At this point, having a CCTV system for home or business place is crucial if you’re to keep track of every happening. However, a live feed video or recording with sound would be less boring and even more convincing as evidence in the event of an incident. But then, do security cameras have audio clear enough to prosecute?
Well, first of all, it’s not all security cameras have audio functions. And secondly, the clarity of the audio usually depends on the type of hardware the maker has incorporated into the particular system.
So, different brands of security cameras will have different quality of audio, with some better than others.
Is a Security Camera With Audio Worth it?
Before IoT (internet of things) was a big deal, most CCTVs were analog systems that offered only video recording. However, the new age of smartphones and the internet has proven that security cameras with audio capabilities are worthwhile more than once.
Some of these benefits include:
- Provide additional evidence
Indeed, a security camera system with audio ensures your surveillance and security needs are optimally met. It provides video footage with more details about a suspect or scene, including the voices, names, and directives.
- Two-way conversation
A great security camera with two-way audio doesn’t just give you more details of the people or scene there. You also get an option to communicate with whoever facing the camera, including when you’re miles away.
- Active deterrence benefits
A Security camera with two-way audio can also come in handy when you want to scare the pants off the intruders. Some wireless brands like Eufy and Arlo even have a built-in audible siren that can activate by motion or remotely.
- Intelligent Audio Analytics
Audio analytics or simply sound detection feature can also be helpful in your monitoring or security endeavors. It usually works by identifying sounds of certain levels, like a gunshot, a baby crying, people talking, and breaking glass. Then alerts you via push notification or starts recording if it’s an activity-activated camera like Wyze or Nest Cam.
- Enhance Conflict Resolution
Apart from security benefits, the additional evidence a security camera with audio gathers can also help resolve disputes faster. That’s it can help prove who said what, especially in a business environment, thereby allowing you to make the final decision more easily.
Is it Legal to Use Security Cameras with Audio?
Typically, a security camera that has audio could be more useful than one with video recording only. However, as per the laws on surveillance cameras, it’ll be illegal to record audio in public areas if you don’t follow the available rules.
In most states, the law on audio surveillance requires that at least one party of the monitored conversation should be aware. But the law in states like Nevada, Michigan, Washington, and here in California requires consent from all parties before recording their audio.
If you fail to adhere to that, the court could rule a conviction against you even if the video footage can clearly show the offender in the act.
A summary of the laws in audio surveillance across the various U.S states
|A-Z||No. of States||One-Party Consent Statutes||All-Party Consent Statutes|
|A||4:0||Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, & Arkansas||N/A|
|C||1:2||Colorado||California & Connecticut|
|D||2:0||Delaware & District of Columbia||N/A|
|I||3:1||Idaho, Indiana, & Iowa||Illinois|
|K||2:0||Kansas & Kentucky||N/A|
|M||4:4||Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, & Missouri||Michigan, Montana, Maryland, Massachusetts|
|N||6:2||Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina & North Dakota||Nevada & New Hampshire|
|O||2:1||Ohio & Oklahoma||Oregon|
|S||2:0||South Carolina & South Dakota||N/A|
|T||2:0||Tennessee & Texas||N/A|
|V||2:0||Vermont & Virginia||N/A|
|W||3:1||West Virginia, Wisconsin & Wyoming||Washington|
Note: this table shows only the specific audio surveillance law by state courts across the country. In other words, they’re the laws the court in the region will follow when presented with a case involving audio surveillance.
Even so, the likes of Oregon and Vermont have different court and state laws (rules of local governance) on audio surveillance. So, we’d advise you to visit your local government site or office for more details on the subject.
Do Security Cameras have Audio with Rich Clarity?
Well, the answer to this question varies across various security cameras. In some cases, the device will have quality audio that you can identify who and what the person in the background’s saying. But other times you’ll get video feed or recordings with muffled audio that’s not clear enough for even personal use.
In any case, the following are the main differences in audio between Analog and IP security camera systems.
Audio Quality in Analog vs IP Security Camera System
As you may know by now, analog security camera system with DVR usually operates differently from the internet-protocol (or IP) systems. And not just by the way they interpret the captured video signal, but also by how the cameras get power or send audio.
On the audio part, the major difference between NVR and DVR is that the former uses one cable for all the data. And this includes even audio capabilities, including recording, two-way talk, and sound detection where available.
IP Camera System Audio Quality
As was just mentioned, the single network cable that IP security cameras use usually carries all the data, including audio. And the best part, the cameras also send a pure digital signal that the built-in chipset has already encoded.
Hence, the reason a PoE security camera can work as a standalone (without NVR) yet still have audio functions. And this includes even two-way talk if the camera in question has both a built-in microphone and speaker.
As for the question of clarity, you’ll come to notice IP cameras do give better audio than their analog counterparts. However, how crispier that will depend on how sensitive the microphone is (for recording) or the speaker output (for two-way talk).
Moreover, brands like Ring and Nest, and Arlo claim their wireless IP security cameras to have built-in noise cancellation technology. Hence, perhaps the reason you’ll hardly experience background noises and or echo issues in most of their devices.
Although currently rare, some PoE IP security cameras can come without built-in audio functions. So, you’ll have to get an add-on microphone that you can place near the camera, then connect to your NVR station.
Even so, many NVRs have only a single input port for audio. Thus, you might need to get an audio mixer if the idea was to have sound on all the cameras.
Analog Camera System Audio Quality
In the case of analog CCTV systems, the coaxial cables that connect the cameras to the recorder are usually for video only. So, you’ll need to hook up a separate RCA cable for audio to record videos with sound. And that applies to the cameras with an external microphone, plus those with a built-in one.
Nonetheless, not many analog security cameras have a built-in audio function. Then, the DVR also has a limited number of audio input ports- in most cases one or four in high-grade systems. So, you might need to improvise with an audio mixer if you have more cameras that need audio than the ports available.
Converting Analog Signal to Digital Audio
At this point, you still have to remember that DVR usually does all the encoding process rather not the analog camera. In other words, the recorder will convert the analog signal (both video and audio) from the cameras to a digital/ usable format. But unlike the NVR, the DVR doesn’t auto-detect the audio stream.
So, after connecting the audio from your analog cameras to the recorder, you still have to enable the function through the user interface. Failure to do so will still give you muted video both when streaming live feed and playing back the recorded footage.
Similar to IP cameras, though, the audio quality of an analog security system still varies with the hardware and technology. So, the better the built-in or add-on microphone, the clearer the sound will be.
Commonly Asked Questions
How do I know if my security camera has sound?
Technically, the easiest way to know if your security camera has sound is by locating the built-in microphone. It’s usually in the form of a pinhole on the camera face and next to the image sensor. Also, the product descriptions and manual from the manufacturer do say if the respective camera has audio or not.
Is recording audio on CCTV illegal?
Simply put, recording audio on CCTV is illegal if you don’t have the consent of either one or all parties involved. Of course, a State like Vermont has no laws about it, but the high court still provides that one of the parties in the communication must be aware of the audio recording.
Can surveillance cameras record audio?
Whether a security camera can record audio or not depends if it has a built-in microphone or not. If it’s an analog camera, the DVR usually handles the conversion of the analog audio signal to a digital one you can listen to. So, in that case, the recorder must also be in good working condition for the surveillance cameras to record audio.
Do school cameras have audio?
For a long time, many security cameras for public places have been the analog type with no audio. However, many people have been switching to the PoE IP systems due to their rich features, including built-in two-way audio and audio analytics. So, yes, various schools have security cameras with audio.
The benefits of having security cameras with audio are pretty clear and all worthwhile. If it’s monitoring, you get to have footage with additional data that can be useful evidence to the local authorities in the investigation.
However, the laws require the consent of at least one party of communication during audio surveillance. So, make sure you post a clearly visible sign stating your premise is under audio and video surveillance.
If sued for illegal sound recording with your surveillance camera, a judge that doesn’t like your smile can slap you with a heavy fine of up to $250,000 or more.