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Little Mics Can Be Huge For Live
Design specifics and applications of headset, lavalier and miniature microphones...
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DPA d:fine headsets come in both dual- and single-ear formats, and additionally have a short-boom option for greater concealment. Avlex Mipro offers the low-profile HSP-09 single-ear headset, which weighs less than half an ounce and has a detachable cable, along with the HS-48 that provides a unique full-circle attachment for the ear.

I’ve found that a very comfortable and stable single-ear design features a bit thicker “C” of soft-molded plastic covering a malleable metal core that can be fitted precisely around the ear. Models in this format include the Mogan Elite Earset, Que Audio DA-12, and Galaxy Audio ES3. 

Reliable miniature models are a blessing for applications where it’s essential that the mics are virtually invisible, such as theatrical performances. They’re attached at the hairline or in a similar stable location on the talent, and are typically wired to a wireless transmitter.

The Sennheiser MKE 2 lavalier has long been a standard for concealed sound reinforcement, combining tiny size with moisture resistance and a wide frequency response. An omni element delivers a response within a +/-3 dB tolerance, and two “sound inlet caps” are available for tailoring high-frequency response.

By the way, the MM-MSLM MatchStick lapel mic from MMAudio is the aforementioned Cameron’s miniature mic choice for performers in Sierra Stages productions.

The venerable Sennheiser MKE 2 lavalier.

Off-Axis Response
When miniature mics are placed on instruments, it’s usually possible to position the mic on-axis to the sound source. But when using them for vocals, positioning is more difficult and can lead to excessive breath noise and plosives distorting the audio.

The typical ideal position for a headset mic is for the element to be just slightly behind the corner of the mouth, yet even with this placement, what is being received (especially if a directional headset is being used) has a different balance of frequencies compared with singing directly into a handheld. 

This tendency becomes more apparent when the mic must be placed on the head at a distance from the mouth, and can be extreme when using a lavalier mic at a neck or chest position. Omnis can be more forgiving here than directional models, while attaching the “high boost” caps can help overcome the natural attenuation of high frequencies off-axis.

Countryman even offers instructions for attaching a B6 lavalier to eyglasses with an O-ring.

Equalization is also often required. Cameron describes his basic headset EQ settings on the current production: “Once the baseline was established for the most easily over-excited frequencies, they were notched out on a 4-band parametric EQ on the main mix bus. I really only had to notch 8 dB at a couple of frequencies, with quarter-octave Q at about 350 and 800 Hz.

“During rehearsals,” he continues, “I noticed an overall lack of top-end sibilance on all of the mics, so I added a mild high-frequency shelf from 5 kHz on up, probably about 6 dB-per-octave of so. This gave a little more ‘air’ and definition to the actors and helped them cut through better.”

On the individual channels, Cameron found that several of the male voices had a bit too much down in the 200 to 300 Hz range, so he put in some soft cuts in that range to lightly boost intelligibility. Female voices tended to be more “boxy” up a little higher, around 300 to 450 Hz, so he applied some small cuts in that range.

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