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-   -   Need advice on cheap lavalier mic (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/all-things-audio/483300-need-advice-cheap-lavalier-mic.html)

Sebastian Alvarez August 12th, 2010 06:08 PM

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 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/664437-REG/Audio_Technica_ATR3350_ATR3350_Omnidirectional_Condenser_Lavalier.html) which is mono but with a small power supply, and the other is the Sony ECM-CS10 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/334837-REG/Sony_ECMCS10.html), 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.

Steve House August 13th, 2010 06:24 AM

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.

Richard Crowley August 13th, 2010 07:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sebastian Alvarez (Post 1558609)
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 (Post 1558609)
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.

Sebastian Alvarez August 13th, 2010 09:49 AM

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.

Sebastian Alvarez August 13th, 2010 10:11 AM

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.

Don Bloom August 13th, 2010 10:25 AM

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.

Sebastian Alvarez August 13th, 2010 11:05 AM

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.

Don Bloom August 13th, 2010 12:54 PM

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.

Jay Massengill August 13th, 2010 01:22 PM

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.

Coral Cook August 13th, 2010 01:53 PM

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.

Sebastian Alvarez August 14th, 2010 08:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Coral Cook (Post 1558864)
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.

Steve House August 14th, 2010 09:31 AM

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.

Rick Reineke August 14th, 2010 09:48 AM

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.

Coral Cook August 14th, 2010 01:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sebastian Alvarez (Post 1559058)
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

Sebastian Alvarez August 14th, 2010 04:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Coral Cook (Post 1559111)

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.

Sebastian Alvarez August 14th, 2010 06:54 PM

I just realized something, but please correct me if I'm wrong. I noticed that some mono lavs have a 3.5 mm stereo plug, and if I remember correctly, the lav in the Sennheiser G3 set I had had a stereo plug as well. Is it that the stereo plug is used not as left and right channels, but as a way to make it compatible with plug-in power recorders, or with wireless transmitters? I've seen a few lavs at the B&H website, and some are not stereo but have the stereo plug, and some still have the mono plug, so I'm a little confused. I noticed that the Giant Squid one has a stereo plug, so that might be the reason why it's compatible with the Zoom H2. Can someone tell me if I'm right or wrong?

Steve House August 15th, 2010 05:22 AM

The Sennheiser input and mating lavs use a 'stereo', ie, TRS (Tip-Ring-Sleeve), plug but they're not wired for conventional stereo. The transmitter can accept either a mic level or a line level input signal. For the cable used in connecting a mic level signal such as a lav capsule to the transmitter input, the tip connector is used for signal hot and the sleeve is ground, the ring being connected to the sleeve. The version of the cable wired to send a line level input to the transmitter uses the ring for signal hot, the sleeve for ground and it's the tip that is grounded to the sleeve. The use of a TRS plug, in and of itself, doesn't indicate anything regarding plug-in power.

Rick Reineke August 17th, 2010 11:36 AM

Many mics that have a 1/8" TRS simply feed the same signal to both left & right channels.
For instance, the 1/8" to 1/8" cable that comes with the G2/3 compact receiver.

Richard Crowley August 17th, 2010 06:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rick Reineke (Post 1560019)
Many mics that have a 1/8" TRS simply feed the same signal to both left & right channels.
For instance, the 1/8" to 1/8" cable that comes with the G2/3 compact receiver.

That is likely true for OUTPUT cables.

However, note that INPUT connectors and cables for wireless transmitters tend to use the tip and ring nodes for audio and power, NOT for "left" and "right" since it is a monaural device.

Benjamin Maas August 18th, 2010 07:44 PM

The G3 uses a mini balanced TRS connector. It is not stereo, but is wired positive, negative, and ground instead of Left positive, Right postive and common ground (as would be stereo).

A couple thoughts. if you are getting dropouts because of somebody picking up a child, than that is to be expected. A low-end wireless rig like that does not have the power to broadcast through a person. Rather than putting the pack in a coat pocket, why don't you have the groom put the transmitter on a belt or on the waist of his pants in the small of his back. You'll have much better overall pickup. With the G3 system, you also need to make sure that the pilot tone is also on. That will help much with the reception.

Second, the mic used makes a really big difference. Honestly, I think your sample of the AT mic sounds a lot better than the squid. Gain match the two and the differences will become pretty obvious. The possible issues there are if your recorder cannot crank the gain enough without getting really noisy. If you can save up the cash for a countryman B6 or a DPA 4060, you'll start hearing much better quality audio than either of these. Of course, you're looking at a couple hundred dollars each for these, even on the used market.

Of course, with all of this you need to make sure that you have cables that are wired properly. If you are coming out of an XLR, you need to connect Pin 2 to the tip, Pin 3 to the ring and Pin 1 to the sleeve.

--Ben

Coral Cook August 19th, 2010 12:16 AM

Ben, thanks for the info. I definitely plan on getting a countryman at some point in time

Steve House August 19th, 2010 03:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Benjamin Maas (Post 1560472)
The G3 uses a mini balanced TRS connector. It is not stereo, but is wired positive, negative, and ground instead of Left positive, Right postive and common ground (as would be stereo).

...
Of course, with all of this you need to make sure that you have cables that are wired properly. If you are coming out of an XLR, you need to connect Pin 2 to the tip, Pin 3 to the ring and Pin 1 to the sleeve.

--Ben

Not correct. You've described the proper wiring of a balanced connection using a TRS plug but the audio input to a G3 transmitter is unbalanced. The G3 transmitter can accept either mic level or line level signals at its audio input with the sensitivity being determined by the wiring of the cable going into it. If you're wiring for a mic level signal source such as a lav capsule, the tip is signal hot, the sleeve is signal ground, and the ring is shorted to the sleeve. If you're wiring a cable to connect from a line level source, the signal hot goes to the ring, sleeve is still signal ground, and the tip is grounded to the sleeve. In both cases, the XLR pin 3 goes to the TRS sleeve, NOT the ring. For the mic level XLR 2 goes to the tip and for the line level it goes to the ring. XLR pin 1 goes to the cable shield which is either left floating unconnected at the TRS end or connected to the sleeve as well.

Sebastian Alvarez August 20th, 2010 02:07 PM

It works great
 
Just wanted to say for whoever else might be in my same situation, that today I received the Giant Squid omnidirectional lavalier and it works very well with the Zoom H2. A tip for someone with the same equipment to get the best possible sound, since I've tried all the different settings. After recording myself reading a magazine article with the mic attached in the same exact position on my chest, and reading at the same volume, I determined that the best settings in the Zoom H2 for this microphone are AGC/Comp set to Comp 2, with the Mic Gain switch to Mid and Mono Mix set to ON. And, of course, Plug-in power has to be set to on for this mic to work.

These settings gave me the best audio quality with the least amount of hiss. I compared them by laying out all the audio events in a Sony Vegas timeline, at first without any added filters, but then setting the Normalize function to the audio events, and also raising the input gain in the Track Compressor filter (without adding actual compression).

Then I also experimented with adding compression and I got the best results as well for the event that had been recorded using the settings I specified above. Note that Comp2 set to Mid Gain is also the best setting even if you don't set Mono Mix to on, but since the mic itself is mono, when mono mix is not set to on you get stereo hiss but the voice in mono, which makes the hiss more apparent than if both hiss and voice are in mono.

The build quality of the microphone seems sturdy and well built, although it doesn't come with any type of foam or fur wind screen, so it's a good idea to get one of those. It's also a good idea to order the mic with the angled plug instead of the regular one. While it may be $6 more, it will fit better inside a pocket with the H2 than the regular connector.

Overall I'm happy with the audio quality. There a small amount of hiss, but it's not too distracting and for $36.45 with shipping included it's a great deal.

Edit: I said Mid Gain before because when I did the tests High gain would easily give me an overload sound whenever I raised my voice a bit, but later I realized that it was because the phones volume was set too high and I was using small walkman headphones. When I connected bigger headphones and lowered the phones volume I realized that that "ploc" sound wasn't caused by the mic but instead because the volume was too high for the small headphones. So after doing more tests, Comp 2 with High Gain in Mono Mix seems to be the ideal setting.


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