47 Comments

Summary:

After the honeymoon was over, and I started using the iPhone 3G S in earnest, I began to hear a high-pitched noise on my iPhone-recorded videos. At first I thought it was the environment, background noise, or just plain interference. However, once aware of the noise, […]

audiohum

After the honeymoon was over, and I started using the iPhone 3G S in earnest, I began to hear a high-pitched noise on my iPhone-recorded videos. At first I thought it was the environment, background noise, or just plain interference. However, once aware of the noise, I noticed it anytime the phone was recording audio, such as with voice memos. The whine is actually emitted by the speaker, and then becomes part of the recording. You will usually only hear it in quiet recordings.

Fortunately I know one of the best AV guys in the industry, Matt Kappenman, who analyzed and isolated the sound for me. He told me that, “It’s right around 4400-4500 Hertz, which is a C# for those musically inclined.” I’m not so musically inclined.

Here is a sample video file we recorded in a quiet room (actually put it inside a safe):

And here we take a short video of Tova, our dog:

And here is the file for which Matt was so kind to isolate the noise: MP3 (128KB)

How to Reproduce the Problem

  1. Ensure that you are in an otherwise silent environment
  2. Launch Camera.app
  3. Switch to video recording mode
  4. Insure that the speaker volume is turned up to maximum
  5. Record a short movie
  6. Stop the movie recording
  7. Play the movie recording back

Note the high-pitched whine that is clearly audible during the course of the movie (you may have to turn your volume up a little). You can hear this while recording if you stick your ear by the speaker at the bottom of the iPhone. The volume of the whine is directly correlated to the volume of the iPhone 3G S speakers during the movie recording — higher volume results in louder whine.

The whine seems to only come from the built-in iPhone speakers (located on the bottom of the phone). If you plug in ordinary stereo headphones to the iPhone, the whine is not audible in the headphones during recording, even with volume turned to maximum.

So far we’ve been able to reproduce the problem 100 percent of the time, with all known iPhone 3G S phones we can get our hands on. However, due to hearing ranges, some people simply can’t hear the noise while others in the room can.

Incidentally, others are reporting this same high-pitched noise when SMS messages come in or when the phone locks. While those problems are annoying, the video recording whine actually interferes with the quality of the video.

The Cause and Solution

The exact cause is unclear. It could be software or it could be hardware. The problem does not appear to occur on the iPhone 3G during Voice Memos, so it appears isolated to the iPhone 3G S. We also verified that it occurs in Airplane Mode, thus ruling out network-related problems. Even if it is hardware, Apple may try to patch the problem in the audio recording routines.

The short-term workaround is easy enough; people might just learn to live with it. Either use headphones while recording or manually place the iPhone into “silent” mode prior to starting the video recording, by moving the ring selector to vibrate.

Here is Tova without the whine using the solution:

Matt tells me that with Audacity, or another audio program, you should be able to isolate and remove the sound if it’s present in your recordings.

Is it just some 3G S iPhones or all of them? Try to reproduce the problem and let us know your experience in the comments.

  1. I could hear the high pitched whine in your videos, and in the MP3 you posted, but not in my iPhone 3GS 16GB Black, at least… not coming from the speaker. I can hear it in my video though: http://gallery.me.com/requieminadream#101132/Testing%20that%20high%20pitched%20whine%20bug

    Share
  2. i have a new 3GS and u r right, switching to vibrate does eliminate the high pitch noise in video mode. thanks for looking out. gonna pass the word!
    frank

    Share
  3. Thanks for posting this, I thought I was going crazy. I was going to try to get my phone replaced at the Apple Store, but this is obviously a general problem, not just something wrong with my phone, so will have to wait for the software patch or recall.

    Share
  4. Christopher Monday, June 22, 2009

    Could it be feedback?

    Maybe the speakers are playing back the audio while it’s recording. Try covering the mic without setting the phone to vibrate. If it’s stops whining, then it’s a feedback issue, which means “play through” needs to be disabled by Apple.

    Share
  5. Andrew and Frank, if you don’t mind, can you look up the serial number of your phones (Settings—>General–>About)

    My SN and a friends with the same issue both end in 3NR

    ANother friend not experiencing the problem has a serial ending in 3NS
    I am wondering if these letters refer to the batches or factories in China where the phones were made, and perhaps one (large) batch might have had a bad run of a certain component, causing this issue.

    Share
    1. well mine ends in 3np and i amnot sure of the last 2 i just swapped out…

      Share
    2. Mine also ends in 3NP, i am wondering if i should swap it, but the only problem with that is what if i get another phone with the same problem??

      Share
    3. I have a new 32GB iPhone 3GS with a serial number that ends in 3NS. I can hear that high pitched whine on video recordings I have made. I hope this can be fixed. In the meantime, I will try to remember to put the phone in silent mode before doing a video recording. What a pain, but thanks for the suggestion to work around the problem. Haven’t try it yet, but I hope it will work.

      Share
  6. [...] June 22, 2009 | 9:05 AM PT | 0 comments Where to watch the (delayed) U.S. Open (NewTeeVee) Problem & solution: iPhone 3G S video and the not-so-fine whine (TheAppleBlog) Quick tip: remotely log out of Gmail (WebWorkerDaily) Opinion: If I had to pick a [...]

    Share
  7. I believe this whine while recording video is the same issue described here:

    http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2009/06/20/iphone-3g-s-plagued-by-sound-issues/

    I think what triggers the whine isn’t the act of recording video itself, but rather the chime sound that the iPhone makes when it starts recording. A common thread among all these reports is that the whine occurs after the iphone plays one of its system sounds. I just tested this by recording using the workaround described in the blog here (thanks Dave!) but flicking the ringer back on after the video started recording.

    No whine. So, its not the act of recording that causes the whine, but rather the camera.app’s playing of that chime when recording starts.

    Either way I am annoyed. My new $500 phone should not have a bug like this!

    Share
    1. I like that theory Carla and yes, I agree, it does sound the same as mentioned in other posts.

      Thanks for toggling it after the video starts and yup, you guessed it, that fixed the problem as well.

      The cause may very well be the chime, however in other instances (SMS, lock, etc.) the whine goes away after a few seconds. During recording it lingers during the entire recording, but I completely agree the underlying causes is most likely the same, which leans me more towards hardware.

      Share
  8. Maybe it’s the ringing in my ears but I couldn’t hear the high pitch whine in any of the above videos. Even with the volume at max.

    Share
  9. [...] investigación más completa que he leído hasta la fecha viene de la página theAppleBlog, que tras consultar a un experto en este tipo de cosas, lo identifica entre 4400-4500 Hz, [...]

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post