The biggest problem with action cameras, pretty much any action camera, is the microphone. Whether it’s the original YI HD, the YI4K or even a GoPro, their sound just tends to suck pretty badly. But, it’s not really a surprise. The main intent of action cameras is for recording fast sports action with a wide field of view. There’s all kinds of noise going on that makes it virtually impossible to distinguish a voice easily anyway.
But, a lot have started using them for things like vlogging and family trips, because they’re small and lightweight. For these people, sound is important. Here are two videos which show a couple of different hacks to help you get a bit better sound out of your YI Action Camera. The first, by MrCsami swaps out the built in microphone for one with a built in wind guard. The second from shinyside removes the microphone completely, replacing it with a 3.5mm jack to use whatever microphone you wish.
There’s no voice-over in this first video, but there are a few titles. The steps are fairly straight forward, although you’ll want to be careful. And you’ll need a soldering iron. MrCsami swaps out the built in microphone with an inexpensive 9,5mm electret condenser capsule. It has a thin furry surface on top which, while not perfect, should eliminate a fair amount of wind.
After removing all the covers for the battery & ports and the battery itself, the first step is to open up the camera. The front is just held on by a few clips. The front can be pried off by pretty much anything with a sharp point. It might take a little work to get off at first, but be careful. You don’t want to bend or snap the tabs. If you do, it’ll be difficult to get the front to stay back on when you reassemble.
Then, just four small screws hold the guys of the camera to the back of the case. Unscrewing these lets you easily separate the two. Then you can see the tiny built in microphone on the top of the unit. It’s covered in a piece of black material, which you can remove, exposing the whole microphone. Now it’s just a simple case of desoldering this microphone from the two attaching wires.
You can see there’s a huge difference in size between the two microphones. The new microphone has a pair of legs attached to it. This is to help solder it into circuit boards. As the wires are being attached directly to it, though, you can cut these off, and solder straight to the microphone’s pads.
With the new mic attached, the final step is to modify the case to accommodate the larger microphone. The case is fairly soft plastic, and can be easily sliced with a box cutter. A pair of needle nosed pliers will finish the job.
Then, just slot everything back together. Pop the front back on, and you’re all done. While you’re still not going to get studio quality sound, it should be improved over the stock microphone. That small layer of felt over the new microphone will also help to prevent wind from blowing directly into the microphone, too. That reason alone makes this hack well worth it.
In the second video, YouTuber shinyside does away with a built in microphone altogether. Instead, replacing it with a 3.5mm jack so you can use any external microphone you wish.
There isn’t really that much difference between the two hacks. The main big one is that instead of the larger microphone, shinyside used a small lead with a 3.5mm barrel jack. For this, you can just cut up an inexpensive 3.5mm stereo extension cable. The YI only has mono input, but using a stereo socket means you can use it with stereo mics and record both sides, although to a single channel.
The order here is slightly in reverse of the modification above. The alterations to the case come first this time. Find a drill bit about the same diameter as the cable on your 3.5mm socket and expand the existing microphone hole.
Then, feed the wire through the hole. In the video, heat shrink tubing is applied to the wire to make it larger than the hole so it can’t be pulled out. Depending on the thickness of the cable, you can also tie it in a knot or secure it with hot glue.
Usually there’ll be three thinner wires inside a 3.5mm stereo cable. One red (the right channel), one white (the left channel), and one black (ground). You’ll want to tie the red & white ones together. These will both solder to the red wire inside the camera. The black wire is soldered to the black wire. Again, you’ll probably want to put some heat shrink on these wires before you solder them so you can easily cover them afterwards.
And, like before, finally it’s just a case of slotting everything back in and popping the front back on.
Now, you can plug in your favourite Rode VideoMic and get much better sound than you normally would from an action camera. For vloggers who’ve wanted an external microphone with their YI action cameras, this is a great solution, even though it takes a little effort.
Needless to say, both of these modifications will void any warranty you may have. So, do them at your own risk.
What other microphone or action camera mods have you made?