In this microphone comparison test, I take five different common microphone setups videographers consider and put them side by side in a blind test so you can listen to which one you like best.
This is the video I wish I had when I was a young videographer.
Starting out with videography, I worked for a company that needed to shoot training videos. We had an awesome speaker, a great camera, lighting, and even a dedicated studio. The only thing missing was how to get good audio. I found out (from the viewers of the video) how important that would be, especially considering the room was untreated and audio issues were glaring.
Over the years I’ve worked with all kinds of microphones, probably close to fifty different kinds, in all sorts of ways and have narrowed my selection down to the five most common uses I’ve seen. I’ve had to get good sounding audio out of all kinds of situations with different mics and settings and this blog will give you an idea of how to get started doing that.
With music engineering, mixing and master in my background, I’ve also taken into account the audio editing process and which microphone setup works best with audio editing considered.
Here is a breakdown of the five different microphone scenarios. Keep in mind, this is just a list of the scenarios and does not reveal the order of the microphones in the blind test.
1. Shotgun Microphone Scenario
Microphone: Sennheiser ME-66 w/K6 Module
Distance from Talent: approx. 10 inches from their lips.
Price Range of Setup: $200.00 – $300.00
Microphone Description: The Sennheiser ME-66 is the industry standard for shotgun microphones. It has been used for many years and is frequently found at the end of a boom pole in broadcast applications. It’s surprisingly affordable and deals can be found on eBay.
2. Lavalier Microphone
Microphone: Rode Wireless GO
Distance from Talent: approx. 8 inches from their lips.
Price Range of Setup: $150.00 – $200.00
Microphone Description: The Rode Wireless GO microphone is quickly becoming an industry standard. For years, videographers had to make a serious investment into lavalier because in order to get the desired quality, you had to spend some serious cash. The Rode Wireless GO brings a quality sound with a reasonable price tag.
3. Vocal Microphone
Microphone: Samson Q7
Distance from Talent: approx. 10 inches from their lips.
Price Range of Setup: $20.00 – $80.00
Microphone Description: The Samson Q7 is an extremely popular vocal mic possibly only shadowed in popularity by its twin, the Shure SM58. This is not common for videographers but I included it in the test so you could listen and hear the direct side by side difference between a $20.00 generic microphone and a $300.00 broadcast microphone.
4. Camera Mounted Microphone
Microphone: Azden SGM-PDII
Distance from Talent: approx. 3 feet from their lips.
Price Range of Setup: $50.00 – $120.00
Microphone Description: This setup is meant to represent all camera mounted setups. Whether you have a Rode Videomic Pro or an Audio Technica mounted to your camera, this setup demonstrates the camera mounted setup. What’s important to note is the qualities this setup exhibits in the environment. You can be sure the microphone is a small detail in comparison to its placement in relation to the talent.
5. In Camera Microphone
Microphone: Blackmagic Cinema Camera in Camera Audio
Distance from Talent: approx. 10 feet from their lips.
Price Range of Setup: $0.00
Microphone Description: There is really not much to note here. The in camera microphone is not supposed to be used on this camera and on most DSLR’s the difference is going to be negligible. For example, I’ve used a Canon t2i’s in camera microphone and have had very similar results.
Raw Audio Comparison
Here is the timestamp for the RAW audio comparison. RAW audio simply means audio that has not been edited to make it sound cleaner and/or better. I did level all of the raw audio to 0 db so volume is not a factor (as an audio guy, I’m well aware louder sounds better).
Edited Audio Comparison
Here is a timestamp for the edited audio. Edited audio means all of the audio has been treated to sound as clean and clear as possible. I did my best and spent time on each audio scenario individually to highlight what was good about the sound and negate what was bad. Yes, I even tried to salvage the in camera audio as much as possible. It’s actually pretty interesting.
Generally, I put all of the audio files through -12db gain staging, noise reduction treatment, analogue preamp emulation, eqing, compressing, and a full mastering process. I am considering creating a video in the future for this process. Please leave a comment if you think I should!
3 Key Takeaways
A – Lav Mic
B – Vocal Mic
C – In Camera Mic
D – Shotgun Mic
E – Camera Mounted Mic
Takeaway 1 - Microphone Placement is Key
As a videographer, you have to be resourceful and flexible. However, if your audio is of any importance to you, I think this test shows that microphone placement is not something you should skimp on.
You heard in the test the difference between the B. Vocal Mic and D. Shotgun mic. There’s hundreds of dollars of difference in the microphones but at the end of the day, the audio sounds quite similar!
This is because of the placement of the microphone.
Even the E. Azden microphone, which is similar to the D. Sennheriser microphone doesn’t perform nearly as well as the B. Samson Q 7 Vocal Mic because it was placed 3 feet away.
Takeaway 2 - Shotgun Microphones Sound Better than Lavaliers (at this price point)
This is probably my favorite outcome of this test. Personally, before the test I was pretty stoked about the Rode Wireless GO thinking it could stand as well of a chance against my boom mics.
While I will certainly be using the lav mic in the future, I see myself making much more efforts to try and work in my shotgun microphone.
It just sounds better.
It’s cleaner, clearer and I would say has more dynamic range than the lavalier.
Takeaway 3 - Audio Editing Goes A Long Way
On the B. Vocal Microphone, you can actually hear a decent amount of buzzing in the RAW audio. While this isn’t ideal for a neutral test, it actually highlights something useful when you compare it to the edited audio. In the RAW audio you can hear the buzzing, but once the audio has been treated, it’s nearly inaudible.
With some meticulous and systematic editing, I was able to get the vocal mic, even with buzzing, up to the standards of a proper broadcast mic. Even further, while the lavalier sounds compressed and tight in the RAW audio, you can hear in the edited audio how it can be brought out to be made fuller and more dynamic.
Ultimately, your audio setup will be defined by your need, budget and time. These scenarios are meant to compare and contrast the different situations so you can make the most educated decision on what you want to go with.
If you have the need, budget and time to rig up an expensive shotgun microphone right above your talent to get the ultimate in audio fidelity, then that’s awesome.
But if you have the need, budget and time to rig up a spare vocal mic really quickly and try and fiddle around with it in the editing process, then that’s awesome too.
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