MacBooks are known for their superior quality and build, and bring the latest advancements in technology to the table, most of which are exclusive to Apple. The creators focus on every aspect of the notebook including the screen, the camera, the sound systems and the keyboard – not to mention the internal parts. Most of the specs are easy to identify and gauge, but the question on many minds, however, is where the microphones are located. Apple has done a good job of concealing them, but before we look at where, here’s a brief on what we are looking for.
The American manufacturer has significantly upgraded the microphones for the latest MacBooks – and the brand claims that the new three-microphone array is at par with studio-quality recorders, and that they are suited for recording music and podcasts on the go, as they have an enhanced signal-to-noise ratio (highlighted only for Pro, not for Air) that can rival professional microphones. A high SNR ensures that the signal of the microphones is stronger than the background noise, enabling it to capture voices clearly. On both Air and Pro, the three mics offer directional beamforming, a processing technique used to capture the voices of simultaneous talkers. Directional beamforming is achieved by using DSP (digital signal processing), a cornerstone for modern audio products like headphones, smartphones, smart speakers, vehicle entertainment systems and studio gear.
Where are the microphones located?
Now that we have some info on the audio sensors the notebook maker has to offer, let’s take a look at where to find the microphones.
Microphone location on the latest MacBooks
According to the official support page of Apple, the microphones are located under the speaker grille to the left of the keyboard, for the latest models of the Air as well as the Pro. A deeper look through tear-down reviews of tech enthusiasts, however, tell us that only two of the three microphones are situated in the speaker section, and the third is located under the keyboard.
Microphone location on older MacBooks
Over the years, Apple has launched multiple versions of its notebooks, and have made changes to the arrangement of the parts – including the microphones. Previously, microphones on the MacBook Pros were found on the bottom casing or near the speakers or on the area on top of the keyboard. While the current notebooks have three mics, older ones had only one or two. On older 13-inch models of the Pro, the single mic was found above the Esc key under a series of tiny holes. Preceding versions of the MacBook Air also had microphones on the left side of the notebook but situated in front of the 3.5mm jack as there was no speaker grille to hide them.
How to find the microphone on your MacBook
Apple does a good job of hiding the microphones, so if your MacBook model has not been mentioned here or you could not identify where the microphone is, here is a trick to find out:
- Turn the microphone on
- Go to Settings and lower the input volume of the microphone
- Tap gently along the surface of the laptop, from the area around the keyboard to the sides and bottom casing
- If the tapping at a particular point causes the input level meter to spike, it means that the mic is at that point or very close to it; also keep in mind that it can be found under the keyboard
- Look for microphone holes around the point where the volume meter spiked on tapping
Testing your Mac’s Microphones
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increasing requirement of communication methods through the internet, and your Mac’s microphones are one of the key pieces of technology that you need to carry out your work or academics. Sometimes, you may need to ensure that your video conferencing tools are working smoothly before starting an important work call. Here’s how you can test your MacBook’s mic:
- Open QuickTime Player from the Launchpad
- Click on File under the Menu bar
- Click on New Recording and increase the volume
- Click on the Record button and speak for about 30s to 1min; you don’t have to direct your voice towards the microphone as the latest devices are designed to capture your voice from the normal seated position for using a laptop
- After keeping the volume high enough, play the recording and check if your voice has been recorded clearly; ensure that you can hear your voice without any distortions and breakage
In case of troubleshooting, check your software first to make sure that the app you do the recording or voice call on has the required permissions, and also check driver recovery solutions. If the problem is still not resolved, take the notebook to a Genius Bar.
Adjusting your Mac’s Microphone
Apple has an ambient noise reduction option on its MacBook to ensure that the background noise is not unnecessarily captured by the microphone. It is also possible to adjust the microphone’s input level as required; the higher the mic volume, the louder your voice would be recorded. Here’s how you can adjust these settings:
- Open System Preferences from the MacBook dock
- Open the Sound options and click on the Input tab
- Slide the Input Volume bar from right to left to increase the volume
- Turn on Ambient Noise Reduction by clicking on the check box
- Repeat the steps from the previous section to test the microphone’s volume
How do I change the microphone permissions on my Mac?
Open System Preferences and under Security & Privacy, select the Privacy option. To grant access to the microphone to any app, select the checkbox next to the name of the app.
Is the microphone on my Mac good enough?
For general usage, the built-in mic on your Mac is sufficient and you will not require an external mic. However, for professional usage, you can purchase good microphones that are easily available in the market.
How do I select microphone input on my Mac?
If your Mac is connected to your Air Pods or Ear Pods, chances are that the notebook switches the sound input to the headset’s mic. You can change this by following this path: System Preferences > Sound > Input > Choose ‘Internal Microphone’ under the “Select a device” section
Microphones and Speakers on the MacBooks
A microphone setup is only one part of a PC’s sound system. So, let’s run through the audio systems available in each of MacBook’s 2020 models:
MacBook Pro’s Sound System: The 13.3-inch and 16-inch Pro’s have a six-speaker combination, divided across the two sides of the keyboard under a dotted grille. It produces sound at a wide-stereo range that is not too common in notebooks and effortlessly fills an entire room with high-quality sound. They are fitted with force-cancelling woofers, thus eliminating vibrations even at loud volumes. The speakers do not interfere with the mics and you will hear no feedback or echo during calls or recording sessions. This is made possible by having a high signal-to-noise ratio, that drowns out background noise as well as the sound output of the six speakers. Directional beamforming also helps in sensing the input from the right direction. A 3.5mm jack is also available to support an external mic and earphones.
MacBook Air’s Sound System: The MacBook Air is a 13-inch notebook capable of wide-stereo sound output and also has support for Dolby Atmos playback. Unlike the Pro, the Air does not boast of a six-speaker system, so it is safe to assume that it has a dual speaker setup on either side of the keyboard under the grilles. The thin body of the Air is capable of keeping the vibrations at bay, and the three mics pick up voices more than any other sounds in the background. The MacBook Air also has a 3.5mm jack that can be used to upgrade the audio input and output.
Benefits of Built-In Microphones
Technology has seen drastic advancements in recent years and microphones are no exception to it. Mics have a wide application, from communication devices to stage performance. Before the advent of smartphones, users of cell phones had to ensure that they spoke directly into the mic for the receiver of the call to hear clearly.
Nowadays, microphones are so advanced that they seek out our speech from a distance without us having to make an effort to redirect our voices towards them. They are embedded in strategic positions on smart devices such as mobile phones, car audio systems, video-conferencing systems, laptops, desktops and even smart TV remotes and are often not visible at first look.
Many devices, including smartphones, opt for multiple mics on a single device. This enhances the gadget’s ability to record and capture voices with ease. They act as a vital support system for AI systems such as Siri, where microphones remain turned on and identify speech with the help of software.
The microphones on the MacBooks are discreet, yet serve their purpose wonderfully. The brand stating that the microphones are studio-level is a reach, as professional musicians and podcasters will not be happy with the outcome. For any other type of usage, the mics will not disappoint and is a great tool to have during important work calls or college presentations.