As a rule, lavaliers are one of the most commonly used microphones in filmmaking. Attached to a host or discretely hidden behind a corsage, the small form factor and portability of lavaliers have many applications on a film set as these devices are the ones that can get closest to the actor making it less awkward than having someone hover over your head with a shotgun mic.
While lav mics promise convenience, quality can come at a steep price if you’re not sure what to look for. In addition, with the array of manufacturers out there, you might be wondering what brand/model to buy for your next production. To put things into perspective, the well-known audiophile in the filmmaking community Curtis Judd provides a list of six affordable lavalier microphones with decent sound quality that you may consider grabbing for your next gig.
Let’s start with the cheapest on the list – the Sony ECMCS3. It’s actually a very popular choice for low-budget filmmakers with a price tag of around $20. Build quality is adequate for the price featuring plastic construction for the microphone capsule casing and an integrated clip. It has an omnidirectional pickup pattern (gets sounds from all angles) and connects to standard 3.5mm input jacks. If you want to be able to tether the mic to a device such as a smartphone (or something that uses a 3.5mm TRRS jack), you’ll need to purchase an adapter like the Rode SC4.
Next on Judd’s list is the Comica CVM-D02. This lav mic is quite unique as it sports two microphone heads connected to the recording device with a single cable. This feature allows users to record two different subjects at the same time. The microphone comes with varying cable sizes, and both mic capsules also have an omnidirectional pickup pattern. Included with the unit are a carrying case, a pair of wind muffs and alligator clips, a smartphone adapter, as well as a GoPro adapter.
For roughly the same price as the Comica CVM-D02, the Dutch Kings Omnidirectional Lavalier microphone is another budget-oriented option. It’s claimed to have broadcast-quality sound for a low price and connects to smartphones with a TRRS 3.5mm jack. Keep in mind, though, that if you want to use the mic directly with a camera or a standard TRS 3.5mm input jack, again, you’ll need to get an adapter such as the Rode SC4. The microphone comes with a durable clip, foam and fluffy windshield, carrying bag, cable strap, 1.2-meter flexible cable and a 3.5mm TRRS plug. On top of that, the product is backed by two-year warranty.
At the same price range, the Aputure A.lav EZ is another alternative buy for a lavalier microphone. Just like the Dutch Kings microphone, it also connects to smartphones or any device that uses a 3.5mm TRRS input jack. Unlike the other rivals on the list, this microphone has a longer cable length at around 3 meters. The microphone kit includes a windshield and windscreen, durable mounting clip, cord organizer, and a portable carrying case.
For around $35 you can get the older sibling to the previous model – the Aputure A.lav Professional Lavalier Microphone. This unit is actually Curtis Judd’s favorite one out of all options on this list. It’s got improved quality over the EZ version and comes with an included rechargeable battery pack that powers up the microphone itself in case your recording device doesn’t provide such an option. The lavalier is compatible with both TRS and TRRS (smartphone) 3.5mm input jacks. The accessories included with the unit are the same as the Aputure A.lav EZ, except for the charger for the battery pack.
By jumping to the $70-$90 price range, we find the Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Mic. Australian microphone manufacturer Rode is widely admired by the filmmaking community for their high-quality products, and this microphone is no exception. It works with smartphones using a TRRS 3.5mm input connector and also includes the SC4 adapter that provides connectivity with cameras that have a TRS 3.5mm input jack. The sound quality of this lavalier is significantly better when compared to the first three options suggested by Judd, but it’s also the most expensive one.
What is your favorite lavalier mic? Let us know in the comments below.