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"A Brief History of Lavalier Microphones"

Selection and Use of Lavalier Microphones
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 (lavaliere).

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 almost free.

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 lavalier.

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.


"Ipod DJ Package #1"


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 "Transparent".

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.

"PA Package #1"

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 lavaliers.

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.
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