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.

There is no microphone on the Raspberry Pi, and no input jack. It’s however possible to use the USB ports or Bluetooth to connect an external microphone to it.

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

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Why is there no microphone on a Raspberry Pi?

The basic concept of Raspberry Pi is to create a “computer” with these 3 criteria:

  • a small size
  • an affordable price
  • important possibilities of upgrades

The Raspberry Pi Foundation tries to keep the price of their products as low as possible, and don’t add any non-essential components to their device. Especially, if it’s possible to add it later using the existing components.

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 easiest way to add a microphone on a Raspberry Pi is to plug a USB microphone on one USB port, or to use a jack to USB adapter for a traditional microphone.

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.

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

In my case, I plugged it into a free USB port, and the sound controller peripherals immediately detected the microphone, and added 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.

Bluetooth Microphone

If you have a Bluetooth microphone (headphones or other), there are two cases that can occur:

  • Your Raspberry Pi model is equipped with Bluetooth, and your microphone is detected.
  • You are not lucky :-).

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 install additional 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.

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The configuration will be the same as the one indicated at the beginning of this post.
Raspberry Pi OS 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 test a microphone on Raspberry Pi

To test a microphone on Raspberry Pi OS, you can either use a command line (arecord) or install a sound editor application like Audacity.

In a terminal

If you want to be sure that your microphone works well, the easiest way is to do a recording test.
To do this, open 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 your voice correctly.

For example:
omxplayer test.wav

Are you a bit lost in the Linux command line? Check this article first for the most important commands to remember and a free downloadable cheat sheet so you can have the commands at your fingertips.

From the desktop

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

Just install it with:
apt-get install audacity
You can also install it with the Add/Remove software tool if you prefer.

Start it by going to the start menu, then Sound & Video, and you’ll find Audacity there.

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. I use it a lot on my computer, but it also works well on Raspberry Pi.

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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.

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.

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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!

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Conclusion

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 in the community, and I will try to help you.

You may also be interested in this article to fix all kinds of audio issues: How To Fix Sound Issues On Raspberry Pi: Easy Solutions

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12 Comments

  1. When I plug my earphones into my raspberry pi via the included audio jack in the Raspberry Pi B+ the audio input is not detected

  2. I tried to connect Bluetooth mike am getting an error when I enter the (arecord -D plughw:1,0 test.wav) has
    alsa lib pcm_hw.c1713:(_snd_pcm_hw_open) invalid for card
    arecord :main:788: audio open error :no such or no such directry

  3. Sorry, in english now:
    Hello
    How to associate sound, via a microphone to a video sequence. Either save a person who is talking in front of a camera (Pi camera).
    Thank you

  4. Hello/Bonjour fagol,

    I’m not sure to understand what you want to do but it depends on the software you use for the camera I think
    It should be possible to record the sound at the same time

    If you want to use it for a security camera, maybe Motio can help you: https://motion-project.github.io/motion_config.html

    If not, you have to explain what you want to do
    Maybe someone could help you

    Good luck

  5. Hi,
    Thanks for this article. Want to connect professional usb mike to raspberry 3, will be recording piano practice. Do you think I’ll need extra power. Can sound recorder be used with this? Just want a small program.

    1. Hello,

      It probably depends on the mic you want to use, just try it?
      For the software, Audacity is probably ok, but I don’t know if there are professional tools for Raspberry Pi

  6. Thank you for doing this! Now i’m newer into looking for these kinds of specs and stuff thus I’m still learning the important points of the audio world. Yet I was on the fence concerning dropping the money for this mic but you’ve helped me out there! I actually will use two of these different recording modes and this was very helpful!

  7. It’s incredible how complicated it is to have a simple mic working properly in raspbian pi 3! I have gone through various instructions 2 days and all leading deeper and deeper in the nowhere…
    ***
    What I need:
    Have a videoconference where I could use a webcam & integrated microphone on it.
    -> There simply isn’t simple instructions for that. I first need to get trained a Linux programmer before that is possible. Damn.

    1. Hi,

      If you can give us more details on your problem, maybe we could help
      Did you follow the tutorial? Where are you stuck?

      Patrick

  8. Before I did something wrong, I could click on the taskbar at the top of my screen and easily switch between a set of headphones and the speakers built into my Samsung HDMI display.

    BUT now when I right click my mouse while hovering over the speaker symbol, when I click on either “Analog” or “HDMI”, yes, the selection will switch between either one but the output is on my headset. Is there any way to kick my system in the can to make the choices work properly?

    Also, no videos will play. Is this related or not but the timing seems suspicious.

    I really REALLY do not want to reformat my SD card and do a complete reinstall.

    Any advice?

    Thank you.
    Terry Thomas
    Atlanta, Georgia USA

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