A reader asked:
I am looking for a fair affordable lavalier for personal work before I start into commercial work. What is a sweet spot for good quality product for a good price? I am planning on buying the Zoom H2 and would just like your opinion and a few options from a Pro such as yourself. Thank. Samuel W.
First, here’s a link to a post I wrote about a low cost audio kit for DSLR video – Complete DSLR Audio Kit for Less Than $450?
As I mention in the post, the price kicks up a lot if you need to go wireless.
Instead of $50 for the ATR-35s you’ll spend at least $150 for a VHF wireless. But VHF wireless units have very low usable range, pick up lots of static and can be pretty noisy (lots of hiss). A decent UHF wireless starts around $400. Professional systems start around $800 and go up. That’s why I recommend going straight to a small recorder with a lav if you want the best sound for the lowest budget.
Also, the ATR-35s seems to be discontinued. It’s been replaced by the Audio Technica ATR-3350 Omnidirectional Lavalier. The price is about the same and, though I haven’t tested it to make sure, it seems to be as good as the previous version. This is a wired omnidirectional mic that will plug directly into a DSLR or a Zoom recorder.
For a wired cardioid option at about the same price I recommend the Audio Technica Pro Series Cardioid Condenser Lavalier. The output is an XLR connector so you’ll need an XLR to mini adapter if you want to plug it into a DSLR or a Zoom recorder.
Whatever you go with I suggest having both omnidirectional and cardioid lavalier microphones.
Omnidirectional are the standard mic in almost all lav systems and they’re great for when you want to pick up everything around – like the bride, groom and minister at a wedding from one mic. But they are deadly in noisy environments when all you want is to pick up a single voice. That’s when you’ll want a cardioid or even a hyper-cardioid lav to cut the background sound.
Cardioids and hyper-cardioids are more difficult to use because you have to have them pointed at the sound source where an omni will work no matter which way it’s pointing. But it’s worth it to get the sound right on the recording.
I’m working on a real world test of omni and cardioid lavs and will post it soon.