Lavs That Cost Less

Q I’m a sound mixer for an internal media production group at a nonprofit. I have my own gear for when I freelance, but prefer not to use it at work, as my job doesn’t have the budget to pay me to rent my sound gear. My boss has charged me with locating and purchasing four wired lavalier microphone systems, and I’m stumped, as my own kit features Sanken and DPM lavaliers that cost quite a bit, and I’m not familiar with what’s available as I’ve had my lavaliers for several years. Are there any inexpensive lavaliers on the market that are low cost, yet high quality?
Eric G.
Via email

A The Sanken and DPM lavaliers you have in your kit generally cost between $250 and $500, depending on the model, and provide very high-quality sound and great reliability. In audio gear, you usually get what you pay for, as you know, but your question brings to mind one that I faced several years ago when I was looking for an inexpensive, yet high-quality short shotgun microphone for my travel kit.

When shooting locally, I prefer to use a fairly high-end shotgun microphone, but the model that I prefer is quite costly, and when it’s put into the case that it came with, along with a few microphone accessories, the overall package is quite bulky. I’ve had airlines lose gear when I’m flying, and my camera backpack was already well packed with gear, so I usually ended up placing my shotgun microphone with my checked luggage. I was always terrified that I would arrive at my destination and have the airline lose or misroute my luggage. I decided that I would purchase a low-cost, yet hopefully high-quality shotgun for the travel kit. That way, if the airlines lost it, I would be out a few hundred dollars versus a few thousand dollars for my normal microphone.

Through comparing a dozen different shotgun microphones, I discovered the perfect solution. It was a name-brand short shotgun that, in testing, equaled in sound quality microphones that cost two to three times as much. It also was physically light and small enough in its case that I could pack it into my often weight-restricted carry-on luggage.

My point is that if you search hard enough, you can sometimes find gear that breaks a new price and performance paradigm. In that same sprit, Oscar SoundTech (www.oscarsoundtech.com) makes one such line of gear that I recently discovered. Their lavalier microphones have been on the market for a few years, and I saw some write-ups and posts on them, but at the time, they somewhat resembled inexpensive knockoffs of popular gear that I already was using, so I really never seriously investigated their microphones. Fast-forward a couple of years, and I finally had a chance to borrow three of their microphones from a colleague to put them through their audio paces.

The OST 801/802 are basically the same model of lavalier microphone, but one variant has an elevated high-end boost (OST 801), which is very handy when placing the microphone under wardrobe, while the other has a flat high-end response (OST 802), which is best for situations where the microphone can be visible on talent.

Physically, the 801/802 resemble the Tram/Sonotrim/Countryman EMW models. They’re small, rectangular lavalier microphones that are available with a variety of accessories and in various configurations to fit different models of wireless microphone systems.

Here are the OST 801/802 specs:
Miniature electret condenser mic
Omnidirectional polar pattern
Size: 0.45×0.76×1.37 centimeters
Cable: Strong, shielded—1.52 meters (5 feet)
Exceptionally low sensitivity to solid-borne vibration; a novel electret element and integral preamplifier are included; internal filter provides highly efficient RF suppression
Output impedance: 3500 Ohm
Current drain: 25 uA
Supply voltage: 1.3 V
Frequency response: 20-16000 Hz
Available in black, white, tan or gray
Large variety of accessories
Supports most universal connector types