Audio Week: Wired vs Wireless Mics for YouTube Creators

0Share

Making videos for YouTube, Facebook Live, and other online video platforms? Of course you are; creating content is what you do! But “content” encompasses many things, with scenarios ranging from reviews and instructional videos in the studio, to travel vlogs, on-location shoots, or run-and-gun interviews at trade shows—all requiring different microphone setups.

You know that your audio quality can make or break your video piece, but what system should you use to get the best sound possible, no matter the location or situation? Should you go wired, or wireless? Read on, as we unravel these deep mysteries…

Any audio professional will tell you: Go wired whenever you can and use wireless only when you must. This is because there is always a chance, even with better wireless systems, of brief losses of sound (dropouts) or short bursts of static (RF interference), possibly compromising your audio signal at the most inopportune time.

However, a wireless mic system is often a more practical solution when you are moving in relation to your camera or shooting in high-traffic areas, so let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of each type.

WIRED MICS

Everybody understands wired mics. They’re reliable, fast to set up, and easy to operate. All you need is a cable that plugs into your camera or recorder, and no other equipment is required.

Wired Pros

  • Reliability: Free from wireless dropouts or RF interference worries
  • Better sound quality: Clean, direct signal path. Audio signal doesn’t have to go through additional wireless circuitry
  • Fewer equipment components that might fail
  • No need for battery
  • Easy to operate
  • Faster setup time
  • Generally, less expensive

Wired Cons

  • Tethered to the camera—limited range/mobility
  • Cable creates tripping hazard
  • Cable may be heavier and cumbersome to store and transport
  • May require an XLR audio adapter to create a balanced connection when plugging mic cables longer than 10' into the 3.5mm audio jack of a DSLR camera or smartphone
  • To keep noise down, may require an XLR audio adapter when using mic cables longer than 10' plugged into the 3.5mm audio jack of a DSLR camera or smartphone

The most common scenario for going wired is when you’re stationary in relation to the camera. You are recording your vlog at home or in your studio, either seated or standing up, and the mic is mounted on your camera, pointing right at you.

For that, Azden offers the popular SMX-15 compact shotgun, which fits comfortably on your DSLR or mirrorless camera and records clear directional sound. Also recommended is the Deity V-Mic D3 Pro shotgun, which can also be used with a smartphone or tablet. Both mics come with an integrated shockmount to eliminate rumble, should you move your camera. If size is your priority when working with a smartphone rig, reach for the ultra-compact RØDE VideoMicro or the RØDE VideoMic Me-L for iOS devices.


Azden SMX-15 Powered Shotgun Video Microphone

In this scenario, you can also choose to use a wired lavalier mic plugged directly into your camera. This setup lets you position the mic closer to your talent’s mouth, offering a more present sound with less unwanted room noise. Popular lav mics among YouTubers include the RØDE SmartLav+ for smartphones and the Boya BY-M1 for DSLRs and smartphones.


RØDE smartLav+ Lavalier Condenser Microphone for Smartphones

For superior sound definition indoors, instead of a shotgun, you might be surprised to know that most professionals will use a small-diaphragm hypercardioid mic on a boom, placed directly over the person who is speaking. Try the Senal SCI-3212 or the Audio Technica AT4053b small diaphragm mics. These mics are ideal for recording in rooms with low ceilings—note that they will need phantom power, usually provided by either a recorder or a mixer.


Senal SCI-3212 Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone with Interchangeable Capsules

Another scenario that typically requires a wired microphone is the “run-and-gun” shoot in the field. Here, the best audio quality will come from working with a sound technician operating a wired shotgun mic on a boom. This gives you optimal mic position with a hassle-free wired connection directly to your camera or field recorder. For full sound and a long reach, check out the Senal MC24-ES or the or the Deity S-Mic 2 shotgun mics.


Senal MC24-ES Professional Condenser Shotgun Microphone

Tip: Keep in mind that long-running, unbalanced mic cables (those with 3.5mm jack connectors) instead of balanced cables (with 3-pin XLR connectors) are prone to RF interference caused by fluorescent lights, household appliances, and other common electrical devices. So, if your cable is longer than 10' and your camera doesn’t have XLR audio inputs (as on DSLRs, smartphones, or camcorders), opt for a balanced XLR cable coupled with a camera-mounted XLR adapter. A good choice is the Beachtek DXA-Micro-Pro , which also provides phantom power to your condenser mic.


Beachtek DXA-MICRO-PRO Active XLR Compact Adapter

WIRELESS MICS

Everybody understands the benefits of wireless mics. They give you total freedom to walk around in front of your camera, unencumbered by cables or directional mics. They come as part of a system, comprising the mic, a transmitter, and a receiver that plugs into your camera. Digital systems are very popular with creators for several reasons—with ease of use, sound quality, and budget topping the list.

Wireless Pros

  • Freedom of movement: Mic can be worn/held while moving around, untethered from camera
  • No cables to trip over
  • Avoidance of cable or input connector shorting out due to constantly moving

Wireless Cons

  • Possible wireless interference or dropouts ruining audio
  • Dealing with batteries on longer shoot days
  • Sound quality on entry-level systems may be degraded, depending on which technology is used to transmit the signal wirelessly
  • Generally, more expensive

In terms of wireless systems, a great place to start is the hugely popular RØDE Wireless GO, the smallest, lightest, easiest-to-use digital wireless mic system to date—great for DSLRs (and smartphones with an inexpensive adapter). The genius of the Wireless GO is that the microphone is physically inside the miniature transmitter, which is so small, it pins directly to your clothing and functions as a truly wireless lavalier mic. If you need your mic to be less conspicuous, try using the RØDE Lavalier GO, that’s easier to conceal under your clothing.


RØDE Wireless GO Compact Wireless Microphone System

Advanced creators looking for a similarly easy-to-use system will delight in the outstanding sound quality of the Sennheiser AVX Digital Lavalier System. Professionals rely on the AVX for stress-free, dependable performance in just about any environment, because it operates in the less-crowded 1.9 GHz band—away from TV and Wi-Fi interference. Rivaling the AVX in simplicity, Sony’s new UWP-D21 and UWP-D22 digital-hybrid systems combine digital signal processing for outstanding sound quality with analog true-diversity reception for reliability. Unlike the AVX, the UWP-D allows a single microphone  to send audio to multiple receivers for situations when you’re using several cameras. If you need to mike two persons, you’ll want to go analog with the Saramonic UwMic9 Lav System. This system includes two bodypacks with lavs and a dual-channel receiver that allows you to record both mics to the camera. Saramonic also offers the UwMic9 Lavalier System for Smartphones designed specifically to hold your smartphone while shooting on the go.


Saramonic UwMic9 2-Person Camera-Mount Wireless Omni Lavalier Microphone System for Smartphones

If you’re working with a cameraman while you move about freely holding your microphone—as in a “man-on-the-street” segment or convention-floor interviews—the tool of choice is a wireless handheld mic. Shooting on location can be challenging and do-overs are not always possible, so treat yourself to reliability, peace of mind, and professional sound quality with the Sennheiser AVX Digital Handheld System. For the budget-conscious, the Saramonic UwMic9 Handheld System presents a cost-effective option that also sounds great.


Sennheiser AVX-835 SET Digital Camera-Mount Wireless Cardioid Handheld Microphone System

For those who already own a wired handheld mic, consider the Saramonic UwMic15B Plug-On System. The plug-on transmitter attaches to the bottom of your mic, converting it to wireless operation.


Saramonic UwMic15B Camera-Mount Wireless Plug-On Microphone System with No Mic

What Have We Learned?

To capture the best audio possible, the safest way to work is to have both wired and wireless mics on hand. This gives you the flexibility to adapt to any situation, and if one system goes down, you've got another to fall back on.

The good news is that wireless technology is better than ever, and many of the cons are not as much of a problem as they used to be. But it’s important that you don’t skimp on your wireless system. You don't want to break your budget, but you will get what you pay for.

One additional word of advice: Regardless of what mic you’re using, always monitor your audio. Interferences and low batteries with wireless, or connectors and cables with wired can and do create problems. So be sure to put your headphones on and listen!

Interested in expanding your knowledge, fine-tuning your workflow, or figuring out what gear to get? Visit B&H’s Audio Week page to read tutorials, comparisons, and buying guides about audio for video, podcasting, live sound, music recording, and more.

0 Comments