Most of the time I’m recording audio with my dedicated microphone, however, there are some times when it’s not available and a smartphone is the only option you have at your hands. We’ll look at how to optimize your smartphone for the best quality audio recording for these instances. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an Android user like me, or if you have an Apple device, most of these tips are universal.
So, here’s how you can improve your audio quality when recording with a smartphone:
- Record close to your mouth
- Choose a good environment to record in
- Choose an app that allows to change recording settings
- Warm up your voice
- Avoid clipping
- Edit in post with Audacity
Now, let’s get more into details.
Hold device close to your mouth
Built-in microphones in smartphones are already hidden within the device making them less sensitive. Try to keep a short distance from the microphone to record the highest quality audio possible. A good distance is about a fist or two away from the mic. This will help to record louder vocals which is very important because you want to sound as loud as possible (without clipping audio) to make background noise, in contrast, less noticeable.
Also, make sure you don’t obstruct the microphone with the case, fingers or table. Always be aware of where your built-in smartphone microphone is and make sure it’s pointing towards your mouth without anything obstructing it. On most phones microphone is at the bottom.
Choose a good environment to record in
The environment you record in matters quite a lot. Usually, when speaking on a phone you can tell which room the person is in. That’s because rooms have different acoustics and may sound completely different.
When choosing a room you want to look for lots of soft surfaces that could absorb the reverb. If you ever wondered why our voices reverberate in corridors so much that’s because usually there are no soft surfaces that could absorb reverb. That makes your voice bounce between the walls and causes an unpleasant echo.
For most of us, the best room is going to be a bedroom since it usually has thick curtains, a soft bed and a closet with clothes. Open your closet with clothes to add more soft surfaces to the room. You can also record right in front of an open closet to absorb most of the reverb. Ideally, if you have a walk-in closet with lots of clothes that would work the best.
Avoid rooms like kitchen or bathroom as usually they have little cushioning and reflect lots of sound.
Also, when recording, get as far away from any possible noise sources such as windows, heater, fridge, air conditioner, ventilators, computer fans, etc. You want to minimize background noise to a minimum so that your smartphone won’t pick it up.
Record using a smart app
There are plenty of recording apps to choose from and your device probably already has one pre-installed. However, if they don’t allow you to choose recording settings you might be recording at a below par audio quality. Choose a recording app that gives you control over the recording settings as they are very important for the audio quality.
You want to have control over an audio file format, sample rate, bit depth and bit rate. The latter is only required if you record in MP3 or AAC file format. With WAV format you won’t need to choose bit rate. Also, choose mono over stereo if there’s an option. If there isn’t an option then most likely you’re recording in mono anyway, as that’s usually a default setting.
These are the settings you want to choose for the highest quality audio:
- File format – WAV
- Sample rate – 44kHz or higher
- Bit depth – 24kbps or higher
A good compromise for almost identical audio quality and significantly less space usage is an AAC file format with these settings:
- File format – AAC
- Sample rate – 44kHz or higher
- Bit rate – at least 192kbps, ideally 256kbps or higher.
- Bit depth – 24kbps or higher
MP3 could also be used with the same settings as AAC above, but it’s best to edit audio in WAV or at least AAC and then MP3 could be used for exporting a final audio file to save up some disc space.
I haven’t found an app that would allow you to choose bit depth on an Android device, most likely they record at 16 bit depth, which is still satisfactory.
For android smartphones, I like Voice Recorder Pro by Splend Apps as it gives options for file format (WAV, AAC or MP3) and sample rate (up to 44kHz). Voice recorder by quality apps is also great, although it lacks AAC file format. Still, I like its recording level meter as it makes it easy to gauge the recording level.
For iOS users, I would choose Voice Record Pro by Dayana Networks Ltd. It allows you to choose all main file formats, sample rate up to 44kHz and even bit depth of 24kbps. Also, a graded recording meter makes it easy to see when you’re clipping your audio.
Prepare your voice
To make the best of your voice do some vocal warm ups. They will immediately loosen your face and throat muscles which will make your voice richer and warmer sounding.
Here are some exercises that could be done in 5-10 minutes and will immediately enhance your voice:
- Tongue rolls
- Lip thrills
- Neck and shoulder stretching
You can read more on how to improve your vocal performance in this article.
Avoid clipping audio
Clipping causes audio distortion. It happens when the input is too loud for the microphone in your smartphone to handle. Make sure you never clip your audio in order to record consistently good audio.
You should always check your recording levels and make sure they never go into a ‘red’ zone or max out and reach 0dB. It helps if your app has a comprehensible, graded recording level meter. You should aim to stay in the -9dB to -3dB range, or at the very least don’t go above 0dB.
Edit in Audacity
Once you’re done recording using a smartphone you can still do quite a lot with free software to make sure you have the highest quality audio.
Also, remove mouth clicks either manually or using a click remover effect.
Once your audio is clean of background noise and mouth clicks you can amplify it to 0dB to make it louder using normalizer effect. If your audio is still too quiet consider using a compressor. You can read more about increasing audio volume here.
Finally, once your audio is loud enough apply equalizer effect to add some warmth or clarity to your voice. Here’s a guide on how to use EQ.
Here’s a sequence in which you want to apply effects: