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When it comes to hands-free recording equipment, a lav mic is one of the best options out there. Not only can it give a user freedom to move around and use their hands, but a lav mic is also a discreet mic device that can easily be hidden.
However, lavalier microphones are not always known for producing the best sound. While the best lavalier microphones, often the more expensive ones, can produce a higher quality of sound, the most affordable lav mics will require more effort from your end to nail a great sound quality. With that, allow us to explain how you can get the best sound for your lav mics!
Whether you are using a wired lavalier microphone or a wireless lavalier mic, there are essentially five things to take note of to make your microphone sound great.
Given how close a lavalier mic is to the sound source, its placement and positioning are extremely important. By knowing the optimal placement and position of your lapel mic, you can avoid any rustling sound, speech intelligibility, or voice distortion in your recording.
If you plan on recording a subject’s voice by attaching the lavalier microphone to the person’s clothing, then the sweet spot is to place the mic centered on the chest. You can also position the lavalier microphone around 6” to 8” away from the subject’s mouth to avoid plosives or the voice sounding too loud.
Placing the lavalier mic too far up and directly below the chin of the person will also result in a muffled sound so be wary of the placement. If you want the sound recording to sound fuller and more dynamic, avoid placing the lavalier mic too further down.
Keep in mind that lavalier microphones are quite sensitive, so take the time to find the optimal placement and position for it. Once you find the correct place, it will make all the difference in producing a clear and natural sound.
If you plan on using lavalier mics on-stage, then chances are the transmitter pack will have quite the distance from the sound source. For such an application, you will need to take note of the frequency response of your lavalier mics. The frequency response and polar patterns of your lavalier mics will play a hand in how and where you should place these devices on stages to avoid any feedback or loss of signal.
Even if you are using a wireless lavalier mic, a cable will still be used to transmit and receive audio signals. Aside from the need to properly secure the cable of the lav mic to prevent sounds from getting lost during the recording process, a cable can also get accidentally pulled off or produce noise.
There are a variety of industry secrets being passed around to prevent cable noise from happening. These are often practiced by broadcasters, actors, and even during live streaming.
To prevent the cable from getting tugged out or captured by the camera, you can do a broadcast loop. You simply need to wrap the cable into the lav mic’s clip and create a loop. By doing so, any sudden movement or tugs will be absorbed by the clip and the loop will prevent the cable’s plug from falling off.
This is the most common loop done by professionals in the industry and you are assured that the lapel mic will not capture any cable noise from this method.
For this method, you will be needing tape to safely secure the cable of your lav mic. Using the cable, create a loose hoop that falls around 2” to 4” below the lav mic. Prepare a small strip of gaffer tape and fasten the loose cable hoop on the sticky side of the tape.
Make sure that the sticky side of the gaffer tape is facing outwards so the cable can still freely move to allow the person’s mobility. If you do not have any gaffer tape, then a small piece of string would do. This is another method that can be used for recording applications where the user will be in front of the camera.
Even if you aren’t using a new mic or lower-end lavalier microphone, you can still achieve broadcast-quality sound provided that you set the levels properly. For this process, you will need also need to consider the camera or recorder you are using in proportion to your lav microphone.
While your lavalier microphone is plugged into the camera or recorder, check if the audio levels are peaking or distorting. You can do this by having the subject do a mic or sound check and see if the level ranges from -40dB or lower to 0 dB. The reference level should be at 0dB and anything beyond that can result in a recording that sounds distorted.
To make sure the level settings of your lavalier microphone are at their best, you can also raise the input level of the video camera, recorder, or mixer to -10dB to -8 dB. You should aim for an input level meter that is consistent with such a range for a sound quality that is not distorted. If the meter peaks above -3dB, you can turn the level down until it stays at -3 dB.
It’s a no-brainer that mic accessories are also one of the best and easiest ways to make sure your lavalier microphone sounds great. Whether you are using only one mic or multiple microphones, accessories are a great way in achieving great sound.
For a lav microphone, essential accessories are clips and gaffer tapes to keep the cable secured. If your mic does not already come with them, then invest in a windscreen, pop filter, and a microphone foam cover. These will help in reducing any plosives, wind noise, and other background noise from getting picked up by the mic. Given the small size of a lavalier microphone, you won’t need huge accessories such as a boom mic or a stand.
No matter the microphone you are using, proper storage and care will greatly affect the performance of your mic. As lavalier mics are small, sensitive, and delicate, they can easily break if you don’t take proper care of them.
Don’t wrap cables too tightly as the wiring can get faulty. When this happens, the sound quality will get affected. Instead, wrap the cables loosely and make sure to not add any unnecessary strain. Make small and loose hoops. You can also make use of a cable holder.
Given the small size of a lav mic, it’s best to have a dedicated case for it. This will prevent any damage or the mic from getting crushed.
One of the best and most effective ways in reducing the background noise that’s picked up by the lav mic is by distinguishing where the noise may be coming from.
If you hear wind noise, then you may have to invest in a windscreen. If there are constant plosives, then you will need a pop filter. However, consider also the positioning and placement of the lavalier mic as it may be too close to the subject’s mouth.
If you hear any rustles and brushing sounds, then perhaps the mic is hitting a piece of clothing, some skin, jewelry, or another object.
To see the audio level of your lavalier mic, you will need to turn the power on of your camera, recorder, or mixer. See to it that the reference level is at 0 dB. As the subject speaks, you can raise the input level of the receiver until you see that meter is at a consistent -10 dB to -8 dB.
Most professionals aim that the lav mics set the absolute peak at -3dB to avoid any distortion.
Even if you own a low-end or old model of a lavalier microphone, achieving good sound is still possible with a few simple tips and hacks. However, if you want to take a look at some models that are more or less ready to go, then you can check out our list of the best lavalier microphones.