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One of the most common queries we get at RØDE is how to connect microphones with a 3.5mm output to computers and mobile devices. It seems like a simple matter, but it can be surprisingly tricky in some cases.
Below we’ll take you through what RØDE mics have a 3.5mm output, the difference between TRS and TRRS connectors, and some common problems you may meet and how to solve them. Also, check out the video below for a quick run-through.
Many products in the RØDE range have a 3.5mm output. This includes most of our VideoMics, some of our wireless mics, such as the Wireless GO and Filmmaker Kit, and lavalier mics like the smartLav+. These microphones are generally designed to be plugged into cameras, compact audio recorders and consumer devices like smartphones, most of which feature 3.5mm inputs.
When it comes to mics with 3.5mm output jacks, there are two main types you need to be aware of. They look very similar but are wired differently, depending on what kind of device they are designed to primarily be connected to. They are usually called either TRS or TRRS.
It's really important to be able to identify what kind of output your mic has and what kind of input your device has – TRS/TRRS incompatibility is usually the cause of connection issues!
TRS stands for ‘tip, ring, sleeve’, and is the kind of connector you find on cameras and other audio gear. They are easy to identify as they only have two black rings on the plug. These carry just one signal, so your device (for example, a DSLR camera) may have two of these – one audio input and one audio output (usually intended for headphones).
TRRS stands for ‘tip, ring, ring sleeve’ and is the kind of connector you find on computers and mobile devices. Your regular earbuds for your phone almost definitely have one (unless you have a newer iOS device with a Lightning connector). These have three black (or coloured) rings on the jack and carry two signals – the output for the headphones and also the input from a microphone, such as the mic built into your earbuds.
When it comes to RØDE products, it’s really easy to differentiate between a TRS and TRRS cable – TRS cables have black connectors, TRRS cables have grey connectors. So, if you want a microphone that connects directly into a smartphone or computer, you need one with a grey connector, such as the smartLav+. If you want one that plugs directly into a camera or audio recorder, you need one with a black connector like a VideoMic or Wireless GO.
If you already have a RØDE mic and it doesn’t have the correct connector for plugging into your device, don’t worry, we make a variety of adaptors to suit just about any setup.
One of the most common scenarios is when users already own a VideoMic, lavalier mic or wireless mic like the Wireless GO and want to plug it into a computer or smartphone. There are a number of adaptors you can use to make this work.
The first is the SC4, which is a 3.5mm TRS to TRRS adaptor. Simply plug the output of the microphone into the adaptor, then plug the grey connector into your device.
Remember grey = TRRS for computers and mobile devices; black = TRS for cameras and audio recorders.
RØDE VideoMic Pro+ and SC4 cable.
If you have a mic with a removable cable, like the VideoMic Pro+ or Wireless GO, you could use the SC7, which is a 3.5mm TRS to TRRS patch cable – this is a neater solution. And if you need some extra cable length to work with, you could also use the SC8 TRS to TRS extension cable and an SC4 together.
RØDE Wireless GO and SC7 cable.
Once you’ve connected the mic to your device using the correct cable, you may need to select it as the external microphone input in your audio settings or your recording or streaming software.
Sometimes it isn’t always this simple. Some mobile devices and computers will have issues recognising that an external microphone has been connected, even if you are using the correct grey TRRS connector.
This is a hardware limitation that some devices have, as they haven’t really been designed to have an external microphone plugged in this way.
Older computers with separate headphone and headset connections will allow you to use an external microphone with the headset input, but won't allow you to select a separate audio output, meaning you won't be able to monitor the audio or have two-way conversations, for example, on a Skype or Zoom call.
You may also run into issues when using an external microphone for two-way conversations on a smartphone, as your device may assume you have connected a pair of headphones.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear rule to what mics will work with what devices as it varies between models and manufacturers, which is why this is a tricky topic. However, there are some foolproof solutions!
Using an Audio Interface
If you’re using a computer, one way to guarantee flawless audio every time is to use an audio interface like the RØDE AI-1. This is designed to record onto a computer with a studio microphone and therefore features an XLR input. So, you will also need to get a VXLR or VXLR+, which are adaptors for plugging microphones with a 3.5mm output into devices with an XLR input. When using this setup with a TRS mic, you will not need an additional TRS to TRRS adaptor, as the VXLR+ has a TRS input.
Not only will using an audio interface ensure your mic works in any circumstance, you can also control the input level of your mic and connect headphones to monitor your audio.
RØDE VideoMic Pro+, VXLR and AI-1.
Using an SC6-L
If you’re using a mobile device, you can use the SC6-L. The SC6-L is a compact interface designed for use with devices iOS devices with a Lightning input. It features two microphone inputs and a headphone output. These are TRRS inputs, so you may need to use adaptors mentioned above if your mic has a TRS (black) output.
For recording audio with the SC6-L, the RØDE Reporter app is a great simple solution. In order to use the SC6-L as your audio device for a video recording, you’ll need to use a third-party video recording app as the native iOS video recorder will not detect the microphone. We recommend FilMic Pro or Pro Movie App. These apps will allow you to select your SC6-L as the audio source for your videos.
That’s it! We hope that was helpful in explaining this rather complicated subject. If you have any questions about a specific device you are using or the best audio solution for you, get in touch with our support team and we’ll be happy to help.