The best lavalier microphones offer high-quality audio and speech, simply clip on to your subject's lapel or clothing and are completely unobtrusive in use.
When it comes to recording audio for videos or more general applications like podcasts or audiobooks, having a good microphone can make the difference between a polished production and something that seems amateurish.
Often, large studio or USB-powered microphones are the best options for capturing high-quality audio at home or in the studio because of their sensitivity and wide frequency response. However, they’re often big, bulky, and expensive.
Instead, some opt for lapel (otherwise known as lavalier) microphones – known as such because they are often clipped onto the lapels of jackets. They’re small, discreet mics that clip onto the subject and record sound directly into a wireless transmitter or audio recording device. They’re useful for interviews where crew members want to close-mic a subject and remove background audio.
Typically, most lapel mics are condenser types, which means they’re highly sensitive to sound, but they come in a range of pickup patterns. Omnidirectional mics pick up sound from all around, in every direction. This is good when subjects are moving and may move or knock the microphone out of place causing audio drop-out where a subject isn’t speaking directly into the mic, but it also records external noises more easily. Cardioid pickup patterns act like a focused beam which, when pointed at the source, can more easily eliminate extraneous background noise.
Lapel mics vary wildly in price, either because they come with only an inexpensive capsule and cable, or may feature more complex additional hardware such as in-line battery packs, switches, or universal adapters to fit a range of recording devices. The quality of the microphones themselves changes a lot too, with inexpensive models costing $10-20 and professional models up in the hundreds. We’ve rounded up the best lapel mics from budget-busting options to professional-grade, broadcast-quality items, so take a look below.
Best lavalier microphones in 2023
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The Shure MVL is a condenser lapel microphone, and that means improved audio sensitivity over cheaper dynamic mics. Sure, the price is a little higher, but only just, and for that, you get a premium quality product.
Fitted with a fixed 3.5mm jack, some users will require adapters for certain recording hardware. But a high signal-to-noise ratio and in-built interference protection provides clear audio free of unwanted noise. It also comes with a clip to attach to clothing and a wind shield which attenuates wind noise when recording outside.(opens in new tab)
One of the leading lapel microphones in the field, Sennheiser’s MKE 40 is used by professional productions all across the world. It has a great frequency response, which makes it ideal for a range of applications, but stands out from the crowd by performing particularly well at speech at bass frequencies.
It’s capable of recording high gain before reaching feedback levels, making it a good option for those that are micing up in loud environments or in live performances. It has a flexible three-pin connector and comes with a 3.5mm jack to attach to wireless transmitters or direct to a mobile recorder.(opens in new tab)
One of the smaller lapel mics on offer, Rode’s smartLav+ is a discreet option for any users that want the best visual aesthetics when video and audio recording simultaneously. It has a TRRS connection which works great on any TRRS-compatible devices such as smartphones, tablets, and many computers, but will require the TRRS to TRS SC3 adapter for use on TRS-only devices.
A rugged build sees this mic’s 1.2m cable reinforced with Kevlar, and its omnidirectional pickup helps keep a subject’s pickup volume to a maximum no matter the orientation when attached. It doesn’t have the higher max SPL (Sound Pressure Level) at only 110dB but will work fine for almost all applications but the noisiest.(opens in new tab)
While directional pickup patterns can be good for isolating a subject against a busy environment, there are often issues with audio drop-out if the microphone or subject moves. Sony’s ECM-LV1 attempts to stem that issue by utilizing two mic capsules for stereo image recording, providing high gain input no matter how much the subject moves.
A little wider than most other single capsule lapel mics, it might not appeal to everyone, but it’s still small and discreet enough to be clipped to clothing easily enough with the 360 degree rotating clip. There’s also a bespoke windshield to reduce wind noise when recording outside.(opens in new tab)
For those that simply need to plug and play straight into a DSLR or mirrorless camera, this lapel mic from Audio-Technica is ready to go. A sensitive condenser mic, the ATR3350xiS is omnidirectional, which negates issues like audio drop-out when a speaker/performer moves inadvertently.
It has an in-line battery pack with an on/off switch which is useful for muting the microphone but does mean it’s a little bulkier than the competition, and the extra-long cable (3m) is easily tangled. That said, it’s of solid construction and relatively inexpensive considering it’s from a renowned microphone manufacturer. There’s also a mic/headphone adapter for use with tablets/smartphones/computers that have 3.5mm input connections.(opens in new tab)
Designed as a lapel microphone for general use and speech, with a mid-range frequency boost, but it does have a limited frequency response (40Hz - 15kHz) which may not be ideal for use on musical instruments or other audio sources. However, for the average filmmaking user or podcaster this mic works a treat thanks to its omnidirectional pickup pattern.
One thing to note for those wanting to plug it directly into a smartphone, DSLR or mirrorless camera, or computer, is that it comes with a B-type XLR connector which is a standard microphone connector for professional use but will require an adapter for use on 3.5mm jacks.
The Joby Wavo Lav PRO (opens in new tab) lavalier mic enables you to capture cleaner, louder and more professional sounding audio on your digital camera, and it’s easy to conceal thanks to an ultra small capsule. The 2.5m cable enables you transport sound from an interviewee’s hard-wired mic straight to the camera, while giving you the distance to frame up a classic ‘talking head’ composition.
You can plug it straight into a DSLR’s mic port and instantly improve the quality of the sound that it captures, though it won’t work if you plug it directly into a smart phone’s headphone socket. The mic also extends the functionality of other sound kits in the JOBY Wavo range (opens in new tab).
The Boya BY-XM6-S2 wireless microphone system gives two subjects the freedom to walk and talk for up to 100m, without obstacles, while their sound is transmitted to your device. That makes this system a great option for vloggers, YouTube content makers and documentary interviewers.
Both transmitters come paired with the receiver straight from the box, so they're quick and easy to set up. And both have built-in mics, so you can simply clip a transmitter to your subject’s clothing and start recording. There's also built-in headphone jack so that you can monitor the sound during the recording, although iPhone users will find it a shame there's no 3.5mm jack to lightning port adaptor.
When we tried it out, the sound occasionally dropped out when the transmitter lost line of sight with the receiver. However otherwise we could hear the presenter loud and clear, even from some distance away.
For more information, read our Boya BY-XM6-S2 review.
If the 100m range of the Boya BY-XM6 (above) isn't enough, how about 200m?
Each of the transmitters, and the receiver, has a built-in Li-po battery which is able to give up to seven hours' life when recording uncompressed audio. But that's not all: if they’re set to record compressed audio, that time extends up to around 43 hours.
When we tested it out, we found the Wireless Go II capable of producing high-quality natural-sounding audio in a wide range of situations. Provided your transmitter is in line of sight of your receiver, the range is impressive, and even if you lose it, you'll still have onboard recording as a backup.
For more details, see our Rode Wireless Go II microphone review (opens in new tab).
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