iPads and sound recording

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iPads and sound recording
As an educator at a school with a large number of iPads, I am frequently met with complaints about recording student voices. Concerns that ‘you can’t hear the student well’, or that ‘background noise is too loud’ are common. People feel that maybe they need a quiet spot away from everybody to record their voice. So, what are the options?

    Troubleshooting

Firstly, students often inadvertently cover the built-in mic with their hand. This is easy to do as most people don’t know where the mic is located. The mic is behind two tiny holes on the opposite end to the home button. As soon as you show a student that they are covering the mic, results improve.
Secondly, you need to consider the distance to the iPad. If you are filming, between 1 and 2 metres is ideal. Further than that, you have to speak louder and background noise will have more impact.
Thirdly, students need to be encouraged and coached to speak loudly and clearly. A timid little squeak of a voice will not cut it.

    Mic options

Although not essential (as I have found the built-in mic adequate for most projects and situations), external mics can be used to improve recording results.

IRig Cast
This mic is an affordable option at around $60 Aus. It plugs into the 3.5mm headphone jack and although a free app is available for it, it will work with any app that records sound. Simply plug and play. It comes with a stand for your device and offers a ‘lo’ and ‘hi’ setting. The Lo setting is for up close recording and is designed to reduce background noise. The hi setting is for larger distances and louder sounds like music. My tests showed that Lo was actually quieter than the built in mic (maybe I needed to be closer?). The hi mode seemed louder to me than the inbuilt mic.

IRig Lav
This is a lapel mic and is great for talking to the camera. My tests showed a strong, clear recording. The cable is about 1 metre long.

Shure MV88
This mic plugs into the lightning port. When you remove the black foam dome, it clearly looks like a serious, professional device. At $250 retail, it has a price to match. If you listen to the attached video, you will hear a noticeable quality difference between this and the other options.

Voice recording and movie making provide many opportunities for users of iOS devices. Whether personally, professionally or educationally, these devices offer convenience. Using sound recording thoughtfully can deliver the results you seek.

Glenn Bruce

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