How to choose a lav mic

Sound is one of the most essential aspects of any video production. Much like cinematography, lighting, and editing, inconsistent sound can distract from your project. Options to capture representative sound vary case-by-case. Lavaliers, also known as lapel microphones, exist solely to make your job easier.

The two most common types of lavaliers are directional and omnidirectional. While they appear similar, their functions couldn’t be more different. Directional lavs have a much higher wind resistance than their counterpart, due to their concentration on one input. They are especially convenient for outdoor interviews.

Omnidirectional lavaliers, on the other hand, are best used in a studio environment. They are an adaptive tool to capture sound from your subject and its surrounding area. Omnidirectional mics are much more likely to pick up subtle auditory cues and room tone. They prove to be useful for creating perfect audio synchronization in your final mix.

The creative filmmaker

Filmmakers have flexibility in their choice of secondary audio sources thanks to the industry-standard use of boom poles and ADR to record dialogue. Omnidirectional lavaliers are ideal to minimize the number of microphones and inputs you’ll need to manage.

With a -46+2dB sensitivity, PowerDeWise’s omnidirectional lavalier picks up the slightest, faltering whisper. Amateur filmmakers use many unidirectional lavs where one omnidirectional mic does the trick. This creates a lack of sync in natural sound on set, an issue that creates tedium in editing. Omnidirectional lavaliers do the same job, with less work in post, and a richer acoustic tone in your projects.

diagram of cardioid and omnidirectionl pickup patterns
A lav with a directional cardioid pick up pattern (left) will ensure your subject is clearly heard in noisier environments. An omnidirectional lav, on the other hand, can be used to pick up the ambiance of the surrounding environment.

An adept sound editor will find this most useful.

On a professional video production, lavaliers hide behind set pieces. Though easier said than done, using clever set production to hide an omnidirectional wired mic is a fiscally rewarding try. When creating films, budget is everything.

Documentary filmmakers and journalists

To maximize the potential of interview audio and creative shots, while battling the trope of the two-camera interview, documentary filmmakers and journalists should consider wireless, unidirectional lavs. Wireless lavs record channels through specific radio frequencies, so the devices must synchronize with your camera inputs. You must also coordinate with other journalists when attending large events to avoid interference. Subjects can stand at long distances with much more flexibility on how they move, act and stand. Agility is key in an active news environment, and being able to follow reporters is important.

Photo of a wired lav.
Wired lavs are generally more reliable than their wireless counterparts. Just make sure the attached wire is long enough to meet the needs of your production. For newsgathering, you’ll want a wire that’s at least 79 inches long.

For traditional interviews, the two-camera set up works with wired lavaliers, too, but omnidirectional microphones are in no way necessary; in fact, the additional noise will distract from the speaker. When using wired lavaliers for journalistic interviews, length matters. No lavaliers should be below a wire length of 79 inches lest consumers risk further purchases to compensate. Unidirectional lavaliers are best because only subjects will be mic’d. 

Corporate and event videographers

In the fast-paced world of freelance videography, a wireless lavalier will serve as your lifeline. The key to an unpredictable environment is mobility, mobility, mobility. Preparation gifts you with a key advantage over unfamiliar territory. Omnidirectional, wireless lavaliers prepare you best to be everywhere at once.

Here’s a tip: Close your eyes, lend the venue your ears, and follow the most exciting thing you hear.

Here’s a tip: Close your eyes, lend the venue your ears, and follow the most exciting thing you hear. Take, for example, a children’s birthday party, a momentous occasion. A lot will be happening around you, too much to video. So prioritize. Capture the wonderment in a child’s eyes as they blow out their birthday candles. Show them opening their presents. You can follow the sea of children eagerly shouting out, “Rip it!” Your microphone should be able to, as well.

Marketing video producers

Local video producers often produce content from a studio of their own. However, it is common for commercial freelancers to create promotional videos on sight. The standard format follows a business owner or spokesperson as they describe the business they are promoting, often with a jingle. Less frequently utilized are standard commercials, with a central selling point, for budgeting concerns. In any case, unidirectional wired lavs will certainly get the job done, with omnidirectional lavs used only for artistic purposes (echo, room tone, etc). In specific cases highlighting outdoor areas like public events and car dealerships, wind filters should be used on any microphone as a precaution.

Online video producers

Online producers have the most freedom of any media producers. YouTubers, for example, have the freedoms to decide when to upload. Content ranges from scripted skits to home videos, along with everything in-between. Each setup has its own individual nuances and pitfalls and it would be impossible to cover them all. There are many right ways to set up your recording station, each depending on intent. Yet, for streamers on websites such as, there is one definitive wrong way. Wireless lavaliers have batteries, batteries that need to charge periodically. Unidirectional, wired lavaliers are much more reliable than wireless lavaliers for long-term live streaming, and will maintain consistent quality.

When purchasing a lavalier, there are many options, and finding a perfect fit for your needs can be a hassle. For additional information, be sure to check out our microphone buyer’s guide.

Augustus Griffith Jr.
Augustus Griffith Jr.
Augustus Griffith Jr. is a devout writer from Parkland,FL. He enjoys SCUBA, video editing and creating his own film music. He's been featured in two books from Penguin Random House, and one of his own.

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