Don’t let the small size fool you – many models can provide performance comparable (or better) than lavaliers...
February 19, 2014, by Jeff McLeod
Earset, headworn, and over-the-ear microphones are quickly taking the place of lavalier and handheld microphones in many houses of worship.
As with all microphones, choosing the right one for your application is important, so here I will discuss a few of the deciding factors all churches should consider, and I’ll make some recommendations on specific models.
Why choose an over-the-ear microphone in the first place? Since the diaphragms of most earset mics are mini-me sized, they won’t have the strong robust sound that a handheld or larger lavalier microphone has.
But don’t let their small size fool you – they can still provide very rich and professional performance. One of the most appealing benefits of an earset mic is that it stays in one place when worn properly, so regardless of whether the user moves his or her head, the mic stays at the same location.
This can be a sound tech’s favorite feature because he/she doesn’t have to constantly ride the fader or use a less-than-desirable compressor/expander setting on a dynamics processor to overcome the physical and mechanical moves that can occur, particularly with a more animated speaker or singer.
Here are a few points to consider when choosing an earset microphone:
1) What will the mic be used for? If it is for speech only, then its frequency response isn’t as much of a concern, so you have many options.
Offering defined clarity at a very affordable price, the OSP Audio HS-09 is one of my favorites for liturgy. If the mic needs to also handle the task of singing vocals, then that narrows the field a bit. You will need a mic with a high-quality capsule that can handle the added SPL, like the Sennheiser HSP4 or the DPA 4066, both of which are available in reduced-sensitivity versions for very loud vocals (be sure to specify your preference when ordering the mic).
2) Wired or Wireless? This might seem odd at first, but not all headworn mics require a wireless setup. For example, you might have a singing drummer, or the drummer might be the band leader and will need to communicate over a monitor system to the rest of the worship team.
Since his/her hands are occupied, a headworn mic is a good choice, but he/she won’t benefit from the freedom of movement that a wireless system would provide. So why not save some $ and go wired?
The same would apply for any team member who doesn’t necessarily need to move around. Almost any headworn or over-the-ear mic can be terminated for wired or wireless use – you just need to specify “XLR termination” when you order.
On that note, a handy problem-solver that should be in every sound tech’s toolbox is the Provider Series PPA (Phantom Power Adaptor).
The PPA allows you to transform any lavalier or headworn microphone that’s been configured for Shure, Sennheiser or Audio-Technica wireless systems into a hardwired microphone.
This inexpensive accessory can be a performance-saver if you can’t find a clear frequency, run out of spare batteries, or if your wireless system fails at exactly the wrong time.
3) Live or Broadcast? If you’re preaching or performing live on stage with a headworn microphone, consider your proximity to nearby loudspeakers and stage monitors.
You’ll usually get a fuller, richer sound from omnidirectional mics, but they are more prone to feedback.
To avoid this, choose an earset mic with a directional pickup pattern – most manufacturers offer both omni and cardioid versions of their earsets.
If you’re streaming video of your services or producing DVDs, the miniature size of over-the-ear mics can be very appealing, particularly for close-up shots on the pastor’s/speaker’s face. Many earset mics are very stealthy in their appearance and come in different flesh tones for a variety of skin colors.
Some manufacturers even make short-boom versions – the Countryman E2 and Audio-Technica BP893 are examples. These mics are nearly invisible on camera and are easily hidden in makeup.
4) Form and Fit. You may have noticed that not everyone’s ears are the same size and shape! Further, the way the microphone attaches to the head is different between brands and models. Many, like the Countryman E6, have a traditional single ear design; one single-ear mic I really like is the Audio-Technica BP892, because its boom hangs under the ear for a very natural feel.
Other microphones employ a two-ear design and tend to stay in place better for the more active user.
If you’re not sure which type would better suit your application, look for a single-ear mic with a dual-ear accessory clip, like the Point Source R-DMC, which will give you the flexibility of both.
5) Durability. Not all over-the-ear mics are created to withstand the rigors of constant use.
Although you’ll get good, lasting performance from most of them, some are known for their fragility due to very small size and cable diameters.
Make sure that if the user has a heavy-handed tendency with the mic that you choose a robust tool for the job, like the Point Source CO-7 which boasts an “unbreakable boom”.
Many earset mics have replaceable cables, windscreens and cable clips, so it’s always a good idea to order spares.
Countryman even offers a 2 mm diameter “Duramax” cable for all of their E6 series mics.
And please, discourage your users from winding the cable around the bodypack for storage – always unplug the microphone, gently coil the cable and place it back in its case.
6) Special Features. Some earset mics are now available with an integrated earbud that allows the user to hear whatever you send back to them for monitoring.
The Da-Cappo DA15 is one example, and Countryman offers an accessory cable for the E2 and E6 earsets that will attach to a single Shure SE425 or SE535 earphone (with a dual earphone version coming later this year).
As wireless in-ear monitoring continues to gain favor, I expect this configuration to become more common.
Church Audio Video specializes in the design, installation and support of high-quality and affordable custom audio, video, lighting, broadcast and control systems for worship facilities. For more information, visit their website.