Friday, March 9, 2012

Following Up on Android Audio for Voice Over

So a little while back I wrote an editorial on the state of audio recording on Android, and it got me thinking.

As an owner of an Android tablet (A Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9) , would I be able to go on a trip, leave my laptop at home, and still record, edit, and send audio files? Would I still be able to do my VO?

If you read my first editorial, then we already know that Android does not support any kind of USB mic. They can be powered, but Android doesn't know what to do with them, so that's out.

Also, the DAC built into the Galaxy Tab is pretty crappy, so even in quiet environments, using the built in mics or the mic on a wired headset, you get a lot of hiss, so that's out.

However, I do have a Zoom H4n, which is perfectly capable of recording audio all on its own. The drawback to using the H4n is having to move the audio to a computer to edit and send.

If the Tablet can pull the files from the H4n then it's peanut butter jelly time.

Unfortunately, even though the H4n can mount as a mass storage drive, to drag and drop files onto a computer, it draws too much power. The Galaxy Tab was unable to properly power the H4n, so that's out.

Thankfully, the H4n records to SDHC cards which can be removed from the recorder and read by standard USB card readers. I also happen to have a card reader which works with the Galaxy Tab, so now we're back in business.

This would've been easier if I had the Samsung SD card adapter, but I was cheap and just got the USB host cable.

The Android operating system had no problems pulling audio files off the card and storing them locally. To read  and edit the files, I prefer an app called TapeMachine, which features a fairly simple wave form layout and a few simple tools to cut/copy/paste, fade in/out, adjust gain, and normalize. Pretty much everything you'd need to knock out a dry voice VO audition.

TapeMachine had no problems reading 16bit/44K WAV files, and once edited you have the option to save as an MP3. From there you simply attach the MP3 to an email and send it off.

The recording process is a little more complicated than if you had an iPad since you can't record directly into the device (soon to be made even easier on iOS with mics like Blue's Spark Digital), but Android does handle file conversion and emailing a little better than iOS will.
Just a heads up that this workflow wont work with all Android devices, as not all Android phones and tablets support USB host to connect the card reader.

That said, considering the extra steps necessary, it's still a perfectly functional way to work, and takes up quite a bit less space than lugging around my old laptop. If you've got all the right bits, it's a pretty decent way to get your recordings done while on the go. If you're really ambitious, this same set up can also work with select phones like the Galaxy Nexus, though I prefer the larger screen for editing.

My equipment list for this review: Zoom H4n, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, SDHC memory card, USB card reader, USB Host adapter, Tapemachine App. If I were buying a tablet today I would probably pick the Asus Transformer Prime and its keyboard dock which provides a USB host port.


  1. Hello man! I repeat a question from another post of you: why don't you use the AUDIO IN port from your tablet? Is simply to connect via XLR (adapter) any kind of a professional microphone, such as Blue Yeti Pro (with xlr in specs)?!

    1. Because the audio in ports on tablets usually suck more than the mic ports on most laptops. It's not worth connecting a nice, clean, accurate mic, if the port it's connected to is noisy, hissy, and static-y. Combine that with the fact that it's harder to power a good mic. You have to have an external power source to achieve phantom power, whereas USB is capable of providing power for studio grade mics, and the headphone jack on a tablet is pretty much useless for the type of recording we're trying to accomplish.

      Lastly not all tablets even have audio in capabilities, so the solution is an extremely inconsistent one. For example, the Nexus 7 only has a headphone out jack, it does not have the third ring to allow for audio in.

  2. Now I understand! However, try the Asus Transformer Infinity PAD. The AUDIO IN is very clear, even with a entry level mic (I use DB Technologies). I try to find a omnidirectional mic, in order to take some videos for my blog (nterviews and discussions) and I'm afraid to spend 250 Euros for a Yeti Pro because I don't find any proof that people can record videos with a USB mic. From analog Audio IN work very good.

    1. That's the bummer. Some tablets work, but most don't, and you still need to track down the right app for it all to tie together. Using the audio in, you still run into the same problem of how to power a large diaphragm condenser or shotgun. Extra power sources makes the cabling inconvenient for any kind of mobile solution compared to USB.
      Oh, and I've played with the Asus. Got to review it for the Tech blog I write:

  3. hi, probably f your tablet is supported, now you can connect directly to the zoom h4n as audio interface:
    watch this blog for some instructions: