Ever wondered if you can connect a Rode VideoMic Go to your laptop? It’s entirely possible! In this post, I’ll show you how.
I admit it… I’m cheap. I’ve dreamed of buying fancy USB microphones like the Samson G-Track Pro, or the Blue Yeti Pro, but just can’t bring myself to shell out the big bucks to get one. I’m also impatient. I mean, I could put away a few dollars each week until I save enough to get a nice mic–but what if I want a decent recording solution now?
In our new “work-from-home” COVID-19 world, I have several Skype and Zoom meetings each week. I improved my video by using use my Canon camera as a webcam — you can read about how I did that here — but I struggled with ways to improve my audio. For months, I settled for using my big over-the-ear headphones, with built-in mic. The audio from that setup was OK–but those giant ear cups on the sides of my head… well, let’s just say the jokes about me looking like Princess Leia abounded. A few years ago, I bought a Canon 80D with Video Creator Kit. It came with the Rode VideoMic Go. That mic has just been sitting in my desk drawer…unused. So I got to thinking… could I connect my Rode microphone to my laptop, and use it for Zoom meetings?
The Rode VideoMic Go
This post isn’t supposed to be a review of the Rode VideoMic Go, but I have to say, this little mic delivers pretty good sound. Mounted on my Canon 80D, it sounds kind-of “meh”–but that’s because (depending on what lens I use) it’s usually 3-5 feet away from me. The farther my voice is from the mic, the lower the audio quality.
I tested to see if I could improve the audio by placing the mic closer to me. I connected it to my camera via a 3 foot aux cable, started a video recording, and did a quick sound check. The result was MUCH better. That little mic actually works pretty good as long as you’re within 6-12 inches of it.
Happy with my test results, I connected it to my laptop…
TRS or TRRS?
Some say, “Ignorance is bliss…” Yeah, well in my case, ignorance just bites me in the butt. When I plugged the mic into the 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack on my laptop using the coily red wire that it came with, nothing happened. My 2015 MacBook Pro didn’t detect an external microphone. I was bummed.
So, I did the only thing I could do… I turned to Google and YouTube.
I learned that not all 3.5mm jacks are created equal. Some 3.5mm connectors have a “Tip”, a “Ring”, and a “Sleeve”, while others have TWO “Rings”. The acronym for these connectors is either TRS (Tip – Ring – Sleeve), or TRRS (Tip – Ring – Ring – Sleeve).
Apparently my MacBook Pro expects a TRRS connector, but the coily red wire that came with my Rode mic only has TRS connectors.
According to the internets, I needed an adapter. Everyone recommended the Rode SC-4 TRS to TRRS adapter, so I bought it. All $15.00 of it. I know that earlier I said I was cheap…but I got caught up in the moment, and made an impulse purchase. There’s probably less expensive versions of this adapter, and I know I probably paid extra for the “brand name”. (Please don’t roast me in the comments!)
When my new adapter arrived, I happily hooked the mic to my laptop and tried it out. It worked!!!
With the mic connected to my laptop, I thought I was good to go. I daydreamed happily that people in my Zoom meetings would be all like, “Wow dude! Your voice is so crystal clear and awesome compared to how craptastic everyone else sounds!!! How do you do it?!!?”
But then reality came along and pooped all over my happy little daydream… There’s only one 3.5mm jack on my laptop. When I plug in my headphones, there’s no place to connect the mic. When I connect the mic, there’s no place to connect my headphones… If only there were two 3.5mm jacks on my laptop–one for headphones, and one for a microphone! Most modern laptops (Apple included) are made with a single multi-function 3.5mm port so a set of headphones with built-in mic “just works”. Undaunted, I continued on–convinced I could connect my Rode VideoMic Go to my laptop.
Another Other Adapter
Back to Google and YouTube I went. This time, I learned that there are special Y-Adapters that split those single multi-function 3.5mm ports into two separate ports–one for a microphone, and one for headphones.
I found this one, clicked “buy”, and a few days later, my StarTech.com Y-Adapter arrived.
My favorite parts about this adapter are the little hieroglyphs embossed into the ends, so I know exactly where to plug in the headphones, and where to plug in the microphone.
Excited, I hooked it all up: The StarTech.com Y-Adapter, my headphones, the Rode mic with the little SC-4 thingy. I opened the Voice Memos app on my laptop, and recorded a quick message to test things out: “Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. Now there are millions of them!” (That’s my standard mic check phrase. I never say, “Testing, testing, one, two, three, four…“). I clicked playback. Instead of hearing my crispy voice coming back at me through my headphones, I heard my far away, crappy voice coming at me from a long, staticy distance away… My voice had been recorded via the laptop’s crappy built-in microphone, not the Rode mic. I removed the Rode SC-4 TRS to TRRS adapter from the equation, tested again, and this time IT WORKED!
Here’s a highly scientific diagram I drew to illustrate how it all connects:
If you’ve got one, you can certainly connect a Rode VideoMic Go to your laptop. In fact, you could probably connect any microphone with a 3.5mm jack to your laptop and make it work. Hopefully my stories of trial and error (mostly error) will help you avoid the same pitfalls I encountered.
If you’ve got a better solution, or a way for me to improve my setup–be sure to drop a comment below! That way everyone benefits from all our great ideas!
In the meantime, I think I’ll start saving up for a proper USB microphone. Maybe by next Christmas, I’ll have enough fundage, and hopefully there’ll be some good sales going on over at Samson or Blue!