The popularity of the iPhone – both as a film-making tool and for audio capture – has created a healthy market for accessories too.
One shortcoming of smartphones and tablets, when it comes to audio, is the quality and positioning of the in-built mics.
The iPhone’s mics have improved over the years, and all iPhones from the 5 onwards have a ‘video’ mic positioned between the camera lens and flash, so at least it points in the right direction for video.
Move in close enough, and the internal mic is capable of reasonable results; note, though, that this mic only works with video apps or FaceTime, not Voice Memos (which uses the main iPhone mic). And it is possible to capture better than passable audio too, using the Apple headset that comes with the phone.
The best option, though, is often a third-party external mic. There are plenty of mic and audio interface choices for general or music recording, and several companies, including Røde, IK Multimedia, and Shure now make dedicated lavalier-type mics for the iPhone, or other devices that use a TRRS combined jack. This includes iPads, and some models of Apple laptops too.
The great thing about smartphone lavalier mics is that they are small, unobtrusive and economical; they can be used either with the iPhone for video – although this usually requires extension cables – or for voiceovers or using a smartphone as an audio recorder, for “dual system” sound.
In this short video, we look at the MVL lavalier mic from veteran mic manufacturer Shure. The MVL is a similar price to Røde’s Smartlav+, at £43 in the UK, but for video, 48/24 recording is included for free in the Shure app (Shure Motiv) – for 48 kHz, Røde’s equivalent is a paid download, albeit one with a rather wider feature set.
In use, the Shure mic is about as simple as it can be, and the mic itself feels robust, despite a plastic, and rather chunky, clip.
Of course, the audio quality cannot compare to a dedicated, XLR broadcast mic – our tests were done with a Sony ECM77 – and subjectively, the MVL sounds thinner than a Sennheiser radio mic capsule – although some of this is down to the recording limitations of the iPhone.
But the quality is good enough for mobile journalism and occasional use for tasks such as voiceover recording, and the MVL’s slightly chunkier clip design might even make it a better option than the Røde for quick recordings.
Click on our video test below, for more.