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Updated August 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best 3.5 mm microphones

The 3.5-millimeter microphone is a firm favorite among podcasters, videographers, and anyone looking for high-quality audio input equipment. This microphone’s biggest plus is its compatibility with a wide range of recording equipment, including video and digital SLR cameras. It also works with smartphones and personal computers, which are the backbone devices for today’s user-led media revolution.

Even though the 3.5 mm microphone is versatile, choosing the right one for your needs can take a little work and some investigation into each product’s specifications. Some even factors even product descriptions do not take into account, like whether you may need an additional adapter.

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Position a microphone so that it points directly at the sound or voice you’re recording and is within its recommended range. Practice positioning a few times before the actual audio recording event.

Key considerations

Components

All microphones share nearly the same basic components:

Body: This is the protective casing around the components of a microphone.

Windscreen: This is a metallic mesh or grid on top of the input side of the microphone (where you speak into it) that protects the components from the elements. 

Diaphragm: This membrane vibrates when sound waves hit it.

Transducer: Depending on the microphone type (dynamic or condenser), the components of this section of the mic start the process of converting sound waves into electrical signals. We’ll talk about common transducer technologies below.

Capsule: The heart of the microphone, the capsule contains the diaphragm and transducer components that convert sound waves into an electrical signal.

Output: This is the cable and connector (in this case, the 3.5 mm jack) through which the electrical signal is sent.

Pros of 3.5 mm mics

Why choose a 3.5-millimeter microphone over other types of mics? There are a number of key benefits, especially for those who are just getting familiar with audio design.

Compatibility with old and new technology: The 3.5 mm jack has been in use with electronics for decades and is still standard on many external audio components.

Better-quality sound than USB: A 3.5 mm connection is dedicated to audio input directly to a device’s sound processor. USB connectors and cables may have additional wires to transfer data between devices, wiring that can interfere with audio transmission from the microphone and reduce sound quality.

Size: A 3.5 mm microphone cable is thinner and the jack is only 1/8 inch long, making it much easier to tuck away when not in use.

Affordability: In terms of cost, 3.5 mm microphones are on par with or better than USB microphones of the same size.

Choice: Microphones with 3.5 mm connectors are available in many sizes and form factors, so you can pick the mic that works best for your specific needs.

Cons of 3.5 mm mics

That doesn’t mean 3.5 mm mics are the perfect choice in every situation. There are a few cons to consider before making a decision: 

Electrical interference: This can affect microphones with thinner, less-shielded cables, a factor in smaller 3.5 mm microphones, such as lavaliers.

Adapters: These may be needed to connect to smartphones and laptops.

Balance: The microphone’s output may be difficult to balance in a professional studio environment.

Solutions

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce or prevent these issues, from being aware of the microphone’s positioning to purchasing accessories that improve performance. 

Choose the right pickup pattern: Omnidirectional or shotgun or cardioid. Pickup patterns are important to know about. As it sounds, omnidirectional mics take in sound from all directions. Shotgun and cardioid mics capture sound mainly from the front.

TRS vs. TRRS: One of the features of a 3.5 mm microphone jack is small insulator rings near the tip, the part that you plug into the interface. Those rings are more important than most people realize.

  • TRS: Tip/Ring/Sleeve are the key components of the stereo-optimized 3.5 mm jack. This type is used most often with video cameras, DSLR cameras, and other dedicated audio equipment. A TRS plug has two black rings behind the tip, making it easy to identify. The tip is a contact for the left side audio, while the metal ring between two black insulator bands is a contact for the right audio output. The sleeve is the long metal shaft behind the last insulator band.
  • TRRS: The Tip/Ring/Ring/Sleeve configuration plug with four contacts in total has three gray rings, making it easy to identify. A microphone with this plug is best for use with smartphones and computers and may not work with external audio devices.

Manufacturers are increasingly including TRS or TRRS adapters with their 3.5 mm microphones, so check the product description to see if an adapter is included before purchasing one separately.

Dyk1 
Did You Know?
Recording outside? Protect the microphone with a foam windscreen, which diffuses the noise created by outdoor breezes passing over the mic.
Staff
BestReviews

Features

Mic type

While microphones with 3.5 mm jacks come in many shapes and sizes, there are some specific features to be aware of when deciding which type of microphone to purchase. You’ll find 3.5 mm microphones with these common descriptions in retail product listings:

Lavalier or lapel: This small microphone that clips to a jacket lapel or shirt collar is an almost perfect mate for the 3.5 mm connector.

Handheld: This is a thinner, cylindrical microphone that can be easily carried.

Desktop or studio: This is a wider microphone that can be mounted on a pedestal, tripod, or boom. These typically have a wide diaphragm that is more sensitive to sound and delivers richer audio.

Transducer type

The biggest variation inside a microphone is in the design of the transducer. Microphone tech is largely split into two main types: dynamic and condenser.

Dynamic: Perhaps the most common type on the market, this microphone type relies on electromagnetic induction, commonly through a coil and magnet, to transfer sound waves from the diaphragm to the capsule. In some high-end mics, a ribbon is used instead of a coil. One advantage of dynamic mics is that they don’t need additional power to function.

Condenser: This type of microphone uses electrostatic plates instead of a coil or ribbon, and it, therefore, needs to be powered in order to function. The condenser mic is seen more often in studios and other professional sound environments.

It’s important to note that neither microphone type is better than the other. Dynamic and condenser mics have specific advantages that determine which environment each performs best in. They even produce different types of sound waves. While this isn’t an issue for everyday recording, professional sound engineers and audiophiles like having both types on hand so they can shape the sound being recorded. 

Output cable 

The diameter of the output cable between a microphone and its 3.5 mm jack can vary depending on a few factors. 

In smaller microphones, a thinner cable leads directly from the microphone to the jack, with no adapter needed. 

Other microphones use an industry-standard three- or four-prong XLR cable from the microphone itself, and an adapter cable with a 3.5 mm jack on one end is used to connect to an input port.

Dyk2
Did You Know?
The audio jack is well over 100 years old and was developed for use in telephone switchboards.
Staff
BestReviews

Accessories

These microphones perform well on their own, but as every audiophile knows, there’s always a way to augment their output and boost the performance. Here are a few to consider.

Analog interface: Rode AI-1 Audio Interface
Pinpoint control of stereo balance and volume output from your microphone to your computer with this analog interface that includes a headphone jack so you can monitor and adjust the audio on the spot.

TRS-to-TRRS adapter: Ienza SC4 Female TRS-to-TRRS Adapter
This is necessary if you plan to use a 3.5 mm TRS microphone with a smartphone or computer.

TRRS-toTRS adapter: Riqiorod TRRS-to-TRS Adapter
If your microphone has a TRRS jack, you’ll need this adapter.

Mini-jack adapter: Movo FXLR-PRO Mini-Jack Adapter
This little adapter is the key to connecting a 3.5 mm microphone to studio-quality equipment like audio interfaces, giving you more choice in audio equipment.

Pop filter: Earamble Microphone Pop Filter

Defeat those plosives from p and s sounds with this extra windscreen layer that sits between you and the microphone.

3.5 mm microphone prices

Inexpensive

You can find a functional 3.5 mm microphone for as little as $3 to $14, but with this technology, you really do get what you pay for. Expect the lowest-priced mics to have the shortest service life.

Mid-range

For $15 to $49, you can find a good variety of dynamic and condenser microphones in a range of sizes with features like omnidirectional or shotgun, making this a perfect price point for new podcasters and vloggers.

Expensive

You can find high-quality 3.5 mm mics, often with far more included accessories so they are compatible with all kinds of equipment, in the $50 to $129 range.

Dyk3
Did You Know?
Studio-quality 3.5 mm microphones may include a three-pronged XLR output cable with 3.5 mm adapter. This offers more versatility in audio setups and well-balanced stereo output.
Staff
BestReviews

Tips

  • Clip lavalier microphones to clothing carefully. To reduce interference, clip the mic to a collar or jacket lapel, making sure that clothing folds don’t rub against the microphone and cause noise and interference. If you need to mic up when you’re wearing a tank top, clip the 3.5 mm microphone to the tank top shoulder strap or a headband or cap visor.
  • Use a foam windscreen anytime you’re recording outside.
  • Keep the mic in place. Guard against unwitting tugs that could dislodge a 3.5 mm microphone, especially a lavalier, by creating a loop in the output cord a few inches below the mic. Use gaffer tape to hold a microphone in place on clothing or to keep a desktop microphone from sliding around. Moleskin or medical tape is best for taping a lavalier mic directly to the skin.
  • Hide the mic. A “tape sandwich” allows you to hide a small microphone. Remove the windscreen and place the mic on the sticky side of gaffer tape or moleskin, with the metal mesh or grid at the top edge. Place a smaller piece of tape on top of the mic, lining it up with the top edge too. Then use the exposed tape to stick the assembly to the underside of the user’s clothing.
I2
The most common type of 3.5 mm microphone is the lavalier mic. This small, low-powered microphone clips to a shirt lapel or collar for fast, convenient voice pickups.

FAQ

Q. I purchased a 3.5 mm microphone to use with my smartphone, but it doesn’t work. Should I return it?

A. Check the rings on the microphone jack first. If it has two black rings, the microphone jack may be incompatible with your smartphone (and many laptops). Before you return it, however, consider purchasing a TRS-to-TRRS adapter. This adapter has three gray rings on the jack, indicating that it is compatible with most smartphones and laptops. With this adapter, you’ll be able to use the 3.5 mm microphone with both computer and audio equipment.

Q. Is a 3.5 mm microphone okay for recording podcasts?

A. The 3.5 mm format is used in many professional recording environments and is a standard size for portable microphones like lavaliers, which attach to a shirt lapel. You’ll get the best sound quality possible by creating the right conditions for clear, interference-free recording. Make sure that nothing physically interferes with the microphone. For lapel-mounted mics, that means no clothing, stray cables, or other items touching the windscreen. For desktop or boom mics, leave plenty of open space around the sides of the microphone and make sure your hands won’t knock the microphone over. Finally, position the microphone at the recommended distance from your mouth to get optimal sound and minimize speech-induced pops or hisses.

Q. Should I use a cardioid mic rather than an omnidirectional mic for my podcasts?

A. A cardioid mic picks up sound right at the front, while sound coming from the sides does not pick up well. This can be good when recording in a crowd or at the beach, anywhere there is a lot of background noise you don’t want to overwhelm the main speaker. However, you (or your subject) can’t move very much while speaking because sound levels may rise or fall dramatically. An omnidirectional mic, as the name indicates, picks up sound from a wider angle. It can be both a good studio mic and a good outdoor mic because omnidirectional mics do a better job of diffusing wind noise. If you can only afford one type of 3.5 mm microphone, an omnidirectional is a good all-around choice. Otherwise, opt for both if you plan to record in a variety of environments.

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