At the university where I work, it came to my attention that our faculty would like to record interviews with colleagues to include as content in their courses; a practice we highly encourage. As professional practitioners they have access to experts and clients with all types of experience that can add real world context and value to their courses, simply by sharing a story.
One such faculty was traveling on business and scheduled a meeting with a colleague who volunteered to share some real world examples and industry lessons learned. As the meeting was somewhat impromptu, I had little time to evaluate recording options, and ended up with an acceptable, but low quality recording. For that reason, I would like for you to benefit from my loss, by equipping you with the right tools for successful video production in the field.
Tools at your disposal
For the most part, we all have the tools to produce audio and video out in the field. Laptops, tablets, and cellphones are ubiquitous in the marketplace and we all own at least one, if not all three.
As we have come to accept, all of these tech devices are equipped with built-in cameras and microphones; and while they were not specifically designed for field recording, they are convenient tools nonetheless. One less accepted fact is that these built-in devices are poor quality at best, as they are often not the key feature of the device. And in order to maximize the quality of your production it is important to know the limitation of your devices, and identify some accessories that can help us level up our production.
Recording with Cell Phones and Tablets
With the exception of laptops, the built-in camera lenses for cell phones and tablets are actually quite high in quality, which is what makes these devices excellent for shooting interviews and demonstration videos impromptu, out in the field. Unfortunately, their built-in microphones are terrible.
They’re typically omni-directional mics with narrow frequency response that record sound from all directions in equal strength, giving very little precedent to sources in close proximity. These built-in microphones are designed to pass voice signals in the human speech range to our recipient’s device during phone calls as cheaply and lo-fi as possible, and for that reason we are willing to accept a certain degraded quality.
When it comes to improving audio, thankfully, the input electronics on these devices are able to accept a myriad of external microphones, allowing you to take better control of your signal quality.
A few months back I reached out to manufacturers, and requested some devices that I could test to see if there were affordable options on the market for consumers. By donation we received three lavalier (lapel) microphones (that come at around $50 retail) to test and either praise or protest. I also picked up some compact directional microphones to test that will do or die by my recommendations.
Have a listen for yourself to determine which microphones sound best to you.
W/ TRRS Connector
|Samsung Galaxy Phone
Using Video App
Using Explain Everything
|Device (no mic)|
|iRig Mic Lav|
|Earbuds w/ Mic|
|Rode Video Mic Me*|
|*Compact Directional Microphones|
Omni-directional Mic Comparisons
|MIC||Azden EX503i||iRig Mic by IK Multimedia||Shure MVL Mic||Earbuds w/ Mic|
|Sound Quality||Good||Very Good||Excellent||Fair|
|Freq. Range||unpublished||30Hz – 16kHz||45hz – 20kHz||unpublished|
|Notes||Gets the job done.||Dual input, excellent for interviews.||Sensitive, built for hi-fidelity voice recording.||Gets the job done. When its all you have, its still better than your mobile device’s built in mic.|
All three of the donated lavalier microphones are excellent picks for personal field recordings, and are plug and play ready, meaning they require no special setup or software unless preferred by the user. Each have unique characteristics which justify its pricing and quality, and all are approved by Tech It Out Now to deliver the quality recording results your audience deserve from your multimedia.
Below I have provided a breakdown of each microphone identifying unique qualities and characteristics, followed by an “in-short” comparison summary and recommendation.
- EX503i Studio Pro Lapel Mic by Azden i-Coustics
- iRig Lav Mic by IK Multimedia
- MVL by Shure
- Earbuds with Mic
- Røde VideoMic Me
- Saramonic iMic
Summary and Recommendation
The iRig lavalier microphone by IK Multimedia is probably the best pick for faculty field recording due to its ability to chain multiple units together for interviewing, sturdy travel case and reliable middle of the road sound quality. In terms of sound quality the MVL by Shure is the runaway hero of this comparison in terms of clarity, vocal range quality, and noise cancellation. If you have to have the best, and you don’t mind spending the money, the Shure MVL is your pick. All that said, do not discount the EX503i by Azden iCoustics. The unit is rugged, built to last and delivers perfectly desirable sound quality. There is no shame in the economical choice, and we will not turn away your multimedia recordings with this mic. Whenever possible we recommend against recording your earbud-mic combo, but if your voice isn’t too bass-y it could pass, and is probably better than recording with your built in device mic. Of course we can’t force you to spend the money, but a decent mic will go a long way and depending on the age of your kids you may find borrowed quite often.