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If you’re looking for a visibly discreet recording equipment or audio device that can produce quality sound, a lapel mic is your best bet. Lapel mics are one of the most appealing hands-free microphones for professionals, beginners, and hobbyists who prefer versatility and flexibility in both function, placement, and portability as they are easy-to-attach clip-ons that are still able to produce clear audio and great sound quality despite it being a small microphone.
Common placements of a lav microphone are on clothing, strategic body parts, and even on or inside a stage prop as “hidden” microphones! On that note, a lav mic has close proximity to a talent’s mouth or a speaker’s mouth, making pickup of a nearby sound source sensitive. This is why it’s important to learn the best mic placement and position for a lav mic so you can get the best sound with minimal background noise possible.
Also known as lavalier mics or lav in short, these hands-free and clip-on mics are mainly used in broadcasting, podcasting, filmmaking, classes, and onstage in cases wherein the user needs to keep their hands-free for movement and would want a rather hidden device that won’t be seen on camera or by the naked eye.
There are two types of lavalier microphones: a wireless lavalier microphone and a wired lavalier microphone.
A wireless lav will need to consider the frequency response and range of the location as it makes use of a transmitter pack. This transmitter is usually strategically hidden in the clothing of a user or a talent so it remains to be unseen. A wireless lav is usually used by actors or talents when shooting movies or ads wherein the mic must not be seen in the video or the camera. Additionally, a bluetooth lapel mic is now also available in the market.
A wired lav is usually more affordable and easier to use than its counterpart as it’s a plug-and-play system. Without thinking much about the frequency response, a wired lav needs only to be attached to the recording equipment, for example a DSLR camera, and you are good to go. An extension mic cable can also be attached for more distance between the lav and equipment.
Whether you’re using a wireless lav or a wired lav, both microphones produce clear audio quality provided you place them in the best position accordingly.
As a general rule, mics are always placed as close to the sound source as possible to amplify sound but for a lavalier, you can be a bit more creative and discreet in its mic placement. Keep in mind that lavalier mics are clip-ons so the mic placement will differ depending on where you are attaching them to.
Common placements of lavalier microphones can be grouped into three main categories: clothing, body parts, and stage props. Let’s go through each placement so we can get the most out of your lavalier mic.
Perhaps the most common mic placement for a lavalier mic is on clothing. However, the placement of a lavalier mic will differ according to the piece of clothing it’s attaching itself to.
A lavalier microphone should go through the top and out of a button hole mid chest or near the chest. By doing so, the microphone cable will be hidden inside the clothing while it stays clipped to the placket.
Same as the placement of button-up shirts, only a lapel mic should be clipped on the collar or under the chin. If you do the latter, avoid tilting your head forward since this will cover the mic capsule and produce a muffled sound.
The mic should be clipped to the jacket lapel with its cable tucked behind the jacket itself. If you’re using a wireless lapel mic, then you can place the transmitter inside the jacket’s pocket. Should one be wearing a tie, the lapel mic can also be attached here and hide the cable behind it.
Similar to how you would tape a lapel mic to a jacket, the microphone should be clipped to the t-shirt collar while the mic’s cable, and if applicable, the transmitter will be placed behind their shoulder and down their back. Alternatively, one can also opt to place them the same as you would for jackets.
No matter which piece of clothing you plan on attaching the lavalier microphone on, it is recommended to make use of an omnidirectional proximity lav mic so it won’t pick up any bass boost or wind noise no matter how close it is to the speaker’s mouth. For this very reason, these types of lav mics are preferred for close-miking the talent’s voice.
Another tip for when you use a lavalier on clothing but have no edge to clip it to without it being seen is to make use of vampire clips. From its name alone, a vampire clip has “teeth” that will allow itself to grip onto the piece of clothing.
Although quite misleading, a collarbone placement does not necessarily tape a lapel microphone directly to it. Rather, it attaches the mic clip just a bit higher in the collar resulting in the lavalier mic capsule resting in the user’s collarbone.
Contrary to its name, lapel mics can also be placed on the ear thanks to our ear-mount. Without the need for a mic clip or tape, lapel microphones can be placed inside the ear-mount and it will stay in place behind the ear lobe.
When a camera does close up shots, seeing a lapel mic on the screen can be distracting and ruin the picture. This is why another common placement used by video production or when recording videos is in-hair since it hides the mic within the hair or wig. Other clever ways to do this are attaching a lav mic into a barrette or other hair accessories.
Others would also use clip-on lav mics for stage productions placing them on or hiding them inside stage props. Acting as a “hidden” microphone, attach the lapel microphone using a tape to the prop and hide the cable in a way that won’t be seen to the visible eye. A prop tip is to create markers to let people know where the microphone is placed so they can be mindful of the sound source volume or not to step on it when recording.
Level up the sound quality and performance of your lapel mic by knowing the best way in handling and using it.
Since a lapel mic is a hands-free clip-on mic that you either attach to your clothing or tape on a body part, you have to be mindful of your movements. As it is very close to the sound source, which is yourself, a lapel mic can pick up even your heartbeat. Avoid covering the mic with your hand or placing it too close on your mouth since it can pick up noise such as your breathing.
Another best way to use your lapel mic is to mount it correctly on the outer-most layer of your clothing. Remember, what you are hiding is the cable or the transmitter, not the microphone itself. By mounting it on the outer-most layer of your clothes, you can avoid the rustling sound often produced when a lav mic brushes against the t-shirt or jacket. Be also mindful if the user has any jewelry that can produce any dangling sounds as this can be picked up by the microphone.
Speaking of jewelry, use accessories for when you attach the lapel mic! By accessories we mean tape, a vampire clip, pins, or the mic clip itself to ensure the security and grip of the lapel mic. A common tape used to attach the mic is a gaffer tape. There’s even a technique called Gaffer Tape Triangle that will help in protecting the lav mic’s head from picking up any unwanted noise.
In connection to secured grip, a wired lapel mic might get pulled every now and then. You can avoid this from happening by creating a “Broadcast Loop” or “Newman’s Loop”. A Broadcast Loop can be formed by simply making a “U” shape using the mic’s cable, passing the end of the cable through the bend in the clip, then creating an inverted U to pass the cable down.
The proximity of the lapel mic from the sound source can directly affect the audio quality it will produce.
For a nice balance of close proximity and natural sound reproduction, you can opt to place the mic capsule over the speaker or talent’s sternum. This will reduce plosives, which are the wind or noise created by a person’s breathing or exhalation. A best practice when doing this is to turn the lap upside down for minimal noise pick-up.
Typically, a lavalier microphone is placed at least 8 inches away from the source, most especially if this is coming from a speaker’s mouth, to avoid the plosives while still picking up a human voice that is clear and pleasant.
A mic’s sound, may it be a lavalier microphone or wired microphone, will greatly rely on the mic placement. It may be tricky at times to find the best position, especially if the sound source is coming from opposite directions, but it’s worth the effort so the audio quality is clear and sound.
If you’re in the market for lapel mics, you can check out this guide on the best lavalier mic for a comprehensive review of each.