You might be interested in keeping tabs on the things going on outside your home, and one of the best ways to do that is by setting up a few security cameras. But sometimes video isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to hear what’s going on, too. So let’s address our first question right now.
Do Security Cameras Record Audio?
The good news is that, technologically speaking, a lot of modern security cameras can record audio. Some even allow you to talk back and hold conversations in real time. This functionality is super helpful if a stranger is at your door and you’re not quite sure if you want to open up.
Here’s a list of the reviews of some of our favorite cameras with two-way audio:
So, yes, today’s sophisticated security cameras will be able to record audio. But should you?
Is It Legal to Record Audio With a Security Camera?
Oddly enough, the laws differ pretty significantly when it comes to recording audio versus video. Unless you’re purposefully using your security camera to invade someone else’s privacy, you’re free to record all the video you’d like. However, when it comes to audio, there are some state-by-state considerations.
If you live in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Utah, or Washington, you’re going to need to be careful. All-party consent is required before you can record sound legally, meaning you can get into trouble if your security camera is picking up the conversations of passers-by.
So, if you’re interested in recording audio as part of your home security system and you live in one of the states listed above, we recommend researching your local laws carefully.
Pro Tip: If you live in an all-party-consent state, you might even consider calling your local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency contact to make sure everything’s above board. If you’re illegally recording audio, it’s not going to be admissible as evidence in court, and you might even find yourself in legal trouble.
Now, if you want to record audio and you’re not going to do it illegally, let’s talk about what you can realistically expect.
Security Camera Audio Recording Capabilities
Real life isn’t like the movies where you can click a button that says “enhance” and suddenly garbled, hushed whispers will suddenly sound like they’re coming through a megaphone. So, with that in mind, it’s unreasonable to expect your security camera to be able to pick up what song that guy is humming to himself while he’s walking his dog past your driveway.
Most audio functionality is really only going to work if a person is standing in close proximity to the camera. Reolink claims to have cameras that can pick up clear audio from up to 6 meters away, but we couldn’t really confirm or deny that in our Reolink review. We’ve found that most security camera audio recorders do best when the subject speaking is within 10 feet of the microphone.
That said, security camera audio capabilities are getting better. One of our favorite security camera manufacturers, Arlo, has been experimenting with noise cancellation technology that digitally removes the background noise from meaningful audio. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly getting better. You can read more about them in our hands-on Arlo Pro 3 review.
Finally, some cameras, like we saw in our review of the Blink Mini, have noise detection capacities, where they will alert you if they hear something over a certain decibel threshold. This is great functionality if you want to know exactly what it was that went bump in the night.
Pro Tip: Certain security systems — like we saw in our Vivint sensor review — come with glass-break sensors that work much in the same way. They are tuned to listen for the high-pitched frequencies of breaking glass and will sound if they detect something — or someone — coming through your windows.
Final Thoughts on Security Camera Audio
If you’re looking for a security camera with audio capability, you’re in luck. There are loads to choose from, and two-way audio is quickly becoming a standard feature on most middle-of-the-road to high-end cameras in the industry today.
That said, make sure you live in a state where audio surveillance won’t get you into trouble. There is a lot of gray area here, so be sure that what you’re doing won’t get you into trouble, or make it so your footage is unusable if you need to bring it to court. Do your research and seek out professional guidance if you can’t get a clear answer.
Finally, don’t expect too much. Ambient noise, passing cars, lawnmowers, and leaf blowers are all going to interfere with your ability to record clear audio. Remember, you’re not in a recording studio; you’re outside in your front yard.