This Is Our Favorite Lav Mic System

 Recording clean audio is extremely important but can also be infuriating. Finally, after seven years, we've found a system that seems to work... most of the time. 

The Affordable Option

Possibly the best deal in audio today is the Rodelink Wireless Kit. For just $400 you can get a wireless lav system that actually sounds great. This system isn't going to be as reliable as the setup that we actually use below, but for the price, nothing else that I've seen comes close. Plus, we believe that Rode makes the absolute best lav mic accessories. 

The Problem With The Affordable Option

Although we haven't personally used the Rodelink system, we have used the Rode lav mic and we've read mixed reviews of the system. The main problem seems to be occasional connection interference between the transmitter and receiver. We can say from personal experience that the Rode lav mic sounds great, but it's extremely fragile. Our cables and connectors were shorting out all of the time causing popping, static, and sometimes they would drop out completely. We needed a more reliable system.

Our Favorite Lav System

Our Wireless System Sennheiser G3

We currently own four sets of Sennheiser G3s. They aren't cheap, but they are way cheaper than some other units in the market. This kit is built like a tank and no matter how much abuse we put the transmitter, receiver, and included lav mic through, they keep on working. The problem is that the included mic is pretty big and the accessories available for it are horrible. If your only shooting in the studio with a single mic, this mic will be fine, but we're always using two mics on our talent and filming outside in incredibly windy environments. Because of that, the accessories that can hold the lav mic in place or cut wind noise are extremely important to us. 

Best Lav Mic Sennheiser MKE2

This Mic is the best sounding lav mic we have tested but that's not why we like it. We like this lav because it's almost the same size as the Rode Lav which means that it can accept all of the Rode Lav accessories that we love but the superior build quality means that it won't break every other time we use it. We've been using these mics exclusively for the last year and haven't had a single issue with them. 

Best Lav Mic Clip Sennheiser MZQ 22

Lav mic clips can be infuriating to work with. I'm so thrilled I found the MZQ 22. It can hold one or two mics, it keeps them away from clothes, and it has a clip on the opposite side that can direct excess wires. This keeps the noise down and it keeps the lavs sitting flat on your talent's clothes. This clip will not work with the Rode lav as it's cable is too thin. 

Best Pop Filter Rode WS-LAV

Finally, a pop filter that doesn't fall off! If our subject is going to be moving around we'll keep this on the lav throughout shooting. 

Best Windshield Rode MINIFUR-LAV

This thing is big but if you're in heavy winds, there's really no other option. The rubberized gasket keeps this thing in place

Best Underclothing Mount Rode invisiLav 

We don't use this often, and the included double sided tape doesn't work at all for us. But, if you're looking for a way to mount a lav under someone's clothes without hearing their clothes rustling, this may be your best option. 

Obviously, this system still isn't flawless and we occasionally still get crackles and pops from unknown sources, but this new system finally has brought me peace of mind. I finally feel confident going into a video production knowing that we have reliable gear and the necessary accessories to capture clean audio in almost any situation. If you've got any other gear you love or tips for capturing clean audio, let us know in the comments below. We are always looking for a better, more reliable way. 

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18 Comments

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Time for shopping!

Kenn Tam's picture

Well timed. I was researching systems last month but hadn't gotten around to picking anything up yet. I'm glad I didn't.

Patrick Hall's picture

We have spent entirely too much money finally figuring out our mic system. Glad we can pass that on to you Kenn haha

Spy Black's picture

I use separate recorders and sync in post. Depending on the setup, sometimes I can't monitor the signal, but generally I can. As such, lavs like the $35 Aputure A.Lav feeding into a compact Tascam or Zoom recorder, or a cellphone with recording software becomes a viable recording option for a reasonable price.

The Rode wireless strikes me as a bluetooth unit, which is good, as the FCC just sold some bandwidth to telecoms that some wireless systems rely on, which will render them obsolete very soon.

The Rodelink system uses 2.4GHz transmission. So if there's a lot of Wi-fi around, there's more chance for dropouts as the system constantly jumps between the strongest frequencies. I haven't had any major issues other than range in large crowds.

Spy Black's picture

Yes, it's not s good solution. The bigger problems is telecoms eating up spectrum. Now with a loyal servant in the FCC they'll probably continue to snap up all the spectrum it can steal.

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

I support this choice 100%, G3 system is the best for the price right now. Rode system suffer from weird interference sometime, not reliable. Sony sounds quality is way lower..

Mark Alameel's picture

I'm so happy that F-Stoppers is doing this type of content (like the old days). AWESOME!

Pretty much all of our lavs at the TV station I work at are Sennheiser MKE2s. They sound great. My only gripe with them is that the mic cables have a memory so eventually the cables get kinked and they can't be straightened out.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Best radio system (that I own) is the Audio Ltd 2040 system, although this is now superceded by their new A10 digital rig. Built like a tank, range that goes forever - and through walls, lots of walls. My system is diversity based for signal reliability, (of course the digital system doesn't need this.)

And for mics, I've not found better than either the Tram TR50 (which has been an industry standard for 30+ years), or the Sanken COS11.

Both those mics are easy to hide and have virtually no cable noise. The Sanken gives a very flat response, so I prefer to roll off the audio at 100Hz whislt the Tram has a nice sparky quality to it that cuts nicely through background. Both mics are remarkably clean and work well wit the compasion system of my 2040 mics.

As to under clothing fixing, both mics work well with the fittings supplied, (Tram works best with the mic reversed on its clip aka a PZM arrangement). But if you need a little extra help, Rycote do excellent "Stickies" which render clothing rustle much quieter.

To be honest, I've never quite liked the sound of Sennheiser mics. I've found them a little lifeless and not so clean. (But we all have our own audio preferences).

Certainly sounds like you have more experience than us. I look forward to trying these recommendations.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I started life as a sound engineer with a 24-track studio, and ended up being a sound recordist for BBC Television in the UK. Half of my work is in TV as a cameraman, but I still freelance occasionally as a location recordist - lots of fun.

COS11 All the way, very common among audio pros around here as well. Audio Ltd. less so, but makes sense if you are based in the UK. Its mostly Lectro 400 series around here - my personal set is a Zaxcom tx900LT & RX900S, its digital and the transmitter has recording built in to a micro SD as a safety precaution.

For the invsiLavs have you considered surgical tape rather than duct tape?

Dan Watson's picture

I've started using the Tascam DR-10L which doesn't sound quite as good as the MKE2 but still very good. It records locally so I never have to worry about interference issues, it's small as crap, it records 2 levels in case you have peaking, and it sets up in seconds. It's my go to for live work where I can't stop the shoot...like a wedding/event or when I'm not monitoring the audio (self shooting). For situations where I CAN interrupt the shoot & monitor, the Rode or G3 are great because I can monitor it live and if there is an issue, stop the shoot. But for weddings, you monitor the audio before the shoot and do a lot of praying...and redundancy. It's not like if you discover an issue you are going to run up on stage and fix the lav! So I rarely use my Rode wireless kit which is more risky than the DR-10L.

Lee and Patrick, when you showed you double mic with two lavs....I assume they go to two G3 transmitters? Or is one to a pocket recorder (like a Tascam DR-10L or other). Thank in advance.

Yes 2 g3s

Thank you. You guys always kill it. Great content and style. Thanks.