Connecting external microphones to your Mac

If you have a USB microphone, it’s easy to plug it into your computer. But if you have an analog one, intended to be used with anything other than a computer — say, a camera, sound system or voice recorder — the chances are that it may not work, unless your computer has a dedicated microphone socket.

My Macs have a headset socket, into which you can plug combined earbud/microphone combinations such as you might get with your phone. But it tends to think that anything else you plug in there is just a pair of headphones, and that you probably want to keep using the built-in mic on the machine.

I did some experiments to work out how to persuade it to use an external microphone. It’s not one of my slickest videos, but it should serve its purpose!

Update, a few days later:

Even though the above solution works, it’s almost certainly easier, if you don’t have a microphone socket on your computer, to use a USB audio adapter, like this one.

I was hesitant about this, because I wasn’t sure of the likely quality of the analog-to-digital converters in a cheap USB peripheral, but it turns out to work very well for normal use. That would be my recommendation now, if you have a spare USB socket!

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Thank you so much for your help. This helped me utilized the accessories that I already own, without having to buy more! I hope you are enjoying flying your new drone. Have a blessed day!

Dear sir thank so much for you amazing video. Please help me to find this cable I am looking everywhere from Amazon to Thomas sites and I cannot find it.

Kind regards

Hello Quentin, what an excellent approach to a given problem. Not just ‘do this, do that’ but an explanation about what’s happening. Very good, it helps understand the process and why things do or won’t work. I struggled with exactly the same. I did have a very old usb-c splitter (20 years or so!) with headphones and microphone ports, and your explanation made it work right away! So thank you, it was a great help!
All the best,

Hi Quentin. Many thanks for the YouTube re ‘Macs not recognising some 3.5mm headphone jacks’…
i.e. I recently bought a SONY Headset so that I could comfortably use its in-built microphone to make phone calls so that I wouldn’t be ‘off-mic’ compared to the Mac’s in-built microphone, but after a couple of days I realised that it was still only the iMac that was picking me up! Yes I could use Bluetooth, but I’m wanting to use a wired connection. Hence… because of your useful video it seems like the SONY headset only has 3 rings on the jack (TRS)…
Still confused as how to proceed though re whether the ‘UGREEN External USB audio card’ that you recommend is the answer for this issue, so if you have a moment perhaps you could kindly clarify the simplest solution please?
Doesn’t feel like a TRS to TRRS converter would do the trick unless I’m missing something. Much appreciated as both John Lewis tech dept. and SONY are not solving this and just recommending that I take the item back but I’ll still need to know what sort of thing would work apart from Apple’s own TRRS simple ear-plugs. Goodness knows why they’re selling items that are not Mac compatible if headphone mics are built in. We don’t all want to be on Bluetooth all the time and the unit comes with its own jack! Much appreciated Andrew
SONY product:

    Hi Andrew –

    From a quick skim, my guess is that the cable is used for audio playback only, and the microphone is only available over Bluetooth? You just don’t have enough connectors on the cable to do stereo headphones PLUS microphone!


Many thanks Quentin. That’s were I got to after seeing your useful YouTube but thought to check…. but jaw-droppingly….. retailers / SONY themselves don’t make it clear that microphone will not work if not on BlueTooth which seems really remiss from a design POV…so there’s an assumption on purchase that microphone should pick up… Taking them back for a refund pronto. Much appreciated.
All the best for 2024

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