One Plus One and Rode SmartLav+

As you may know One Plus One is a reasonably priced smartphone that is called a “flag ship killer”. It features awesome hardware (like quad code Qualcom processor, 16MB camera, 3GB ram and 64GB of internal memory; not to mention recording 4k videos). In case of sound reproduction it is also OK, the same goes for recording audio using internal microphone(s) (yes, it has plenty of internal microphones; three to be exact). But how it would sound with Rode SmartLav+ lavalier microphone?

Let’s start from my use case. Some time ago I’ve recorded a screencast that features over 60 Eclipse IDE shortcuts that boost Java developer productivity. For now it is only available in Polish ;). To keep costs low I’ve decided to go with build in microphone into my MacBook Check Out Your URL.

What is the effect? I would say it is OK, if you consider my knowledge about audio recording back then and room acoustics. But this means that there is a filed to improve 😉

First of all I’ve discovered that I’m more comfortable speaking (and describing things) while I’m standing. (Maybe this is because of presentations that I did…) Also my voice sounds better when I’m standing. But this has a down side, sound is kind a flat and it is getting significantly louder when I’m moving closer to laptop to press key shortcut that was recently described.

Of course one can improve both things in so called “post production” state (which I’ve learned later), but still I didn’t like the over all effect. … Yes, I’m kind of a perfectionist 😉

So I used the power of Google to find how I can improve this situation. This way I’ve learned about Rode SmartLav+.

What is Rode SmartLav+? It is a lavalier microphone. What does it mean? It is this kind of microphone that can be pinned to you (T-)shirt, or hidden under it. It will pick voice clearly. Also it is always in the same distance for your mouth. This means that you can walk and talk without any consequences to sound quality and level.

What is more it has a connector that fits all smartphones! This means, a standard 3,5mm jack with three black stripes (so called TRRS).

The idea behind it, is that you don’t need to have a special recorded to use it you smartphone is all that you need! Sounds great, isn’t it?

This also builds the cheapest wireless microphone setup! Just connect SmartLav+ to you smartphone, put it into pocket and… you’re done! Later on one need to synchronise audio and video, but this sounds like a easy task to do.

Going back to the main topic… I’ve got my SmartLav+ yesterday and immediately started testing it with my One Plus One.

First I’ve used “build in” recording app that comes stock with OPO… and you can’t imagine my disappointment while replaying the recording… voice sound war nice, full and reach… but the background nice was awful! There was a hiss and if you listen carefully enough will also hear some pops and cracks. For me this is not acceptable!

This is much worse compared to what you get on build in microphone in MacBook or in OPO.

My first guess was that recording could be somehow (don’t know how but maybe) broken. But there is plenty of recording apps in PlayStore! Lets try a different one!

Let me check another app – that was my first idea. I’ve installed maybe five different apps that had highest user rating. But on all of them effect was the same 🙁

OK, so maybe there are some interferences with build in radios (GSM and WiFi) – was my next guess. Switched OPO to airplane mode… which makes no difference. Pops, cracks and hiss were audible in the background.

So, maybe the is something wrong with SmartLav+? – another guess. First I’ve connected it to MacBook, but it was still using the build one (it is easy to test that, just scratch the left side of MacBook and observe ‘Input Level’, it shouldn’t pick this up… but it did). Thankfully I still got Nexus S and quick install of RecForge || turned it into another testing device.

Results? Not really impressive. Pops and cracks are gone but hiss is still present and even more intrusive than on OPO. Voice also sounds differently, to be honest I preferred sound of OPO. Other than that, Nexus S is much louder. That means that input level on RecForge II was lower than on OPO (-10dB compared to -5dB). Apart from that RecForge is really slow on this device. The UI has noticeable lag in response time, adjusting input level is problematic. And overall it doesn’t sound nice.

Here is sample recording done that demonstrate sound quality on both devises:

So what to do next? Go with slow and not responsive Nexus S or, use OPO with pops and cracks. Of course those distortions can be remove in post production using eb. Audacity. But this gives overhead for each recording. Video editing gives already enough overhead for me, I’m not sure if I want to become an audio expert…

So I’ve decided to go with a field recorder, Zoom H1 to be exact. I hope that this will set me for the rest of my live ;). Will spent “few” bucks (euros) more, but hope that this will save me “post production” time and the sound quality should be extraordinary!

Why Zoom H1? Because it is (kind of) cheap, it can also be used as a external USB microphone (!), is small, have good reviews and (thanks to v2.1 firmware) it can work as a USB3 device.

Unfortunately Rode SmartLav+ will not work with directly with Zoom H1 🙁 because it accepts only TRS inputs (those with two stripes). But there are adapters like Rode SC3 that will do the trick to make it working…

o now I’m waiting for Zoom H1 and SC3 connector. Hope that sound quality will be substantial!