Audio in Video - a quick comparison

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Having been shooting some casual video clips on the Nokia N82, I was struck by how loud and fairly aggressively amplified the audio track was, Nokia has obviously been fiddling with the automatic gain control on their video audio (if you see what I mean) over the years.

The Nokia N93 had much quieter audio in general, and with a less dramatic response to quick changes in volume - in part, this was one of the reasons why the N93 performed so badly when taken to a music venue - the response of its audio circuitry to loud snare drum beats isn't pretty. Things were tightened up for the N95, with faster response and higher gain overall, for better 'instant' results. I suspect that the N82 might have the same basic algorithm but with a slightly lower quality microphone, resulting in a harsher sound.

All very subjective, so I took a little time out and put this to a test:

Note that in order to improve the video podcast, I normalised the volume levels - those from the N95 and N82 were originally around TEN times louder than that from the E61i, and twice as loud as that from the N93.

There's no doubt that the sound from the N93's twin stereo mikes is richer - you can't appreciate the stereo in this subject setting, but it makes a huge difference when shooting family and friends outdoors - watching back video with stereo sound on your TV or home cinema later, it's much more immersive.

The other devices all record audio through the standard phone microphone - given this fact, it's surprising how good the soundtrack on the N95 and N82 is - I guess the Nseries is equipped with high spec mikes as standard.

Having mono sound for videos is a shame though. Given how expensive an N95 is to buy and the spec level in other areas, surely a set of N93-style stereo mikes shouldn't have been out of the question? Maybe Nokia could equip the N97 with stereo audio?

What are your experiences recording video on your Symbian OS smartphone? Do you need stereo audio? Have you noticed a difference in audio quality between the N95 and N82, for example?

Steve Litchfield, 8 April 2008