Android devices can do pretty much everything, and recording audio is no exception. We’ve covered the basics in our article on recording podcast audio on the go, but what if you want to improve your audio recording even further?
How about connecting a USB microphone?
In the past you could easily connect a microphone with the auxiliary port, but now that Android devices are ditching the physical headphone socket (which often doubles as a microphone input), this is becoming increasingly difficult to do.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about connecting a USB microphone to any Android device.
What You’ll Need
You’ll need a few elements to start recording with a USB mic on Android. At first glance, you’d think any mic and Android device will do, but there’s more to it than that.
First, you’ll need an Android device with a USB port capable of supporting USB On-The-Go (OTG). USB OTG simply allows your device to function as a USB host, which lets you connect all kinds of different USB devices from game controllers to microphones.
Moving onto the microphone, nearly any USB microphone will work. If you want to get really advanced, an audio interface with a “traditional” (non-USB) mic will also work, but this may involve a few more steps. Our guide to condenser vs. dynamic microphones can help you choose a specific microphone.
You’ll also need a USB hub. This will act as the interface between your microphone (which is probably USB-A) and your phone (which may be USB-C or Micro-USB). If you’re using a particularly demanding interface or mic, you may need to use a powered USB hub. This is covered in greater detail below.
The process requires a USB OTG breakout cable as well. This converts your phone’s Micro-USB or USB-C port into a female USB-A port. You need this to connect your hub to your phone—most hubs are designed for computers with larger ports. If you’re not sure about the different USB cable types, check out our guide to USB cable types.
Finally, you’ll need a suitable app to record audio.
Choosing an Android Audio Recording App
Possibly the most important part of your recording rig is your choice of app. It’s no good having an app that crashes all the time and loses your recordings.
An audio level indicator is an essential requirement of any audio recording app. Thus, you should immediately disregard any app that does not have one. Audio level indicators clearly show the status of any audio that’s recording.
By using a simple green, yellow, and red status, you can immediately see if you have a signal. It also shows if that signal is too loud (which causes clipping or distortion) or too quiet (which may be problematic to artificially boost later on).
A gain control, or volume knob, is another app essential. With this, you can adjust your mic level if it’s too loud or too quiet. Many USB microphones will have this as a physical knob, but it’s still useful to have in app.
You can use another file management app if your recording app doesn’t provide an easy way to do so on its own, but it’s still a nice-to-have feature.
Multitrack recording capabilities are useful if you want to record more than one sound source at once. Many USB microphones support stereo recording, or maybe you have a more advanced model or audio interface, whereby you can connect several microphones at once.
The use for multitrack recording is simple. If you record each channel as a separate source, it’s easy later on to adjust the level of individual mics. But if you and a friend both speak into the same microphone, there’s no way to alter the volume of each person after you finish the recording.
We recommend WavStudio for this job. It’s free (with ads), but provides a whole range of features. Not only can you perform the basics such as changing gain and recording audio, but you can record in stereo, choose from a variety of effects, and perform audio format conversions.
Recording Audio on Android With a USB Microphone
Once you’ve assembled your audio kit, connecting it all together is a simple process. Most USB microphones come with a suitable USB cable. Connect one end to your microphone, and the other USB-A male end to the USB-A female port on your USB hub.
Connect the hub to your USB breakout cable. Again, this should be USB-A male from the hub to USB-A female on the breakout cable.
Finally, connect the male USB-C or Micro-USB end of the breakout cable to your phone.
Once you’re ready to go, it’s simply a matter of firing up your app, dialing in your settings, and pressing record. You may sometimes need to configure your app. This involves pointing the app to your USB device, so it knows where to record audio from.
If you’re using the aforementioned WavStudio, you can easily adjust your input source by opening the Settings menu, accessible through the settings cog on the bottom-right of the main screen.
Once in the settings menu, the input source is available through the dropdown menu at the top of the screen.
Not Enough Power?
Sometimes, after doing everything right, it still won’t work. The most likely culprit is insufficient power. Microphones sometimes require a lot of electricity—perhaps more than your phone can deliver.
You can solve this with a powered USB hub, which connects to an external power source. The data sends to and from your phone, but the mic receives power through the wall instead of your device.
Many USB OTG cables provide a charger input, which can charge your phone at the same time as powering USB accessories.
Once you’re up and running, there are a few simple tricks you can use to significantly improve your audio quality:
Know your mic: Just because you’re using an Android phone and USB mic doesn’t mean you can ignore the manufacturer’s advice. Learning how to use your mic properly, what scenarios it’s best used for, and where to position it can make a world of difference to your audio quality.
Get your settings right in-app: Just like recording audio on your computer, app settings also make a big difference. If you have your gain structure too high, you’ll get clipping (where the audio input is too much for the interface to handle). It can sound buzzy or generally lousy. If your audio meters show extreme red, simply turn the gain down to fix this problem.
As you’ve seen, connecting a USB microphone to an Android phone really is that simple. It’s practically a matter of plug and play for a modern device!