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How to Set Up an External Microphone on Your Mac

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Whether you're recording a tutorial, gaming video, or even just making a call on Skype, using an external microphone can really boost the audio quality of your end result. This tutorial will show you how to set up an external microphone with various programs on your Mac.

Which Microphone Should I Buy?

There are a lot of microphones from which to choose. It can be overwhelming for someone looking to buy their first microphone and often the mic best for your depends on what you plan on using it for.

So here are three that are good ones to look into if your buying your next microphone.

Blue Snowball

A great USB mic for starters who want to get good sound quality without paying an arm and a leg for it, you can plug it directly into your Mac and not have to buy any adapters for it to work.

One downside though is that many users on Amazon reported that you needed to keep it very close to your mouth to get the best sound quality.

You can get the Blue Snowball for $60 from Amazon

Audio-Technica AT2020

This mic comes in both USB and XLR versions, it is a step up from the Blue Snowball in sound quality and is a great deal for the price, be aware however if you buy the XLR version you are only purchasing the microphone itself, you will need to also buy a stand and a adapter such as the Blue Icicle.

You can get the XLR version for $70, and the USB version for $150, the USB AT2020 also comes with a small desktop mic stand.

Røde Podcaster

The Røde Podcaster is a broadcast quality microphone that connects via USB, it is a large mic and according to one user on Amazon it's "built like a tank".
It is powered directly from it's USB cable, so you won't need to buy a external power source for it.
You can get the Røde Podcaster for $230 on Amazon.

Røde NT1A

This mic is a great choice if your looking to move up into the professional category, audio sounds warm and crisp, not muted as some lower end microphones will sound.

Røde advertises the NT1A as being "The world's quietest studio microphone", it will cost you quite a bit at $230, though.

Getting Set Up

To get started, go ahead and plug in your microphone to your Mac's USB or audio line-in port, depending on which type of connection your microphone uses. Once you've done that, your Mac should recognize your microphone immediately.

Connecting a Microphone to a Macbook (Late 2012)

Looking for the microphone port on your new MacBook? you won't find one, Apple has removed the dedicated audio line in port on the latest MacBooks, so how can you connect your microphone now?

Lots of ports: audio line-in is now part of the headphone socket.

If your using a microphone that connects with a audio line-in cable, then plug it into your Mac's headphone port, Apple has combined the audio line-in and the headphone ports on the latest MacBooks.

Now we need to tweak your apps to use that microphone instead of the default built in mic. I'll be showing you how to set it up on Skype, Adobe Audition, and Quicktime. but it's pretty much the same for any app out there.

Setting Up Your Microphone With Skype

First, open your Skype preferences, this can be done by clicking "Skype" in the menubar and then selecting "preferences" or by pressing "⌘,".

Tip: You can get to almost any app's preference window by pressing "⌘,".

To open Skype's preferences click "Skype" in your menu bar then click "Preferences"

In the window that opens, click the "Audio & Video" tab in the menubar, and you will see a drop-down menu. By default, it will say "Built-in Microphone". You need to change it to your external microphone.

The Audio/Video tab of Skype's preferences

And that's it! you've set up your external microphone to work with Skype!


Quicktime is the easiest of the bunch here, since its audio settings can be edited in the screen recording window.

To change the microphone settings you need to go to the menubar and click File then click New Screen Recording in the window that appears, you'll see a white arrow on the right side, click it and it will open up a drop-down menu of the microphones you can choose from.

To change your microphone in Quicktime click the white arrow and then select your mic from the list

From that menu, you can also change the video quality and where the video file will be created. That's all there is to setting up quicktime.

Adobe Audition

If you're using professional audio recording software such as Adobe Audition, you will definitely need to get an external microphone to use with it. If you purchased Adobe's Creative Cloud, you might not even know you have this program!

To get started, open Adobe Audition, then click "Audition" in the menubar, scroll over the Preferences option, and select Audio Hardware.

To change your mic in Audition click "Audition" in the menu bar then "Preferences", and then "Audio Hardware"

In the window, you'll see Audition has more settings than the other programs we looked at, but you don't need to worry about those, we still just need to change the audio input.

The Audio Hardware preference pane in Audition

To do this, just click the drop-down menu and select your microphone from the list. Once you've done that, just click "OK" from the bottom right of the preferences window.

Managing Your Audio Devices With System Preferences

You can use the Sound pane in System Preferences to change your audio input device. To do this, open System Preferences and click on the Sound icon.

Click the sound icon in the hardware section of System Preferences

Now you can see all audio devices you have connected to your Mac, simply click the one you want to select it, System Preferences also lists what type of connection those devices use, such as USB, audio line in or built-in, you can also use the Input volume slider to change the selected microphone's sensitivity or toggle Use ambient noise reduction if your microphone has that feature,

The sound preference window in System Preferences

A faster way to quickly switch your audio input device is to hold down the Option key and click on the sound icon in the menu bar, instead of the slider to control your Mac's volume you normally see when clicking there you will see a list of all audio output and input devices, just click the one you want to make the selected audio device.


That's all you need to know to start using an external microphone on your Mac! You're now ready to venture out into the world of high quality audio recording. Which mic do you use? Let us know in the comments.

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