Google's Pixels are known for their software quality, but they're also known for launching with random issues, like last year's Pixel 2 audio quality problems when recording video. The theme continues with this year's Pixel 3 phones, and the first problem reviewers have noticed with Google's latest flagships is — you guessed it — another microphone/audio issue.
The problem was first brought to prominence by YouTuber SuperSaf TV, whose video (embedded just above) highlights the difference in recorded audio quality when compared to the iPhone Xs Max. Former Android Police YouTuber Jerome Ortega also noted the same difference in quality on his smaller Pixel 3.
In short, audio recorded by the Pixel 3 and 3 XL in videos sounds exceptionally tinny and distant. We haven't confirmed if the issue exists outside video (my own Pixel 3 is yet to arrive, so I can't check for myself), but the examples we've seen from video results are poor enough on their own to warrant concern.
Hopefully, like last time, this is something that Google is able to fix with an update. We've reached out to Google for comment on this story, and we'll update if any is provided. At least external microphone support is coming, right?
A spokesperson from Google responded to our inquiry for comment with the following statement:
We made several advances in the audio recording capabilities of Pixel 3, including enabling stereo recording in landscape mode. When recording outdoors, our tuning is specifically designed to reduce background noise like wind and road noise and overly loud sounds and optimize for audible speech. To achieve this, we selectively de-emphasize some frequencies, which minimizes disruptive noises and optimizes the resulting audio. We do extensive user testing of our products to ensure they are tuned for real world usage, and we're always looking at additional tuning opportunities based on user feedback
Take from that what you will, but it seems, like the Pixel 3 XL's speaker issues, Google considers its microphone performance to be "specifically designed" with this result in mind.
While Google acknowledged earlier that it would consider tweaking the Pixel 3's microphone audio profile based on feedback, so far there hasn't been any official change. But that said, a work-around for this behavior has since come to light — albeit one with a pretty significant asterisk next to it.
As it turns out, audio recorded when filming video in the Pixel's Playground AR mode sounds completely different than what you get in a non-AR video. Treble is seriously limited, for a much more "muted" effect — and while we're not sure 100% of users will consider it an improvement, it's a world removed from what we had before.
The fact that you need to be shooting an AR video to take advantage of this alternate audio processing seriously limits its usefulness, so maybe more than anything this is a reminder of just how pronounced an effect Google's processing has on video audio quality. It remains to be seen what if any changes will eventually be made to non-AR audio recording.