So eventually everyone should have wireless audio systems as part of their kit, but a decent set (on sale) can put you back $500 bucks only to capture audio from one subject. When you start placing a LAV mic on 2 subjects, then your costs immediately double up to $1,000 bucks. I recently helped on a project to record from 3 subjects having a conversation, and well let's just say that was over $2100 dollars worth of wireless audio equipment. I know most people can't afford to dive in to such expensive equipment right ways, so until you're at the point where you really need it, there are some excellent workarounds. Here are just two suggested ways to do this.
The easiest, most affordable, and straightforward way is to place a lav on your subject and run a stereo extension cord back to your camera. You can then monitor audio, adjust levels, and not have to worry about syncing audio in post.
10 Foot Extension for 3.5mm Stereo
If you can't have your talent tied down to a cord, you can always place an audio recorder with the talent. I use this technique, and I know many others who also do this with a Zoom H1. It's under $90 dollars and the audio quality is quite good. You can also use your iPhone as a portable audio recorder with many available sound recording apps. The drawback of course is that you can't monitor the audio, adjust levels on the fly, and have to sync the audio in post. The benefits are that you can afford to have multiple recorders for multiple subjects and don't have to worry about the possibility of wireless interference and drop-outs. Some even say that audio may even sound better than some wireless systems, as the recorders can capture the full sound.
Zoom H1 Portable Audio Recorder
So now that you have a few ideas on how to capture audio through a Lav Mic without a wireless audio system, the question now is what's a good lav for the job? Well in this video I run though a list of inexpensive microphones that all have 4+ Star Ratings on Amazon, and also introduce you to one of my new favorite under $50 dollars.
Here's how you can use your iPhone as a Portable Audio Recorder with the RODE REC App and an overview of the basic settings you should configure.
I like using DropBox to export my files, but you can also do this via USB and extract the file through iTunes. Here are the steps to do this.
Of course I can't forget about people who are using Android devices, so here's how you can use the popular sound recording application RECForge II from the Google Play Store.
If you're curious about what the sound quality is like when using a Samsung Galaxy S4 as a portable audio recorder, i've put this little demo together (below).
Here's a link to the various Lav Microphones mentioned for your reference. Although they have excellent ratings on Amazon, I found a few small things about each one that should be considered. If my opinion is worth anything, I would personally set my sights more towards the Rode SmartLav+ or the AspenMics Lavalier microphones.
Azden Lav Microphone
Sony Stereo Lav Microphone
Olympus Lav Microphone
Audio Technica Lav Microphone
Now keep in mind that the Rode SmartLav+ is latest version of this lav mic (don't buy the old SmartLav). Also the Rode SmartLav+ is designed as a direct TRRS Lavalier, so you'll need an optional adapter (found here) if you plan to use it with an audio recorder or if you want to connect this to your DSLR Camera. Combined with the adapter you're looking at about $95 dollars each Lav.
The Aspen HQ-S is the stereo version and will work directly with any camera or audio recorder. If you want to use the HQ-S with your iPhone, you'll need to purchase the kit that includes the TRRS adapter. The AspenMics are currently available at $45 dollars, so you can basically pick up two for the price of one Rode.
Rode SmartLav+ iPhone La
AspenMics HQ-S Stereo Lav
@Dylan - There are no modifications to the audio. Just use a Zoom H1 which has decent preamps, and it will sound pretty good. If anything you may want to boost the treble a bit in post. I find that when I mount it too close to my chest it picks up a lot of low end bass.
You audio sounds fantastic with such an affordable lav. What type of modifications are you doing in post with your audio or is this straight from the H1?
Hi! I'll have an audio Technica Lav Microphone. Do you think i could use it on android with RECForge II from the Google Play Store? Will the app let me choose that mic? If not, how could i use it?
Thank you in advance!
@Mchael Glynne - Just go back to the recording and click on the name. It should play back. Of course you can't hear anything if you have the mic still plugged in. You have to pull the Rode Lav out to hear again. If you need to connect both a lav mic and a headphone or listed to playback during recording, check out the AspenMics with the TRRS Adapter. The TRRS adapter allows you to plug in a lav and a set of earbuds at the same time.
I am recording audio on an Iphone5 using the Rode lav mike and the rode rec app. I seem to record ok, but cannot see how to play back the recording. How do I do this?
Is there any way to use 2 of these aspen mono mics with a zoom H4N? I'd like to be able to record 2 people at the same time and I already own a H4n.
Is there a similar app for windows phone? I mean one where I can choose the mic input such as in Rec Forge II ?
I see they are now shipping internationally. Any Canadians taken the plunge yet? I'm interested to see what sort of import duty gets tacked on...
Well, I received the 4 Aspen mics I ordered, and I tested them out with a Zoom H1. Excellent quality! Very pleased indeed. I did a bit of recording indoor and a bit outdoor in slightly windy conditions, but the mic performed admirably. My only regret is that I bought 4 stereo mics, and instead I should have bought 4 mono with the Sennheiser plug, that way I could use the nifty new Tascam DR-10CS. But the mics themselves are awesome! Thanks, Emm for turning us on to them! I wonder if anyone could compare them to the OST, I'm curious what you get for 2-3 times the money...
@Ruben - The Aspen mics are great for the price, and from my own tests the frequency is close to mics double it's price, but don't expect it to replace very high end systems. These are great for the budget concious guys who need to start with a decent lav. Sometimes it doesn't matter how great your ONE lav mic is when you show up to a project where you have to mic up 3 people. I hate when I come up short on audio equipment, so I see these as a great set of lavs many can have in their tool bag.
Hi Emm i'm trying to compare to the TRAM TR-50 Lav Mic
that i have and works very good outdoors under windy condition with the (WS) Windscreen,
if its the same then its a fantastic deal,
since the tram -50 is $233.95
@Ruben - It performs like every other lav I have. Hide it under a shirt, if it's super windy. You can use furry covers but that sometimes looks weird. Under clothing works great, and if you think it sounds flat you can adjust EQ in post.
Do you know how this mic Aspen Mics HQ-S Stereo Lavalier Microphone performs outdoors in windy conditions?
Thanks for the heads up Emm! I wrote the vendor to inquire and they recommend this option. I think I'll take the $30 chance and try it out…
@Drew - Be careful, not every LAV microphone will work with smart phones. The reason is because in order for the smart device to use the 'headset microphone' it has to first detect that one is plugged in. This has to do with a certain range of resistance the device needs in order to detect something is plugged in. I tried this with a real high end lav mic, and it did not work.
"Do you Ship Internationally?
Currently we do not ship internationally. As a small company we want each customer to have the best experience with our products including fast shipping, an exceptional return policy, and 5 year warranty coverage. We feel we will not be able to offer the best support with International customers at this time. We are however currently looking for distributors and retail partners that can bring our products to each country and offer the same level of service."
Dissappointing. I was just about to buy. Not cool. Not cool at all.
I'm hoping to use this adaptor with my existing Sennheaiser lavs. But will it work?
Here's the link to the company that sells them. The OST lavs are as good as the Tram TR50 mics which are a pro standard. I have a couple of the 801s and 802s which cost about $90. Well worth the price. They're actually used by pro sound guys. You can also get an adapter to wire it directly to the XLR recorder inputs.
a cheap solution for storing and transport lav mics and headphones, I have 5 of them in diferent colors
But doesn't Oscar Sound Techs also only sell directly? I haven't seen any OST lavs for sale from retailers, and on ebay it's only from individual sellers who sell their own OST mics. But to be honest, I wouldn't be shocked, because the $40-$50 is one of those "too good to be true" if it were to be made in the U.S., so it's also possible that they're designed here, but manufactured in China where it's cheaper to do stuff like that (although I don't know if they have enough volume to make that much difference).
Regardless, I bought 4 of these Aspen mics. They're supposed to get here Monday. We'll see. In the end, I don't care where they're made, I care if they work like advertised. I trust Emm, and am going off his recommendation.
What I'm more interested now is in recorders... hint, hint, Emm, maybe some testing is due 🙂 It is true that the Zoom H1 is more economic, especially if you have to get a stack of them, but there are other issues. What if you want to record to a second channel at a lower level? What if you want higher quality? And so on. Tascam has the DR-10CS and L, which are like $200, so double the price, but I'd be interested if they could be tested after they come out 🙂
@mase - Do you have a link to those mics? I'd like to see what you're talking about. As far as quoting from their website - "At this time, we are still a small company that ships products directly from our USA warehouse with products only available through our online channels." Well I would have to say that because it's only available for USA residents, and is received pretty quickly, that statement would be true.
I wouldn't doubt that these products are manufactured overseas like other brands i.e. Tascam, Samson, Azden, Sony, etc. The difference of course would be how well they are tested after manufacturing (if they are tested at all). So as usual buying something from china/ebay, USA residents would have to deal with returns if there were quality issues, and no option for a 5 year warranty. Even if you see mics that appear with the same housing, you would have to double check the internal capsules. Internal mic capsules can vary greatly in frequency and polar patterns. I'd like to see what you're referring to for a comparison. If we're talking about the same price, then I would have to bet having a QA checklist, return policy, fast shipping, and a warranty would be the better way to go.
I used to use the giant squid mics until I found out about the Oscar Sound Techs mic. I own their 802 mic and their TL40. Recommend them to anyone looking for a sub $100 mic. Their 801/802 is very comparable to the popular Tram TR40, they even use the same tie clip and windscreen as the Tram.
Surprised no one recognized these lavs from china/ebay. Same lav just someone selling them under new name.
At this time, we are still a small company that ships products directly from our USA warehouse with products only available through our online channels. Hmmm. really...
@pixcanfly - Yes you can lock the app. Basically you turn on Airplane Mode, launch the app, turn off iOS processing, set your levels, start recording, and then lock your phone. You hit the power button on your phone to lock your entire phone and the app will continue to keep recording.
can you lock the Rode Rec App after hitting record to prevent stopping the recording accidentally.
@Kay O. Sweaver - Hands down the sound quality of the AspenMics is way better than the AT-3350. As I mentioned in the video you really have to boost the input with the AudioTechnica on a Zoom, but you don't have to do the same with the AspenMics. It's totally worth the upgrade, but again you won't be able to run it all the way back to the camera without an extension cable. And keep in mind running it directly into most cameras won't sound as good as running it into a Zoom H1 which has a better preamp than most DSLRs. Even the GH4 isn't great which is why I still prefer to sync audio in post when using a simple audio setup (without preamp boxes).
Kay O. Sweaver
Emm, I'm curious what you think of the Aspen vs the ATR-3350. I have the 3350 right now and its not great, but okay. I'm wondering whether the Aspen would be worth the upgrade or if I should just save up for something more professional down the line.
@OldCorpse - Yeah sorry that won't work. You already have more resistance in the stereo setup and pulling it back together won't make it better. Adding an extra step there will actually make it worse.
@Emm - Sorry for not being clear - I'm trying to do the opposite. I'm trying to take the Aspen *stereo* and turn it into *mono* by plugging it into a mono plug. My hope was to get a stronger signal from the stereo by turning it mono (basically taking the split and putting it back together, since they are not true stereo but the same signal split). But what you say applies to this situation, also "extra step" and increased resistance.
@OldCorpse - I think what you're trying to do is take a mono mic (one channel) and then add an adapter sends it to both left and right, so you have options? The only problem I see with this is that #1 you another connection point to worry about coming loose, #2 it can add resistance in the line which will require more input from your audio recorder. The reason why the Mono version requires less input is that the signal is not split. When the signal is split to accommodate both left and right channels, it adds resistance to the line and requires a bit more input level on your recorder.
If it's a decent mic (like the Aspen), that's not really a problem since even the stereo version only requires an input of 50 or less and so the Zoom H1 can sound very clean. With a better recorder it will sound even better.
On the stereo vs mono Aspen mics. For the stereo, since all its doing is splitting the signal, couldn't you get a 3.5mm mono to stereo plug like this:
and then take the stereo Aspen mic and plug it into the monoprice adapter, and you'd end up with an Aspen mono mic? Would you hear the difference? Even if the signal splits, wouldn't it come together with the plug adapter and then you wouldn't need more input from the Zoom? Would you hear the difference between this setup and the Aspen mono?
That way you could buy the stereo Aspen (they are the same price) and if you wanted mono, you'd just use the plug - after all, it's exactly the same signal, only split (not true stereo in the first place). Thoughts?
Dude of all the blogs out there that talk about cameras gears and try to help people find solutions and alternate work around, yours is one of the best. Thank you!!
@seenematic - Yeah it's a good mic, but I would have to say many lav mics can still sound good when placed under a shirt. If you look in my video i'm also using the AspenMic under my shirt. I'll often do this when i'm outdoors to try and minimize wind noise if it's breezy too.
Here's a very extensive review of the Giant Squid.
Great feature is that you can put them underneath a shirt and they will record fine. Great for me when shooting weddings and not wanting the mic in view.
Apparently they moved the manufacturing to a factory (because the guy couldn't keep up with the increase in orders), which also means they now look slightly better (not handmade).
I just ordered 2 copies of the new model and will let you know how they sound compared to the old ones.
@seenematic - Yup, those sound great too great option. Last time a friend ordered one though the lead time was a few weeks because I think they are hand made? That also worried me if I had a problem with a mic, what the lead time would be. In fact I think the website now shows "As of August 24th all orders ship in two weeks or less.". Great option if you can wait for the lav and wait for response time for service.
I swear by Giant Squid's lav mics.
They cost only $40 and work great. I have three I've been using on all interviews and weddings I shoot.
No battery needed, think strong cabling and excellent s/n ratio.
good review. I'm a little leery of cheap mics but the aspen sounds pretty decent. thanks for putting this together
@Steward Munro - Here's a great solution that I use for lots of my audio gear: httpss://cheesycam.com/cheap-organizing-cases-for-small-gear/
@Dan Eckert - Yes there are a few ways to do it through USB. I'll try to show that in an article, but if you dowload the app, there's a user manual in there too. I think you can use iTunes or Safari to grab the file. Again, i'll try to show screenshots of me doing this tonight.
Sorry about the caps
I love your videos! I looking for a cheap case to put my sound gear in. I'm running a rode shot gun mic and H4n HOW YOU CAN HELP.
Can you download the audio clips from your iphone into your computer? Or do you have to Dropbox, email...etc?
@Lainol - In the video I am using the stereo mic. It's not true stereo, it just duplicates the audio to both left and right. Because the audio is split in the stereo, it will require a little more input power from the Zoom H1 and the mono will require less input power. My input settings is typically 50 or less with the stereo, and it saves me from having to duplicate the audio in post. The mono should sound a bit cleaner than the stereo.
Hi Emm, what lav are you using in the video? mono or stereo?
I assume the stereo mic is a fake stereo, duplicating one channel to two channels, right?
With the same price.. wich to buy?
I see in Aspen website that they have the mic with the sennheiser connection, nice dirty cheap replacement for an inlocation emergency.
@OldCorpse - Will they be better than an H1, yes I believe they will with the exception that they don't have built in mics. The Zoom H1 also offers stereo microphones which are great for capturing ambient sounds, throwing them on stage, clamped next to a speaker, or as a handheld microphone. There are many situations where i've used a Zoom H1 because it has built in mics.
Now the new recorders coming out are very interesting, and I will be sure to jump on that bandwagon as well. The downfall for some people is that when you have to own multiple units at over $200 each, that can add up quick. I tend to try to keep equipment very similar to make my projects easier and faster. If I use multi cameras, I try to use all the same. Matching color in post, and also matching camera settings can make the job easier. Same with audio. It's easier to navigate through a menu when it's all the same, instead of trying to navigate the menu of several different products.
Wow, these are pretty fabulous. However, I'd like to point out, that soon you're going to have some options wrt. the recorder. Tascam has just come out with a whole bunch - and cheesycam.com has them on the blog here - check it out, pricing-wise they're a bit more than the Zoom H1, and at some point presumably the JuicedLink DARling recorders will come out, probably well north of $200. NOW A QUESTION FOR EMM. I realize that we don't have access to test the new recorders as yet, but do you think there is any reason those would be better than the Zoom H1? I'm sure they won't be able to beat the Zoom on price, but what are your thoughts about f.ex. the ability to record to separate tracks at different levels, so that an unexpectedly loud recording doesn't ruin things. Plus the other recorders seem (or maybe?) smaller.
I really would like you to speak to the question of the recorder, because even the H1 at $80-$100 is more than one of those Aspen mics. Thank you again - and fantastic timing, as I was just looking at the question of wired lavs!
Is there a way to buy these products in Europe?
Thanks and kind regards.
@Kamil - In the video I talk about it, and I am using the AspenMics HQ-S lavalier connected to a Zoom H1 recorder. The input setting was at 50. So the entire video you are listening to the AspenMics.
What lav were you using in that video? Sounds really good.