Can A Cheap $1 Lavalier Compare With High Quality Mics?

You may get what you pay for, but the results could surprise you

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

When you’re just starting out, you are constantly trying to get more bang for your buck. Not everyone can afford expensive cameras and microphones that can give that quality which can move you to the next level. So independent filmmakers are constantly using tricks to cheat their way past the quality gap. One filmmaker has discovered that even when you have to employ cheaper microphones, there is a way to make it sound better than it actually is.

Against a backdrop of traffic and other city sounds, DJ Clark puts tie clip mics, shotgun mics and sound recorders through their paces to see how the different equipment sounds in different conditions. The conclusion – proximity matters much more than expensive kit. – World Press Photo Academy on YouTube

Filmmaker DJ Clark wanted to know if quality and price of expensive high end microphones are the only way he can get a good audio sound, or could the location of that microphone actually play a role. Clark, who lives in downtown Beijing, China, went on top of his roof where the city noise resounds, and sought to find out how well microphones can filter out ambient sound and focus on the subject. He compared shotguns, boom mics, and even lavaliers and simply read from a popular book. He found that proximity to the subject can go a long way to bridging the gap, and he went so far as to even test a $1 lavalier he bought on eBay to prove his point.

“I wanted to do a sound test to give you a sense of what they sound like at different distances,” Clark says in his video. “It’s all about proximity.” Clark used a Rode boom mic hovering right over his head, and an on-camera mic from several feet away. He then read from a nursery rhyme and he showed how the boom mic offered a far clearer audio signal from the subject over the mic which was further away. He then used the boom mic and compared it to a lavalier mic. Then he tested a wide variety of lavalier mics including a Sony professional wired microphone, a Sony wireless microphone, a mid range $50 lav mic, and then that $1 lav mic he bought online. He even compared them to a Rode Lav Mic tied into an iPhone, and then tested them against portable digital recorders like the Zoom H1 and H4n.”Because the H1 is smaller, I prefer to carry it around because I can get it closer,” Clark says.

As expected, the Sony microphones performed as well as the Rode Boom mic, thanks to their professional grade electronics. But as he want down in quality and price, he really didn’t find that much of a signal to noise difference. And even the $1 lav sounded really good. “This is where it really gets interesting,” Clark says, “it’s all about proximity and getting the $1 microphone closer to my mouth makes a huge deal of difference verses the more expensive Sennheiser microphone sitting on a camera farther away.

What was the take away? When trying to get that key interview, it may not be the price of the microphone so much as where you actually can put it. “The key isn’t to spend enormous amounts of money on microphones at the early stages,” Clark concludes, “but more about getting the microphone as close as you can to the source. It’s all  about proximity.”

About doddle 16507 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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