Ultimate Guide to Lavalier Microphones & Lapel Mics

Lavalier Microphones & Lapel Mics – Get recommendations for the best lapel microphones for creators of all budgets.

Despite being one of the most commonly used mics in film, video, and live productions, the lavalier microphone will never be seen in a movie and will only be seen occasionally in television and internet videos if used properly

This is due to the lav mic’s ability to capture excellent, crisp sound while remaining unobtrusive from a close distance to a film or video subject. They can, in fact, be so well hidden that they are effectively invisible at times.

The lavalier is also known as a lav mic, a lapel mic, a body mic, a collar mic, a neck mic, and several other names. It lacks the iconic appearance of vintage ribbon or tube condenser microphones from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the technological range of modern microphones. Nonetheless, despite its modesty, the lavalier mic is one of the great workhorses at the disposal of the filmmaker, videographer, or YouTuber. 

These characteristics are what make the lavalier mic an appealing recording tool for creating great-sounding videos and launching a podcast, and it can also become an essential piece of travel vlogging equipment

We’ll go over what a lavalier microphone is and how it works briefly below. We’ll also go over when and how to use a lav mic, as well as the best ones on the market for all budgets.

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Lavalier Microphones & Lapel Mics

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What exactly is a lavalier microphone?

Lavalier Microphones & Lapel Mics

A lavalier microphone is a small microphone worn close to the mouth and attached to a person’s lapel, collar, or another piece of clothing. It was created for use in situations such as theatre, television, and public speaking where the voice needed to be amplified without the use of a microphone on a stand or in hand.

The lavalier mic was originally designed with a wire that connected to audio recording equipment and could be hidden by clothing. Wireless lapel mics, which are still in use, use a radio frequency transmitter (attached to the person) to send audio to a camera or other recording equipment.

Attaching and positioning a lavalier

Lavalier Microphones & Lapel Mics

A lavalier mic is designed to be placed close to the actor’s, announcer’s, or interview subject’s mouth. Attaching it around 15 cm from the mouth is ideal. To get the best sound quality, you’ll need to play around with positioning.

As previously stated, a clip-on microphone should be attached to a lapel or collar via a buttonhole, or even on other articles of clothing such as a scarf (if it’s cold!). Having said that, one can be inventive in attaching a lav mic.

A lavalier, for example, can be attached to an actor’s body. To attach the lavalier microphone to the actor’s skin, film productions typically use a type of adhesive.

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Advice from the experts 

  • When you attach the body mic to a soft t-shirt, it may tug and look awkward. To avoid this, place the wire over your subject’s shoulder and behind his or her back so that it pulls up instead of down. 
  • The “vampire clip,” which attaches to clothing via two long pins or “teeth,” is an alternative to the standard lav clip. It comes in handy when the clothing has no good edge. 
  • Make a loop in the microphone’s wire so that it doesn’t fly off your subject right away if it gets pulled. This is known as a ‘Broadcast Loop’ or a ‘Newsman’s Loop.’
  • If your subject is wearing an open shirt or jacket, use gaffer tape to secure the mic’s loop to the inside so it remains invisible even if your subject moves. 
  • Placing the mic capsule over the talent’s sternum provides a good balance of close proximity and natural sound reproduction. 
  • Place the clip near the sternum and turn the lav upside down to reduce plosives (the wind created by hard consonants). This reduces distortion and results in a nice, clear recording.
  • Plug your wired microphone into a small audio device, such as a Zoom H1 recorder or even a smartphone, and you’ll be free to move around.

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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Lav Mics

Lavalier Microphones & Lapel Mics

As you may have guessed, the advantages of lav mics are not without drawbacks. While this should not deter you from using a lapel mic, it is useful to understand what you will get with a clip-on microphone.

Size versus quality 

The size and inconspicuousness of the lav mic are obvious advantages. Unfortunately, these advantages also imply that the recording quality will be inferior to that of larger, more advanced, and more expensive microphones.

Sensitivity to noise 

When you first start using a lav mic, you’ll notice that even the slightest movement of an actor or interview subject causes clothes to rustle. This sound will simply ruin your audio recording, so conduct tests with your lav mic to determine which clothing works best and which movements you can perform without making that rustling sound.

Despite being mobile, it can be battery dependent 

Another benefit is that an actor or interview subject can move around in a room without being followed by a boom mic. This does, however, imply that the lav mic will require battery power, which means that batteries will need to be swapped out during production. This isn’t a major issue, but it’s worth noting because the last thing you want is a dead battery in the middle of a fantastic take.

When should you use a lav mic?

We’ve discovered that a lavalier microphone is extremely useful when an actor or interview subject needs to move around and the production does not want to use a boom mic. However, there are some other situations in which a lav mic will be extremely useful.

When shooting a scene or an interview with two people, cross-talk will occur—that is, the actors or on-screen subjects will talk over each other. While you can minimize cross-talk during rehearsal, it may be beneficial to use one lav mic for each actor or subject to isolate their audio.

Background noise can be a significant issue in film and video production because boom microphones pick up audio such as planes, traffic, and other ambient sounds. A lav mic quickly becomes a valuable asset due to its highly focused recording area because it effectively cuts out most, if not all, of the ambient noise.

The most effective lavalier microphones to buy

Lav microphones are extremely inexpensive when compared to larger, more advanced microphones. There are several budget options on the market, as well as higher-end lavaliers if you’re willing to pay a little more for the pleasure.

Best lavalier microphones on a budget

Budget lav mics are great because they are inexpensive to learn how to use. The BOYA by-M1 lavalier from BOYA, an excellent Hong Kong audio technology brand, or the POP Voice Professional Lapel, from the USA, are both great inexpensive lav mics under $25 that will deliver in sound quality and price.

The best lav microphones for professionals 

On the higher end, notable audio brands include RodeSanken, and SennheiserRode, one of the most well-known microphone manufacturers, sells its smartLav+ clip-on microphone for $80.

If you want even better sound, the Sennheiser ME 2 and Sanken COS-11D are excellent choices. The ME 2 costs $130, whereas the COS-11D costs around $400. That being said, if you intend to use your lav mic frequently, whether in film productions, YouTube, or social media videos, these higher-end lav mics are excellent investments. 

The Rode RodeLink FM Digital Wireless Filmmaker System, which costs $400, is at the higher end of the spectrum. Consider the Saramonic UWMIC9TX9TX9RX9 wireless lav mic system ($399) or the Sennheiser EW 112P G4 ($649) as alternatives in this price range.

Choose the best lav microphone for your requirements. 

When looking for a lav mic, make sure to look into both wired and wireless options. Of course, wireless lavalier mics aren’t necessary for every production, but they can come in handy for some filmmakers and videographers.

Do you need a lav mic? 

Now that you know what a lav mic is and what it can do, as well as when it’s best to use one, consider whether having one for your productions makes sense. 

It only makes sense to have a good lav if you want multiple microphone options. Again, if you want your actors or subjects to move freely, a lavalier microphone is a good idea. If you want to focus your recordings on the human voice while removing as much ambient noise as possible, a lav will come in handy.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

Lavalier Microphones & Lapel Mics

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