External iPhone microphones allow you to record professional quality audio directly to your phone. These microphones plug directly into the lightning port (or headphone adapter) and allow you to record using an app, or directly to videos shot on your iPhone. It's ideal for podcasters, YouTubers, musicians and filmmakers who need to capture field recordings.
We reviewed the 3 best iPhone microphones for every budget, ranging in price from under $20 to $150.
BEST EXTERNAL IPHONE MICROPHONES
Sometimes life throws you a softball, and the cheap option winds up working great. This is the case with the YouMic Lavalier Microphone if you’re recording solo voice for podcasts, YouTube videos, or live streaming.
The YouMic is a simple and compact lavalier mic -- the kind commonly used in films and presentation halls. It clips to your shirt and records omnidirectionally, so it can capture your voice without the need to position the mic perfectly. Test videos show that it sounds pretty dang sharp compared to the built-in mic of cell phones. Plus, it should easily sync with most cameras and phones (both Android and iPhone), so you can record video with audio directly from this mic.
To be straight, this is not an audiophile microphone. You will not get the booming lows of a broadcast mic, or the crisp high-end of a condenser. For this reason, I would not recommend it for recording instruments, or for professional film/audio productions.
The YouMic is really only intended to pick up a single person’s voice. It’s not great for conducting interviews, or field recordings where you’re picking up sounds at a distance. The Zoom and Shure are much better for this, as they record in stereo and have lower noise.
Lastly, as a budget product, some users have noted the cable or clip can be flimsy. It should be assumed you’ll need to good care of this to ensure a long product life.
The Zoom iQ6 was built with filmmakers in mind. It’s the best way to get field recordings with your iPhone, whether that’s SFX/dialog for a film, or live music recordings.
Unlike the YouMic, the iQ6 records in stereo, so it captures a sense of “being there” in the room or environment. The mic capsules are unidirectional and adjustable -- so in other words, you can point at your source and capture high quality audio at a distance. On the flipside, it’s not quite as intuitive for solo voice/podcast recording.
The iQ6 is the only iPhone mic I’m aware of that includes an external headphone output and a gain adjustment knob. You can plug in a pair of headphones to monitor as you record, and adjust the gain or change mic directions as needed. Other iPhone mics require you to change gain in your recording app, which is a bit more cumbersome, and require you to monitor with the phone’s built-in headphone, which new iPhones have unfortunately taken away.
The Zoom iQ6 uses the same capsules as the H4N, which has long been a staple for indie filmmakers and bands. The iQ6 is basically a way to get the same quality for a lower price, and with the convenience -- and, to be frank, the occasional hassle -- of attaching it to your iPhone.
For one, the microphone is attached only by the lightning port, so you have to be carefully not to knock it out, or loosen/bend the port over time. This shouldn’t be too big of an issue for users, but it’s a far cry from the virtually-indestructible H4N, which you could throw in a camera bag and forget about.
Secondly, some users have noted white noise and glitches when recording, which is caused by interference from your data/cell signal. An easy solution is to turn your phone in “Airplane” mode, which is good habit to get into anyway to avoid having your recordings interrupted by a phone call.
The Shure MV88 offers the best of both worlds. It has a mono/cardioid mode that’s perfect for recording solo voice, as well as stereo/directional modes that works for field recordings. Better yet, Shure lets you to change these settings straight from their recording app. Switching between modes just takes the click of a button, plus, the app breaks everything down in simple terms:
The MOTIV recording app is incredibly intuitive, including presets for speech, singing, acoustic instruments, and flat recording.
For the price, I would’ve liked to see an external gain control and headphone monitor. Understandably, at the time Shure released this, iPhones had both lightning and 1/8mm headphone outputs. Now that that’s been removed, there’s no way to monitor as you record without using bluetooth headphones.
The Shure MV88 also has some of the same downsides as the Zoom iQ6 as far as relying on a fragile connector to work, and being susceptible to interference from your cell signal (unless you place it in airplane mode). But this is ultimately the tradeoff of using an iPhone mic vs. a portable recorder. The former gives you convenience, allowing you to record with an app, then immediately edit and send files via email. The latter gives you reliability; a sturdy device you can throw in your bag and forget about.
If you need an iPhone mic for recording voice, most users will do great with the YouMic Lavelier. It’s simple, inexpensive, and works with any kind of device, including Android. If you’re looking to step up your game, the Zoom iQ6 is great for film and live recordings, while the Shure MV88 is great for voice and instrument tracking.