If you use an Apple device and you’re looking to do some recording, vlogging or video conferencing, then this guide to the best iPhone microphones is your friend.
Apple's latest iOS devices pack a real punch. The newest iPhones are phenomenally powerful, while the ludicrously fast, M1-powered iPad Pro series rivals – and in some cases outguns – many modern laptops and desktops. We can think of only one area in which these devices fall short, and that’s their onboard microphones.
To be fair, the quality isn't too bad for making and taking one-to-one calls, because most iOS devices feature multiple microphones, and Apple's engineers have also installed some very smart noise-cancelling technology. However, these miniaturised mics, hidden within their pinhead-sized ports, are pretty hopeless when it comes to doing anything meaningful.
Modern iOS devices – as well as those dating back a few years – are more than powerful enough to run some seriously capable audio software, including GarageBand, Cubasis, FL Studio and AUM. Adding live vocals has the potential to transform tracks created in these applications, but good luck with using the built-in mics.
We're used to composers such as Jon Hopkins, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Finneas O'Connell putting their unique stamp on productions by adding ambient recordings, often of everyday objects. A few years ago, you would’ve needed a field recorder to accomplish this, but all you have to do now is download an app, such as Apogee's wonderful MetaRecorder or the incredible TwistedWave. You will, however, need an external microphone to do it justice.
The same thing applies to vlogging and podcasting. Nobody has the patience to listen to hard-to-hear content (windblown interviews, noisy backgrounds, etc), so give your followers a break and invest in a decent mic.
You might also want to heed this advice if you attend daily Zoom calls and want to raise your voice above the clamour. Boosting your ROI with a microphone that’ll get you and your ideas heard could make all the difference to your career prospects.
The fact is, when it comes to audio, without a microphone we're only realising a fraction of what all of this incredibly powerful hardware and ingenious software can achieve. Read on to discover how a decent microphone can transform your iPhone or iPad.
Best iPhone microphones: Our top picks
If you're serious about the quality of your audio, then Apogee's HypeMiC really takes some beating. Like all Apogee gear, it's built to perform, and it doesn't disappoint on any front. Its fully manual gain control and latency-free monitoring enable you to keep close tabs on your recording, but it remains a breeze to use – there's nothing intimidating about using the HypeMiC whatsoever.
Of course, the icing on the cake is that incredible compressor. Somehow, it manages to add a whole new dimension to everything it touches.
Shure's Motiv MV88+ Video Kit is our second recommendation. With this product, Shure has managed to build a typically robust recording microphone, but one that's capable of delivering some very delicate recordings. It has accomplished this by combining powerful DSP with impressive software, while retaining near-effortless ease of use.
It's refreshing that Apogee and Shure, together with many of the other brands we've featured here, have clearly thought about the needs of their end users when developing these products. Most have included cables, tripods, pop filters and other accessories to make it as easy as possible for people to get recording straightaway.
Best iPhone microphones: Product guide
We were blown away by the Apogee HypeMiC when we reviewed it at the tail end of 2021. It's one of the best thought-out solutions we've ever come across for vocalists, podcasters and musicians who want to record with their iOS devices.
The stand-out feature is the HypeMiC's analogue compressor, which evens out soft and loud sound sources. Three settings are available – Shape, Squeeze and Smash – each progressively adding more compression to your input. Real-world uses include everything from injecting life into delicate instrument recordings to isolating quiet vocals from busy backgrounds. We found the results to be quite remarkable, almost magical.
The HypeMiC also gives you fine control over the recording process. A chunky gain wheel enables easy and immediate gain adjustment, guided by a triple LED meter that lights up red when overloaded. The headphone port at the base of the HypeMiC provides the opportunity to directly monitor your input signal with zero latency, but you can also blend in the output from your DAW.
It's not the cheapest product here – far from it – but the HypeMiC does ship with a neat travel case, a robust tripod and a pop filter. It also comes with a handful of cables that make it compatible with most iOS devices, Apple Macs and even Windows PCs.
As you'd expect from Apogee, this is a pro-quality mic, both in terms of build and sound, with a price tag to match.
Read the full Apogee HypeMiC review
Just a few years ago, Shure launched its original Motiv MV88 Lightning-based mic, which flew off the shelves. It's still available today, but this updated version, the Motiv MV88+, just goes to show how much technology has moved on since that first release. If you're looking to turn your humble iPhone or iPad into a full-blown vlogging or field recording rig, then this is the kit for you.
The Motiv MV88+ no longer relies on Apple's proprietary Lightning standard; instead it uses USB and ships complete with both USB-C and Lightning cables, broadening its compatibility greatly.
The Video Kit version (confusingly, this seems to be the standard version in some markets) also bundles a phone clamp, a Manfrotto tripod and a shoe-mount mic clip, making it good value if you're starting from scratch. Despite the 'Video' nomenclature, this kit is also a practical proposition for field recordists – it’ll keep your rig neat and tidy, with everything readily to hand.
The clever thing about the Motiv MV88+ is its integration with ShurePlus's remarkable MOTIV app, which is available for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android. With this, you can dig deep into the Motiv MV88+'s DSP settings, alter EQ, adjust gain, choose alternative mic configurations (stereo, mono cardioid, mono bidirectional, mid-side, etc), change stereo width settings and much, much more. This transforms the Motiv MV88+ into a hugely versatile mic system that’s suitable for tackling a wide variety of creative endeavours.
Shure knows how to build its mics tough, and the metal construction of the Motiv MV88+ feels characteristically robust. Hopefully, it’ll outlast your current iOS device – and maybe the next one, too.
The iQ7 has been around for some years now, but that's testament to how good this mic is. Ideal for a multitude of uses – from podcasting and vlogging to seeking out atmospheric ambient field recordings – this inexpensive little mic excels at capturing wider, more authentic stereo images.
Setup is easy, provided you're happy setting recording levels and stereo width. Just click the Lightning connector home – there's a removable shim for those who rock a case – set the mic orientation to either video or audio, and you're almost there.
Gain level is set using the big forward-facing dial, aided by a triple LED meter on the front panel. You can connect headphones to the iQ7's mini jack socket for monitoring, or use it as a line output jack.
The stereo-width switch is where things get interesting. Setting it to 90 degrees will ensure that the mic focuses predominantly on sounds coming from the centre of your scene, while selecting 120 degrees will see it picking up more ambience and stereo width. On the M-S setting, it’ll record a file that allows the stereo width to be tinkered with manually in Zoom's free Handy Recorder app.
Recording with the iQ7 requires slightly more forethought than if you were recording with its X-Y-equipped sibling the iQ6, but you’ll be rewarded with more control and a much-improved stereo image. For less than $/£/€100, it’s hard to fault this little gem.
Here's a no-nonsense cardioid condenser vocal mic that'll plug directly into the latest USB-C-equipped iPads without the need for additional adapters, hubs, interfaces and other unwelcome clutter.
Audio-Technica has developed this mic for cash-strapped creators who nevertheless value quality audio. Unashamedly inexpensive, simple to set up and painless to use, it's perfect for those who'd rather invest time producing captivating content than getting bogged down in technicalities.
Aimed primarily at podcasters, the ATR2500x-USB's cardioid pattern successfully rejects unwanted noise from the sides and rear, while the low-mass condenser diaphragm reproduces vocals with a good level of clarity, detail and authenticity.
Despite its reasonable price tag, its all-metal construction feels reassuringly hefty, so it should survive a few knocks. Audio-Technica also bundles a nifty little tripod with this mic.
One of the huge advantages of vlogging with an iPhone is that you don't have to juggle an inordinate amount of kit. You can enjoy travelling light, with just your phone and perhaps a small GorillaPod. Adding an iphone microphone is, of course, a wonderful idea, but the thought of carrying extra cables, a chunky condenser mic and a phone bracket can quickly kill that carefree, shoot-anywhere vibe.
Røde's VideoMic Me-L will add substance to your audio, but at a mere 28g it's hardly going to weigh you down. It's unlikely to get you heavily in debt either, lightening your wallet by less than the cost of a rather average meal out for two wannabe influencers.
There's really not much to it. The VideoMic Me-L is simply a small-diameter, 7cm-long shotgun mic that clips directly to your phone's Lightning port. There's a headphone socket around the back for monitoring, which is welcome, but no other controls.
Bearing in mind its target market, we applaud this mic’s simplicity. We also love the fact that it's made from robust aluminium rather than potentially polluting plastic.
Sound quality is surprisingly good, with its cardioid pattern and mini shotgun design successfully rejecting a lot of unwanted noise. Røde even throws in a furry windshield.
What feels like a lifetime ago – back when the DSLR video boom first kicked off – Sennheiser's MKE 400 became the go-to budget shotgun mic for many videographers. Finally, after many, many years, Sennheiser has updated its ageing device with a shiny new model (actually, it’s matte black) – and guess what? It's now compatible with mobile devices, too.
The MKE 400 MKII is a rather nifty bit of kit. Admittedly, its chunky-yet-handsome form factor, complete with hot shoe plate, looks better perched on top of a DSLR than an iPhone, but don't let that put you off.
This mini shotgun mic is now equipped with a 3.5mm TRRS-compatible jack, which means it's simply a matter of running a short cable between it and the headphone socket on your iOS device. Of course, very few iPhones and iPads now have a headphone socket, so you'll probably have to source an inexpensive adapter – see more below.
Its super-cardioid shotgun pattern enables the MKE 400 MKII to home in on your subject, rejecting noise from everywhere but the centre front. This is a very useful quality to have when faced with capturing barely audible dialogue.
Two things we really love about the MKE 400 MKII are its slickly designed integrated shock mount and its windshield. Its low-cut filter is another welcome feature, one that's so characteristically Sennheiser.
This isn't a particularly expensive microphone, but you get the sense that Sennheiser's engineers have fought hard to ensure that it performs better than a mic at this price point really should. The only criticism we have is that the three-step gain sensitivity switch is a bit limited in use.
The MKE 400 MKII is also available in a mobile kit form with a bundled tripod and phone clamp.
This is by far the most interesting microphone in this guide. Most of the others we've featured do much the same thing, but the iRig Mic HD2 has some unique features that may just make it the perfect iPhone mic for you.
IK Multimedia claims that it’s the only handheld digital condenser mic on the market that's compatible across iOS, Mac and Windows. It certainly looks more like a handheld mic than the assortment of oddly shaped appliances we often see clamped to vloggers' phones. Its silhouette is reassuringly familiar, and straightaway the robust metal housing feels right at home in the hand.
While we can't imagine many scenarios in which you'd want to perform live with a handheld microphone tethered by a USB cable to your phone, we do recognise the huge potential this mic has for broadcasters conducting live interviews. Having the option to pass a mic from host interviewer to guest interviewee and back again is a godsend for anyone striving for audio excellence.
Of course, if you're a studio-based musician, performer or podcaster, there's nothing to stop you placing it on a stand and using it just like any other microphone. IK Multimedia even includes a tripod with it.
Another feature that caught our attention is the bundled Mic Room modelling software that transforms the iRig Mic HD2 into one of a number of iconic microphones. But that's not all – in typically generous IK Multimedia fashion, this mic also ships with Ableton Live 11 Lite plus a host of audio processing plugins.
Freebies aside, the iRig Mic HD2 performs brilliantly straight out of the box – the sound quality is just superb for a mic at this very competitive price. It’s definitely worth considering if you need to get hands-on with a mic.
Read the full IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD2 review
Sometimes, we get carried away in the belief that we need a big, impressive microphone that costs the price of a kidney, when, in fact, all we really need is a cheap, humble lavalier.
Pin the discreet LavMicro U1A to your lapel and your voice will sound distinct and clear. Move and it’ll move with you, so your voice will still sound distinct and clear. Buy an extension cable and you'll be able to walk a fair distance away from your iPhone or iPad and still be heard as if you were standing right next to it – distinct and clear.
What's special about the Saramonic LavMicro? Er, nothing really. Interesting features? Hmm, none. It just does what it's supposed to do, without fuss or ceremony (although Saramonic does include an alligator clip and a pouch).
We concede that the quality probably wouldn’t be good enough for Adele's next album but, trust us, it's plenty good enough for broadcast and vlogging.
Best iPhone microphones: Buying advice
What makes a great iPhone microphone?
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We expect a lot from the microphones in our iOS devices. One minute we're taking a voice call from Grandma (she's a little hard of hearing, bless her), and the next we're trying to record an interview with a colleague 15 feet away in the middle of a crowded room. For some reason, whatever the application, we expect the audio to be pristine – but more often than not, we're disappointed.
Chances are, provided we catch Granny on a good day, she's able to hear us just fine. But the colleague in that noisy room? Well, the audio's going to sound pretty awful; full of unwanted clatter, hum and hiss.
The reason we're disappointed is because we have unrealistic expectations. No microphone can perform well under all conditions; it's physically impossible. Apple has very sensibly equipped its iOS devices with omnidirectional (omni) condenser mics. These are very sensitive, they pick up sound from all sides, and they don't really suffer from the proximity effect – a low-end boost when close recording.
These characteristics make them superb for recording voice calls, when your mouth is very close to the device, but they are less than ideal for isolating a subject from a busy background. An omni condenser mic can be especially sensitive, too, which is why your subject will often be drowned out in a sea of ambient turmoil.
In addition, if you're using Apple's basic Voice Memos app to record audio, be aware that it relies on auto-gain to set recording levels. It tends to boost every faint ambient sound it picks up, substantially increasing background noise.
Fortunately, investing in a separate microphone and setting gain levels manually can overcome all of these issues.
Microphone pickup patterns
Every microphone is designed with a specific polar pattern (aka pickup pattern), which simply means its sensitivity is directional. Different recording scenarios and applications call for different patterns, so carefully consider how you plan to use your iOS device.
As we've already established, omnidirectional microphones – which have a very broad pattern – aren't ideal for recording in all situations, but that doesn't mean we should disregard them completely. They work exceptionally well for singing, especially when close-miked, which makes them a great choice for lavalier mics. These are the tiny mics broadcasters often wear, usually clipped to a lapel or other item of clothing close to the talent's mouth. Because they're close miked, they're unlikely to pick up much background noise, and that omni pattern means it's not strictly necessary for them to be accurately pointed at the sound source. This makes lavaliers much easier to place and conceal. Equip your iPhone or iPad with a lavalier – either wired or wireless – and you’ll be able to record excellent spoken audio.
Cardioid mics are more focused. They're most sensitive to sounds from the front, capturing little from the sides and rear. This makes them a good choice for semi-isolating vocals or other sound sources from ambient noise. They’re susceptible to the proximity effect – that boost in bass frequencies as the mic is brought closer – but this can be desirable depending on the result you’re trying to achieve. They’re particularly useful for capturing one or two subjects from a few feet away, or for recording distant soundscapes.
Super-cardioids and hyper-cardioids have increasingly narrow patterns, which makes them ideal for isolating your talent from their surroundings, provided they don't move sideways, beyond the mic's pattern.
Figure 8 mics are only really found in mid-side arrays (more of which below). They’re bidirectional, picking up sound from the front and rear but rejecting sound from the sides. That said, slightly confusingly, in a mid-side configuration they are orientated to pick up sound from the sides and reject from the front and rear.
Typically, mics for iPhones and iPads will be omni or cardioid, because those patterns cover most applications well. Don't be under the illusion that a narrow polar pattern will enable you to successfully pick out a distant sound source, especially vocals. It doesn’t work like that. Always try to mic reasonably close to your talent, or you'll end up with an unusable amount of noise. For more advice, read our guide to recording the very best vocal performance.
If your iPhone microphone accessory features just one capsule (a single mic), then it's almost certainly going to be end-address, which means you just point it directly at your subject or talent. Simples.
Some microphones boast dual capsules. These are usually in an X-Y configuration but occasionally you'll find them in a mid-side configuration. Which is better? An X-Y configuration will see two microphone capsules set up diagonally opposing one another, most often at 90 degrees. It provides recordings with an excellent stereo image and is easy to use – imagine a straight line bisecting the two mics, and aim that at your talent. It provides little stereo width control, although some products may allow you to increase or decrease the angle of the capsules.
Mid-side arrays comprise one cardioid mic pointing directly at the action (the mid), together with a second mic, usually in a figure 8 pattern, picking up sounds from the sides (the side). Balancing the input of the two mics, either pre- or post-production, will enable you to increase the stereo image, or focus more on the talent. In a nutshell, a mid-side array will give you more control over the ambience and directionality of your recording, but they’re a bit more of a faff. If you just want to point and shoot, with little concern for choosing settings, go for X-Y.
Dynamic vs condenser mic
Most Lightning-connector iOS mics will be condenser mics. These have active circuitry and are designed to be very sensitive, enabling them to accurately capture low frequencies, high frequencies and everything in between. Unfortunately, that sensitivity can make them quite 'lively', in that they'll also excel at recording low-end rumble and high-end clatter and hiss – stuff like the central heating, cutlery, the clink of glasses, and so on.
Dynamic mics are passive, and far less sensitive. This makes them less accurate, but it also means that they work well in noisy, untreated rooms. You're unlikely to find one that uses a Lightning port, but they’re readily available with USB, XLR and TRS connections.
Apple's connector implementation across its current range is a bit of a mess. We like to believe they know what they're doing, but it does make choosing accessories confusing for the end user. Let's try our best to make some sense of it for you.
All Apple iPhones – including the latest and greatest iPhone 13 Max – continue to use Lightning connectors, which Apple first introduced a decade ago.
The current iPad model also uses a Lightning connector, but all other iPads – the iPad Mini, the iPad Air and the iPad Pro – use USB-C. The iPad model is also now the only device that still uses a 3.5mm headphone jack, which should also accept a TRRS microphone cable. Don't bother trying a TRS cable, as it won't work, despite the fact that headphones use TRS.
This means that many current iPads are not immediately compatible with Lightning-connector-equipped microphones. Similarly, many iOS devices are no longer immediately compatible with microphones with TRRS cables.
But – and it's a mighty big but – Apple and many third-party brands do sell a wide variety of cable adapters. For example, Audio-Technica's ATR2x-USB 3.5mm to USB 2.0 Type-C Audio Adapter is said to work well if you're attempting to use a TRRS-equipped mic with a USB-C iPad. Also, manufacturers will often bundle a variety of cables with their microphones in order to get them up and running with a broad range of iOS devices.
However, anecdotally, some USB microphones – including those with USB-C – appear to suffer compatibility issues with some USB-C-equipped iPads, even though common sense dictates that they should work just fine.
Because of the large number of legacy Apple devices still in service, and the huge number of microphones on the market, we urge you to do a little research before investing in a particular product. Reassuringly, most of the well-known brands do post up-to-date compatibility information on their websites.
You may also have heard about a threat to Apple's Lightning standard from the European Union. To date, Apple says that it’s committed to the Lightning standard for the foreseeable future, even though it’s been forced to change all of its chargers to the USB-C standard. So, for the time being, microphones with Lightning connectors still have a future, one that will probably last for many years to come.
Go pro with XLR
While it makes perfect sense to use either USB or Lightning-equipped microphones with your iOS device, there's no getting away from the fact that the pro standard is still XLR. This is a very mature standard that uses robust, balanced, noise-cancelling cables – if you want to invest in a top-end mic, it’ll almost certainly have an XLR connector.
If you have your heart set on using an XLR-equipped mic (perhaps you already own one), then how do you go about using it with your iPhone or iPad?
The answer is to use an audio interface. Once again, compatibility can be an issue but interfaces that appear to work well with many iOS devices include the PreSonus AudioBox iOne and iTwo, the Arturia MiniFuse and AudioFuse, the Roland Rubix series, the Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X and GO:LIVECAST, the IK Multimedia iRig series and the Apogee Symphony. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and once again we cannot stress how important it is to check compatibility with your particular Apple product.
Please don't mistake our cautiousness for negativity. The combination of an M1 iPad Pro, a USB-C-equipped interface and an XLR mic, such as the superb Shure SM7B, will provide you with a powerful rig that surpasses the capabilities of many desktop studios. Still, it's worth investing a little time to ensure that everything plays nicely together.
Just hit record
Most of the time, getting a microphone to work with your iPhone or iPad will be child's play. There's nothing more to it than plugging it in, firing up an audio or video app, and pressing the big red record button. Then, listen back to a world – your world – as you've never heard it before…
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