How to choose the best Lavalier Microphone

Date Posted:2 July 2024 

How to choose a lavalier microphone. | Original post on Updated September 23, 2023

The lavalier microphone is minuscule but mighty when it comes to sound recording and reproduction.
Learn all about choosing the right lavalier for your needs in this guide from Shure.

When diving into sound recording and reproduction, the name that often surfaces when miking talent, speakers, and performers is the lavalier microphone. 

Often termed a ‘lapel mic,’ or just ‘lav’ for short, the lavalier microphone has been a crucial tool in broadcast, film, and live event productions due to its small size and ability to be placed intimately on talent. Its design as a shirt microphone, the lavalier is intended to be discreetly clipped onto attire, which has been the reason we often herald the small clip microphone as the go-to gear for ensuring flawless audio for both video and speeches.


The History and Evolution of Lavalier Microphones

For those unfamiliar, you might wonder, “What is a lavalier mic?” The name finds its roots in French, referring to a pendant necklace. This term captures the essence of its design, hinting at its discreetness. Over the decades, the lavalier has emerged as an anchor in ensuring clear audio delivery, particularly in broadcasting, theater, houses of worship, and public speaking.


Choosing between Wired and Wireless Lavalier Microphones

As you dive deeper into selecting the best lav mic tailored for your needs, there will be a decision: wired or wireless? 

The wired versions of the mic, being budget-friendly and consistently reliable, were the traditional choice. But with the advent of wireless systems and bodypack transmitters, the wireless lapel microphone, with its promises of unrestricted movement and the absence of tangling wires, is compelling. 

Imagine a theater artist delivering a fascinating performance or a keynote speaker walking about the stage free from wires; that’s the unmatched promise of a wireless lavalier microphone.


Understanding Sound Directionality in Lavalier Mics

There are several choices to make when it comes to lavaliers. One of the most essential decisions rests with the microphone’s directionality. We’ll provide an in-depth comparison of omnidirectional and unidirectional lavalier mics.

Omnidirectional Lavaliers: As the name suggests, these mics capture sound uniformly from all directions — their 360-degree sound response delivers in settings where the ambient noise contributes to the auditory narrative. For instance, while recording a bustling marketplace for a documentary or capturing the whispers and gasps of an audience during a live event, this type of mic stands unrivaled.

Unidirectional Lavaliers: Precision is their game. These mics are laser-focused on the sound source they’re aligned with, ensuring peripheral noises are left out. Imagine interviewing a renowned personality amidst the noise of a bustling event. This type of mic will allow the individual’s voice to reign supreme, undisturbed by the surrounding racket. 

Cardioid Lavaliers: These microphones are designed to prioritize sounds coming from the front while effectively minimizing noise from the rear. Additionally, their sensitivity to side noises is reduced, ensuring room ambiance and background disturbances from behind are significantly reduced.

Supercardioid Lavaliers: As the name implies, these are more directional than standard cardioid microphones. They further reduce sensitivity to side noises but slightly increase rear sensitivity. Nevertheless, supercardioids excel at isolating specific sound sources and minimizing background interference.

The environment will invariably influence the type of lavalier you choose for the production, ensuring your recording remains authentic and crystal-clear.


How to Properly Place a Lavalier Microphone on Clothing

Due to its design, a lavalier microphone generally finds its home near the chest. However, often achieving optimal sound with lavalier microphones demands creativity:

  • Shirts & Blouses: This attire is often a favorite for many professionals. Place the shirt microphone above the sternum and run the cable discreetly inside, ensuring the microphone remains visible.
  • Ties: This clothing accessory is a fashion statement and an excellent spot for mic placement. Set the microphone above the sternum and keep the cable hidden, ensuring optimal sound.
  • T-Shirts & Sweaters: When these are your choice of attire, fasten the lav mic to the collar, ensuring minimal friction with the neck. Slight adjustments might be needed to get the sound right.

In the entertainment industry, it’s not uncommon to see the lavalier strategically placed within an actor’s hair or wigs. This placement guarantees that every dialogue delivered hits the right note while the microphone is not visually or physically intrusive to the performer.