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Setting Up a GoPro External Mic: The Ultimate Guide

Choosing and installing a GoPro external mic is not as easy as one might think. Especially if it’s the first time you are trying to do it.

Do not worry though.

I’ve got you covered.

As an editor, through my video editing business, I am getting tons of GoPro footage.

And most of the time I wished the audio was better.

GoPro cameras are getting increasingly popular today, and that’s because they bring a whole new flavor to video production; a style that was almost non-existent in the more popular models that were previously considered industry standards.

So, we’re not surprised that even though cameras are becoming less popular because of smartphones, GoPro is making remarkable strides in the market.

Of course, GoPros are quality cameras, but what really is the pull factor that makes a lot of users stick them?

People like GoPro cameras so much because even when they struggle, users find a way to fix them up rather than going for other cameras.

What makes GoPro cameras special?

GoPro cameras are equipped to perform well, where other cameras and even smartphones have failed.

Originally, it was designed to make it easier for surfers to record video of their action close up.

With time, it hot adopted by other adventurers.

Bikers, wildlife video makers and many different POV mic users started to adapt it for their use.

The first feature of GoPro cameras that make them so useful is the size. Every single GoPro camera has a compact design.

If you were to compare the size of different cameras of this brand to other brand cameras, you would find a big difference in size.

When a camera is as small as these GoPro cams, it becomes much easier to mount them pretty much anywhere.

With appropriate accessories, you can hook these cameras up to your mountain bike without any fear that they might fall off and get damaged.

In addition, these GoPro cams are made to withstand extreme conditions.

They are waterproof.

Not just water-resistant, but waterproof!

This means that you can easily take underwater shots without any worries.

The housing is made such that they cover the essential parts so well that water doesn’t have a chance to get in.

GoPro cameras are also shockproof.

This helps a lot while taking POV action shots with the camera quite close to the subject.

It’s possible that the subject mistakenly hits the camera.

GoPro cameras are well equipped to handle such abuse without getting damaged, but you can protect your camera against loss or damage with gadget insurance tailored to your needs.

Drones, on the other hand, are not that sturdy.

Especially when they crash from 1,000 ft high or hit stuff at high speed.

So do yourself a favor and don’t forget to get your drone insured.

GoPro and drones are rapidly becoming the core tools of a farmer’s equipment mix. Farmers use GoPro with NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) Agriculture Mod, fly their own drones or hire a drone service provider.

If you’ve been following, you’re probably thinking that some of these unique features of GoPro cameras would come at the expense of the video quality.

Well, you thought wrong.

GoPro cameras are widely regarded as the first compact high quality, high definition cameras.

Some GoPro cameras give you up to 1080p and even 4k resolution.

The best part is that it gives this high resolution even in the most extreme conditions; including high altitude, underwater and in low light conditions.

The GoPro mounting systems also make the cameras so easy to use. Sometimes, even if other cameras can fit in the space you have, it’s possible that you have issues with how to place them.

For example, how do you fasten your camera to a bike frame?

GoPro has just the tools for this.

Today, most hobbyists have dumped cameras for smartphones, because of the camera quality of these phones.

Some of these smartphones really give cameras a run for their money, and phone cameras keep getting better with each new model and upgrade.

This means that currently, most camera manufacturers mainly sell to professional photographers since hobbyists are going for phones.

However, GoPro seems to be the camera manufacturer that is going against the grain, because it’s becoming increasingly popular with hobbyists.

This is not surprising since most smartphones won’t survive under the conditions in which GoPro cameras thrive.

You already know video’s valuable, so, if you are running a small business, you should start creating video content as an essential part of every marketing strategy.

Video marketing will help you increase sales and leads like no other technique can.

Why do you need an external mic with a GoPro?

Even though GoPro has all the good stuff previously mentioned, there are still some areas where they seem to be lacking.

Like most cameras, GoPro has built-in microphones that record audio while the video is recording.

However, sometimes, the quality of the audio does not match up to the video quality.

Here’s what I mean:

Some GoPro cameras can record videos in 4k resolution; that’s the highest you can find for a camera of this size.

It is only befitting that the audio that’s recorded with the video is also of high quality that matches up.

The GoPro built-in mics do not capture audio in such high quality.

This does not mean that GoPro camera’s audio quality is so piss poor that you can’t even use them.

So, we’re not totally writing off GoPro built-in mics.

In fact, there are conditions that may force you to use the internal mics, mostly because you can’t really fix an external mic in such conditions.

A good example is when you’re doing underwater video recording when your camera is exposed to so much moisture.

If you connect an external mic in this case, you will damage the mic while having a poor recording.

Unless you have a waterproof external mic to use in this case, you will have to stick to the camera’s internal mic.

For some of the GoPro cameras, especially the more recent ones (Hero 7 and 8), the built-in microphones were made such that even in underwater, the mic still works fine.

They also give some light processing options like compression.

Having said all these, in most cases, GoPro built-in microphones may not give the quality of audio that you need.

Because of this, you will need an external GoPro microphone.

Speaking of external mics, GoPro cameras have some features that make external mic connection a tricky venture.

Setting up an external mic with GoPros

Most c mics have 3.5mm connection outputs.

You can notice that these external mics are of different kinds; shotguns, lapel mics and even field recording microphones.

Some mics that do not have 3.5mm outputs have XLRs.

These output ports make it easy to connect them to most cameras.

However, most GoPros do not have either a 3.5mm output or an XLR port.

The last GoPro camera to come with a 3.5mm audio port is the Hero 2, which was one of the earlier ones they produced.

After that, the only ports you find on GoPro cameras are USB mini ports and the more recent USB-C ports.

You may be wondering why GoPro decided to make life difficult after Hero 2.

Actually they tried to make life easier by reducing the size of their cameras.

With that size, there’s just enough space for one port on a device that needs an outlet for charging, audio connection and mounting.

Having just one port is one of the sacrifices you may have to make for the compact design you get with GoPro cameras.

Before you purchase any GoPro cameras, you should be aware that some of them are not compatible with external microphones.

This means that regardless of any adapters or converters you may think of using, you can’t get an external mic to work with them.

The GoPro cameras in this category are Hero 7 Silver/White, Hero 2014-2018, Hero + and Here 4 session.

While these are all quality cameras in their own rights, they are not for users who want the external mic to record their audio.

For the other GoPro cameras that are compatible with an external mic, it’s not a straightforward process as such.

You need to use an intermediary or adapter to convert the 3.5mm port of the mic into what you need.

Let’s see how to connect external mics with GoPros.

Hero 3

Hero 3 is a GoPro camera that has a USB mini port.

To use an external mic with this camera, you need an adapter that will convert the USB mini connection to a 3.5mm audio output.

Even though there are different brands of adapter that you can use for this, it’s better to use just the one made by GoPro.

A good number of users have used other adapter brands that failed to work or didn’t work as well as they should.

It’s better to stick to 3.5mm mics because you can be sure that they won’t need phantom power, unlike XLR mics.

Some XLR mics need up to 48V phantom power to make them work.

Your GoPro camera is not equipped to provide this kind of power.

Although there are some XLR mics that don’t need phantom power, it may be better to be on the safer side and stick with 3.5mm mic.

Hero 3+

Hero 3+ is very similar to Hero 3, in terms of the connection port available. The USB mini port needs an adapter to be used effectively with an external mic.

At this point, I should point out that a mini USB port is different from a micro USB port.

The mini USB is an older version of the USB port that you can find on many cameras.

It is slightly larger than the micro USB.

Micro USB is what you find in Android phones made before 2015.

This distinction is important so that you don’t purchase the wrong adapter.

A micro USB adapter will not work in place of a mini USB adapter.

Also, to use the Hero 3+ with an external mic, all you need to do is get the right adapter.

A 3.5mm to USB  mini adapter will do the job.

Like I mentioned earlier, for the best experience buy GoPro adapters for this purpose.

Some users may try to cut corners if they already had an adapter lying around.

For example, you have a USB-A to USB mini adapter already, and you simply go for a USB-A to 3.5mm connection to complete the loop.

While this may work, you’re exposing your recording to some noise.

The likelihood of noise increases with every new connection junction. Hence, the simpler the connection, the better.

Hero 4

Hero 4 was the last GoPro mic with a USB mini port.

To use an external mic with it, you need an adapter just like the previous two discussed.

You need a mini USB to 3.5mm adapter.

Unfortunately, there are no USB microphones that you can connect directly to your camera.

Just in case you’re wondering why your options are so limited, it’s because they’re limited to the 100 percent effective methods.

There are a few others you can try, but I cannot guarantee the effectiveness.

This 3.5mm to mini USB adapter method is recognized by the camera manufacturers, and they actively support it by making an adapter for this purpose.

Other methods that may be proposed are speculative at best, because most times, they have not been tested on all GoPro cameras.

If they work on one camera, it’s no guarantee that they’ll work on others.

After Hero 4, GoPro stopped making cameras with mini USB ports.

They switched to the USB-C which was quite new at the time.

This also changed the kind of solutions needed for using an external mic with them.

Hero 5 Black

Since the Hero 5 Black comes with a USB-C port, you’ll need a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter to use it with an external 3.5mm mic.

There’s a reason why 3.5mm mics are the natural choice in this.

Most 3.5mm mics are designed to work with cameras, so they are sometimes made with shoe mounts that make it easy to place them on cameras.

Since 3.5mm mics use less power, most manufacturers do this type when making mics for cameras.

It easily seems like the safest way to go.

Hero 5 Session

The GoPro session cameras are unique for their size.

Even though GoPro cameras are generally compact, the session cameras are even smaller.

Hero 5 session has a USB-C port that you can use in connecting your external audio.

Like Hero 5 black, you need the USB-C to 3.5mm adapter, preferably the one made by GoPro.

Because of the camera’s size, you may have a hard time mounting a mic on it.

In fact, it’s not practical at all because even if you manage to get the mic on the camera, the mic will most likely be in your shot.

This is because Hero 5 Session is a wide capture camera, and with that width, it will pick almost any mic you place on it.

Therefore, your best bet is getting a separate tripod for your mic if you have to mount it or stick with lav mics.

Hero 6 Black and Hero 7 Black

Like the two previous examples mentioned, you need a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter to connect this camera to an external mic.

Even though both these GoPro Hero 6 and Hero 7 cameras are larger than the session cameras, you still need to take some precautions while mounting a mic.

This is because of the wide capture feature. 

This limits your options in mics, especially if you wish to mount it on your camera.

If you are shooting your video outdoors, you may have to be more careful in your choices.

This is because, even if the mic itself is small enough not to appear in the shot, the windscreen you use may still be an issue.

For example, Rode VideoMicro is a mix that’s small enough to stay on a GoPro camera without getting in the shot.

However, if you’re shooting outdoors and you use a dead-cat windshield, it’s likely that the furry material will appear in the shot.

To prevent this, it’s better if you use smaller 3.5mm microphones and thinner windshields.

Avoid dead-cat types so you don’t have your mic showing in your video.

Can you use your GoPro underwater with an external mic?

If you will use an external mic with any GoPro camera, you must be ready to make some sacrifices.

You may not be able to take full advantage of some features.

The camera stops being waterproof when you connect an external mic to it.

This is because you need to open the housing to connect the mic, and when you do, it opens up that space for water.

Cutting out the needed space on the housing does not work either,  because the water still gets in anyway, plus it makes the camera look not so good anymore.

GoPro makes some housings that you can use while your external mic is connected. It’s a neat workaround, but it still lets water in.

However, it protects other parts from exposure.

The last option is to use a waterproof mic.

While this is a good option, the connection point between the mic and the camera is exposed to water, so you can’t really use it for long.

To make your underwater shooting successful, follow these tips.

Conclusion

The only issue you might have with the GoPro cameras is fixed here, so there’s no task you shouldn’t enjoy it to the fullest.

If you’ve not purchased a GoPro yet, make sure you get one that will not only fit your video needs but also meet your audio requirements.

I hope you guys found this guide helpful.

I Interviewed 44 GoPro Experts...
And they all shared their tips for getting the most out of a GoPro. Want to see what I've got?
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