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How to Record Professional Quality Audio on Your iPhone: The Ultimate Guide

The iPhone has revolutionized many aspects of our lives, and audio recording is no exception. With each new model, Apple has continued to improve the iPhone‘s built-in microphone and audio capturing capabilities, to the point where you can now record professional-grade audio straight from your phone.

Whether you‘re a journalist, podcaster, musician, vlogger, or anyone else who needs high-quality audio recordings on the go, the iPhone is up to the task. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover everything you need to know about recording crystal clear audio on your iPhone, including the best methods, apps, accessories, and expert tips to get the most professional results.

The iPhone Microphone: Small But Mighty

Before we dive into recording techniques, let‘s take a closer look at the technology that makes the iPhone such a powerful recording device: the built-in microphone.

Recent iPhone models like the iPhone 12 and 13 are equipped with a "studio-quality" three-mic array. This means there are three separate microphones built into the phone:

  • The bottom microphone near the charging port, primarily used for phone calls
  • The front microphone at the top of the screen, used for FaceTime calls, video recording, and Siri
  • The back microphone, located between the camera lenses, used for ambient noise reduction

When you record audio or video on an iPhone, it intelligently chooses the best microphone or combination of microphones based on the scenario. For example, if you‘re recording a voice memo, it will primarily use the bottom mic. For videos, it uses the front and/or back mic.

The mics themselves are incredibly small—each one is about the size of a pin head. But don‘t let the size fool you. These tiny mics are capable of capturing an impressive level of detail and clarity.

According to audio tests conducted by CNET, the iPhone‘s built-in microphone has:

  • A frequency response of 50Hz to 20kHz, allowing it to pick up a wide range of sounds from deep bass to high treble
  • A sensitivity of -96 dBFS, meaning it can capture very quiet sounds without adding too much noise
  • The ability to handle high sound pressure levels up to 120 dB, enough to record loud concerts without distortion

In short, the iPhone microphone is a very capable little piece of hardware that lays the groundwork for high-quality audio recording. Now let‘s look at how to capture the best recordings using an iPhone.

The 5 Best Ways to Record Audio on an iPhone

1. Voice Memos App

Apple‘s built-in Voice Memos app is the simplest, quickest way to record audio on an iPhone. It‘s convenient, reliable, and produces good quality recordings with minimal setup or fuss.

To record with Voice Memos:

  1. Open the Voice Memos app
  2. Tap the red record button to start recording
  3. Tap the button again to stop the recording
  4. The recording is automatically saved in your Voice Memos library
  5. Tap the three dots next to a recording to access options like trim, delete, duplicate, or share

Voice Memos is great for lectures, meetings, interviews, songwriting sessions, or any time you need a no-frills recording. You can also use it to record audio while shooting video if you want better sound than the iPhone‘s video mic.

Voice Memos automatically names your recordings with your location, but you can easily rename them. You can also trim the beginning or end of a recording, but for more advanced editing you‘ll need a different app.

2. GarageBand App

GarageBand is a more advanced audio recording and editing app made by Apple. It comes free on iPhones and offers powerful tools suitable for both beginners and professionals.

To record audio in GarageBand:

  1. Open the GarageBand app
  2. Tap the + button to start a new project
  3. Choose the Audio Recorder option from the list of track types
  4. Tap the red record button to start and stop recording
  5. Use the editing tools to trim, split, duplicate, or enhance the audio
  6. Add more tracks to layer sounds or record multiple takes
  7. Export your finished recording or entire GarageBand project

GarageBand is extremely versatile. You can record a single voice memo or build an entire song with multiple tracks and instruments. It has a ton of features like EQ, compression, reverb, and built-in amp simulators for recording electric guitar or bass.

For spoken word recording, GarageBand has a useful Audio Recorder interface that makes it easy to capture clean recordings. You can see the waveform as you record, quickly re-record segments, and use the Noise Gate effect to reduce background sounds.

GarageBand is a big step up from Voice Memos in terms of control and features. The only real downside is the learning curve if you‘re new to audio recording and editing.

3. Third-Party Recording Apps

The App Store has a huge selection of audio recording apps designed for different needs and experience levels. These can be a great option if you want something more powerful than Voice Memos but more streamlined than GarageBand.

One of the best is Voice Record Pro. It hits the sweet spot of being simple to use but packed with useful features like:

  • Gain adjustment for different recording situations
  • Auto or manual pause
  • Skip silence to cut out gaps
  • Editing tools like trim, crop, split and merge
  • Cloud backup to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive
  • Easy sharing via email, text, or social media
  • Customizable recording formats and quality settings

Other highly-rated recording apps include:

  • Just Press Record for one-tap recording and automatic transcription
  • ShurePlus MOTIV for connecting Shure microphones
  • Dolby On for professional editing and effects
  • AudioShare for multi-track recording and collaboration

With these apps, you can record high-quality audio in a variety of settings and have more flexibility and control over your recordings and workflow.

4. External Microphones

While the iPhone‘s built-in mic is great, using an external microphone takes the audio quality to the next level. There are many different types of mics you can use with an iPhone, from small lavaliers to shotgun mics to studio-quality condensers.

Benefits of using an external mic include:

  • Clearer, more direct sound with less room noise
  • Ability to position the mic closer to your sound source
  • Higher sensitivity for capturing detail and depth
  • More control over polar patterns and gain
  • Sturdier build quality for longer recording sessions

One of the most popular iPhone mics is the Shure MV88 ($150). This compact stereo condenser plugs right into the Lightning port and has adjustable width and portrait/landscape modes. It comes with a mini stand and windscreen and works great for videos, field recording, and music.

For a more affordable option, the ATR3350IS lavalier mic ($35) is a highly-rated clip-on that plugs into the headphone jack (you‘ll need a Lightning adapter for newer iPhones). It captures crisp, focused sound and is perfect for interviews, YouTube videos, and presentations.

On the higher end, you can connect an XLR microphone like the Shure SM7B ($400) to an iPhone using an interface like the iRig Pre HD ($100). This lets you capture genuine studio-quality recordings on an iPhone, fit for professional podcasts and music productions.

5. Recording Tips and Techniques

Whichever iPhone audio recording method you use, you can improve your results with proper recording techniques. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Find a quiet space: Background noise is the enemy of clean recordings. Record in the quietest place available, away from vents, fans, refrigerators, or other noise sources. You can also use blankets or pillows to create a makeshift vocal booth.

  • Get close to the mic: The closer you are to the mic, the more direct sound it will pick up relative to room noise. For vocals and interviews, keep the mic about 4-8 inches from your mouth. For instruments, experiment with different distances and angles until you find the sweet spot.

  • Use a pop filter: When recording vocals up close, use a pop filter or windscreen to avoid popping or breath sounds. You can buy an inexpensive filter or make one with a wire hanger and nylon stocking.

  • Set your levels: Before hitting record, do a soundcheck to make sure your audio levels are in a good range. Aim for average peaks around -12dB to -6dB. If you‘re clipping (going above 0dB), turn down the gain. If your waveform is too quiet, turn it up.

  • Record in mono: Unless you‘re recording music in stereo, it‘s usually best to record in mono to avoid phasing issues. This is especially important for spoken word content like podcasts, since many people listen in mono anyway.

  • Monitor with headphones: Plug in headphones while you record so you can listen to exactly what the mic is picking up. This helps you catch any problems like popping, rustling, or room echoes that you might not notice otherwise.

  • Record a safety track: If you‘re recording someone who tends to speak loudly or unpredictably, you can record a second safety track at a lower level. That way, if your main recording clips, you have a backup without distortion.

  • Capture room tone: At the end of a recording, let the mics run for a minute to capture the ambient sound of the room. This "room tone" can be useful for editing later, to smooth out cuts or gaps in the audio.

By using these tips and techniques, you can avoid common recording pitfalls and dramatically improve the quality of your iPhone recordings. Of course, the more you practice and experiment, the better you‘ll get!

iPhone Audio Recording FAQ

Q: Can I record audio while shooting video on an iPhone?
A: Yes, when you record video on an iPhone it automatically records audio along with it using the built-in mics. However, for the best possible audio, you can record the audio separately in an app like Voice Memos or GarageBand and then sync it with the video afterwards.

Q: How long can I record on an iPhone?
A: In theory, you can record audio on an iPhone for as long as you have available storage space. In practice, very long recordings (like multiple hours) can be a bit unwieldy to work with. It‘s usually better to record in shorter chunks (30-60 minutes) if possible, and take breaks to save your files and give the phone a rest.

Q: What‘s the best iPhone audio recording app?
A: It depends on your needs and experience level. For quick and easy recording, the built-in Voice Memos app is great. For more advanced features and editing, GarageBand is very powerful. And for something in between, a third-party app like Voice Record Pro offers a lot of options and control.

Q: Do I need an external microphone?
A: The iPhone‘s built-in microphone is surprisingly capable, but an external mic will give you better sound quality, especially in noisy environments or for professional productions. If you‘re just starting out, try the built-in mic first and then consider upgrading to an external mic to improve your recordings.

Q: What accessories do I need for iPhone audio recording?
A: The beauty of iPhone recording is that you can do a lot with very little gear. But some helpful accessories include:

  • A tripod or phone stand to keep the iPhone stable and at a consistent distance from your mouth
  • A pop filter or windscreen to reduce plosives and breath noise
  • Over-ear headphones for monitoring your recordings and avoiding feedback
  • A portable charger or battery case for longer recording sessions

Q: How do I get my audio off my iPhone?
A: There are a few different ways to transfer your iPhone recordings to a computer:

  • Sync your iPhone with iTunes or Finder and access the files from there
  • Use AirDrop to wirelessly send files to a Mac
  • Email the files to yourself or upload to a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Connect your iPhone to your computer with a USB cable and use the Files app to drag and drop the recordings

The Bottom Line

The iPhone is an incredibly powerful and versatile audio recording device. With the right app, microphone, and technique, you can capture professional-sounding recordings of interviews, podcasts, music, and more—all from your phone.

Whether you‘re just starting out or you‘re a seasoned pro looking for a mobile recording solution, the iPhone has you covered. Experiment with different apps and mics to find the workflow that works best for you.

Remember, the key to a great recording is a quiet environment, proper mic placement, and careful leveling. With those fundamentals in place, you‘ll be well on your way to capturing crystal-clear, broadcast-worthy audio on your iPhone.

Sources and Further Reading