequency response, this little fella will capture sounds in the whole spectrum of the human ear, whatever you put in front of it, the VideoMic Me L will deliver.
The VideoMic Me L has a cardioid polar pattern, this means that will capture in a greater way what is directly in front of it, and will start decreasing as it moves on the side, having a rejection of the sound in the 180 degrees, or in the back of the microphone. This helps to prevent undesired background noise on the takes.
Fantastic Ease Of Use And Audio Quality
Rode created this mic for vloggers and videographers who need high-quality audio while filming video on their devices… and the VideoMic Me-L certainly doesn’t disappoint. You’ll be surprised at the quality audio you can capture with this little device.
In the box, you get a deadcat windscreen (which helps to block out wind noise), and a small rubber clamp that you can use to help secure the mic to your device.
Is The Rode VideoMic Me-L The Best Budget iPhone Microphone?
Yes, without a doubt.
We love this external microphone for the iPhone, and don’t believe there’s anything else out on the market that quite lives up to this mic’s ability to perform with the challenging iPhone/iPad microphone quandary.
Best Cheap Microphone: Comica CVM VM10-K2
This Comica Smartphone Video Kit comes with the mic, as well as a mini-tripod.
It allows you to turn your iPhone into a full-fledged quality audio-video workstation, complete with a high-quality super cardioid condenser microphone and a stable, convenient tripod-mounting system, so that you can use it on-the-go and transport it easily.
This external microphone is small and easy to carry. As far as features go, it has a built-in anti-interference function.
As a shotgun microphone, this is an awesome option if you need to just set your iPhone down and capture audio from everything in front of it.
Comica Smartphone Video Kit Key Features:
- super-cardioid dynamic
- 20Hz to 20000Hz
- 3.5mm audio input jack
The Comica Video Kit CVM-VM10-K2 uses a sensitive condenser microphone capsule that allows you to pick up sound from a distance.
It’s great for shooting videos at home like playing with your child or creating tutorials.
The super-cardioid polar pattern on this mic is highly focused and great for setting your iPhone up on a table and recording at a distance.
Frequency range: 80Hz to 16kHz
The Comica Video Kit CVM-VM10-K2 has a fairly flat frequency response that dips out around 80Hz in the low end at 16kHz in the highs.
This means it’s great for recording most day to day activities, but not suitable for recording instruments like bass guitar or cymbals, where the range exceeds what the mic can capture.
Max SPL 105dB
105dB SPL is a respectable handling capacity, though far from the toughest on the market. This mic should be fine for most day to day recording, but not ideal for super loud sources.
Works with any smartphone
Here’s the great news:
If you decide to switch over to the Android camp in the future (traitor!), the Comica Video Kit CVM-VM10-K2 will still work, as it’s compatible with virtually any smartphone!
The Lowdown on the Comica Video Kit CVM-VM10-K2
Here’s why you should get the Comica Video Kit CVM-VM10-K2:
- It comes with a nice tripod and phone clamp.
- It’s compatible with pretty much any smartphone.
- The windscreen keeps audio nice and clean.
The only real downside is that you need to use a Lightning port to 3.5mm adaptor, so there’s a lot of cably stuff going on.
Best iPhone Lavalier Mic: PoP Voice Lavalier Lapel Microphone
The PoP Voice Lavalier lapel microphone is an excellent choice for the casual recorder who needs a reliable and decent quality mic for on-the-go recordings. This external microphone is designed specifically for use with smartphones and is compatible with most major brands and operating systems.
It comes with an adaptor pin for use on PC and Mac.
The lapel mic is small and has a sturdy clip that can be placed on a shirt collar or jacket.
The only real downside is the sound range of the mic. The volume drops drastically if you move it away from your mouth. Otherwise, the PoP Voice is our pick for the best lavalier microphone.
PoP Voice Lavalier Lapel Microphone Key Features:
- 20Hz to 20kHz
- professional build
The PoP voice Professional Lavalier is a condenser mic, meaning you won’t have to pump up the volume too much when using this right by your face!
With an omnidirectional polar pattern, the PoP voice Professional Lavalier minimizes issues that arise when using a lapel mic and moving around too much, as it’s equally sensitive to sound from all angles.
Require Lightning Port to 3.5mm adaptor
If you plan on using this mic with a modern iPhone, you’ll need to have a Lightning port to 3.5mm adaptor, as the PoP voice Professional Lavalier just has a 3.5mm output.
Unlike other affordable options, the PoP voice Professional Lavalier doesn’t use cheap cabling. This baby has a nice thick, anti-interference cable which should keep your audio signal clean, clear, and under control.
Wide frequency response
This mic stretches right across the audible frequency range, from 20-20,000Hz.
PoP voice Professional Lavalier Summary
What makes the PoP voice Professional Lavalier the best external mic for you?
If you need a portable lapel iPhone mic with great audio quality, then this is the guy. It has a wide range, meaning it picks up basically everything!
Best For Podcasts And Studio: Shure MV51
The Shure MV51 cardioid condenser microphone was specifically made for use with the iPhone, iPod, and/or iPad, and is certified for direct connection to any iOS devices without the need for any additional adapters or connection kits.
It comes with 5 preset modes, including singing, speech, flat, acoustic instrument, and loud… and automatically adjusts gain, EQ, compression, and limiting to help you achieve optimal audio quality results, regardless of what type of audio you’re recording.
The front panel controls on the MV51 are intuitive and easy to use. You simply select which mode you wish to use. There is also a mute button, a headphone volume, and a gain knob.
The headphone jack output that’s built into the Shure MV51 also gives you real-time monitoring. This way, you can avoid any latency issues that may occur as you record… which will do a lot to help you mitigate problems with sound-delay, which can really throw off your performance.
Shure MV51 Key Features:
- elegant vintage design
- 20Hz to 20000Hz
- built in headphone jack output
Unlike most iPhone mics, the MV51 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, meaning it delivers the same professional performance that studio-quality mics do.
It sounds great, no matter how you use it.
5 recording modes
The Shure MV51 is ready to rock for whatever purpose you had in mind. The five recording modes include:
This allows you to choose the perfect mode for your scenario, and the external microphone will automatically adjust to give you the right tone, making it so easy to use.
Cardioid polar pattern
The cardioid polar pattern of this mic keeps things focused on whatever you’re pointing at – exactly what you want!
The frequency response of the MV51 is flat right across the mid-range, with some very subtle bumps in the upper mids.
It does drop off quite steeply from 10kHz though, so you might find it sounds a little dull in certain applications, like recording an acoustic guitar or a piano.
Huge SPL Handling
This is a seriously versatile mic, and it has a max SPL handling of 130dB SPL, which is insane!
There’s very little that this handy guy wouldn’t be able to handle.
MOTIV recording app
Shure’s MOTIV recording app is nothing short of excellent, allowing you to edit audio on the fly, switch mic controls, and dial up the mic gain.
Boom arm adaptor included
Admittedly, the MV51’s vintage style is a little bit of a weird shape, and it’s hard to imagine using it with a traditional mic stand (it’s really aimed at desktop users).
However, Shure were kind enough to include a boom arm adapter with the MV51, which allows you to take your recording experience right into podcast territory.
Shure MV51 Verdict
The MV51 is the ideal mic for anyone after a tonne of flexibility, and who plans on using the mic for a variety of purposes.
That’s thanks to the mic’s insane SPL handling, and 5 switchable modes of recording audio.
Best Wireless: Comica CVM WS50C
The Comica CVM-WS50(C) Wireless Smart Phone Lavalier Microphone System comes packed with features that will truly help you to take your iPhone videography/audio recording to an entirely new level of audio quality.
It has a built-in rechargeable battery, and a special LCD screen that displays channels, audio status, and power consumption.
Our favorite thing about the Comica CVM-WS50(C) Kit, however, is probably the fact that it takes your iPhone, and really just transforms it into an all-in-one video or quality audio recording station!
Comica CVM-WS50(C) Wireless Kit Key Features:
- real time monitoring
- 6 channels
- long wireless range
Unlike a lot of iPhone mics that are around, the Comica CVM-WS50(C) is actually a dynamic mic. That means it’s not very sensitive to background noise and is focused on the sound upfront, making it great for things like podcasting and vlogging.
Omnidirectional polar pattern
With an omnidirectional polar pattern, the Comica CVM-WS50(C) does pick up sound from all directions, so you need to be careful where you point it. Or perhaps, more importantly, where you don’t point it!
In any case, it’s a great option for anyone recording voice who can’t seem to sit still, as you won’t suffer from any change in vocal tone.
Wide frequency response
The Comica CVM-WS50(C) has a fairly wide range, from 20Hz right up to 18kHz. You won’t miss the last couple of kHz unless you’re recording super sizzly cymbals, making this effectively a full-range mic.
Works at a massive distance
One of the most amazing things about this particular mic is it’s connectivity.
With the mic connected wirelessly, you can stray up to 197ft (!!!) from your phone with the mic, and this baby will still be recording audio flawlessly.
The Lowdown on the Comica CVM-WS50(C)
If you need an iPhone mic that can operate wireless, and at a distance of up to nearly 200ft, then this is the perfect product.
I can think of no other external microphone that has such an incredible range, without spending hundreds.
How to choose the right iPhone mic
If you’re brand new to the world of external microphones, then it can be tough to get your head around all the tech specs. To be honest, you can throw the majority of them out the window, as there are really only a few key ones to pay attention to.
Let’s take a look.
A microphone’s polar pattern is its sensitivity with regard to direction.
Basically, this answers the question: what directions does the mic pick up sound from? With the options being front, back, and sides.
The main options are:
- Omni-directional – picks up sound from all directions
- Figure-8 (aka bi-directional) – sensitive to front and back but not sides – great for recording interviews
- Cardioid – picks up sound from the front, a bit from the sides, and rejects from the rear
There are also super and hyper-cardioid models, which take the cardioid thing to the next levels. We’re basically talking cardioid on steroids, and cardioid on more steroids.
So, how do you know what’s best?
In most cases, you’re going to point a mic at something that you want to record (like a mouth, or a guitar), in which case it makes sense to use a cardioid that records what you point at, and not the rest.
If you use an omni mic for this purpose, you’ll pick up way too much background noise, which is going to make the audio quality on your recordings sound terrible.
On the other hand, if you need to chuck a mic in the middle of a round table with a bunch of people speaking into it (for a conference call or for group podcasts), then an omni mic is going to be ideal.
Figure-8 patterns are useful for recording interviews because you can point one side at you, one at them, and the mic rejects everything else.
So, it’s all about intent: what are you going to use the mic for?
If you think you might be in more than one camp, then get yourself an external microphone with a high-quality switchable polar pattern, which will give you access to some or all of those patterns!
Max SPL Handling
The Max SPL (sound pressure level) handling number tells you how loud of a sound the mic can handle. The bigger the number, the louder the sound it can handle before distorting.
It’s not a huge deal, because most modern mics are built like tanks anyways, but it is important if you plan on recording loud stuff, like if you’re heading to a live music concert,
To give you a bit of perspective, human voice maxes out at around 100dB SPL (that’s shouting), with the threshold of pain being around 130dB, and rock concerts tend to be somewhere in between.
If you’re only going to be recording podcasts and quiet speech, then a mic with a Max SPL of around 100dB should be fine, but if you plan to record instruments or loud concerts, try to find something with 120dB-160dB+ SPL.
A mic’s frequency response gives you an idea of what it might sound like.
There are two components to look out for. The first is the frequency range.
Human hearing goes from 20Hz to 20kHz, and most mics model this range (since there is no reason to go above or below that point).
Sometimes, though, a mic doesn’t quite reach all the way up or down the spectrum, which means you miss out on some frequencies on the extreme edges.
For speech and vocals, this doesn’t really matter, as there is no energy from the human voice in those ranges.
However, if you plan on recording bass instruments, then you’ll want a mic that reaches right down in the low end, and if you’re recording instruments with a tonne of high-frequency energy (like cymbals), then you want the mic reaching as high up as possible to get the air and sizzle.
The second element to watch for in a mic’s frequency response is the shape of the response across the range.
Take a look at the graph above, and notice how it’s mostly flat across the low mid-range, with some hefty bumps in the upper mid-range.
This tells you that this particular mic will be fairly neutral across most of the frequency range, but will accentuate frequencies in the upper mid-range, which will affect the sound of whatever you’re recording accordingly.
This may be positive or negative, depending on what you’re recording, which is what you need to keep in mind when choosing an external microphone.
The last thing to consider when choosing external microphones for your iPhone is what the package includes.
Some mics come with apps that allow you to control internal features on the mic (like EQ and gain, or to switch polar patterns).
Some come with foam windscreens that help keep out wind background noise and vocal pops and hisses.
Certain iPhone microphones come with shock mounts, or adaptors (for plugging into other devices or into your computer), or carrying cases or bags.
Do you need a headphone jack output?
All of these are things to weigh up, depending on what you plan to use the external microphone for.
So which of the iPhone’s external microphones is the best? Our top pick is the Shure MV88 on account of its simplicity of use, included the Lightning connector pin, and overall quality/price ratio.
Our runner up pick was the Comica Video Kit CVM-VM10-K2 kit.
Both mics offer a superior experience for a great price and are useful tools in the arsenal of any recording enthusiast.
Whether your purposes are professional or more casual and experimental, this guide will help you get off on the right foot to finding a external microphone that suits your needs.