A lavalier is my dream microphone. It’s so cute I can simply attach the mic to my clothing. It’s also light, handy, easy to use, and elegant. However, it leaves me wondering how can I make my lav mic sound better? So lucky I learned how lavaliers or lapels work. Now let’s talk about how to make them excel.
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What Exactly is a Lavalier Mic?
Lavalier mics are small microphones but they are compact in size. The instrument collects audio both in an omnidirectional (specific direction) or cardioid (everywhere) pickup pattern. It also transmits audio feeds via radio frequencies straight to a receiver.
The reason why it looks smart is that the design is closely patterned to jewelry or ornament that is fastened to clothing. This type of microphone has its history back in the 1930s when one way to use a microphone is to hang it from the neck. There are lav microphones of different designs and features that rival a standard boom mic in the market.
How Can I Make My Lav Mic Sound Better
Lavalier microphones are extraordinarily versatile. But they have a special level of sensitivity that you need to understand and consider to get the best sound out of it. I found these tips:
Tip # 1: Type of Lav
Lavalier microphones in general have two types: the “omnidirectional” which picks up sound from every direction regardless of which way the mic is pointing, and the “directional,” the one with a higher wind resistance due to their concentration on a specific direction.
One advantage of using a lavalier mic is the nearness of the microphone to the mouth allowing a broadcast quality sound. Depending on where you will use a lav mic, you can choose one for documentary, teaching, corporate meetings and conferences, interviews, or recording videos. There are many options when purchasing a lavalier so finding a perfect fit for your needs should help you find one.
Tip # 2: Optimum Positioning
Position your lav perfectly centered on the chest. Too high makes your voice sound wrapped up or as if you’re speaking with a scarf over your mouth. The reason is that the mic is shadowed by your chin. Place it too far down and your voice will sound thinner and less clear. So balance the placement and figure out at least a foot or less from the mouth.
The biggest advantage of lapel microphones is the feature that they can be clipped to a collar or tie and that they can be concealed. Once you have it positioned properly, it requires little operation and allows you to use it hands-free. You can talk, record, do presentations, attend online meetings and enjoy your mic with ease.
If the lav mic is not positioned correctly, it can cause your audio to sound thin, squeaky, or distorted. Plus, the crunching of your clothing can worsen the background noise as it leaks into the track. Look for the best placement for your lav.
- Place the lav in the center of the chest to get a nice balance of closeness and reproduction of natural sound.
- It should not have clothing rubbing against it. Wear cotton and wool clothing as these materials are less prone to noise compared to silk and other synthetic fabrics.
Tip # 3: Keeping It Hidden
You can either expose your lav slightly or completely hidden – you decide. Hiding the lav is a good idea when in a windy environment to block wind noise. When using a tie-clip mount, windscreen protection can also help put off the vibration of microphone membranes due to wind turbulence around the microphone inlets.
When lavaliers are hidden, it may require you to pass the cable wire under the clothing. In this case, shirts and tight-fitting clothes may be uncomfortable. Learn how to run the cable yourself so you don’t have to keep asking someone else for assistance.
Tip # 4: Keep Experimenting
The best way to know if you are heard from the other side is to ask your subject or listeners if they can hear you and vice-versa. Don’t just say “mic check…. check… check…” Ask them something that will get them talking naturally like “How was your day?” It will not be obvious this way that you’re doing a mic test.
Remember, lavaliers are sensitive. Even a few inches of difference in its placement and to your mouth will drastically change the sound of the mic. Consider a few seconds positioning the mic. Once you’ve found the perfect spot, clip or mount your microphone securely and enjoy the natural sound you’ve been looking for.
If you’re having issues with vocal pauses or the hums of breathing, change the position of the mic. You can mount your lav upside down to further guard against this.
Tip # 5: Prevent Cable Noise
Speaking of how sensitive lavaliers are, simple movements can already cause a big noise issue. If the cable is not properly settled, a hissing sound can be heard. Accidentally pulling the cable also tags the lav mic. It can outrightly ruin your recording or pull off the mic entirely.
There a few simple tricks that can reduce or avoid these issues before they come up:
- Wrap a few inches of the top portion of the cable into the clip to create a broadcast loop. The tightness will control the cable from getting displaced when there is thorough movement or a slight tug. You will also get a neat profile of the mic.
- Another is to create a loop below the mic itself then loosely fasten with a tape (the sticky portion out) or a piece of string so the cable moves freely within the loop.
- Tapes help a lot to secure the cable underneath the clothing or on the skin. Two strips of 3 to 4 inches of tape can hold the cable and prevent them from moving.
- There are lavalier cable management tools that you can find to help you securely mount the cable to your clothing or find ways to ensure it stays in place and prevent unnecessary noise.
Tip # 6: Establishing a Connection
After getting a nice position and test of sound, it’s time to connect your mic to your device. Are you plugging it into your camera, phone, or laptop? Do you need to connect it wirelessly or not? Here, it’s important to determine the kind of equipment you need.
To be able to get the best results, get the right kind of connectors to suitably plug your mic into your device. There are tools that connect directly without the need for an adaptor. In choosing a connector, one hint is the color of the cable connector. Grey connectors are typically for mobile devices, and black is for regular audio and camera equipment.
Don’t forget to set the audio levels of your lavalier mic. Your purpose in this step is to prevent overloading the input and a terrible sound. To ensure that your lav’s sound will not distort, get your absolute peak. While the meters are just one tool, your ears are the best meter tools to check if your signal sounds good.
Tip # 7: Storage and Care
Lavaliers are tiny, delicate, and can be expensive. This is the reason why they often fail when not given proper handling and care. Avoid wrapping the cable tightly – this is the most mistake lavalier users often commit. Wrapping the small cables tightly forcibly strains the delicate connectors. Instead, wrap the cables loosely. If you have small storage, gently wrap but keep the cables loose.
Get a dedicated case for your lavaliers. Don’t hesitate to invest in one to prevent damage or malfunction on your lavalier buddy. Make sure every essential you need to ensure your lav will function smoothly is in your bag. Being lax and unprepared slows you down and wastes your time.
To Sum It Up
What else is your lav mic for if you don’t want it to give you a wonderful performance? The absolute maximum I would suggest you need to have all the time are extra windscreens. Small as they are, they get lost easily and without them, your sound will suffer. Of course, don’t forget extra mic clips, medical tape (for securing your lavalier), and extra batteries.
I hope the tips above will enlighten and help you make the most out of your lav mic, lapel mic, collar mic, body mic, clip mic…. whew… whatever you call it.
You might want to read about wireless headphones with microphones? Click here.
Do you have something to add to these tips? How lovely it would be to hear your comments.