Most of the time, your GoPro will be attached to a helmet, car, bike, or other piece of moving machinery. But if you want to capture better audio, and don’t mind a bit of added bulk to your setup, here’s how you can connect an external microphone to your GoPro.
Why Would I Want to Do This?
To be blunt, the built-in microphone on the GoPro is less than stellar, even when you don’t have a waterproof case on (the waterproof case seriously hinders the mic quality). Of course, this usually isn’t a big deal most of the time, since whatever you’re capturing on your GoPro you’re mostly capturing for the video alone more than the audio.
However, there may be times where better audio quality will be something you’re after. For instance, I have a GoPro attached to my motorcycle helmet that’s always recording whenever I’m riding, just in case I get into an accident. However, all the built-in microphone captures is the nasty wind noise, and I’d much rather prefer to have it capture my voice so that it’s recording any dialogue that may prove useful during an accident. A small external microphone tucked inside my helmet does the job.
However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when you do decide to hook up an external microphone to your GoPro.
Only Certain GoPro Models Can Do This
The secret ingredient that makes this possible is the official Mic Adapter ($20). It plugs into your GoPro’s charging port and converts it to into a 3.5mm jack to plug in any microphone with a 3.5mm plug.
Because of this, the adapter will only work with certain GoPro models, more specially the HERO4 Black Edition, HERO4 Silver Edition, HERO3+, and all editions of the HERO3. This is because these models have the Mini-USB connection, whereas the cheaper models (like the HERO+) utilize a Micro-USB connection. The entry-level HERO uses a Mini-USB connection, but it doesn’t support the mic adapter.
Only the Official Mic Adapter Will Work
The official mic adapter offered by GoPro is pretty expensive for what it is, but unfortunately, it’s the only mic adapter that works right out of the box.
While you can buy a third-party adapter for a lot cheaper on Amazon (and there are a ton to choose from), none of them will work correctly with your GoPro, and some may not even work at all. I’ve bought several that only recorded audio to one channel, and others that just gave me a slight hissing sound the whole time.
One reason for this: GoPro’s Mini-USB connection uses 10 pins, while most general purpose Mini-USB cables and adapters use only 5 pins. Plus, the official adapter has a resistor built in that makes everything work like it should.
However, many users who want to use an external mic with their GoPro prefer a right-angle adapter that makes the setup a bit more streamlined. Since the official GoPro mic adapter isn’t angled, it sticks out of your GoPro like crazy and isn’t really ideal in most scenarios. However, since third-party adapters don’t work right out of the box, many users have taken the time to modify third-party adapters in order to get them to work properly.
It mostly just comes down to adding a resistor to the adapter’s wiring, anything from 275k-ohm to 330k-ohm seems to work perfectly, and it’s just a matter of opening up the adapter and soldering in the resistor. Of course, not everyone is capable of doing this, so it’s not the easiest solution by any means, but it’s the best one.
Alternatively: Use an External Audio Source
If you don’t want to spend $20 on the official mic adapter (or just don’t like how it looks sticking out of the side of your GoPro), the next best option is to simply just use an external audio source. That could be a full voice recorder like the Zoom H1, or just a microphone hooked up to a smartphone, or tablet.
There’s a bit more effort involved, since you have to sync the video and audio when you go to edit the footage, but if you’re looking for the best possible audio quality, it would make sense to use an external audio source anyway.
To make it easier to sync, though, stand in front of the GoPro while it’s recording, fire up your audio source, and then clap a few times. From there, you can simply match the clapping noises to the visual clapping in your video editor and have the rest of the video and audio be all synced up.
In the end, using the official GoPro mic adapter is the easiest solution, but it restricts you to using only microphones that have a 3.5mm plug. If you want anything more complex or higher quality than that, it might be best to stick with a separate, external audio source.
Image by Andreas Kambanis/Flickr