3.5mm vs USB-C External Mics for Android: How to Choose

With Android smartphones becoming more advanced and capable for video production, many users are utilizing them for recording videos, livestreams, vlogs, podcasts, and other multimedia content. However, the built-in microphones on most phones are simply not sufficient for professional-level audio quality. This is why many Android users are turning to external microphones as an upgrade over their phone’s default internal mic.

Connecting an external microphone provides greatly improved audio capture compared to an Android phone’s built-in mic. External microphones have larger diaphragms, better sensitivity and frequency response, and can be positioned much closer to the sound source. This results in a richer, cleaner, and more professional-sounding recording with minimal background noise. For the best production value and clarity in videos, podcasts, interviews, musicianship, or any other vocal applications, an external microphone is an indispensable accessory to get pro-grade sound from your Android device.

Background on 3.5mm and USB-C

The 3.5mm audio jack has been the standard for connecting headphones and other audio devices to smartphones for decades. It uses an analog signal to transmit stereo audio through a single tip-ring-sleeve connector (1). 3.5mm jacks are nearly universal across devices from phones to tablets, laptops, TVs and more.

USB-C is a digital connection standard that has started replacing older ports like micro-USB. USB-C can transmit both power and data, including digital audio signals. However, USB-C ports on Android devices do not natively support analog audio output. To connect 3.5mm headphones to a USB-C port requires a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter dongle (2).

While a growing number of Android devices are omitting the 3.5mm jack, it remains ubiquitous. USB-C offers greater versatility but requires an adapter for legacy 3.5mm audio devices. Both options have tradeoffs for Android users.

Audio Quality Comparison

When it comes to audio quality, both USB-C and 3.5mm connections have the potential to deliver high-fidelity sound. However, there are some differences in how audio is transmitted that can impact quality.

With a 3.5mm headphone jack, analog audio signals are transmitted directly to your headphones. This provides very low latency, meaning there is minimal delay between the source audio and what you hear. The simplicity of the analog signal also means there is less processing involved that could potentially degrade quality or introduce noise 1.

USB-C headsets can transmit audio digitally via the USB protocol. This allows for higher bandwidth and thus higher sampling rates and bit depths compared to analog 3.5mm connections. However, the digital-to-analog conversion process can introduce a small amount of latency. The quality of the built-in USB DAC in each headset also impacts audio fidelity 2.

Overall, both 3.5mm and USB-C are capable of excellent audio quality. USB-C has the potential edge with higher sampling rates, while 3.5mm provides extremely low latency analog sound. Much depends on the quality of the headset’s drivers and integrated DAC in the case of USB-C.

Power Requirements

Both 3.5mm and USB-C microphones require power to operate, but have different power needs. 3.5mm microphones get their power directly from the connected device’s headphone jack. Most smartphones provide 2-10 mW of power through the 3.5mm port, which is enough for most basic 3.5mm microphones (1).

USB-C microphones, on the other hand, draw power from the USB bus. The amount of power a USB-C mic can draw depends on negotiation between the mic and phone. Generally USB-C mics require around 30-250 mW of power, exceeding what most phones can provide over USB-C (2). Some USB-C mics have built-in batteries or external power supplies to provide the extra power needed.

So in summary, 3.5mm mics generally have lower power requirements that phones can easily meet. USB-C mics often need more power than a phone alone can provide, so may require an external power source or battery. When choosing, check your phone’s headphone jack and USB-C power delivery specs to ensure your mic will get adequate power (1).


One of the biggest considerations when choosing between a 3.5mm or USB-C external mic for your Android device is compatibility. The type of connector your phone or tablet has will determine which mics can physically plug in and function.

Most modern Android smartphones have dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack, meaning a 3.5mm mic won’t be able to plug in directly. You’ll need either an adapter or a mic that connects via USB-C. Some adapters can affect audio quality or won’t pass through microphone data. USB-C mics avoid this issue entirely.

If your Android device still has a 3.5mm jack, a 3.5mm mic will plug in and work seamlessly. Going USB-C won’t provide any advantages, unless you want digital connectivity or don’t want to occupy the 3.5mm port.

As for operating system and app compatibility, USB-C mics generally work with any modern Android OS version and audio apps. The digital data transmission means the mic doesn’t rely on analog audio support. 3.5mm mics work with most Android devices too, but very old versions may not support microphone input over 3.5mm.

Overall, USB-C mics will provide the widest compatibility and avoid the need for adapters. But if your Android device still has 3.5mm, either option will work well. Focus on your other requirements when choosing between the two connector types.

Controls and Monitoring

The controls available for adjusting audio levels and monitoring differ between 3.5mm and USB-C microphones. 3.5mm mics typically have basic physical controls built into the mic body itself, such as a gain knob for adjusting levels and a headphone jack for monitoring. This allows for quick adjustments on the fly without needing to access any software controls. However, the controls are limited to the physical interface on the mic.

USB-C mics rely more heavily on software controls accessed on the connected device. This allows for finer tuning and more advanced options like compression, limiting, and EQ that aren’t possible with analog 3.5mm mics. However, it means needing to access the app or software interface to make any adjustments, which is less convenient than having physical knobs and buttons. USB-C mics also may not have real-time monitoring capabilities without latency, unless they include onboard DSP chips.

Overall, 3.5mm mics provide quick and tactile control right on the microphone, while USB-C mics offer more flexibility and options through software. Monitoring can suffer on USB-C unless the mic has onboard processing, so 3.5mm may have an advantage for real-time zero latency monitoring. The ideal solution depends on the desired workflow and level of control needed.

Connectivity and Cables

The type of cable used for each connection format can impact the ease of connecting microphones.

For 3.5mm microphones, a standard 3.5mm audio cable is needed to connect to the headphone jack on an Android device. These cables come included with most 3.5mm microphones and are widely available from electronics retailers. The 3.5mm plug offers a straightforward and universal connection.

USB-C microphones require a USB-C to USB-C cable to connect directly to an Android device’s USB-C port. The cable may be included with the microphone. While USB-C is becoming more common, there are still multiple versions so finding a compatible USB-C cable may require more effort compared to the ubiquitous 3.5mm audio cable. There are also USB-C to USB-A adapter cables to allow using a USB-A microphone with USB-C ports.

Overall, the 3.5mm connection currently provides simpler plug-and-play connectivity with nearly universal compatibility. As USB-C adoption increases, the connectivity differences between the two formats may decrease.


When it comes to portability and mobility, 3.5mm mics have some advantages over USB-C options. 3.5mm jacks and connectors tend to be smaller and take up less space than USB-C ports. This allows 3.5mm microphones to have a more compact and lightweight design overall [1]. The smaller plug size of 3.5mm also allows for more flexible cable routing in tight spaces or when using a mic while moving around. USB-C mics may be bulkier and heavier, making them less ideal for mobile use cases.

However, USB-C ports are rapidly becoming the standard for mobile devices. Many modern phones and tablets, especially higher-end models, are switching to USB-C only with no 3.5mm jack. So USB-C mics may have an advantage for compatibility and convenience if you want to directly plug into your device without adapters. The portability difference between 3.5mm and USB-C isn’t huge, but 3.5mm’s smaller size and weight give it a slight edge for maximum mobility and flexibility in use [2].


USB microphones tend to be more affordable compared to 3.5mm mics. You can find basic USB mics for under $50, while most 3.5mm mics start around $100 and go up from there. USB microphones provide great value for those on a budget.

That said, some Reddit users have commented that 3.5mm and USB microphones can be found at similar price points. So it’s worth comparing models at your target budget. While USB mics can be more affordable on average, you may find a high quality 3.5mm mic at a comparable price.

The main tradeoff is audio quality vs. price. USB mics provide solid performance for the cost, while 3.5mm mics offer superior quality for serious recording, albeit at a higher price. Consider your budget and needs – casual users may find USB mics provide the best value, while audio professionals may prefer investing in a high-end 3.5mm mic.

Summary and Recommendations

In summary, both 3.5mm and USB-C microphones have their advantages and disadvantages when used with Android devices:

3.5mm Pros:

  • More affordable price points
  • Easier connectivity with legacy Android devices
  • Wider compatibility across devices

3.5mm Cons:

  • Audio quality not as pristine
  • Requires batteries or plugin power
  • Less control and monitoring options

USB-C Pros:

  • Superior audio quality
  • Powered through device USB-C port
  • More advanced controls and monitoring
  • Tangle-free USB-C cable connectivity

USB-C Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Limited compatibility with legacy/budget Android devices
  • Fewer ultra-portable form factor options

For professional content creators or those wanting pristine audio quality, a USB-C microphone is recommended despite the higher price tag. For more casual users or those with legacy Android devices, a 3.5mm microphone may be the better choice for wider compatibility and cheaper entry-level options.

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