The key to good video is good audio, and this is especially true in a noisy environment like a tradeshow. This is why getting a camcorder with an external mic input was so important to me, and why I carry multiple microphones with me at events like this.
Onboard microphones just won’t cut it in a noisy environment, but one can do pretty well with two simple external mics:
- A directional shotgun microphone for interviews and session recordings
- An omnidirectional lavalier microphone for narration
Azden SMX-10 Stereo Shotgun Microphone
A directional shotgun style microphone is very handy for mobile recording, since it can be used at close range for interviews or from afar. But many shotgun mics are far too big to be portable, and not all record stereo sound. I picked the Azden SMX-10 for its compact dimensions, low price, and stereo performance. I could not be happier with this microphone’s capabilities, bringing top-notch sound quality and portability.
Like all condenser mics, the Azden requires a battery for bias voltage. Happily, this microphone uses a standard AA battery that lasts and lasts.
The Azden SMX-10 comes with a reasonable “cold shoe” mount for use with a camcorder, as well as a foam wind protector. Unfortunately, none of my cameras feature this type of mount so it stays at home and I use the Azden handheld or lay it on my camera bag as a stand.
The main drawback of the Azden SMX-10 is the lack of a fitted case to protect it while on the go. I wish there was an inexpensive hard case, such as the one I use with my Zoom H1 portable audio recorder.
Although it lists for $100, the SMX-10 is fairly easy to find at one third off. I purchased mine from B&H photo in New York City for $65, and Amazon lists it for $66 with free shipping.
Generic OLM-10 Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone
There are times when the shotgun mic just won’t do, so I also picked up an inexpensive omnidirectional lavalier microphone. The OLM-10 is an inexpensive generic lav mic sold by many vendors. I found it at B&H photo for just $22, and Amazon lists the same kit for $27 with free shipping.
The OLM-10 is a condenser mic and uses a button cell battery for bias voltage. I find I often leave the microphone on accidentally, draining the battery and forcing me to locate a replacement just when I need it the most.
The kit includes a lavalier clip, tiny foam windscreen, and jack adapter. The cable is ridiculously long: I keep about three quarters of it permanently wrapped in a tight bundle to reduce tangles and bulk. But it’s better to have a cable that is too long than one that is too short!
Again, the OLM-10 lacks a case or bag. I repurposed a small velvet bag that came from some forgotten conference swag and consider this an absolute necessity to avoid a rats nest of tangles.
Audio quality from the OLM 10 is acceptable, though background noise is notable compared to be highly directional SMX-10. All things considered, this little cheap lav mic is a winner, but make sure you remember to turn off the switch!
This pair of microphones serves me well. I mainly use the Azden SMX-10 when recording videos in public, resorting to the OLM-10 when recording unboxings and such in quiet settings. Sound quality is decent and they’re small enough to fit in my bag. Considering that one can walk out of B&H Photo with both microphones and change for a $100 bill, I call that a win!
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