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In the latest ‘how to become a YouTuber’ tutorial, Ben Griffin reveals four ways of recording your voice while driving in a car and their respective pros and cons.

It’s easy to worry about having the right camera and lenses, but getting the audio right is just as important. It’s why sound engineers are so valuable for high-budget productions such as movies or documentaries.

Sound can, in fact, sometimes be more important than how your video looks although both share a common theme, that once you achieve a certain level of quality no one will have anything to complain about.

Recording audio in a car is actually more difficult than it sounds. Your camera’s internal pre-amp is likely to be rubbish, with your voice drowned out by external road, wind and other noise as you drive along.

What you really should be doing is looking to buy an external microphone as it will noticeably improve the audio quality and make your videos sound more professional. But which is the best solution if you are on a limited budget?

There are actually quite a few ways to skin this particular cat (sorry, PETA). Each one with their respective pros and cons, which I’ve outlined below. Feel free to also check out my guide to the best cheap audio interfaces.

1) Shotgun mic into camera

Rode VideoMicro: Best cheap microphones (2019)

Arguably the most common technique among YouTubers is using an on-camera shotgun mic, mainly because it’s easy, convenient and cheap.

Easy because some shotgun mics don’t even need to be switched on and they sit in the coldshoe/hotshoe on top of the camera.

Convenience is another plus as shotgun microphones use a type of cardioid pattern, which means they can pick sound in a wider area. So not just your voice but anyone you point the camera at.

The downside of this is that you will get more background noise because of the gap between the microphone and you, although the use of a high pass filter (sometimes wrongly called a low pass filter) can cut out unwanted frequencies at the deeper end of the scale. Tyre and engine noise being two obvious examples.

For filming outside a car, it’s easy to turn a shotgun microphone around and do a commentary, which can be useful. And with a deadcat reducing wind noise, it will sound good.

Being compact helps, too, as does they fact they are usually difficult to break. Sky’s the limit in terms of price, but around £40 is enough.

Another plus is that your audio will already be synced with the footage, which saves time. Although syncing video and audio in Premiere Pro CC, for instance, is as easy as a few mouse clicks.

Check out some of the best cheap on-camera microphones here.

Cheap, easy to use, compact, doesn’t necessarily need phantom power

More background noise

Best budget shotgun mics: Rode VideoMic, Takstar SGC-598, Takstar SGC-698.

2) Lavalier into camera

Rode SmartLav+: Best cheap microphones (2019)

The lavalier route can be the most effective option, as it picks up your voice clearly while not picking up unwanted background sound.

You do still get some engine noise coming through, which saves you recording that separately. Although it’s worth doing that anyway if you have time as it can really add to a video.

The downside is that you will most likely need phantom power, which only some cameras provide (like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Pro 4K). No power, no sound basically.

You also need to keep the microphone about six inches away from your mouth and make sure it avoids rubbing on clothing or the seatbelt. Some clothing materials are an issue and can ruin a recording.

A plus, though, is that audio syncing is done already and that you will hear your voice far better than the shotgun microphone method.

You will, however, need to buy an extension cable if your camera is mounted on the passenger side and lose the versatility of a point and shoot microphone.

Flexibility of mic location, reduces background noise, no need to sync audio

Noise from certain clothing, less engine sound, requires phantom power usually, makes second back-up difficult

Best budget lav mics: Giant Squid, Rode SmartLav+.

3) Lavalier into smartphone / external recorder

How to be a YouTuber: Recording your voice while driving (Zoom H2N external recorder)

Camera pre-amps are typically poor quality, which can mean cranking up the gain to make sure your voice is loud enough. In doing so, you will likely introduce unwanted interference.

There’s also a chance that with a single audio recording solution something will go wrong and you’ll have nothing to work with. And you can’t necessarily go back and drive a car again. To be fair, it’s never happened with my Rode VideoMicro but never say never.

So the ideal situation is to have an on-camera microphone as a fail-safe, while recording using another microphone connected to your phone or, better still, an external audio recorder such as the Zoom H2N.

Not only do you get improved audio quality (pricier Zoom recorders actually support XLR microphones) thanks to cleaner pre-amps and phantom power, you can also use the likes of auto gain or set it manually, depending on how loud the car is.

The downside is that you will then need to sync the audio with the footage, although you can actually blend the two recordings to get the best of both.

It also means spending more money as you will need two microphones, an audio recorder, an extra memory card and to remember to hit the record button. That can be the easiest thing to forget, something I’ve learned the hard way.

Provides a back-up, higher potential audio quality, auto gain, XLR mic support

Another thing to setup, more stuff to carry, record must be pressed

Best budget external recorders: Zoom H2N, Zoom H4, your smartphone.

4) Wireless mic to camera

How to be a YouTuber: Recording your voice while driving (RodeLink Filmmaker Kit)

Rather than have a cable running from the camera to your microphone, you can opt for a wireless solution. Rode’s RodeLink Filmmaker kit uses a wireless receiver that sits on top of the camera in the coldshoe. A wireless lavalier mic pack then transmits the audio over WiFi to the receiver.

Apart from being reliable, thanks to a system that constantly changes the wireless channel to avoid interference or connectivity issues, it’s a compact solution that takes up little space.

It does, however, cost a few quid although an equivalent and more fragile Sennheiser system is a lot more expensive. And if you have ever used one, you will know how fragile the cables are.

There is a cheaper, more compact Sennheiser system available at around £300, but early tests by YouTubers have found the quality to be lacking, which has sent the product back the drawing board at the time of writing. I’d stick with the Rode Filmmaker Kit if you have limited funds – it’s really rather good.

Convenient, compact, no wires to forget about when you get out the car

At the whim of a usually reliable wireless signal

Best budget wireless mics: RodeLink Filmmaker Kit.

Found the article useful? Please be sure to use any of the Amazon affiliate links if you are making a purchase, as this gives me a very small donation at absolutely no cost to you. All proceeds will go to improving the website and making more content.

About The Author


Ben Griffin is a motoring journalist and founder of the website and YouTube channel, A Tribe Called Cars. He is also a contributor at DriveTribe.

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