Getting Good Audio On Your Videos

I’ve shot some videos for the business blog recently and one thing I’ve strongly desired is the a good audio track. Most inexpensive cameras have a crappy tiny internal microphone. If you want to get audio from an external microphone, you’re out of luck with most point and shoot cameras, so you need to spend $500+ to get a camera that can shoot HD video and take audio from an external mic.

You can potentially record with a separate audio recording device and a nice microphone, but then you’ve got two files to keep track of: the video file AND the audio file. Plus, you have to spend time syncing the two as a post-production step.

There IS a class of cameras that can shoot HD video AND take an external microphone input: smartphones. My Samsung Galaxy S5 has a reasonable camera. Other low end smartphones are available that shoot HD video for less than $100.

Now the trick is getting the microphone input to the camera. I have a Audio Technica dynamic microphone with a 1/8″ phono jack that I’ve been using for years. Not the greatest microphone in the world, but durable and a big step up from most cheap mics.

Attempt #1: plug the microphone directly into the S5. This doesn’t work. Audio is recorded directly from the built-in microphone.

Attempt #2: Use the StarTech headset splitter. This cable splits the audio out (headphones) reasonably well, but it doesn’t let you use the microphone. It turns out that there is an impedance issue: The S5, and most smartphones, expect to be plugged into a low-impedance microphone, but most dynamic microphones and other audio devices intended for high quality sound recording are high-impedance. If you’ve got a low-impedance microphone, like one designed to use on a computer headset, you should be good with the StarTech headset splitter.

Attempt #3: The Headset Buddy external microphone adapter. Success. This cable is a little more expensive than the StarTech one, and doesn’t include a separate port for the headphones, but has impedance-matching and lets me use use my dynamic microphone with my Galaxy S5.

I noticed that there’s a lot of confusion over these products in the reviews. Many people are not able to get them working correctly, probably either because of the aforementioned impedance issues, or because the pinouts vary on various types of phones.

I confirmed with a multimeter that the StarTech is wired for the more common CTIA output wiring. This is the pinout used on all iPhones, as well as newer Android phones, including my S5. Other devices, including older Android and Windows phones may use OMTP output, in which case the StarTech adapter won’t work at all.

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