Using Lavalier Microphones with Recorders

The built-in microphones on portable digital recorders are great for recording ambient sounds and live music, and their line-level inputs are really handy when you need to connect a mixer. But how about taking advantage of the external microphone input on your recorder? Using tiny lavalier microphones with portable digital recorders opens up a wide range of creative recording possibilities. Check out this article to learn about the interesting things you can do with this gear. 

The wild popularity of portable digital recorders tells us that people really have an active need to create high-quality audio recordings. In order to get the most out of a portable recorder, it's a good idea to learn all of the things you can do with its inputs and outputs. One of the jacks on your portable digital recorder that shouldn't be ignored is its external microphone input.

There are many different kinds of mics that you can plug into a portable digital recorder: handheld mics, shotguns, boundary microphones, but in this article we'll focus on lavalier microphones. Lavaliers are tiny microphones designed to be attached to a person's clothing. The idea behind lavaliers is to supply you with a microphone that's as small and inconspicuous as possible, yet is still capable of capturing great-sounding audio.

When you use a lavalier microphone with a portable digital recorder, it's possible to completely hide both devices from view. This enables you to surreptitiously record high-quality audio to your heart's content. While this is great if you're interested in espionage, it's really exciting if you're into filmmaking.

If you use a portable digital recorder to capture the sound for video and film productions, you can potentially use the recorder and the lavalier microphone as a substitute for a wireless microphone. Now, I don't want to confuse you. A portable digital recorder and a lav mic cannot transmit their signal wirelessly. But, if you're mindful of a few operational guidelines, they make an affordable substitute for a wireless system.

An Edirol R-09HR portable digital recorder tucked inside a Neopax Standard Waist Belt

When you use a portable digital recorder to capture the sound for a video production, the sound files and the video files are recorded completely independently. They're not synced together until they're brought into the video-editing software in post production. When you record the sound separately from the video, it's called "shooting double system." For more information about using a portable digital recorder in a video shoot, check out this B&H Insights article.

Because the portable digital recorder is used independently, away from the camera, it can be hidden in the on-camera talent's clothing. When you use a lavalier microphone with the portable digital recorder, you can attach it to the on-camera subject just as you would attach a wireless beltpack transmitter. Instead of transmitting the microphone signal wirelessly back to the camera, the audio is just being recorded on the portable digital recorder.

One of the main guidelines that you must adhere to when you work this way is to always double-check the settings on the portable digital recorder as you work. The little buttons and switches on the recorder can sometimes accidentally get changed. You also need to always make sure that the recorder is, in fact, recording. It's a good idea to frequently play back and listen to the files that you're recording on the portable digital recorder. You need to make sure that the audio levels sound good and that the lavalier microphone isn't picking up any clothing rustle or wind noise. If you fail to follow these workflow guidelines, you could potentially end up with distorted audio—or no audio at all.

The Zoom H4n digital recorder with a Tram TR50 lavalier microphone

The kind of lavalier microphone that's compatible with your recorder depends on what kind of external microphone input is on your recorder. Many compact portable digital recorders (like the Zoom H1) feature a 3.5mm mini-plug microphone input. Other recorders (like the Marantz  PMD661) feature professional XLR inputs. The Zoom H4n (pictured above) features dual XLR inputs and a 3.5mm mini-plug microphone input.

Mini-Plug Lavalier Microphones

If your recorder has a 3.5mm mini-plug input, one affordable option is the Pearstone OLM-10 Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone. It comes with a tie clip, a foam windscreen, an 1/8" to 1/4" adapter and an LR44 battery. The battery is required for operation and replacement batteries are readily available at B&H when you need them. And speaking of replacements, we also sell replacement tie clips—in case your talent accidentally loses one.

Another good 3.5mm mini-plug lavalier microphone is the Sony ECM-CS10. The ECM-CS10 is a stereo microphone, which means it can double as a good mic to record live music and environmental ambiance. It doesn't require a battery to operate, but it does require "Plug-In Power" from the microphone input. Plug-In Power is a small electrical charge supplied by the device into which the mic is plugged. Most portable digital recorders supply Plug-In Power through their 3.5mm external microphone input.

Have you ever dreamed of making awesome recordings of live music, without anyone knowing? Musicians tend to play differently when they see microphones and recording devices rolling away. With the portable digital recorder neatly hidden under your coat, all you need is a pair of great-sounding stereo mics to clip to your collar. If you own a portable digital recorder with a mini-plug mic input, the stereo microphone you need to do this is the Microphone Madness BSM-7. With the dual lavaliers of the BSM-7 positioned in a strategic place on your clothing, you'll be able to make high-quality stereo recordings of live music and the world around you.

XLR Lavalier Microphones

XLR microphone inputs offer a richer sound quality than 3.5mm mini-plug inputs. There are also higher-quality lavalier microphones available for portable digital recorders with XLR inputs. A good sounding lavalier that's relatively inexpensive is the Audio Technica AT899. The microphone itself is very compact, and it comes with a number of different clips that give you many options for how to attach the microphone to different kinds of garments. The AT899 can be powered by a AA battery or by phantom power.

The Tram TR50 is a lavalier microphone that's relatively easy to hide, yet still provides broadcast-quality audio. It's easier to hide because the microphone itself is flat and square. A good assortment of clips is included to give you options for attaching it to your subject. It can run on phantom power, or from a compact LR44 battery. Even though the battery it uses is compact, the barrel that connects the microphone to the recorder is still substantial in size. Being able to hide the portable recorder and the barrel connector of the lavalier mic is something you should take into consideration when connecting any XLR lavalier to a portable digital recorder. The TR50 is also available in white, tan and gray.

If you're looking for the best sound quality possible, a good choice is the Sanken COS11. The COS11 can run on a AA battery (which is included) or phantom power to operate. Some people find its longer, cylindrical microphone head a little more challenging to hide under a subject's clothing. The COS11 is one of the most commonly used lavalier microphones in broadcast and film production. It's also available in beige, gray and white.

You really need to protect the microphone from wind noise the moment you step outdoors with a lavalier. It doesn't matter if you're using an XLR or a mini-plug microphone—even a gentle breeze can distort your audio. The foam windscreens that come with these microphones don't provide enough protection for outdoor use. You need to step things up with a furry windscreen.

One good option is to pick up a Pearstone Fuzzy Windjammer. This is essentially a tiny ball of fluff that covers your lavalier microphone. The idea is that you put the foam windscreen that came with your lavalier microphone on, and then you pull the Pearstone Fuzzy Windjammer over the foam. The fuzz on the Windjammer diffuses the wind noise, allowing you to use the lavalier in normal to heavy winds.

Another option is to use Rycote Overcovers. Think of these as a disposable version of the Pearstone Fuzzy Windjammer. The Overcovers come with 30 double-sided sticky pads. What you do is attach one side of the pad to your subject's clothing. On the other side you stick the microphone. Then you cover the rest of the exposed area around the mic with a small ball of fluff (the Overcovers come with several black, white and grey fluff balls). The advantage of the Overcovers is that if you accidentally lose one of the fluff balls (which are susceptible to blowing away in the wind), you just grab another one.

The Overcovers do a great job of cutting down wind noise, but they do an even better job of cutting down clothing rustle. Even if you're working indoors away from the weather, Overcovers still come in very handy when you need to hide a lavalier microphone under the clothing of your subject. Hiding the lavalier so that you don't pick up clothing rustle is very tricky. When you mount the microphone under someone's clothes with a double-sided sticky pad and a fluff ball, your odds of success are much higher.

I hope you learned a thing or two from this article! If you have any more questions about lavalier microphones, portable digital recorders, or little balls of fluff, we encourage you to post them in the Comments section.

Discussion 31

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I think some information on which recorders with good mic pre-amps would be useful I have been very dissapointed with the zoom h2 noise.

Is there any mic that will pick up sounds of nature, such as distant bird sounds?  Thank you. 

samp79 wrote:

I think some information on which recorders with good mic pre-amps would be useful I have been very dissapointed with the zoom h2 noise.

The best preamps you're going to find on a portable digital recorder are going to be on the Sound Devices 700 series recorders. The Fostex FR-2 LE and the Tascam HD-P2 are also known to have better than average microphone preamplifiers.

Andy wrote:

Is there any mic that will pick up sounds of nature, such as distant bird sounds?  Thank you. 

Hi Andy! Thanks for posting your question.

Recording distant sounds is one of the age old challenges of location audio. The trouble is, if the birds are really far away, they're usually going to sound that way in a recording. You can try using a shotgun microphone. If you're using a recorder with a 3.5mm mini-plug external microphone input, you can use any of the shotguns discussed in this B&H Insights article. Of those choices, I would use a Rode VideoMic with a Dead Cat windscreen and a Pearstone pistol grip. If your portable digital recorder has XLR inputs, you can use any of the shotgun microphones discussed in this B&H Insights article. There are many good choices with professional shotgun microphones, but if I was trying to record the sounds of distant birds I would use a Sennheiser MKH-70 with a Rycote blimp.

If you can get close to the birds, the stereo microphones built into the portable digital recorder can usually pick up really good sounding audio. But any time that you use microphones outdoors, you have to be sure to use wind protection, even with the built-in microphones on a recorder. You can do a lot better than the foam windscreens that come included with the recorders. I would advise using the appropriate custom portable digital recorder windscreen accessory to help diffuse wind noise.

Does the  Sony ECM-CS10 work the Zoom H1 Recorder? 

Do you know of a good solution for a speaking situation where we want to use a wireless mic for amplification but also want to record digitally? Can you both patch into a portable digital voice recorder AND send a wireless signal for amplification?


Would the AT831B Cardoid Mic work with a Portable Tascam to record concerts in stealth?

Is there a "reasonable" way to have a "universal" wireless receiver.  What I have in mind is being able to receive the audio (for recording with video) at many venues.  (This, of course, providing they use wireless microphones.)  Considering there are many transmission frequencies, one may or may not know which the microphones are using.

If there is such a thing as a "universal" receiver, one then merely "tunes" to the correct frequency.

Is there a chance...?

Thank you.

 I'd like to use my Rode Lavalier with Zoom H1. So I purchased a micon-2 adapter, which theoretically should allow me to plug straight into the Zoom's mic input, right? Only, it doesn't work. Any ideas what I'm doing wrong? The manual says that plugin power is automatically supplied, but the mic doesn't seem to be getting power. Perhaps I've got the wrong micon adapter?

trs to trrs adapter

I've been searching around the internet for info on how to use my Seinnheiser lav mic with my Zoom H4n and found this article very helpful. But I'm still trying to get a good visual of the best way to set up. I'm recording how to videos for construction projects with my DSLR camera. I'm usually standing 8-10' from the camera and staying somewahat stationary however I may need to move around a bit in some situations. My lav has an xlr plug included.

Any resources and/or pictures would be very much appreciated.

Thank You,

Phil Vanderloo

Hi Phil -

It sounds like you are looking for a wireless lavalier solution:

The Sennheiser ew 112-p G3 Wireless Portable Microphone System is intended for portable wireless operation, such as video and field recording applications. This system includes a camera mountable receiver, bodypack transmitter and ME2 lavalier microphone. The SK 100 G3 bodypack transmitter and EK 100 G3 receiver synchronize channel and frequency at the touch of a button.

Here's an article that you may find helpful:

Understanding the Basics of Sennheiser G3 Camera-Mount Wireless Systems

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

Hi Sam, I have a Tascam DR40, and recently bought Roland binaural mics (minjack in/out) without realising that they need plug-in power. Is there any way of producing this power, ie. a separate battery unit, so I can plug them into my DR40/ without buying a new recorder? Would, for example, the Pearstone set provide battery power to my binaurals? Thanks WH

Hi Will -

We are not aware of a method of providing an external power supply to the Roland binaural microphones.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

Hey there! Great stuff. I am looking for a way to record multiple people using lapel-style mics like the ones above, and having them record at the same time for a dialogue. Would you be able to help me out with that? Thanks! 

Hi Nate -

It really depends what you are connecting the mics to and your budget range.  Here's a simple mixer solution for small consumer grade recorders and cameras:

The Rolls MX41B is a compact utility mixer used to expand inputs on a console, mix CD players, consumer audio gear, computers, etc. This simple, compact mixer features four 1/4" phone and 1/8" mini inputs with level fader controls. The rear features stereo 1/4" outputs for feeding an amplifier, additional mixer, etc. The MX41B requires no external power, making it an ideal solution for indoor and field use.

Four input channels with 1/4" and 1/8" connections
Level control on each input
No external or battery power required

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

Hi ,  I am looking for 2 pcs of Lavalier Mic with recording facility- can you please quote me 

Sybu Thomas

Omnix International LLC

Promedia Division

Dubai - U.A.E Mob: 00971 50 8410249,  e-mail:

Hi Sybu -

Most lavalier microphones may be used for recording depending upon the nature of the recording project and the device that the microphones will be connected to.  Please e-mail us at the address listed below with more details.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:


I have a couple of Oaklahoma wired lavs and a Tascam DR60 purchased from B&H. There was no data sheet shipped with the Lavs, so I have no idea if they require phantom power. I expect they do, as there is no place to insert a battery. But I don't want to blow a mic by trying to power it for a test. No power and it doesn't pick anything up. Can you confirm that this mic requires phantom? 

Hi James -

Please send us your B&H order number to the e-mail below.  We will be happy to check out your current gear and advise.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

Hello, what is considered more proffesional or better to record with sound quality,  a recorder or a smart phone?


Hi Adolfo -

A quality audio recorder will typically offer better built-in mics, filters, file management tools, frequency response, bit rate, and sampling.  All of its electronics and resources are designed to complement recording and playback.  The same cannot be said for even the most sophisticated smartphone.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

Hi, I.own the Zoom h1 and am trying to figure out if the microphone built in to the Zoom will also work if I use an external microphone? I use the Zoom primarily for ghost hunting and need to be able to have the Zoom close to a speaker, ghost box or for evp's, as well as being able to record my voice at the same time. When I move the Zoom.away from the record me asking questions I am losing any sounds that may come through the speaker. I apologize for not explaining this properly as the Zoom is a newer tool for me.Basically I want to be able to record sound from both the built in mic as well as the external mic. Is this even possible? Thank you.

Hi Terri -

The Zoom H1's built-in microphones are bypassed and not active when an external microphone is connected.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

I'm interested in connecting two Sennheiser ME 3-EW microphones to the 3.5mm input on a Zoom H4n. Could I use a regular stereo to mono adaptor directly with these mics (assuming they work with the Sennheiser 3.5mm locking mechanism) to power them and to record the two on separate channels? Or do I need to use the Sennheiser MZA 900 P with a Unbalanced Stereo Breakout Cable, 2 XLR3F to 3.5mm?

I have 2 other xlr mics in the xlr port and want to record 4 separate channels. Thanks!

Hi Don-

The recorder will not supply the correct amount of voltage (from the mini input), so use the MZA accessorries.   But the MZA needs to be connected to the H4n's XLR inputs for phantom power.  The breakout cable is superfluous.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:


I asked a comment on the site earlier on but I can't find it now.

I was asking about audio blowing out using an iphone and a RODE lavalier mic.  When I record my fitness routines etc. it seems if my voice is too loud, it blows the sound out and loses all contrast.  Is this an aspect of levalier mics or of the iphone which cannot change the recording levels?

This is a sample video where the above is happening:

I wonder if a Zoom H1 would sort this issue out or whether I would need to purchase a new, more expensive levalier mic such as the sennheiser ME2 in order to resolve this audio blow-out issue?

Thanks and looking forward to your response.


It seems to be the case that you need to adjust the sensitivity on your iPhone audio App. The microphone is experiencing volume overload in consequence; the capsule is muting the circuit in order to prevent damage to the condenser element.

Adjusting your levels before recording while wearing headphones for monitoring should fix this isue.

NOTE: You will experience the same issue with a protable recorder like the Zoom H1.

Thanks Yossi for your reply.

I downloaded an alternative app, called TASCAM PCM Recorder, which allows me to adjust the mic in level.  This does help a little bit, but at the loudest parts in my voice the top level does 'blow out' and become distorted.

Is this a microphone quality issue, and will a more expensive mic be able to process higher, more 'forceful' levels of volume directed into it, or is this an inherent issue with lavalier mics and would I need a shotgun mic or other type to prevent this type of distortion at the louder ranges of my voice?



Hi Richard -

You could try wrapping the lavalier you have now.  There are few choices for alternative microphones compatible with an iPhone. An adapter would be required.  A Sennheiser ME-2 mic would offer substantially better headroom than the RODE smartLav - so that might be the best way to go if you already own one or have access to one.  A shotgun placed a few feet from your mouth should remedy the issue as well.

Sennheiser ME 2 Omnidirectional Condenser Lavalier Microphone

Rycote - Furry Lavalier Windjammer

Sescom - iPhone / iPod / iPad 3.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm Mic Jack & 3.5mm Monitor Jack

Rycote - Undercover - Lavalier Wind Cover

Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Mic & DeadCat VMP Wind **** Kit

Rode - Micro Boompole - 3-Section Boom Pole

Rode - Stereo Mini Male to Stereo Mini Female Cable - 10'

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

For example... Would the Sennheiser ME 2 have a wider range and therefore improve the pickup quality?

Or do I need to go down the route of putting barriers between the mic and the voice - as in the suggested overcovers and windjammers?

Thanks again


Hi Richard -

You may need to experiment with either solution.  As I replied earlier the ME-2 lav mic offers substantially better headroom so that distortion is less probable at higher vocal volume levels. 

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: