IPhone sound recording

February 23, 2017
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I think I still have a ways to go before I'd call myself an authority on using an iPhone (or similar device) to produce bird recordings, but I've learned a lot since my initial post on this topic about a month ago. Let me comment on three aspects of acquiring bird sounds on an iPhone.

1) Getting sounds into your device.

  • Good: If a bird is close or loud enough, the built-in mic can capture acceptable recordings.
  • Better: An iPhone/iPod/etc. specific mic can add a lot of reach. I'm still happy with the – it is small (almost too small- easy to misplace) & fairly cheap and really boosts the audio. The sound quality isn't necessarily professional, but not bad for documenting & researching bird sounds.
  • Best: A high-quality shotgun mic: and others have figured out that an iPhone/iPod/etc. can be a great digital bird sound recorder if you have a quality shotgun mic to capture vocalizations. The problem is that normal mics won't record to the iPhone/iPod/etc. jack, which is designed for both input and output (iPhone headphones have a built-in mic for phone conversations, talking to Siri, etc.) An adapter is needed if you want to pipe in sound from a good mic, & fortunately these are available through 3rd party manufacturers. For example, the will allow input from a powered mic with a 1/8" (3.5mm) jack. kV Connections also makes for different mic types so check them out if you are looking for an input solution.

2) Selecting an app for your recordings.

  • Good: Use the device's built-in voice memo app. Free, works fine.
  • Better (maybe?): Use a 3rd-party recording app (free or cheap) if its features and interface are more to your liking. For now, I've settled on (free). Recordings are pretty easy to get off the phone and onto your computer. File types are limited to AIFF or MP3, probably fine for dabblers like myself.
  • Best: Use a professional field recording app like ($6). Link over to see the impressive list of features this app boasts…

3) Selecting sound processing software to use on your computer. I'm too far out of my league to offer much meaningful insight here. Perhaps folks with more experience can offer suggestions for us in the comments or in another blog post??

Vocalizing Canyon Wren © Bill Schmoker, Jefferson County, Colorado, March 2009

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Bill is known in the birding community as a leading digital photographer of birds. Since 2001 he has built a collection of digital bird photos documenting over 640 species of North American birds. His photography has appeared in international nature publications, books, newspapers, interpretive signs, web pages, advertisements, corporate logos, and as references for art works. Also a published writer, Bill wrote a chapter for Good Birders Don't Wear White, is a past Colorado/Wyoming regional editor for North American Birds and is proud to be on the Leica Birding Team. Bill is a Colorado eBird reviewer and is especially fond of his involvement with the ABA's Institute for Field Ornithology and Young Birder Programs. Bill is a popular birding guide, speaker, and workshop instructor, and teaches middle school science in Boulder, Colorado. When he isn’t birding he enjoys family time with his wife and son.

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