Selection and Use of Lavalier
A brief history:
written by Fred Ginsburg, C.A.S.
A brief history:
Originally, the term "lavalier" referred only to the "neck-worn" or
"body-worn" class of small microphones.
These days, the working definition of lavalier has been extended to
include virtually any miniature microphone small enough to be worn
on the body and/or hidden in the set.
The first lavaliers used by our industry were large, dynamic
microphones about the size of a cigar tube. These mics were
traditionally worn around the neck by means of a lanyard
The mics were very rugged, but had a very short pick-up range and
had to worn close to the mouth. Because of their relative
insensitivity to sound, they were very feedback resistant. Units
manufactured by Sennheiser and ElectroVoice were very popular in
their time; many can still be found at garage sales, priced to go at
By the way, it is worth noting that the
author still keeps a vintage ElectroVoice 649B dynamic
lavalier in his sound kit for use as a slate mic or as an
"expendable" sound effects mic.
The technology of the sixties saw a miniaturization of the
The Sony ECM-50 became the broadcast
standard. The ECM-50 was an electret condenser, omni
lavalier. Compared to the older dynamic lavs, the ECM-50 was
considered miniature. The ECM-50 was far more sensitive, and
its greater bass response complimented the golden throated
newscasters of the era.
Years later, Sony introduced the ECM-30, a smaller and less
expensive version of the ECM-50. Film and video people took
a liking to it immediately.
The ECM-30 was much smaller and easier to hide. More
importantly, the mic lacked the extended bass response of
the ECM-50, which translated into less wind noise and rumble
when used outside of a studio.
Of course, over the years, other manufacturers entered the
marketplace with lavaliers of their own. Witness the
ElectroVoice CO-90, the TRAM TR-50, the MiniMic, the
Sennheiser MKE-2, and others.
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Which brings us up to the present.
Proximity vs. Transparent Lavaliers: (terms coined by the author)
Modern lavaliers can be described as being either "Proximity" or
A Proximity type lavalier is defined as a microphone that works best
when kept fairly close to the source of the voice, emphasizes that
voice, and suppresses background.
A prime example of this sort of lavalier is the ECM-55 (the
current successor to the ECM-50).
Proximity lavaliers produce the "lavalier perspective";
emphasis of the voice in a "tight close-up" sort of way. You
know, the newscaster, stand-up reporter, on-camera narrator,
radio interview, voice of authority kind of sound.
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Proximity lavaliers are the best way to go if you desire an
authoritative sound with minimal background noise. They are
also the mic of choice if there is simultaneous sound
reinforcement (public address), since they are not as prone
to cause feedback as other more sensitive mics.
Transparent lavaliers are defined as sounding more like
omnidirectional recording studio mics. They are very
sensitive to sounds, and their volume vs. distance
characteristics are far more graDual than that of proximity
Transparent mics can be deployed at greater distances; and
are far more forgiving of talent turning their heads away
from the mic.
Transparent mics sound much more natural and less forced
than proximity mics. Used on a video set, these mics will
intercut much easier with overhead boom mics.
The drawback to transparent mics is that they are much more
sensitive to background noise, and also require greater
skill to hide under clothing.