March 28, 2018
Getting a good sound out of a lavaliere mic takes knowledge, patience and persistence. It is somewhat ironic, the mic we most commonly use for talk presentations on stage or on camera is one of the most difficult to position for quality tone and intelligibility. But properly employed, a lavaliere allows the speaker to address the audience naturally. With some care and precautions, a lavaliere can achieve a very good sound.
Getting the Good Without the Bad and the Ugly
One reason lavaliere mics work without being in the speaker's face, is they are sensitive. This is good for capturing the speaker's oral and chest resonance, which when well-balanced can yield a reasonably natural sound. But because they are sensitive, lavaliere mics also pick up everything else. So when placing the mic you also need to address physical movement and fabric noise or they will compete with your speaker's voice.
What You Want
Good mic placement is at the sternum, where there is optimal tonal balance. With the mic slightly away from the mouth plosives will be less noticeable as well. The capsule must not be touching anything and should be fixed as immobile as possible. Make a 'broadcast loop' by forming the mic lead into a small loop about as large as a quarter and running it back through the clip. This insulates the mic itself from any movement of the cable. Similarly, attach the cable to the speaker's belt or shirt in such a way as to have plenty of slack to provide freedom of movement without pulling on the mic. Attach the mic to the speaker's shirt or lapel with the extra cable behind. If you don't have a free fabric edge, you can also use a vampire clip that has a pair of jaws which can clip to a dress or t-shirt if the neckline is too high for proper placement.
What to Avoid
The name of the game here is to prevent any movement of the mic which can produce noise or cause it to rub on another surface. Some fabrics also are prone to making noise so if possible avoid silks and synthetics and draping styles. Wool and cotton are much quieter and easier to work with. Look for specialty clips, soft rubber lavaliere mic mounts, and other accessories designed to address various challenges. You can also use tape, pins, or anything you can think of to immobilize the mic. Avoid placing the mic under clothing unless absolutely necessary because it muffles the mic and makes it more difficult to EQ properly.
Now That You Have Their Attention, Make it Shine
If your lavaliere is wireless make absolutely certain the receiver is configured optimally and your batteries are new and the right type. Adjust your channel EQ to get the most natural sound possible. Take great care balancing the area around 1k-2kHz because while you need enough of these frequencies to cut through, they can also cause listener fatigue if boosted too much. High frequencies need to be adjusted for clarity without needlessly accentuating background noise. If you're struggling with excess sibilance, try de-essing the signal by sweeping from 2k-10kHz to find the frequency, then cutting slightly to correct the problem. Use nominal bass levels and cut slightly to minimize bass plosives and feedback as needed. You can also incorporate a gate/compressor if you have very low handing noise and use a judicious setting on the gate to avoid noticeably chopping off your speaker's phrases while applying modest compression to even out the levels. An outboard compressor can be routed through the channel insert jack to achieve this.
What other lavaliere techniques and tricks have you discovered? Let us know in the comments.
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