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Old August 12th, 2010, 07:08 PM   #1
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Need advice on cheap lavalier mic

I'm getting started as an event videographer and I need to buy a lavalier mic. At one point I had spent the big bucks in a Sennheiser G3 wireless system and the sound was awesome, but the first wedding I used it for, I had this interference whenever someone would be between me and the groom, and $600 was too much money for something that didn't give me a perfect recording. So I sent that back and I realized the best way is to use a lavalier and record directly to my Zoom H2 audio recorder. This device has plug-in power, but only when a stereo mic is used. So I'm basically down to two choices of microphones right now. One is the Audio Technica ATR3350 (
Audio-Technica ATR3350 Omnidirectional Condenser ATR3350 - B&H
) which is mono but with a small power supply, and the other is the Sony ECM-CS10 (
Sony ECM-CS10 Stereo Lavalier Microphone ECMCS10 - B&H Photo
), which is not powered, but it is stereo, so the plug-in power in the Zoom H2 would work. The problem with this model is that it's not omnidirectional, and if I put the mic in the groom, I'm not sure if it would pick up good audio from the priest and the bride. The Audio Technica is omnidirectional, so it would probably get better audio in that sense, but I don't know if the quality is better or worse than the Sony, and besides, the problem is that it has this really long 20 ft cable that I would have to somehow roll and tie, and it would probably add to the bulkiness of the Zoom H2 + the power supply unit, and maybe the groom wouldn't be too happy about that.

I searched for "omnidirectional stereo lavalier microphone" on Google but so far the only model that is not terribly expensive is this Sony. There's the Microphone Madness BSM-7 at around $65, but a)that name is ridiculous and doesn't inspire me a bit of confidence, and b)it's stereo but it's actually two lavalier mics, and I can see that a groom wouldn't probably like to have these two black balls attached to his tux in the chest area.

So I'm not sure what to do. Any advice? I'd be willing to pay up to $100 for a decent stereo lavalier mic, as long as it's just one mic and not two.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 07:24 AM   #2
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Why do you want stereo? Human speech is mono by its very nature and a stereo lav would be next to useless in your application. That's the reason you find so few of them marketed, such a thing is essentially pointless since a lav is intended to pick up the sound of a single person, a single point source, unlike recording a band that's spread out across a stage. You are correct in looking for an omni mic - a single cardioid pattern lav on the groom will be iffy picking up the bride and/or the officiant and the groom's speech will change in level and tonality every time he moves his head. Record the dialog MONO with an omni lav and pan the single track into both channels (center screen position) in post.

I'd strongly suggest you reconsider the idea of using a hard-wired lav. Normally I believe in the adage "whenever you are able, always use the cable" but a wedding shoot would be an exception as they're going to be moving all over the place. Are you going to stop the ceremony to run up to the couple at the altar and pin the mic on him when it's time for the vows? And when they turn for the recessional, will you have them wait while you go up and remove the mic? Not to mention the trip hazard of the cable itself running from the altar to your camera.

Of course you could use a hardwired lav going to your recorder in the groom's pocket but it didn't sound like that was what you were planning to do.

It really makes no sense to downgrade from the entry level professional wireless you had before to either one of those consumer toy mics you linked to, not if you're planning to do this professionally. Plus the Sony is only compatible with the plug-in power from a certain Sony and Aiwa recorders - it says right in the feature description it is NOT compatible with standard mini-plug mic inputs, so that's out anyway. You are going to be very hard- pressed to find anything worth paying for in the sub-$100 price category. If your heart is set on staying below that line, the Giant Squid line is a popular choice (not a personal endorsment, haven't used them personally).

You would be far better served with your original G3 outfit and figuring out why someone moving between you and the transmitter was causing drop outs. Perhaps your antennae weren't parallel or the mic cable was draped across it at the transmitter or it was scrunched up, the batteries were low, the interfering guy had an active cell phone or Blackberry in their pocket or whatever.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 08:58 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sebastian Alvarez View Post
but the first wedding I used it for, I had this interference whenever someone would be between me and the groom,
That does not sound right. A person walking through the path of a typical wireless mic should have no significant effect on the signal. I think something else was wrong and you prematurely abandoned the preferred solution.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sebastian Alvarez View Post
This device has plug-in power, but only when a stereo mic is used.
That does not sound correct either. Where did you get that information? Plug-in power is unrelated to mono or stereo. As Mr. House says, using any kind of stereo mic for speech is undesirable for many reasons.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 10:49 AM   #4
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Steve,

it seems you didn't read my post completely. It's not that I want stereo, actually, like you say, it's pointless in this application and I don't want it. My problem, like I said in my post, is that the Zoom H2 only supplies plugin power to a stereo mic. It says so in the manual, and I don't know why is it, but I plugged in a Sony stereo mic (it's a shotgun that comes with the Sony HVR-HD1000U camera) and once the plug-in power option was activated in the menu, it worked fine. But then I plugged in a Shure SM58 using an adapter which is also mono, same as the microphone, and I got nothing, and I made sure that plug-in power was still on. Now, I would buy a cheap mono mic at a local store to test in case the problem was with the SM58, but the manual says clearly that plug-in power only works for stereo mics.

And maybe I didn't explain this in full detail, but the plan was never to have a wired lavalier running from the groom to the camera, that would be absurd. The lavalier mic would go to the Zoom H2 in the groom's pocket, hence the problem I explained in my post, to either go with the Audio Technica, which is mono and omnidirectional, but has a power unit that would have to go in the groom's pocket along with the Zoom H2, which would make it pretty bulky for the groom. So I need to have a mic that plugs into the H2 directly, and judging by what it says on the manual, it can only be a stereo one, which sucks.

So I see what you mean by these being toy mics, but that's all my budget allows for right now. If I could spend a few hundred I would get a digital recorder that supplies power to mono lavs as well, and a decent mono lav, but that wouldn't be cheap. I've been looking at the Giant Squid mics, but their stereo mics are two mics, not one combined which is what I need.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 11:11 AM   #5
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I just plugged in the SM58 in the computer and it doesn't work there either, so the cable may not work right or it may just not be compatible with either the computer or the H2. I'll run to a store and get a small mono mic to see if it works with the H2.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 11:25 AM   #6
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I've got 2 SM58s and an SM63 and they work fine when plugged into my computer so it sounds like a bad cable perhaps.

As for getting interference when someone got between you and the groom that really doesn't sound right at all. In all the weddings I've shot over the years there are always people getting between the groom and my receiver on the camera and I've never had a problem. I've done news gaggles with a bunch of other cameras and wireless rigs running with people getting between me and the mic (SM63 or RE50 with a plugin transmitter and never had a problem so it's possible that you took a hit from a Blackberry (they are the worst when hunting for the network) or the officant's mic was so close in freq that you had a momentary hit and it just happened to occur when that person stepped in front of you.
Regardless, it seems very strange to have happened and while I don't use the Sennheiser unit I know a lot of people that do and haven't had anything happen along the lines of what you described.

You might ant to look at the unit again and check the settings you use and perhaps change the freq before the next gig.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 12:05 PM   #7
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Don,

actually the interference occurred mostly when the groom was picking up his little daughter and holding her up, so her body would be right in front of the transmitter, which was in the groom's inner pocket. The officiant didn't have any microphone, it was a very bare bones wedding. Maybe it was my choice of frequency or something else that I didn't do right, not to mention that I had no idea that he was going to pick up his daughter and hold her up. Still, even when he wasn't holding his daughter there were times when somebody would be standing between him and me, and I would hear interference.

Maybe I should have kept it and tried harder, but I was close to the day where if I didn't return it I was going to have to keep it, and $600 was too much for me for a microphone that didn't perform 100% perfect. I understand that the G3 is an entry level, but to me $600 is a fortune, so I'll have to stick to a cheaper solution for now.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 01:54 PM   #8
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Ah, missed that you already returned it. Actually the Senn G2 and G3 are really good units for the money but regardless, your situation really has me baffled. Someone getting between the bodypak and receiver shouldn't really interfer. I know some folks that are using stand alone recorders for audio at weddings but since I'm old school I need to monitor my sound, at least the lavs.
Well good luck with your new stuff I hope it works out for you.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 02:22 PM   #9
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There are other audio recorders you can explore that are small and also around $99 from some vendors. I don't know specifically if this recorder will supply Plug-In Power to a mono lav successfully, but the TEAC VR-10 comes to mind as an alternative to the H2.
I have no personal experience with either the H2 or VR-10, but I've considered both while looking for a recorder that's smaller than the Zoom H4 and H4n that I use now.
The Sony PCM-M10 is also a possibility. It's a little larger but still relatively small. It has dropped in price recently to about $200 if you know where to look. It's leading right now on my list but I still haven't ordered one yet.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 02:53 PM   #10
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Sabastian,

I have an older Sennheiser EW500 model that works great, but as someone earlier posted, if I have the option of going wired or wireless, I will always use the wired option. With that being said, I used the ATR3350 with a Sony digital recorder (don't remember the model off hand) and was always pleased with the results. I really didn't like the long cord on the 3350, so I recently bought a Giant Squid Mono (Omnidirectional Mono Microphone), and have been using that for a couple of months with great success. The Giant Squids are compatible with the Zoom H2 - it's stated on their web site, plus I also have a Zoom H2 and have confirmed it myself.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 09:47 AM   #11
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The Giant Squids are compatible with the Zoom H2 - it's stated on their web site, plus I also have a Zoom H2 and have confirmed it myself.
How's the quality of the Giant Squid mono omnidirectional? They have a couple of samples on their website, but they don't sound very good to me, they seem rather muffled. But I don't know if perhaps a simple equalization in the NLE would take care of that or if it would bring in a lot of hiss.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 10:31 AM   #12
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You get what you pay for. That's an inescapable law of nature. There's a reason the mics generally favoured by the pros cost ten-fold or more over the price of the Giant Squids and in the hands of a skilled user the difference translates into the quality of the results obtained. It's also true that gaining an extra 10% in quality will often double the price. The GS is reputed to be good mic for the price and if I was looking for a sub $100 mic I'd certainly give it some consideration (certainly would favour it over that Audio Technica you linked to early on). It may be good enough for your purposes. But one must be realistic - if you want the very best results possible, you must expect to pay pro prices. If you can't afford them yet, rent as needed and save your pennies until you can. Buying cheap and upgrading later is actually the least cost effective way to go about it, costing far more in the long run than biting the bullet to get what you really need right from the beginning.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 10:48 AM   #13
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Interference: Was a frequency scan performed prior to the even? The lower cost wireless systems are not that 'forgiving' and require more due diligence in set-up to obtain optimal performace.

All of my lavs (Countryman, Sony, Tram, VT) that have a 1/8" plug, work with my H2. However the 'plug-in power' must be enabled via the software menu.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 02:15 PM   #14
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How's the quality of the Giant Squid mono omnidirectional?
Here's a sample. segments 1 & 2 are test segments recorded about 10 minutes ago. Segment 1 is the Audio Technica ATR 35s (in the recording, I mistakingly refer to it as the ATR 35e), segment 2 is the Giant Squid, segment 3 is a clip from a wedding I recorded about 2 months ago. All were recorded on my Sony ICD-UX71. As I mention in the recording, I use the Sony recorder mainly because of it's compact size and decent quality. While it's definitely not worthy of broadcast content, it's more than adequate for the purpose I use it for - capturing clear, clean vows from the groom, bride & officiant. All of the segments are unedited (except for the cutting) with no EQ, normalization or any other corrections.

For segments segment 3, notice that the officiant sounds hollow & distant. That is because he was standing away from the couple and speaking into the PA microphone. The mic is picking up the officiant from the PA speakers. My Zoom H2 was recording directly from the PA system line out, and will be edited/added to the mix even out the sound for the finished product.

Audio file here http://www.cookcorp.com/Audio_Test.mp3
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Old August 14th, 2010, 05:58 PM   #15
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Thanks a lot for taking the time to upload this sample. I put in Vegas and played with the compressor and EQ and the Giant Squid sounds pretty well, albeit with some hiss, but at that price level it seems like a great choice, so I'm going to try it out.
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