Phone mic - a bad idea?

Anevis

Member
This might be a silly question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. Hope this question fits this section, didn't know where else to ask it.

Have you recorded with your phone mic? I mean I'm currently not able to access my DAW and stuff. Let's say the only gear available is my laptop (that's not really usable for anything) and my phone and I was looking for a way how to capture a few new ideas I wrote on piano. I'm not talking about writing it on a paper like the old days. I need to have it as an audio and have it in the best quality possible to capture the expression, dynamics, clarity etc. (and I also would like to look into this for future experimentation)

Is it even possible to achieve a good sound to our phone mic?

I've seen a few people say that's not really about the gear, but about the idea.. which is it!
 

chrisr

Senior Member
It won't be a "good sound" - but it's perfectly possible to use your phone for getting ideas down. I had a producer record and send me a guide vocal for a song I was arranging on his phone at home and it was surprisingly alright for that purpose.

The main problems to watch out for, somewhat obviously, are handling noise and clipping due to high sound levels.
 
OP
Anevis

Anevis

Member
Yes, working with that producer, do you know any techniques he used. such as the phone position, maybe something around the phone so it goes directly to the mic or something, idk. :D
 

tonaliszt

Active Member
I use phone mics a lot as they are a quick and easy way to get stuff done.

In my experience, it works best on medium register instruments that can be close mic'ed. Violin, Clarinet, Oboe, Flute, sound the best. Things like brass, most percussion, and piano are going to sound worse as they are usually never mic'ed with just a single microphone.

I have yet to experiment with recording instruments with multiple phones, as it could potentially be a better sound. Piano's are recorded close with at least 2 mics, so you might get a better result if you record with 2 phones - this could potentially work out worse though.
 

d.healey

Senior Member
This might be a silly question
Only because you could so easily test it yourself :P

I just tried it (attached) and it sounds pretty nasty with my keyboard. But with an external mic plugged in I think it would be ok, the phone is fine as a recording device. And you really need to try it with your particular phone.
 

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Anevis

Anevis

Member
I use phone mics a lot as they are a quick and easy way to get stuff done.

In my experience, it works best on medium register instruments that can be close mic'ed. Violin, Clarinet, Oboe, Flute, sound the best. Things like brass, most percussion, and piano are going to sound worse as they are usually never mic'ed with just a single microphone.

I have yet to experiment with recording instruments with multiple phones, as it could potentially be a better sound. Piano's are recorded close with at least 2 mics, so you might get a better result if you record with 2 phones - this could potentially work out worse though.
Hmmmm, haven't though of two phone. I should test that out, how it works out.
Yeeeaah it may work out worse, but that's the beauty of experimentation :D
 
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Anevis

Anevis

Member
Only because you could so easily test it yourself :P

I just tried it (attached) and it sounds pretty nasty with my keyboard. But with an external mic plugged in I think it would be ok, the phone is fine as a recording device. And you really need to try it with your particular phone.
I know, I know :D :D :D
But it is always good to ask fellow composers / producers / recorders / audio engineers / sound designers etc. etc.. for advice and their point of view.

I've tried it couple of times and most of the times I wasn't happy with the result, it was sufficient tho.


EDIT:
I do get quite similar result. But you can hear a lot of the other background, unnecessary noises. That is what I'm trying to avoid. Which may be impossible with just phone mic.:D
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
I don't know Android phones, but at least until the current models, the built-in iPhone mic is mono and not particularly good. (The latest iPhone has stereo recording, and I don't know whether it's any better than in the past.)

Whether it's good enough depends on your application.

Unfortunately, piano is an instrument that wants to be recorded well, because it has such subtle harmonics, wide frequency and dynamic ranges, and just because everyone knows what it's supposed to sound like.

The app you use also makes a difference, though, despite it being minor compared to the mic and where you place it. I like Twisted Wave.

It always irritates me when people here answer fundamental questions with a shopping list, but I will say that the Blue Mikey Digital is fabulous for recording interviews and things like that. Piano, well, you probably want a portable audio interface and decent mics.
 

chrisr

Senior Member
Using more than one digital recording device (or in this case more than one phone...) without having the two devices clocked together (not possible with phones, obviously) is a bit of a non-starter because they will drift out of time with each other surprisingly quickly!

I've no idea what the person who sent me the voice files did, I'm afraid - but I would hazard a guess that he held the phone at arms length and stood pretty still.

Good luck!
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
Using more than one digital recording device (or in this case more than one phone...) without having the two devices clocked together (not possible with phones, obviously) is a bit of a non-starter because they will drift out of time with each other surprisingly quickly!
Really? Two different digital devices drifted quickly?

That's weird, because digital devices are all synced to a very precise crystal. You'll get clicks and pops if you transfer between two devices running on their internal clocks rather than locking them together, but those discrepancies are less than a single wave cycle - nowhere near the "drifting out of time" level.

Of course I'm not saying that what you experienced didn't happen, I'm saying that something funny has to be going on.
 
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Anevis

Anevis

Member
I don't know Android phones, but at least until the current models, the built-in iPhone mic is mono and not particularly good. (The latest iPhone has stereo recording, and I don't know whether it's any better than in the past.)

Whether it's good enough depends on your application.

Unfortunately, piano is an instrument that wants to be recorded well, because it has such subtle harmonics, wide frequency and dynamic ranges, and just because everyone knows what it's supposed to sound like.

The app you use also makes a difference, though, despite it being minor compared to the mic and where you place it. I like Twisted Wave.

It always irritates me when people here answer fundamental questions with a shopping list, but I will say that the Blue Mikey Digital is fabulous for recording interviews and things like that. Piano, well, you probably want a portable audio interface and decent mics.
Talking about Android now, yes, sorry for not mentioning that.

Using the built-in voice recorder, which isn't probably the best app to use. Better would be some dedicated app for recording?

Since last posted to this thread, I've tried it. It still sounds like crap, but I was able to get a few close shots at something that reminds me of satisfaction, still nowhere close how I imagine to get the maximum out of it. It depends on the placement a lot.

Audio interface isn't that big of a deal, since I can use the one I normally use, it's pretty portable, but mics are bit harder and when you have to get two decent ones, it gets quite expensive :D
 
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Anevis

Anevis

Member
Using more than one digital recording device (or in this case more than one phone...) without having the two devices clocked together (not possible with phones, obviously) is a bit of a non-starter because they will drift out of time with each other surprisingly quickly!

I've no idea what the person who sent me the voice files did, I'm afraid - but I would hazard a guess that he held the phone at arms length and stood pretty still.

Good luck!
Do they drift out of time? Never heard of that. I mean it's pretty unusual to record something with two phones.
 

chrisr

Senior Member
Hey Guys,

Hard to believe we're debating the merits of multi-mic recording on mobile phones - very bizarre! - but for what it's worth;

The precision (drift) of said chrystals is measured in ppm and might be as low as 5ppm or as high as 50ppm and might vary depending upon lots of things like operating temperature.That equates to some pretty serious (depending upon your definition) drift.

We could probably argue the point some more so I thought it best to just go ahead and make a recording of a 1k test tone in my studio with mine and my wifes phones while I made a lovely cup of coffee and some toast.

I've attached 2 screen shots of the resulting wave.

At the start the recordings are in phase (because I lined them up)

After nearly 7 mins the 1k tones are fully out of phase.

So you can work out that 2k is inverted after 3.5 mins, 4k after 1.5-2 mins, 8k within a minute, etc... and that's for fully out of phase audio - not just a bit.

Pics attached :)

best,
Chris
 

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