We recently were asked about the best ways to record audio using an iPad.  This is actually a question that requires some thought as there are many solutions. Depending on your desired outcome, some ways are better then others.  Below are scenarios in the classroom and different hardware for the job:

Scenario 1: Quick recording in the classroom, ideally in a quiet space.

Solution: Built-in Microphone on the iPad

All iPads come with a built-in microphone that can be all you need in some scenarios.  If there is background noise and/or distance between the recorded person and the iPad you will be disappointed with the built in mic.  If students have a quiet space and are close to the iPad, the built-in mic can have good results.  Below is a video made by a middle school student explaining a math concept.  This example shows the quality that the built-in mic can provide, given the correct setting:

Scenario 2: Recording another person using the iPad

Two Solutions: USB Microphones using the iPad Camera Connection Kit or Microphones using the 3.5 audio jack on the iPad

This scenario is really where the built-in mic falls apart.  Usually the individual being recorded is too far away or there is too much surrounding noise to get quality audio.  In this scenario it is better to use either a USB microphone or a microphone that uses the 3.5 audio jack on the iPad.

USB Microphones using the iPad Camera Connection Kit

The iPad works with many USB microphones using an adapter called the Camera Connection Kit (*New iPads or Mini’s need this camera adapter).  It is important to realize that Apple does not list this as an actual feature.  The main reason for this is the USB connection is underpowered vs. a regular USB port and thus some power hungry USB microphones will appear to not work.  There is an interesting work around: If you plug in a microphone into a powered USB hub and then plug the powered USB hub into the iPad almost any mic will work.  This is obviously not the cleanest solution but we are all about getting our nerd on at this blog!  Luckily most USB microphone manufactures indicate if their microphone will work with an iPad at this point.  The good news with this solution is many buildings already have some USB mics lying around and for the price of the adapter you very well could be off and running with a better audio solution.  If you are interested in a purchasing a USB mic, get ready to spend some money.  Today’s USB mics are very high quality and produce great sound, but at a price.  Budget around $100-$200 for a current USB mic.  Our current recommendation is microphones from Blue.  Blue even has a microphone out called the Spark that has both the USB connection and either the 30 pin or Lightning connection.  If this seems like overkill to you then the 3.5 audio jack microphones are for you.

3.5 audio jack Microphones

This solution makes sense for most classrooms.  With a wide variety of products at many different price points the microphones that plug into the 3.5 mm audio jack (Where you plug in headphones) are a great solution for schools.  Below are 3 different types of audio jack microphones that represent different price points.

“Pill” type microphones

35mm-Plug-Mini-Microphone-for-iPhoneiPadiPod-Black_200x200_medium At the $2 – $10 range, the “pill” type microphone is an inexpensive way to enhance the audio recording on an iPad.  The advantage to this design is that it adds a direction to the microphone vs. the built-in mic that picks up sound from all around.  While an improvement, the pill design still struggles with distance recording.  Another drawback is it can be awkward for students to use these types of microphones while holding the iPad.  This solution is better then the built in mic, but only slightly.




Telephone type microphone

telephone example ipod  Made like a telephone handheld set, the device ranges from $5 – $20. Great sound isolation and fun for students to use, this solution can be a great fit in the classroom.  If you are using your iPad to record video and audio this solution might distract from the filming.  I have used this solution to record students reading and it has been really successful.




Shirt Clip Mic with cable extender

3.5 audio cordtie clipThis is a a great solution for classrooms that want to record video with audio.  By combining a 6ft 3.5 mm extender (Monoprice $1.75) with a lapel mic ($1 – $3), students can record high quality audio with their video.  An obvious drawback is the cord, but with proper management this is a great cost effective way to get great sound.



There you have it.  There are many different options and many options to keep in mind, but luckily for classrooms many of the solutions are very inexpensive.  In a future post I will explore different apps that support audio recording and offer some classroom uses.  I purposely did not add links to some of the devices unless I have used a product directly.  Monoprice is always my recommended place to start for cords, mics, and any accessories.  As always, share your thoughts, other recommended solutions, and comments below.

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