External Microphone Not Working on Android (How to Fix)

Using an external microphone with your Android phone or tablet can greatly improve audio quality for videos, podcasts, music recordings, and more. However, getting an external mic to work properly with Android can sometimes be frustrating when the mic isn’t detected or the audio isn’t recording properly.

In this guide, we’ll cover the most common reasons an external microphone may not be working on Android, along with steps to troubleshoot and fix the issue so you can start recording high-quality audio.

Common Reasons an External Microphone May Not Work on Android

There are a few key reasons why an external mic may not work as expected when connected to an Android device:

  • Compatibility Issues – The microphone or connector type may not be fully compatible with your specific Android device.
  • Adapter/Connector Problems – Using the wrong adapter or connector can prevent the mic from functioning properly.
  • Power Supply – Some external mics require plug-in power which your device may not supply through the adapter.
  • Incorrect Input Settings – The Android device may not be set to use the external mic as the audio input source.
  • Faulty Wiring – Damaged cables or connections can interrupt the audio signal from the external mic.
  • Physical Damage – Issues with the microphone element itself due to drops or general wear and tear.

Figuring out exactly which issue is preventing your external mic from working properly is the first step towards getting it functional. We’ll go through each potential problem in more detail next.

Compatibility Issues

One of the most common reasons an external microphone may not work on Android is simple compatibility problems between the mic, connector, and your Android device. There are a few key factors that can determine compatibility:

  • Microphone Type – Is the mic a lavalier, shotgun, USB, XLR, or other type? Android needs mics with 3.5mm TRRS connections or adapters converting mics to this standard.
  • Android Version – Older versions of Android may not fully support some mic types, even with adapters.
  • USB-C vs Headphone Jack – Using the right connector type for your Android device is crucial.
  • TRRS vs TRS – TRRS connections integrate microphone while TRS only carries audio out.

If you’re unsure whether your microphone or connector is compatible, look up the exact Android phone model along with the mic specs to check. Using the manufacturer app or support forums can also help determine compatibility.

Getting an adapter or connector that’s made specifically for your microphone and Android device is the best guarantee of compatibility. For example, using the RØDE SC4 TRRS adapter with a RØDE mic and Android phone specifically designed to work together.

Adapter and Connector Issues

Assuming your microphone is compatible, the next most common issue is using the wrong adapter or connector between the mic and your Android device.

Many external mics use XLR, USB, or other connections that need to be adapted to the TRRS plug on your Android phone or tablet. Using the wrong adapter can easily cause issues with microphones not working properly or at all.

The key is using an adapter designed specifically for your mic and Android device. Avoid cheap generic adapters and look for ones from reputable brands designed for Android compatibility. A TRS adapter will not work, it must be TRRS for mic support.

Pay close attention to the ports/connections provided by the adapter and whether they match your microphone’s output and your Android device’s input. For lavalier mics, make sure any adapter provides necessary power through the connection as well.

As an example, using the RØDE SC4 adapter would allow you to connect an XLR microphone to a TRRS Android device. But using a generic TRS adapter may not work at all for a microphone that needs TRRS.

Power Supply Issues

In addition to physical connections, some types of external microphones require what’s known as plug-in power to function properly. This means they need power to be supplied over the connector from the Android device.

Common microphone types like lavalier and condenser mics often need plug-in power which most modern desktop and laptop computers provide, but not all mobile devices do. If your Android phone or tablet does not supply power over the adapter, the microphone will not work.

You can check your microphone’s technical specification to confirm if it needs power supplied. If it does require plug-in power, you need to use an adapter or interface that can deliver it from your Android device.

For example, the RØDE AI-Micro is an audio interface with 48V phantom power for condenser mics and 5V plug-in power for lav mics. Using this ensures your microphone gets the power it needs from any Android device.

Make sure to get an adapter or interface specifically confirmed to provide plug-in power for the type of microphone you are using. Otherwise, the mic will remain inactive even if physically connected correctly.

Setting the Right Android Audio Input

After you’ve connected an external microphone properly to your Android device via a compatible adapter, you need to make sure your phone or tablet is actually set to use the microphone as the audio input source.

Go into your Android device’s Settings menu and find the Audio or Sound section. Look for an option like “Audio source” or “Input” and switch this to the external mic rather than the built-in mic.

You may also need to give the app permission to access the external microphone if it doesn’t switch automatically. Try a test recording in the app to confirm the external mic is working.

If you don’t see your external microphone as an option under audio settings, then there is likely still a problem with compatibility, the adapter, connectors, or plug-in power supply as covered above.

Faulty Wiring and Connections

Assuming you’ve covered compatibility, adapters, power, and input settings, another possibility is a simple wiring or connection issue with your microphone setup.

Damaged cables, bad solder joints, frayed wires, broken connections, and corrosion can all lead to intermittent problems or complete loss of audio signal.

Carefully inspect all cables and connections between your external mic and Android device. Wiggle cables to see if audio cuts out. Try using alternate cables if possible to isolate the problem.

Test the mic on another device like a laptop to see if it functions properly, indicating the problem lies with the Android setup rather than the microphone itself.

If damage is found, you may need to repair or replace damaged wires and connectors to restore proper function. Soldering individual wires or replacing detachable cables is simpler than replacing the entire mic.

Physical Microphone Damage

Finally, it’s possible your external microphone itself is damaged, preventing it from working properly even when connected to other devices.

Physical damage like a dropped microphone, scratches on a diaphragm, sticking/non-responsive buttons, and moisture damage can all prevent a mic from working as expected.

Carefully inspect your microphone under bright light to look for any signs of damage. Listen closely for odd noises like crackling or distorted output. Try gently shaking the mic to listen for rattling parts inside.

If damage is confirmed, you’ll need to replace the microphone if it’s beyond DIY repair. As long as the mic itself still works fine when connected to a laptop or other device, focus troubleshooting on your Android setup instead.

General Troubleshooting Tips

Beyond specific issues already covered, here are some general tips for troubleshooting an external mic not working with Android:

  • Test the mic on another device like a laptop or computer first to isolate the issue.
  • Try different adapter and connection combinations to narrow down incompatibilities.
  • Inspect all connectors, adapters, and cables for damage.
  • Search Android device and microphone models for known issues.
  • Update Android OS and app software in case the issue is fixed in a newer version.
  • Check manufacturer info and support forums for troubleshooting help.
  • Use microphone troubleshooting apps to analyze signal input.
  • Test with different headphones and speakers to isolate sound output problems.

Following structured troubleshooting steps can quickly help identify the root cause so you can take action to get your external microphone active.

Fixing Compatibility Issues

If you’ve determined microphone compatibility is the primary issue, here are a few tips to get it working properly:

  • Use the manufacturer’s mic-to-mobile adapter designed for your specific Android model.
  • Confirm the microphone connection type is supported, such as 3.5mm TRRS.
  • Check official device specs to ensure your Android version supports external mics.
  • Update your Android OS to the newest version available for improved compatibility.
  • Consider getting a lavalier or shotgun mic guaranteed to work with your phone.
  • Use an app like USB Audio Player PRO to improve external DAC compatibility.

Getting the right physical connections and software support is key for microphone-to-device compatibility. Carefully research microphone and Android specifications before purchase for the best results.

Choosing the Right Adapter

To address adapter/connector problems:

  • Use the adapter included with your specific mic if available.
  • Verify you need TRRS, not TRS for microphone capabilities.
  • Ensure connections match on both microphone and Android device.
  • Buy from reputable brands over cheap generic adapters.
  • Check manufacturer specs/product listings for Android compatibility.
  • Return adapters that don’t work and try a different option.

It’s worth spending a little extra for a microphone adapter you know is designed to work with your Android device instead of gambling on cheap generic adapters with inconsistent quality.

Providing Plug-In Power

If plug-in power is needed, try these tips:

  • Use a microphone that doesn’t require plug-in power.
  • Get an adapter or interface that supports supplying power.
  • Confirm power specs match your microphone’s requirements.
  • Try a USB-powered audio interface like the RØDE AI-Micro.
  • Use an Android specific power adapter like the Shure MVL.

Buying a microphone adapter or interface specifically made to deliver plug-in power from your Android device to the external microphone is the most reliable approach.

Setting the Input Source

If your Android device isn’t detecting the external microphone input:

  • Go into Audio Settings and change “Audio source” to the external mic.
  • Give the app permission to use the microphone.
  • Use advanced controls in pro audio apps to set input.
  • Try the volume buttons on a headset to cycle through options.
  • Plug the mic/adapter into a different port if available.

Remember to switch audio input settings at both the system level and within recording apps. Give apps microphone access permissions if needed as well.

Checking Wiring and Connections

If wiring problems are suspected:

  • Inspect cables for cuts, fraying, corrosion, and loose connectors.
  • Wiggle connections to check for intermittent signal drops.
  • Try alternate cables and adapters to isolate the issue.
  • Check solder joints for cracks or cold joints losing contact.
  • Use circuit tester tools to confirm connectivity.
  • Repair simple wiring damage like re-soldering connectors.

Damaged cables are a common issue that’s cheap and easy to identify and correct yourself without replacing expensive microphones.

Dealing with a Damaged Microphone

If the mic itself is damaged:

  • Confirm the damage by testing it on another device.
  • Visually inspect for physical damage.
  • Gently shake the microphone and listen for rattling.
  • Check for distorted/crackling output.
  • Try using different cables first in case those are the problem.
  • Repair or replace the microphone as needed.

While physical microphone damage is frustrating, thoroughly testing cables and connections first often isolates the problem elsewhere instead.

FAQs About External Mics Not Working on Android

Why does my external mic sound bad on Android?

If your external microphone sounds bad on Android, potential causes can include incorrect adapter connections causing quality loss, a damaged microphone element like a scratched diaphragm, erroneous audio codec/bit rate settings within recording apps, or a low-quality microphone that sounds bad even on other devices.

Why does my external mic only work partially?

An external mic only working intermittently or recording very faint/quiet audio on Android devices is typically caused by a damaged adapter or audio cable shorting out the connection at times, insufficient plug-in power to the mic, or a damaged microphone element causing partial functionality.

How do I monitor audio from my external mic?

To monitor external microphone audio on Android, use headphones plugged into the mic adapter if available, utilize apps with real-time audio visualization like a waveform, record a quick test clip to playback, or use HDMI output to external monitors and speakers if supported by your phone.

Can I use XLR mics on Android?

You can connect XLR microphones to Android devices using the appropriate XLR to 3.5mm TRRS microphone adapter. Professional audio interfaces like the Shure MVi provide XLR inputs while adding plug-in power for condenser mics. Alternatively use a pocket audio recorder with XLR inputs and transfer the audio files to Android.

Do USB mics work with Android?

USB microphones designed for computers can work on select Android devices with USB-C ports and support for USB audio class standards. However, compatibility varies greatly. For best results use microphones specifically made for mobile devices. If needed, add a USB to USB-C adapter.

Can lavalier mics plug directly into Android?

Lavalier microphones require a TRRS adapter to connect to Android devices, as the standard 3.5mm output won’t carry microphone audio. Ensure the adapter provides necessary plug-in power and boosts the mic signal for proper recording levels.

The bottom line

Getting an external microphone to work properly on Android can require troubleshooting several potential issues, but is worth the effort for dramatically boosted audio quality. With compatible microphones and parts, correct input settings, undamaged wiring, and sufficient power, you can record pro-grade audio anywhere using your phone or tablet.

Pay close attention to microphone specifications, adapters designed explicitly for Android, supplying plug-in power if required, setting the audio input correctly, and inspecting connections for damage. Test thoroughly and isolate the source of any problems. With the right troubleshooting steps, your external mic will be up and running on Android in no time.

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