While most pro audio gear types are similar in terms of general design and application principles, each type also has its own traits and idiosyncrasies that need to be understood for them top operate optimally. In this regard, podium and lavalier microphones fit the bill. At first glance, they’re relatively simple, but a closer look reveals that there’s a lot more going on.
Let’s start with podium mics, as they’re commonly called, even though they’re mounted to a lectern. Sure, many standard handheld mics on gooseneck stands can work well enough, but they don’t look nearly as nice as their purpose-built counterparts, particularly on camera.
Further, the typical 5/8”-27 gooseneck section designed to support handhelds are usually stiff when new, making them tough for presenters to adjust. Then they later lose their holding power after a relatively few uses and won’t stay in position.
In addition, most gooseneck mounting arms are chrome plated so they tend to reflect bright stage lighting and/or shine on camera. I’ve also found that newer models may creak and make other undesirable noises when adjusted.
With all of that in mind, a far better option for live corporate events and meetings, as well as at places such as churches, is a compact gooseneck condenser mic that’s purpose-designed. They’re usually dark in color and have a relatively small capsule/element positioned atop a long slender gooseneck that is easy to adjust. Because the element is small and light, the gooseneck stays where it’s put and doesn’t fail over numerous uses.
Podium mics come in a variety of types and lengths as well as different mounting options. One way to categorize them is by their pickup patterns. Omnidirectional models are great for recording but don’t work nearly as well for most PA applications, where more directional designs are the better choice.
Cardioid models are most popular because the wider pickup pattern is more forgiving when there are a variety of different presenters over the course of an event. Some presenters adjust the mic but many simply leave it in the same position as the previous person, which can result (for example) in a mic pointed at the chest of a presenter who’s tall following someone smaller in stature.
This is not to say that supercardioid and hypercardioid patterns aren’t worth considering. When properly positioned, they can work extremely well, with their tighter pattern helping to reject unwanted sounds and reduce feedback issues.
Often two mics are placed on the lectern, with the second one serving as a backup, usually not turned on. Sometimes, the mics have different pickup patterns (i.e., cardioid and supercardioid), with the engineer then able to choose which one is picking up the best. The second mic may also be dedicated to recording only, and with an omni pattern to pick up sufficient level even if presenters stray off axis.
Another way to categorize gooseneck models is length. Shorter goosenecks are great for use on desks where a presenter or presenters will be sitting. These typically run from 3 inches to 12 inches in length. Models for podiums/lecterns typically are a bit longer, running from 12 inches to more than 20 inches. A popular length is 18 inches, which accommodates a wide range of adjustment without being “too long.”
Podium mics also come with a variety mounting options. Models with a built-in base can simply be placed where needed. Some may just an XLR connector at the base and no mounting. They can be placed in a standard mic clip and used with a desk stand, or more commonly, they’re inserted into a base mount that accepts an XLR.
Base units can be portable and offer extra features like shock mounting of the XLR as well as on/off switches and indicator lights to tell presenters when the mic is live. Some XLR base connectors can be built into a lectern, with most of these type permanently installed and offering some type of shock mounting.
There’s also flange mounting, where the end of the gooseneck is equipped with a built-in screw mount that can thread to a standard 5/8”-27 stand or to a flange mounted on a surface. They usually include an attached mic cable that exits the side of the gooseneck at the end, near the mounting screw.
Yet another version is called “conference,” and it may include a loudspeaker and/or a headphone jack in the base, along with a talk switch. These mics are usually part of a system, with the audio engineer – or even a panel chairperson/moderator – having the ability to turn off any open mics via a master station, limiting crosstalk and general noise. Many of these models operate on a mix-minus principle, allowing participants to hear others but not themselves. Another common feature is a lighted ring near the head/capsule mic that signifies if the mic is live.