For quite some time I had been wanting to buy a lavalier microphone to improve my smartphone video productions.
For those that do not know what a lavalier microphone is, also known as a lapel mic, it’s what news desk anchors and talk show hosts have clipped onto their shirt or suit lapel. Generally speaking though, the ones used by TV personalities are both wireless and very expensive.
Luckily for me, Rode, a company who manufactures microphones, has produced an affordable lavalier microphone designed specifically for use with smartphones. It has a three-foot wire and plugs into the headphone jack of any smartphone. Their original version, which was simply called the SmartLav, retailed for about $70 (CAD). Their new and improved version, offering broadcast quality audio and called the SmartLav+, retails for approximately $100 (CAD).
I had been controlling my impulses on buying it for quite some time now. Then just the other day I found it on special for $89.99. Wanting to take advantage of the discount, I found myself in line at the cash register before the store clerk even had time to ask me if I needed help with anything.
Inside the box, the microphone comes with a little leather-like ”baggie” for carrying and protection. It also comes with a small velcro loop to keep the wire properly wound up as well as the required clip to affix the microphone on your clothing.
I immediately tested my new SmartLav+, both at home without any background noise as well as out in public with a lot of background noise.
While the SmartLav+ does give priority to the voice or sound closest to it, as an omnidirectional microphone it does pick up the background and ambient noise just as much as the built-in microphone on the smartphone.
Where it excels is inside without any background noise, or, if you are filming with a different camera while recording the audio onto a smartphone to be synched together afterwards in video post-production.
For example, if somebody were giving a presentation at the front of the room, or on stage, you could wire them up with the SmartLav+, plug it into a smartphone and drop the phone into their pocket. Meanwhile you could film from the back of the room or even change the position of the camera during the presentation and you would still get a pristine audio recording of the presentation happening at the front, or on stage.
The mic cord is only three feet long, which is plenty to go between you and your smartphone if you are facing your smartphone camera like a journalist reporting the news. It is also plenty long enough to go between the mic on your shirt and a smartphone tucked away in a pocket.
Now obviously use of the SmartLav+ microphone is not limited to video making. In fact you could use it to simply record an audio interview or anything audio related.
Rode also produces an adapter, the SC6, which allows for two microphones and a pair of headphones to be plugged-in at the same time. This is ideal for conducting an interview where both the interviewee and interviewer would have their own dedicated SmartLav mic. And with the headphones plugged-in at the same time, the ability for you or a stagehand/sound engineer to test and monitor the audio quality by listening ”live” to what is being recorded.
Rode also offers an app called Rode Rec, which is a professional audio recorder equipped with all of the required editing tools. The app does however cost $6.99 to purchase and seems to be available only for users of iPhone and iPod Touch, or at least this is how it appears in the Apple based app store.
Personally I was a little disappointed that the app is not free of charge for those that have purchased a Rode microphone, but since I am not an audio recording professional I imagine that I can live without it. They do also offer a free introductory version called Rode Rec LE, which allows for a trial of the core features of the full version. So far though, I have simply been recording video and then extracting the audio from the video when needed. I have therefore not yet bothered to try out their app.
In conclusion I am happy with my purchase. I am looking forward to producing more smartphone based videos using my SmartLav+ microphone, although going forward I truly hope they make an affordable Bluetooth version. This is something that Jade Sambrook would clearly buy, on special or not!
In the meantime, if you’d like to see my review and video test results of the SmartLav+, I invite you to watch my YouTube video by clicking here.