Comparing Lav Mics

I don’t have a huge collection of lav microphones, but I’ve tried several different models over the years. All of them work amazingly well, though I’ve naturally developed a preference, and I do have one particular model that I tend to use as my “go-to” mic (which I’ll reveal in a moment).

Some wired lavs- from left to right, unmarked EV lav, evCO90, Sony ECM44b, Sony ECM55b

The problem with comparing different lav mic models is that many wireless transmitters use their own wiring conventions. Lectrosonics uses a five-pin connector (a TA5), while Sony and Sennheiser use a 3.5mm jack… and the two aren’t interchangeable. So while I have a fairly diverse collection of lavs, they aren’t all wired to use the same transmitter. One of these days, I’ll get rid of my other transmitters and go “all Lectro,” but that’s a somewhat expensive proposition.

Two Sennheiser lavs

My lav mic locker includes the following:

  • Countryman EMW (wired for Lectrosonics)
  • Countryman B6 (Lectro)
  • Audio Technica 899 (Lectro)
  • Lectrosonics 119
  • Lectrosonics 152
  • Sennheiser ME102
  • Sennheiser ME104
  • Sony ECM44B (hardwire)
  • Sony ECM55B (hardwire)
  • Sony UWP lav
  • EV CO90 (hardwire)
  • EV MysteryLav- looks suspiciously like a Sanken COS11

These two mics are the ones I use most often... a Countryman EMW and my current favorite, the Audio Technica 899

There is a really good article about comparing several different models of lav mics at Ken Stone’s website- click here. I haven’t done extensive side-by-side comparisons of all the mics that I have, but I’ve got some favorites. I found a good deal on some Countryman EMWs. These are small, rectangular, side-address lavs, similar to Trams, which are kind of an industry standard. But Trams were too expensive and only available new. The EMWs small size and resistance to handling noise are big advantages and I used these for several years. But then I happened to try an Audio Technica 899 during a 3-person shoot… two people wore EMWs, and one wore an 899. While all sounded good, I was surprised at the reduction in room noise when I soloed the 899… there was a significant improvement in the amount of background noise. Since then I’ve managed to purchase a set of three 899s, and these are my favorite mics in most situations.

Any mic with a larger head is generally not my first choice on the set, since most clients would rather hide the mic in the talent’s clothing, even though this means a reduction is sound quality. My Sony 55b almost never gets used for this reason, even though it’s an excellent-sounding mic. My Lectrosonics mics have some rather questionable-looking cables, so I keep them to use as backup mics.

2 responses to “Comparing Lav Mics

  1. HI,
    Thanks for this discussion. You wrote “while Sony and Sennheiser use a 3.5mm jack… and the two aren’t interchangeable.”

    What are the differences in wiring? I’m trying to find a way to make an ECM 88 work with my UWP transmitter yet be convertible to hardwired/phantom when needed.

    • I’m not sure what the difference is, exactly, between the wiring/powering methods used by Sony and Sennheiser. I only know that a mic wired for Sennheiser EK series won’t work in a Sony UWP series, and vice versa. You can probably find out this info via the manufacturers websites. Lectro provides extensive information about wiring various mics for their transmitters, but of course, Lectro uses 5 pin mini XLR connectors on their transmitters.

      Making an 88 adaptable to a transmitter would be an interesting experiment, but I’m not 100% sure it can be done… it depends on the power available from the transmitter, which is possibly different from the power delivered by the 88’s connector housing. It’s possible that it’s a 1.5-volt vs a 3-volt situation. I’d definitely contact someone at Sony before you cut the cable on your 88… you could ruin an expensive microphone if you aren’t careful.

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