Can you use a regular 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter for audio on a GoPro?
As the Canadian motorcycle riding season fast approaches, a lot of motorcyclists will be refreshing or buying new vlogging tech. I recently upgraded my GoPro to a Hero5 Session for its small size but big quality spec bump over my old model.
In finalizing the last components of my setup, I came to the matter of audio recording. If you want to record your voice during your rides, you’ll need an external mic. You may already have one in your helmet, but it turns out you can’t easily record audio from your intercom (myReview of UCLEAR’s AMP Pro headset), so most riders turn to a lav or lavalier mic.
The Hero5 Session only has one port on it, a USB Type-C port which does triple duty as a charging, file transfer, and audio input port. GoPro makes an accessory, the GoPro Pro 3.5mm Mic Adapter, that allows you to plug a regular 3.5mm mic into the camera, but it costs $59.78 (at time of publication).
Since I have a Google Pixel 2 XL, I already have a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter. So I asked Google, “Can you use a regular 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter to record audio on a GoPro Hero5 Session?” … and Google didn’t know.
So I tested it, and it turns out that with a 3.5mm lav mic plugged into the Pixel’s USB Type-C adapter, the GoPro doesn’t recognize that it has a mic plugged in at all and continues to record audio through the camera’s built-in mic. Bummer.
While trying to see if I could find an answer to my question online before running a test myself, I actually discovered something interesting. Apparently, even GoPro’s very own adapter has problems with recording external audio sources consistently. There are dozens of reports of people going out and recording video only to come home and review their footage to discover only a single clip had audio.
Apparently, this is a known bug with the camera that continues to go unaddressed by GoPro. According to some users on the forum, the issue is specific to the Quick Capture mode, the function that allows you to simply press the camera’s record button to begin recording video immediately, rather than having to turn the camera on, wait for it to boot up, and then click the record button. The fix (which has varying levels of success based on user reports) is outlined by user danielr15 in one post:
“The (small back lower) mode/power button needs to be pressed to turn the camera on and then the shutter button pressed to begin recording when using an external mic. If the camera is already on (top menu LCD is displaying information) then you do not need to press the rear mode/power button.”
As many users point out, this is pretty much impossible to do practically while out riding on a motorcycle and renders useless a very convenient and major feature of the Session.
You don’t want to go for a ride and be worrying the whole time whether or not your tech is working correctly (or at least not any more than you already might worry that your camera isn’t recording).
My way forward
So without the convenience of using my own adapter or the reassurance that a $60+ investment in a GoPro accessory will guarantee a smooth experience, I’ve resorted to the following set up for my external audio recording needs:
Just like in other instances of video recording where you can’t record audio directly to your camera, I’ll clap to create an audio marker or cue at the start of a recording and use an audio video synchronization tool like PluralEyes to match the audio and video together before I edit the final video piece down.
I don’t think when I started to put my new kit together I imagined carrying a voice recorder in my jacket pocket while I rode, but it promises to deliver greater consistency while also boasting great battery life and massive recording length on its built-in (but expandable) memory.
For roughly the same cost as GoPro’s adapter without the need to leave the side door to the GoPro open (making it vulnerable to splashes) while I ride, I’ll take it.