How to add a microphone to Raspberry Pi?


One of the first things that surprised me when I received my Raspberry Pi was that it didn’t have a microphone jack.
This port seemed useful for many things, so I did some research and tests on the subject. And now I’m able to tell you more about it with this article.

If there is no microphone port in the Raspberry Pi, can we add one?
It could have been easier if it had been integrated. But you have plenty of methods to add a microphone to a Raspberry Pi according to your needs (jack, USB or even Bluetooth)

As you read the article, you will understand:
– Why there is no microphone directly integrated
– How to add a microphone to the Raspberry Pi
– How to check it’s working and use it in a basic way
– Why would a microphone be useful for your future projects

By the way, if you are really interested in improving your skills on Raspberry Pi, I highly recommend to check out my e-book hereIt’s a 30-days challenge from beginner to master, with step-by-step tutorials and many projects to practice along the way.

Why there is no microphone directly integrated

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The basic concept of Raspberry Pi is to create a “computer” with these 3 criteria:
– small size
– affordable price
– important possibilities of upgrades

The goal is not to integrate all components of a PC in a Raspberry Pi, but to put the minimum vital and least expensive parts while allowing the easy addition of other elements according to your needs.

That’s the same reasoning regarding the microphone.
They included a speaker jack output (as explained here), but not a microphone output.
And you’ll see that it’s not that complicated to add one, and at least it will totally fit your needs if you buy it separately.

How to add a microphone to the Raspberry Pi

The first thing to do before installing a microphone is to ask yourself what you want to do with it.
First choose a microphone that fits your needs, without looking whether it will be compatible or not.
Assume that everything is possible.

You have made your choice or already have one that you want to install?
Let’s see how to install it for the three most frequent cases.

USB Microphone

The first possibility, which is probably the simplest, is to connect a USB microphone (check the price on Amazon).
If you’re looking for a cheap solution to do some tests with, a USB microphone is perfect for you. Very affordable, no driver issues and a discrete format.

The advantage of USB is that generally your microphone will be detected automatically by Raspbian, it’s plug & play.

In my case, I plugged it into a free USB port, and the sound controller peripherals displayed the microphone in the list.

If you see your microphone in this place that’s it! You will have to adjust the amplification, and it’s ready to be used.

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Bluetooth Microphone

If you have a Bluetooth microphone (headphones or other), globally there are two cases that can occur:
– You have a Raspberry Pi with Bluetooth and your microphone is detected automatically.
– You do not have that luck.

Bluetooth microphone detected automatically

I did the test using a Bluetooth headset with mic, and I was lucky that it was very well recognized by the Raspberry Pi, so I could easily pair it.

Then the sound switched automatically to the headphones, and I recorded my voice with the headset microphone.

However, I couldn’t adjust the output parameters (especially volume) via the GUI. I had to go through alsamixer:

alsamixer

Bluetooth not detected

If your Bluetooth microphone is not detected, the microphone manufacturer will generally provide a USB adapter with it, so you can use it,

Maybe it’s possible to inject drivers or at least do something to help the Bluetooth recognize your microphone, but I admit I have not encountered this case, so I didn’t look into it more.

Then you go back to the chapter “USB Microphone” and follow the same steps.

Jack Microphone

This solution is the most complicated, so it’s better to have a good reason to want to install a microphone jack at any price.
Indeed, since there is no integrated connector, you will need to add an extension to your Raspberry Pi.
This solution is to buy and install a sound card, which will allows, among other things, to connect a microphone jack.

There are mainly two types of sound cards, and in both cases, it means that you will have to buy an additional component (either a USB soundcard or a Hat soundcard).

USB Soundcard

usb soundcard

I think this is probably the most straightforward way to add a jack microphone if that’s what you want.

For a cheap solution you can find this USB to jack adapter on Amazon, which allows you to connect a USB headset and microphone to your Raspberry Pi. If you have a correct headset or microphone using jack ports, it’s the best solution for you.

The configuration will be the same as the one indicated at the beginning of this post.
Raspbian will detect the adapter and you will only have to configure your microphone.

Hat Soundcard

For DIYers or those who need a better sound quality, there are real sound cards, very close to those that can be found in conventional computers.

For a decent price, you can install this “Hat” sound card via the GPIO ports of Raspberry Pi and enjoy a professional product for advanced projects (all details on Amazon).  Once you have it, you can start any audio project without any doubt on the sound part, it will work!

How to check it’s working and use it in a basic way

From command line

If you want to be sure that your microphone works well, the easiest way is to do a recording test.
To do this, launch a terminal and type the following command:

arecord -D plughw:1,0 test.wav

Then open the sound file with your favorite audio player to check that the microphone recorded well your voice.

For example:

omxplayer test.wav

From the desktop

Graphically, there are lots of software that you can use to test your mic or manage your audio recordings.
But the one I recommend you to use is Audacity.

Just install it with:

apt-get install audacity

Launch it by going to the start menu, then Sound & Video and finally Audacity.

The interface is very intuitive.
You have to click on the red “Record” button to start your recording.

audacity

You can then check the sound by simply clicking on Play.

Audacity allows a lot of editing to your raw sound. For example, you can amplify it, change the frequency of sampling or add various effects.

Raspberry Pi projects with a microphone

There are tons of possible projects with a Raspberry Pi, and for some of them, the microphone quality will be essential.
Now that you have a functional mic, maybe you can think about this kind of projects. I give you 2 or 3 examples to give you some ideas.

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Home assistant

Siri, Alexa, Google assistants… Have you ever heard of them?
Personal assistants are taking up more and more place in our lives and can help us with many things.

Did you know that it was possible to transform a Raspberry Pi in Amazon Echo?
Well, yes, there are many projects on the web allowing you to run the home assistant of your choice on your Raspberry Pi, and thus customize it according to your desires.

This project is relatively simple and inexpensive.
With your microphone, you already have 50% of the necessary material.
A speaker, some coding, and your Raspberry Pi will become the home assistant of your choice.

Baby Monitor

It is a project that can be a little more complicated if we go to the end of things, but that can be interesting.
Indeed, it is possible to add the following elements on a Raspberry Pi:
– Microphone for listening to the baby
– A camera to monitor it
– A temperature and humidity sensor to make sure your room is nice
– A speaker to play a lullaby

What do you want more?
For less than $50 you will replace expensive accessories while having fun!

Conclusion

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Here it is, I hope this article will help you understand why there is no microphone port in the Raspberry Pi and how to add one easily whatever your need is.
You also got a glimpse of the possibilities you can explore with a microphone connected to your Raspberry Pi.

If you have issues installing your microphone, please leave a comment, and I will try to help you.

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Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of RaspberryTips.com. My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

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