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Old February 18th, 2008, 04:33 PM   #1
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best sub-$500 wired lapel mic?

We're looking at upgrading an old Audio Technica XLR wired lapel mic, and are looking to spend less than $500.

We'd primarily be using this for talking heads and would want to connect it to our hvx200's XLR input.

We want to stick with wired simply because we have never had a need for wireless, and we like the reliability of wired.

I've done a bunch of searching here, and have also been sifting through various manufacturer's websites and retailers.

The Countryman EMW is looking like a decent option, though I've never used any of their products. I'm open to something AT or even Sennheiser, but don't know what models you all have used in the past with success. Any input you have would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Old February 18th, 2008, 06:06 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Clay Showalter View Post
We're looking at upgrading an old Audio Technica XLR wired lapel mic, and are looking to spend less than $500.

We'd primarily be using this for talking heads and would want to connect it to our hvx200's XLR input.

We want to stick with wired simply because we have never had a need for wireless, and we like the reliability of wired.

I've done a bunch of searching here, and have also been sifting through various manufacturer's websites and retailers.

The Countryman EMW is looking like a decent option, though I've never used any of their products. I'm open to something AT or even Sennheiser, but don't know what models you all have used in the past with success. Any input you have would be appreciated. Thanks!
Hi Clay:

If you can wait about two or three weeks to make your decision, I will have a 30 to 40 page article with hundreds of images and dozens of sound clips up on the www.KenStone.net website. I have just finished reviewing and testing pretty much most of the available lavaliers on the market, I think that I did 18 models when all was said and done. The only exceptions were the Countryman EMW and the B3 because Countryman refused to participate in the test/article. I do own a Countryman B6 though so it was included.

It is a tough choice, there are so many good microphones out there and they all kind of have their own little niches. Perhaps you can tell us what your number one priority is...size? sound quality? cost? availability of skin tone colors? sweatproofness? (Yes, I know that's not a word ;-) There are so many different priorities for users, which is why there are so many different good sounding lavs on the market.

Will you ever want to use it wireless or definitely ONLY hard wired? Using above wardrobe or below or both? Some of the mics exhibited surprising amounts of cable handling noise and microphonics, which, depending on how you will use the mic could be important or insignificant.

FWIW, on the TREW Audio website, a poll showed that more than 60% of professional sound mixers that responded to their poll were using the Sanken COS-11. That doesn't mean it is necessarily the best choice for you, although it could be. I use the Countryman B6 a lot and I also like my Trams. There are lots of new and relatively unknown models from DPA and Voice Technologies that I tried and was really impressed with. They are all unique and all have certain qualities that may or may not make them better for your situation.

More specifics please! Documentary or narrative? Corporate or commercial? Light usage or riding around with a Marine Battalion in the Middle East? Lots of factors to consider.

Dan
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Old February 18th, 2008, 06:21 PM   #3
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I use Sony ECM-77's and find them really good - They can be phantom-powered or powered using an AA battery where there's no phantom.. Not sure how much they are these days...
Hope this helps
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Old February 18th, 2008, 06:29 PM   #4
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I'm also just on the verge of looking for a wired lav, so I appreciate the comments.

My requirements are pretty simple.

Light use (no Marine interviews in a HumVee under fire! No landing craft or Coast Guard surfboat rescues!)

Narrative, normal conversation, book reading, etc

No need to hide it, but hopefully not too eye catching.

"Pleasant" sound for male/female voices (no shouting or screaming)

$500 is a good number for me too.
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Old February 18th, 2008, 07:16 PM   #5
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Sanken COS-11 is my choice, but it can sound a little thin compared to others.

The reason it's preferred by sound mixers is because it cuts very well (with some very gentle EQ) with the Schoeps mics and some shotguns. It's tiny and easily concealed while tape-sandwiched under clothing. The mic element itself is very small - so it's also a bit less susceptible to clothing noise - when placed and cabled properly.

I have Lectro (TA5, I think) connectors installed midway between the mic and AA power supply, so it's easy to switch between hard-wire and a transmitter.

The DPAs sound fatter. They're very nice as well. I think either can be had for less than 500 with a power supply.
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Old February 18th, 2008, 07:21 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
I'm also just on the verge of looking for a wired lav, so I appreciate the comments.

My requirements are pretty simple.

Light use (no Marine interviews in a HumVee under fire! No landing craft or Coast Guard surfboat rescues!)

Narrative, normal conversation, book reading, etc

No need to hide it, but hopefully not too eye catching.

"Pleasant" sound for male/female voices (no shouting or screaming)

$500 is a good number for me too.
Hi Jim:

I just finished testing today and I am beginning to write up my article so I don't have a lot of specifics yet that I can share but here are some casual observations...

The Sanken COS-11 is raved about by professional sound mixers. It sounds very good but for me, I found that in interview situations, it could be a little bit difficult to hide. It did very well in my under wardrobe tests so if you are doing narrative with actors, no problem but with casual interviews where you might not want to necessarily have to hide it under wardrobe, it is a bit large and it's new thicker cable connection from cable to mic body doesn't help. Again, depends on your situation. I also notice some microphonics from the body and cable which means if your talent is moving around a lot, you have to be careful and rig the mic correctly with strain relief and protection of the capsule from clothing rubbing. This would be the same as with any lav but the sensitivity makes it especially important for this mic.

I was very impressed with the sound of the Sonotrim. This is a modified from the factory Tram TR-50B. I have used my Trams for years and to my ear, the Sonotrim sounded better than my Trams. It's accessory mount kit makes rigging the Sonotrim in a variety of situations easy.

The Countryman B6 sounds good and is the smallest lavalier you can buy. It is so much smaller than almost every other mic on the market it is ridiculous. To me, especially when shooting a lot of interviews in a row when I don't have time to spend a lot of effort in hiding and rigging cable strain relief on each talent, the mic is so small, I can clip or tape it almost anywhere and it is almost or totally invisible on camera. The cable is almost as thin as thread and unfortunately is fairly susceptible to microphonics so this would not be my first choice for an aerobics instructor who will move around a lot but for casual documentary style interviews, this is a great and microscopically tiny mic.

Surprisingly all three of the Sonys I tested sounded quite nice. I didn't expect much because I have always not liked how Sony's broadcast shotgun mics have sounded but the lavs all sounded quite nice. The ECM-44 and 55 are huge though. Once again, easy to rig under wardrobe using gaffer tape squares and strain relief but for a quick documentary style clip on, the ECM-44 and 55 are HUGE. The ECM-88 sounded better as it should and it's size is fairly tiny. It exhibited marked improvements in noise rejection over the other two Sonys. A very nice mic although not cheap either.

The DPA mics sounded very nice, in particular the 4061 and 4071. I tested them in brown and flesh tones and both sounded very nice. DPA makes a HUGE amount of lavalier accessories, wind screens in every color of the rainbow and then some, numerous interesting magnetic and clip on rigs, etc. If you have an unusual subject to mic and want the most options, look at DPA.

The Voice Technologies VT-400 and 500 sounded extremely good. They had the best cases of all mics tested (this is important believe it or not) nd they come with a nice assortment of mounting options. Swiss technology at it's finest.

The PSC Millimic sounded particularly nice and is structurally similar to the Tram although it is a bit smaller. I liked that it shipped with a TA-5F connector, ready to hook up to a Lectrosonics or AT wireless system yet also shipped with a separate XLR power supply, allowing easy use between hardwired and wireless applications. To be fair, most of the other mics can be configured this way but many times it requires a custom wiring job whereas PSC ships their lav this way.

I could go on and on but that's what the article is for. It really mainly seems to come down to size, sound quality, accessories and cost. If you can wait until the article hits, you will have a LOT more info than I can present to you here, these were just a few of my fresh impressions that the mics left in my mind.

Best,

Dan
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Old February 18th, 2008, 08:31 PM   #7
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Dan,

thanks for your thorough posts. To answer a few of your specific questions:

Our priorities are as follows:
1. Sound quality
2. Size
3. Available in Black

This is mostly for light commercial and corporate usage. Above wardrobe primarily. We do try and minimize the appearance by hiding the cord behind a jacket or snaked up through shirts, but that's not our #1 priority. I guess I was initially attracted to the B6 because of the small size. We don't have plans now for using the mic as part of a wireless unit, but I guess that wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility if we have this thing for the next 3-5 years.

I'm definitely interested in seeing your article when it's finished--it had occurred to me earlier that I should check on kenstone.net for such an article, but it slipped my mind in the midst of my other research.

thanks again, and I look forward to reading your article!
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Old February 18th, 2008, 08:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Clay Showalter View Post
Dan,

thanks for your thorough posts. To answer a few of your specific questions:

Our priorities are as follows:
1. Sound quality
2. Size
3. Available in Black

This is mostly for light commercial and corporate usage. Above wardrobe primarily. We do try and minimize the appearance by hiding the cord behind a jacket or snaked up through shirts, but that's not our #1 priority. I guess I was initially attracted to the B6 because of the small size. We don't have plans now for using the mic as part of a wireless unit, but I guess that wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility if we have this thing for the next 3-5 years.

I'm definitely interested in seeing your article when it's finished--it had occurred to me earlier that I should check on kenstone.net for such an article, but it slipped my mind in the midst of my other research.

thanks again, and I look forward to reading your article!
Hi Clay:

I will post here to let all of you know when the article goes live, just have to get it written in between shoots and planning shoots.

Another factor is if it matters to you how seamlessly the lav cuts between itself and shotgun. A lav and a shotgun will never sound the same but it can help, especially in narrative film and tv if the two are in the same realm. Not such a big factor for interviews.

I hesitate to make specific recommendations to you before you can go through the clips and read the comparisons. I tested each mic in five situations:

1. Male voice, above wardrobe
2. Female voice, above wardrobe
3. Female voice, below wardrobe
4. Cable handling noise test
5. Intercut with shotgun

Talk to you soon.

Dan
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Old February 18th, 2008, 09:01 PM   #9
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thanks, Dan!
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Old February 18th, 2008, 11:26 PM   #10
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I second the thanks. I know nothing about lavs except from reading the posts on DVInfo. I have to admit that I hadn't thought much about how well the lav would match up with my Schoeps 641 and this is a great point to ponder. Although at the moment I'm thinking it would be an either or situation where I would use either the 641 or the lav, it certainly makes sense to think about how they would work together as there will almost certainly come a time when I want to mix both.

Thanks much and I'll await you review with bated breath.

PS Well, I have had some experience with a wireless lav - quite a few years ago I found myself making a presentation in Sydney to several hundred customer execs, and they fitted me up with a lav.

I came on stage and got a tremendous round of applause. Since I hadn't yet said anything I was puzzled until the M. C. told me that my pre-speech trip to the restroom had broadcast splendidly over the PA system.

I think there's a moral to this story - something about making sure the damned thing is OFF if it isn't supposed to be ON!
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Old February 19th, 2008, 09:08 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
I second the thanks. I know nothing about lavs except from reading the posts on DVInfo. I have to admit that I hadn't thought much about how well the lav would match up with my Schoeps 641 and this is a great point to ponder. Although at the moment I'm thinking it would be an either or situation where I would use either the 641 or the lav, it certainly makes sense to think about how they would work together as there will almost certainly come a time when I want to mix both.

Thanks much and I'll await you review with bated breath.

PS Well, I have had some experience with a wireless lav - quite a few years ago I found myself making a presentation in Sydney to several hundred customer execs, and they fitted me up with a lav.

I came on stage and got a tremendous round of applause. Since I hadn't yet said anything I was puzzled until the M. C. told me that my pre-speech trip to the restroom had broadcast splendidly over the PA system.

I think there's a moral to this story - something about making sure the damned thing is OFF if it isn't supposed to be ON!
Hi Jim:

That's wedding 101 also, the groom is always fitted with a wireless lav and then gets nervous and makes the trip to the bathroom. Luckily it's usually just the videographer who hears it.

You are not the first and won't be the last that this has happened to.

Dan
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Old February 19th, 2008, 09:25 AM   #12
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The stories some of the mixers in L.A. could tell about wireless mics being left on. ;)

What I try to do is show the talent where the power switch is located so they can turn it off and on when they are finished or getting ready to start. When I notice that wireless have been left on, I'll either switch off the receiver or turn off the transmitter myself. It really depends on what's easier. Sometimes it's just easier for me to turn off the receiver, especially when the director and talent are working on something, or the talent is trying to work on lines and get into character.

Wayne
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Old February 19th, 2008, 10:33 AM   #13
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I came on stage and got a tremendous round of applause. Since I hadn't yet said anything I was puzzled until the M. C. told me that my pre-speech trip to the restroom had broadcast splendidly over the PA system.
Maybe this is subject for another thread, but...

I had mic'd a researcher doing work along a stream in upstate ny. We drove from site to site, (only a few hundred yards each) her and an assistant in one car - me in another. I had my camera on the seat and my phones around my neck and got to listen to a constant dialog about what a pain-in-the-### the video guy was! Didn't let them know until the end of the day.
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Old February 19th, 2008, 10:56 AM   #14
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After using several kinds from AT, Countryman, Lectro, no question the best money we have ever spent concerning audio is moving to the Tram TR-50 mics. Seriously, wind noise, and especially clothing noise is all but disappeared and the sound quality is mint. I will never get away from the Tram mics they are priceless.
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