Lavalier Microphone Systems
What Are Lavalier Microphones?
Lavalier microphones, or lav mics, are tiny mics that have been given lots of names because of where they can be fitted. Lav mics can be clipped onto the collar or lapel of someone’s clothing. This explains why they are often called collar mics, lapel mics, or clip mics. They can also be taped to clothing such as a shirt or cap, to the person’s skin, or hidden in people’s hair. This explains the names of body mics and personal mics.
Hiding lav mics in hair may seem counter-intuitive, but it can actually work quite well. Secured in long hair, headpieces or wigs, the mic is better placed to miss out additional noise created by exaggerated upper body movements caused by a particularly enthusiastic interviewee or teacher in a documentary for example.
Ultimately, lav mics are great for TV and public appearances and are commonly used during interviews or for recording film audio. Vloggers and podcasters enjoy using them too.
How to Use Lavalier Microphones
These mics come with crocodile or alligator clips for easy attachment to clothes. They can also be attached with tape. Lav mics don’t always need to be attached to the person speaking; some can be attached to one person in a group, while others can be attached with tape to furniture for example, in a classroom of kids to record an impromptu conversation.
Why Use Lapel Mics?
Many of the benefits of a lapel microphone are pretty obvious; they’re discrete and can remove the need for handheld mics or boom mics. This leaves you hands-free and able to focus on your interview, your audience, your content creation, or whatever it is you’re recording. Plus, you won’t have to compromise on quality; lav mics can provide professional crisp recordings and great sound during live performances.
Wired vs. Wireless Lavalier Microphones
Now you may be thinking at this point, "hang on, there are wireless lav mics out there too - why wouldn’t I just automatically choose the wireless option?" You’re right - good quality wireless lav mics do exist, but wired lav mics are still a preferred choice for many. Issues to consider are cost vs quality; the position of the microphone; freedom of movement for the user; sync and frequency concerns; and the dreaded rechargeable batteries.
There are wireless lav mic options that produce audio quality that’s as good as a wired mic, the big difference being that wireless mics will cost a lot more. Secondly, wireless mics require a bit more effort and leave less room for errors; rechargeable batteries, syncing to the receiving transmitter - the wireless mics have needs that can destroy your audio output quality. Many wired lav mics offer decent lengths of cord that allow for excellent movement.
Bottom line: if you’re filming scenes that involve a lot of movement or running, or perhaps need something for theater performances, wireless mics are probably better. But if you don’t need wireless mics for a special reason, stick with wired options. Why? Wired lav mics often mean less interference, less hassle and decent quality at a very reasonable price.
Tips for Lavalier Microphone Placement
- Choose the right type. Omnidirectional or directional/cardioid can have a big difference on which sounds you pick up. Generally, omnidirectional mics collect sound from all directions, whereas cardioid has to be placed in a specific direction to capture a particular individual’s speech.
- Make sure the person wearing the mic is comfortable and that it is fitted properly. Losing a mic mid-interview or presentation can be a nightmare, as can consistent rustling and speech distortion.
- Use the windscreens. Often, these collar mics come with windscreens - little covers that help reduce unwanted ambient noise, such as wind. Use them! They are made out of foam or "fur" and massively reduce wind noise in outdoor recordings for example.
- Use the right supporting equipment. Make sure you’ve got the correct power supply and video cameras, mixers, and audio gear. Good quality equipment will allow you to further improve the quality of the sound. These mics are pretty good and teamed with the right equipment can produce magical sound.
For more information and a detailed comparison of our best lavalier microphones, check out this detailed breakdown of Movo's XLR Lavalier Mics.