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Advice on Lav Mic Systems

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Raymond Tarry
Advice on Lav Mic Systems
on Aug 14, 2008 at 3:09:38 pm

Hello, I'm equipping myself to shoot interviews, depositions and possibly weddings with my DVX100A camera. I'm considering a Sennhauser system that sells around $549. If there is a cheaper way to go, I'd like to know it. Below is a quote from a recorder of depositions called videomaker that illustrates what I mean.


It is important to have at least one high-quality, reliable, interference-free wireless lavalier mike. Stay away from inexpensive mikes that may not deliver consistent performance.

"Wired lapel mikes are a different story," says Goffe. "I got really tired of careless attorneys throwing my $200 wired lavs mikes on the floor, dropping books on them and winding the wires into knots." He now uses what he calls "disposable" lapel mikes, units that set him back about $40 each. "These cheaper wired lapel mikes work very well, and they cost so little that using them in any situation is worry- free."

Are these cheaper lapel mics worth it? I'd like to know what you think - Thanks Raymond



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Rodney Morris
Re: Advice on Lav Mic Systems
on Aug 14, 2008 at 4:03:14 pm

Sennheiser would be a good choice in the pro-sumer line of wireless systems and would probably work fine in this situation. I've used their wireless systems and they're OK. Most of us working in TV use much more expensive Lectrosonics wireless systems because of their rock-solid performance and audio reproduction ($2K - $2.5K per system). But this may be out of your budget for now. However, if you really want much better sound you have to pay for it.

If the $40 mic sounds good to you and your clients, then it's a good mic for your application. It really depends on your definition of good. I've used $2000 condenser mics and sub $100 Radio Shack boundary mics (not on the same shoot), so it really depends on the application / situation. If the mics are going to get damaged frequently and the client isn't willing to pay for what they destroy, then the $40 mics would be OK. I'm assuming the interviews are not for broadcast. If they are, then you should be using better sounding mics.

Hope this helps.

Rodney

Freelance Sound Technician/Mixer


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Ty Ford
Re: Advice on Lav Mic Systems
on Aug 14, 2008 at 9:03:04 pm

Hello Raymond and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum,

In addition to Rodney's helpful comments, I'll add this. When we wrap and I see anyone beginning to mess with my lavs, I step up quickly to show some urgency and say, "Here, let me help you with that. I'd hate to have you break one. You wouldn't think it, but they cost $400."

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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Raymond Tarry
Re: Advice on Lav Mic Systems
on Aug 15, 2008 at 1:03:32 am

Thanks that really helps. I've noticed there are three to choose from - A, B, and C rated by MHz (Channel Set A/518-554 MHz to Set C/740-776 MHz - What does this mean and which is best? Thanks again Raymond



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Ty Ford
Re: Advice on Lav Mic Systems
on Aug 15, 2008 at 3:31:18 am

Raymond,

It means there are three different frequency blocks made. I don't think C is usable in the US. You need to decide which block is safer for the locations you want t work. Sennheiser has a chart to help with that on their site.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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Raymond Tarry
Re: Advice on Lav Mic Systems
on Aug 16, 2008 at 5:22:16 pm

Thanks a lot, I'll check it out - Raymond



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Rob Neidig
Re: Advice on Lav Mic Systems
on Aug 26, 2008 at 7:00:12 pm

Raymond,

A little late to this thread, but thought I'd throw in my $.02 on the inexpensive lavs.

When I very first started in the business, I used the $40 Radio Shack and also the Audio Technica mics that cost about the same for legal deposition work. While they do a pretty decent job for $40, when you replace them with a true professional model (AT803 or 813, Sony ECM44, Sennheiser MKE-2, Tram, Countryman, etc.), you will instantly hear a huge difference. The cheaper mics tend to have a lot of self noise - a constant background level of noise that you will hear much less of with the pro models. You will also typically get a much fuller sound with the more expensive models. I found my AT803s pretty cheap on a well-known on-line auction site. They are actually pretty sturdy. I've had attorneys stand up and rip them off their ties or lapels, but they keep on goin'. And you can use them in your other productions as well. I wouldn't say that about the cheapo mics.

Just a note on using wireless in a deposition. First of all, with wireless, there is always a chance of audio dropouts or RF interference. I would recommend always using wired mics in a controlled setting like a deposition. In one of my first depos, I used a wireless and had the courthouse security people across the street call to report they were receiving the witness loud and clear on their system!!

Have fun!

Rob

Lav mics I own:
AT803a (x4), Countryman B3, Tram TR-50 (2 wired, 2 on Lectrosonics wireless systems, 1 on Sennheiser wireless system), Sennheiser ME2 (original mic on Sennheiser wireless system) and yes, I still have 3 cheapo Radio Shack lavaliers somewhere in the bottom of a bag or box. Haven't touched them in years.

Rob Neidig
R&R Media Productions
Eugene, Oregon


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Raymond Tarry
Re: Advice on Lav Mic Systems
on Aug 28, 2008 at 2:59:12 am

Thanks for the $.02+. I found a Senneiser 100 G2 camera mountable system for $467 at Northern Light and Sound. It has a ME2OMNI LAV. It was affordable for me. I'm also in to narrative film. I'll probably pic up a couple of wired mics. It sounds like they come in handy.
Can you switch Lavs within a system? Like, use a different Lav with a Sennheiser transmitter and receiver, or do you have to buy a whole different system when you buy say, an AT803?
Thanks Raymond



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Rob Neidig
Re: Advice on Lav Mic Systems
on Aug 28, 2008 at 5:40:44 pm

If you are using wired lavs, then each one just terminates with an XLR connector and you can use it directly to your camera or mixer. For wireless systems, then every wireless system uses different connectors. You can order a Tram mic, for instance, with a connector for a Lectrosonics system, or a Sennheiser system, or a Shure system, or whatever. But they are not interchangable. The AT803s I have are wired with XLR connectors and go straight to a mixer (actually I use a 4-channel XLR snake, so they connect to the snake, which goes to the mixer). They cannot be used on any of my wireless systems without some sort of adapter.

Have fun!

Rob

Rob Neidig
R&R Media Productions
Eugene, Oregon


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