They aren’t all the same in fit, functionality, frequency response or even wireless pack compatibility...
May 29, 2014, by Chris Huff
Pick the wrong headworn microphone and pastors will want their old lapel mics back. Transition successfully, from lapel mic to headworn mic, by picking the right microphone for the job. They aren’t all the same in fit, functionality, frequency response or even wireless pack compatibility.
The audio tech grew tired of begging the pastor to “Please put the lapel mic in the right spot.” Every weekend sermon had the tech pushing the mic gain to the limit so the congregation could hear the pastor while not hearing feedback. After the 87th complaint of “I couldn’t hear the sermon,” he decided it was time for a change.
Walking through the local music shop, the tech grabbed the first headworn microphone he saw. This would be his happiest moment. Or so he thought…
The Real Story
No, that tech was not me. I’ve been at churches where I’ve seen lapel mics placed in non-ideal locations. The volume would plummet and spike as the pastor turned his head from side to side. I could only guess what the tech was thinking. Let’s look at that story for what’s wrong:
—The pastor should learn how to put a lapel mic in the right spot.
—The tech should not take it on himself to force the pastor to use a new mic style.
—Headworn microphones are not all the same.
—Techs don’t have that kind of extra money to throw around. This ain’t no fairy tale!
Making The Transition
Before jumping into the details of headworn mics, let’s first talk transitioning. From my experience, pastors either don’t mind using the headworns or they’re openly resistant. The reason for resistance is because they think they look cheesy or because “it’s what an entertainer would wear.”
The mics come in a variety of types, many of which seem invisible from a distance. When it comes to the “entertainer” mentality, there is only so much you can do.
In either case, approach the pastor with photos of the mics and photos of other pastors using them. Also, explain how these microphones enable all of their words (the message) to be heard without the problems that your lapel (lavaliere) mic currently presents – if, indeed, you are having problems.
Headworn Microphone Types
Most are condensers with omnidirectional polar patterns. Some offer directional polar patterns. The biggest noticeable difference, aside from frequency response, is the way in which the mic is secured to the user.
They can have a wrap-around design so they hook around both ears. Or, they can hook to a single ear, referred to as an earworn microphone. The Electro-Voice RE97TX, shown above, is an example of the single-ear design, and as you can see, it’s also available in three colors.
Other manufacturers offer a dual-ear design that typically fasten more securely, and some also offer the option of placing the microphone on either the left or right side. The Countryman H6 (left) and AKG HC577L, shown below, are two such models.
Each model has a unique feel when worn. Work with the pastor on identifying one they find comfortable.
LIME GREEN! That’s crazy, right? Headworn mics are usually available in four common colors; beige, black, tan, brown. However, you can find them in lime green, pink, “transparent,” and various shades of tan for better matching skin tone.
Standing Or Jumping Jacks?
Usage is a consideration when selecting the right microphone. And since we’re talking about usage by pastors, not aerobics instructors, I’ll present this simple idea: the more active (animated) the pastor, the more you might want to consider the full wrap-around style. I’ve seen the single-ear mics stay in place when the pastor was walking around on stage, as it should. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Cost – This isn’t A Jazzercise Class
What’s your budget? These mics run the price gamut—$100, $200, $700… even under $30. Peavey offers the PV-1 for $27.99. Is that what I’d recommend? No, not for a pastor. The lower the price, the bigger the head gear and microphone.
Personally, I find the large mics distracting. If a drummer wants to use one, that’s OK. For that matter, if a jazzercise instructor needs one, great. If your job involves asking “Do you want fries with that,” then size doesn’t matter.
The price is determined by more than just the size. The quality, durability, moisture-resistance, and frequency response all go into the price.
Here’s a small sampling of mic prices:
—Countryman H6 – $680
—DPA d:fine – $620
—RODE HS-1 – $480
—Samson SE50T – $250
—Shure MX153 – $249
Plugs & Cables
Be aware the mic wire plug, for connecting to the wireless pack, can use a variety of plug types. Some headworn mics include adapters as all packs don’t use the same plug style. Note that some mics only work with specific wireless packs. For example, the Sony ECM-322BC only works with the Sony WL-800 series bodypacks.
Other options include detachable mic cables. Cable plugs wear out and hey, why replace the whole headworn mic when a cable replacement would be cheaper?
Using a headworn mic is more than just putting it on and talking. The mic should be adjusted so it’s about an inch away from the mouth, set slightly back of the mouth. It’s a little easier to explain it like this; if you can hear the person breathing between words, the mic needs to move back.
Time for the important tip:
Show the pastor how to adjust the microphone – important when it’s not on right and the congregation hears it rubbing skin or a beard. A simple little adjustment is all it takes.
The Take Away
A handheld microphone fits most any hand, but a headworn mic is not comfortable for everyone, and they certainly aren’t all built the same.
Work with the pastor to pick one they find comfortable. It takes time to get used to using one, that’s part of it as well. Select the right color. And do your research into the various headworn microphones that fit the budget so the pastor will be using the best sounding microphone.
I’ll leave you with this last reminder: select the right mic for the pastor and then work on EQ’ing their voice so not only are they heard, they’re understood. There is a difference.
Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians, and can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown. Chris is also the author of Audio Essentials For Church Sound, available here.