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Best Lavalier Microphones
Whether you’re recording interviews for Youtube or working on a film set, there are many situations where you might need a portable and well-hidden microphone. That’s where lavalier microphones come into play as a portable and flexible microphone design.
Lavalier microphones are easy to set up and use, as you can simply clip the microphone to the shirt of your subject or tape it directly to their skin. That said, each lavalier microphone varies in its design, intended purpose, and price. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best lavalier microphones available on the market, so no matter your budget or needs, you’ll find a microphone that fits seamlessly into your workflow.
Editor’s note: this list was published on August 15, 2022 and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
Why is the best lavalier microphone the Sennheiser XS Lav USB-C?
For those seeking their first lavalier microphone, your search should start and finish with the Sennheiser XS Lav USB-C. As a relatively cheap option, this microphone is great for YouTubers, low-budget filmmakers, and other content creators in search of a plug-and-play option. Simply connect it to your USB-C-equipped Android, Windows, macOS, or iPadOS device, and you’re ready to start recording.
Included in the box you get everything you need to start recording on the go including the microphone, a foam windscreen, a microphone clip, and a carrying pouch. The entire package feels sturdy and comparable to that of Sennheiser’s much more expensive lavalier microphone offerings.
Hold up! Something’s missing:
This section is typically where we display a frequency response chart to show you exactly where the audio output shines and where its deficiencies lie. Unfortunately, we’ve hit a technical snag in our testing. To combat this, we have an SCM-3 mic and we’ll be adding a speaker with standardized output samples to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to reach our office in Canada, but we will update this best list (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and performance plots. These will be made obvious by an announcement explaining the change, and a new chart aesthetic.
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
If you don’t own a USB-C compatible device, the Sennheiser XS Lav is also available with a more traditional 3.5mm TRRS connector. iPhone users can grab this version of the lavalier microphone and use it alongside a 3.5mm to Lightning connector.
The omnidirectional polar pattern is forgiving with regards to placement, and the microphone sounds impressive given its price. That said, professionals may want to consider some of the more premium options on our list.
The Rode SmartLav+ is a portable runner-up
It’s rare to find any microphone best list that doesn’t feature at least one Rode microphone. The Australian manufacturer is well renowned for its microphone quality and value, and the Rode SmartLav+ is no exception.
This lavalier is extremely portable due to its simple integration with any smartphone or mobile device. After connecting the 3.5mm jack to your device, you can use the Rode SmartLav+ with any audio recording app, including the Rode Reporter app. This companion app provides a waveform display with input meter, and options for standard or data compressed recording with variable bit rate.
The microphone has an omnidirectional condenser capsule. The cable is Kevlar-reinforced, and you also get a pop filter for clearer speech. However, the included cable is only 1.2m long, so you’ll have to stay close to whatever device you are recording to.
Who should buy the Sennheiser MKE 2?
If you have a larger budget and want the best lavalier microphone, get the Sennheiser MKE 2. There’s a reason you’ll find this microphone on the set of Broadway productions. The umbrella diagram is sweat protected, so you don’t have to worry about water damage when sticking this microphone directly onto your sweaty actors on stage.
Sennheiser aims to produce the most accurate frequency response possible with this microphone, and its omnidirectonal polar pattern produces a very natural sound. You can also tailor the frequency response via the two additional sound inlet caps included with the MKE 2.
The cable is stainless-steel reinforced, and you can purchase the MKE 2 in a variety of different connector options (3-pin jack, XLR, or open-end). The MKE 2 ships with a windshield, though you can remove it to hide the microphone easily. The cable is also available in either black or beige color options.
Professionals may want to check out the cheaper Sennheiser MKE Essential Omni
The Sennheiser MKE Essential Omni is a streamlined version of the Sennheiser MKE 2. Despite a significantly cheaper starting price, the microphone features the KE 4 capsule derived from the standard MKE 2. There are even some improvements with this capsule, such as a distortion-free signal at even higher sound pressure levels.
The microphone features a sweat-resistant membrane. There are still many extras included, such as rotatable clips, magnetic mounts and makeup cover-ups. You can also buy this microphone in either 3-pin or 3.5mm connector options.
While it may not have the gold plating or sound quality of the more expensive MKE 2, the MKE Essential Omni is more than adequate for most professional use cases. Unless you need the absolute best, you shouldn’t hesitate to pick up this lavalier microphone.
The most versatile lavalier microphone is the Countryman B6
At only one-tenth of an inch in diameter, Countryman claims the B6 is the smallest lavalier microphone in the world. With swappable caps, you get various color options, waterproofing, and sound all from the same microphone.
In addition, the microphone cable features swappable connectors. With the ability to quickly switch from XLR, to 3.5mm, to 3 or 4-pin connectors, this lavalier microphone works with pretty much any recording setup you have.
There’s also tons of aesthetic customization options with this lavalier. The B6 is available in five different color options to match with skin, hair, or clothes. You can also easily color the white caps with a felt-tip marker to completely conceal the microphone on your subject.
The condenser microphone handles levels up to 140dB(SPL) with minimal distortion. The main downside is the cost, which is more than double many of the alternatives on this list.
Is the Sennheiser ME4 a good cardioid lavalier microphone?
If you’re looking for a cardioid lavalier microphone, the Sennheiser ME4 is one of the best options. It’s simple and straightforward, and it does its job well. You don’t get some of the extra features or connectivity options of the aforementioned options on our list, but the cardioid polar pattern will eliminate ambient noises better than the omnidirectional microphones.
The best lavalier microphones: Notable mentions
There are tons of great lavalier microphone options out there, but this article would go on forever if we tried to cover them all. We’ll keep this section updated with all the lavalier microphones that might be worth considering:
- Audio-Technica ATR3350xiS: This omnidirectional lavalier features a physical on/off switch on the cable. It also has an in-line battery pack to power the condenser microphone.
- Audio-Technica PRO 70: If you’re interested in recording an instrument rather than a person, this is the lavalier to get. It includes an instrument adapter for recording acoustic guitar, as well as a low-frequency roll-off and cardioid polar pattern.
- Boya M1: If you simply want an ultra-cheap lavalier microphone, the Boya M1 is a great value. It might not sound as good as the other options on our list, but it comes with a super long cable and all the accessories you need to start recording right from your mobile device.
- Sennheiser MKE 40: One of the best cardioid lavalier microphone options, this professional lavalier will cost you a pretty penny. With that money, you do get a very premium experience, including a hardshell briefcase to carry the microphone and its accessories in.
- Shure WL93: Shure is a well-known brand in the microphone industry, and delivers a solid lavalier microphone with the WL93. It used a 4-pin connector, so you’ll need to connect this lavalier to a compatible transmitter pack.
- Shure MVL: This mobile lavalier microphone is great for vloggers and other creators, as it includes a windscreen, clip, and carrying pouch.
- Sony ECM-LV1: With two omnidirectional microphone capsules, the Sony ECM-LV1 captures stereo sound. While mono is typically fine for most vocal recordings, if you find you need a stereo recording the Sony ECM-LV1 is a great option.
- Sony ECM77B: While expensive, this lavalier from Sony promises to deliver great sound quality.
What you should know about lavalier microphones
What polar pattern should I get?
The polar pattern is an important specification of any lavalier microphone. It describes the directionality of the microphone, and depending on where you’ll be recording, you’ll need to choose either an omnidirectional or unidirectional (cardioid, hypercardioid) microphone.
An omnidirectional microphone pattern captures sound from all directions. This type of microphone picks up room ambiance, so it’s best used in a controlled studio setting. These microphones can sound a bit more natural, and they’re often easier to setup since you don’t have to worry as much about the lavalier placement.
On the other hand, a cardioid microphone’s pickup pattern is heart-shaped, primarily recording sound from the front and sides of the microphone. This means the microphone is forgiving if you aim it in slightly the wrong direction, as long as it is generally facing the target sound source. Since this microphone pattern doesn’t pick up sound from behind the microphone, you should get less background noise in your recording.
While a cardioid microphone is helpful in outdoor environments or anywhere else your subject’s voice may be competing with environmental noise, there are downsides to this microphone pattern as well. You’ll have to consider the proximity effect, which means microphone placement needs to be strategic to get the desired sound.
There are key differences between condenser and dynamic mics
Lavalier microphones can be either dynamic or condenser, and there are some differences worth considering. Condenser microphones are typically more sensitive, and require phantom power to operate, which may drain the battery in your recording device. A dynamic microphone can often handle louder sounds without distorting as much as a condenser, so this is a better option if you plan on screaming into your microphone, or if the talent you plan on miking is very “dynamic”.
How do I choose the right connector?
You’re going to need to make sure you can actually connect the lavalier microphone to your recording setup. A wired lavalier microphone will typically have a 3.5mm jack output to connect directly to your device. This setup is cheapest and easiest to use for beginners, but means you are limited by the length of your cable.
A wireless lavalier uses a transmitter and receiver to send the audio signal from the microphone into your recording device. Often times lavalier microphones are bundled with the transmitter pack, but you can also buy each piece separately. You’ll just need to make sure the connection type matches up with your transmitter, as it could be 3.5mm, USB-C, XLR, or mini-XLR.
How we test lavalier microphones
At SoundGuys, we perform objective tests to measure things like frequency response, isolation, microphone quality, and more. We use a standardized setup to test the microphone quality of products with pre-recorded phrases from a calibrated artificial mouth in our test chamber. This allows us to present standardized microphone samples to you so you can judge the quality of various products and compare them across the board. After we collect all of this data, we then score each product through a variety of objective and subjective measures.
How we choose the best lavalier microphones
Our team confers with one another regarding the best products for a given category and we present our list to you. It’s not over after we hit “publish,” though. We treat every article as a living document that we update as new and worthy products come out. We will continuously update this list as new lavalier microphones are released, and as we put more microphones through our comprehensive testing process.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Each writer at SoundGuys has accumulated years of experience reporting on the consumer audio market, and our staff adheres to a strict ethics policy. We don’t produce sponsored content on the website at a time when doing so is the norm. SoundGuys’ survival depends solely on readers enjoying their purchases. We pride ourselves on transparently outlining objective facts, while accounting for the subjective experience to contextualize an audio product’s performance. When we do misspeak, we correct and own up to it.
Frequently asked questions
Most lavalier microphones come with a clip, which is used to clip the microphone to either a tie or shirt. You can also tape the cable directly to your skin or clothing. You’ll want to try to prevent the cable from moving around as much as possible while recording. To prevent added noise from the cable tugging, try taping the microphone to multiple spots on your subject, or try looping the cable into a knot by the microphone.
Most cameras have a 3.5mm input. If you buy a lavalier microphone with a 3.5mm connector, you can then plug the lavalier cable directly into the camera. You can also use a transmitter and receiver to send audio from your microphone to your camera wirelessly.