What Is a Mic Splitter and Do I Need One?

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A mic splitter cable (or audio splitter) is something you might use if you want to send the audio from one source to two or more places.

So what’s an example of this? Well, it might be that you and a friend are recording into a mic with only one headphone jack, but you’d both like to wear headphones. Plugging in a splitter will let you connect two pairs of headphones or earbuds.

Or, you might be recording into one device but you’d like to send the audio to a backup recorder too. A splitter can help you do that.

In this post, I’m going to focus on the latter. So let’s take a look at how and why a microphone splitter might help you record better sounding audio.

A mic splitter can send your audio to two different places at the same time.

Using a Mic Splitter to Create “Two Channel” Recording

One of the most novel ways of using a mic splitter is if you have a small digital recorder, like the Tascam DR-05. Basically, a recorder that doesn’t have any XLR inputs to let you plug in multiple mics.

Sure, you can record multiple participants into the device’s built-in mics. But the sound levels are going to be inconsistent based on each person’s distance from the recorder, as well as how loud they talk.

An alternative is to run a splitter into your recorder’s 3.5mm input jack. Then, connect two mics into it. These would also be 3.5mm connecting mics – commonly, lavalier mics. The best “affordable quality” lavalier option out there right now, in my opinion, is the Rode Lavalier Go.

If you’re using a standard mic splitter for this, then the audio is going to be recorded in “joint stereo”. Here, you’ll still benefit from both participants being more “on-mic” (because they both now have their own mics). But if one is talking a lot louder than the other, that’s going to be hard to fix in the editing phase.

The Hosa Stereo Mic Splitter 3.5mm

A solution for this is to use a mic splitter like the Hosa Stereo Breakout, which helps create something more akin to a “two-channel” or multitrack recording.

Heads Up: We’ve had some reports from users who’re having trouble getting this mic splitter to work with the Zoom H1. To see the ones we’ve checked it with, you’ll find a list of confirmed compatible recorders at the bottom of the post.

Splitting in Stereo

standard mic splitter recording in joint stereo
Two mics recording via a standard splitter
audio recorded via the Hosa Breakout cable
Two mics recording via the Hosa Breakout

When I ran two lavalier mics into my digital recorder using a normal mic splitter, the audio was recorded in “joint stereo”. This means that both sides mirrored each other, as you can see in the first screenshot.

But if you’re using a stereo splitter like the Hosa Breakout model, you can clearly see the difference on both channels. There’s still a bit of “bleed” from one side to the next, but it’s minimal.

When you record in this manner, you can split the sides of your stereo track into two mono tracks in your editing software.

This means you can alter the levels of each participant independently if one person was a bit too loud or a bit too quiet.

Using Lav Mics Into a Digital Recorder

My first choice for using two lav mics simultaneously is to run them into the Zoom H5‘s XLR/TRS combo ports, using 3.5mm to 1/4″ mono adapters.

This gives you full control over both mics. You can set the gain of each independently, before and during the recording.

But if you’re using a smaller model of recorder that only has a 3.5mm port for external inputs, the Hosa Breakout gets you as close to two-channel recording as you’re likely to find with this type of setup.

Recording With Four Mics

If you’re using a recorder with two XLR/TRS combo ports, as well as a 3.5mm input (such as the Zoom H4 or Zoom H5), then you can use four microphones at the same time.

4 mics running into the Zoom H5

The two mics feeding into the combo ports will record on independent channels. At the same time, the Hosa Breakout will split its mics into a stereo track.

These can be separated into two mono tracks in post-production. All tracks can then be processed independently in your editing software.

This setup is like having a mobile radio studio with you at all times.  It’s a fantastic option for ’roundtable’ recordings of four people.

Of course, a simpler way of doing things these days might be to opt for a dedicated multitrack podcast recorder like the Zoom PodTrak P4. This lets you record local participants, phone calls, online interviews, and play music/SFX during your sessions, too. Check out our full review of the Zoom PodTrak P4 and see what you think.

Summary: Using a Mic Splitter Cable

Mic splitters are a great way to add more flexibility to small and simple recording setups. At around $5, adding the Hosa Breakout to your setup is unlikely to break the bank, either.

You’ll find Hosa Breakout cables in sizes other than 3.5mm, too. For example, they have a mic splitter for 1/4″ to 1/4″ connections. Visit the Hosa store on Amazon to see their full range. Bizarrely, they also make work gloves. That’s handy, eh?

I mentioned that the 3.5mm Hosa model has its share of reported issues when used with the Zoom H1. But here are the recorders we’ve successfully tested it with.

Be sure to check out our multitrack recording guide too. This will help you to explore your full range of options when it comes to split channels, independent tracks, and just generally getting more flexibility and control out of your recording sessions!

What Our Readers Think About What Is a Mic Splitter and Do I Need One?

Sorry, comments are closed.

  1. Peter says:

    Great Info! I was looking for something like that because I want to record two independent channels simultaneously. I would like to use this setup for interviews (two lavalier or dynamic mics) and for backup purposes when I record skype interviews. I hope the splitter is working the same (recording two channels independently) when I want to record two sound sources from my PC/mixer to digital recorder. Altough I will be using Tascam DR 05 via Mic/ext in so I have question. It’s the same way like Zoom H1 I suppose so my question is can I alter the levels of each sound sources coming in by splitter independently while recording or I’ll be able to do it only in post production?

  2. Scott says:

    Bought this splitter, but it doesn’t work with my zoom h1.

  3. Sascha says:

    I wonder if you are not concerned about any sound bleed if the talents are sitting across from each other? Would’t each lavalier microphone pick up the sound from the other talent in addition to their own sound? Hosa YMM-261

  4. Wesley says:

    I bought this item (Hosa YMM-261 stereo breakout cable), at your recommendation. However, it is NOT working for me. I also purchased two lav mics (Movo LV1 – which look identical to the BOYA BY-M1 on your site), but when I plug both my lav mics into the YMM-261, it doesn’t pick up the signal from either mic (all recordings are from the laptop mic – I’m using a 2012 Macbook Air). BUt when I plug just one lav mic in, it works fine – obviating the need for a splitter. Can someone please help?? I hope I’m doing something wrong and not that the recommended product is a dud…

    • You can't have my name says:

      Without seeing your exact setup, it’s hard to say for sure, but you seem to be describing the exact same symptoms I am having. I also bought the Hosa splitter and 2 lav mics this week on the recommendation of this blog post, and have the same issues. Some things I’ve found that might explain why:

      – My computer (2016 Thinkpad) has a “combination” jack that can do both mic input and sound output. The male end of the Hosa splitter is a single stereo plug that I think doesn’t jive with the input of the computer.
      – If you take a look at your two lav mics, I’m betting that they are TRRS (they have 3 black rings on the connector rather than 2, which would be TRS). The Hosa splitter takes 2 TRS (note the single R, i.e. the 2 ring kind) inputs on the female end and outputs a single “TSF” signal. I can’t find TSF anywhere except on Hosa branded websites, so my best guess says it’s a proprietary connector type they made up, but which is basically just a normal stereo output. The two lav mic’s I bought each came with a TRRS to TRS adapter which would presumably allow my mic-to-Hosa connection to be working, so I’m pretty confident that the issue is that my Hosa-to-computer connection is the thing causing the issue. If your computer works like mine, I’m betting that if the computer doesn’t recognize the device plugged in to the mic input, that it pretends there’s nothing and defaults back to any onboard mic.

      I think the long and the short of it is that your best bet is to have the Hosa’s output go into a dedicated recording device rather than your computer, or at least channel it to a dedicated stereo input. After lots of testing, I’m thinking my computer (and maybe yours too) has TRRS inputs and so it might be necessary to find an adapter that can convert from the Hosa’s stereo (male end) output to the computer’s TRRS input, then it could all work.

      I am not an expert at all, in fact I know almost nothing about this stuff, just what I’ve found from trial and error and google in the last couple days, so take all of the above with a cup of salt.

  5. ZoomH1 says:

    The cable splitter does not work

  6. dabiri oluwaseun says:

    can i use this to record straight into audacity using two lavalier mics recorded into one channel

    • Katy says:

      Did you ever work this out?

      1) I have the same question as above.

      2) if using this device with, how can you also use headphones?

  7. Ian says:

    The Traktor DJ Cable works to split the right and left channels.

    I’ve been looking around for an alternative to the Hosa YMM-261 cable, and stumbled upon the Traktor DJ Cable. The Traktor DJ Cable is not specifically sold as an input cable, but it basically does the same thing as the Hosa YMM-26. I picked one up locally, and it works – independent right and left channel verified on my Zoom H1. The Traktor DJ Cable ($11) is more expensive than Hosa YMM-261 ($5), but it works.

    If you’re in Vancouver, Canada, Tom Lee music carries the Traktor DJ Cable.

    Here’s the Amazon link.
    https://www.amazon.com/Native-Instruments-22472-Traktor-8-Inch/dp/B00E411NG6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1538868807&sr=8-2&keywords=traktor%2Bdj%2Bcable&th=1

  8. RICHARD says:

    Any idea if this cable will support the plug-in power for a lab like giant squid?

  9. Peter says:

    With Hosa YMM-261 3.5 mm TRS to Dual 3.5 mm TSF Stereo Breakout cable… For Zoom H1(FW2.0), it was plug and play for me, it just works! For Zoom F1, at first only the Left channel works, the right channel is something like 90% muted. Eventually, what I figured out is that you have go into Menu, Record/Play, Rec File (NOT ‘Rec File Name’), and set it to L/R -> Stereo. The F1 defaults to Lch -> Mono! I suspect people having similar issues with other Zoom recorder may have to do something similar!

  10. Hello,

    I found this article very interesting. I was looking for an affordable solution to record interviews using two microphones. This splitter “Hosa Technology YMM-261 Stereo Breakout” (http://hosatech.com/product/ymp-137/) seems to be the best solution.

    Before anything else : I am a complete newbie in the field of recording. My goal is not to produce state of the art recording. I want to interview people in France that are poisoned by fluoroquinolones, in order to alert the media. Thus, I need to produce “decent” quality recording while minimising the amount of work.

    I have read a lot of materials and I finally understand (or, at least I think that I understand) that to make this splitter work, we need a recorder with a “stereo mic input”.

    If I am correct, then the Zoom H1 or the Zoom H2n should be compatible with this splitter since it is written :

    * H1: (Mic/line input) 1/8″ stereo phone jack (Plug-in power supported)

    * H2n : Stereo ⅛” Mic/Line In mini phone jack with Plug-in power (2.5V)

    Note : I guess that 1/8″ = 3.5 mm. But I may be wrong.

    I am correct when I assume that this splitter works with the H1 and the H2n ?

    Can you point out a “simpler/cheaper” recorder that would work ?

    Thanks a lot.

    Denis

    • little J says:

      Dennis– The Olympus VN721PC 2GB Digital Voice Recorder is definitely cheaper and simpler. I use it and can confirm that it works with the recommended splitter. At $49, currently, listed on Amazon, it is cheaper. I bought mine for $20. The price has gone up as it seems that it is supposed to be considered obsolete. You can get them on eBay as well. If you want the Amazon link, here it is — https://amzn.to/2NBXxuf

  11. little J says:

    Add this one to the list of “tested and it works” field recorders: Olympus VN721PC 2GB Digital Voice Recorder

    I am using this very successfully with that recorder. 🙂

  12. Mayan says:

    If you don’t need 4 track.
    You can use a Rode VXLR+ adaptor to plug the second lav mic into the XLR port.

  13. wouter says:

    A stereo splitter like this which separates the left and right channel into two female TRS sockets is annoyingly hard to found. Luckily the hosatech could be found on Amazon. It worked for me, with the zoom h6. As someone else mentioned, your lapel mics do need to be TRS, and not TRRS. (Mine were TRRS but came with a TRS adapter that works well). You can also use some XLR to 3.5mm TRS adapter with the zoom h6, but many of these will happily pass along 48V to your lapel mic. I think only rode’s rather expensive vxlr+ (note the plus sign) steps down the supplied voltage to 5V. So the hosatech still serves a purpose with the h6.

  14. Spencer Locker says:

    Total beginner but hope i might get an answer to this. If the input and output is TRS, does that mean any TRS 3.5mm male will work? I have a requirement for 4 lapel mics but have only one input to the camera (Panasonic GH5). Now, i’m thinking that, rather than two lapel mics plugged into the splitter and then camera, i could actually plug in 2 dual receivers thus giving me two dual channels (2 left, two right). Would this work or will my naivety be my undoing? Thanks in advance for any advice.

  15. “You can use a Rode VXLR+ adaptor to plug the second lav mic into the XLR port.”

    The VXLR+ provides the necessary power for many lavalier mics, by stepping down the 48v phantom power, as well as adapting the 3.5mm plug to an XLR socket.

    An alternative would be to use a lavalier powered by small hearing aid batteries- in which case you could use the cheaper VXLR, which does not provide power.

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