Any experienced Sound Engineer will tell you that a headworn microphone is far superior to a lapel microphone. One of the drawbacks in the past was that no Minister wanted to look like a telephone operator by wearing a large boom-mounted microphone. Now that sportscasters, music stars and televised ministries have made the headset look almost chic, it is a good time to look at the advantages.
The main advantage for the Engineer is gain-before-feed back, which is just plain physics. The inverse square law tells us that you gain 6dB for every doubling of the distance from the source. As indicated in the diagram, a headworn microphone is generally four times closer to the user’s mouth than a lapel mic. That means you have gained 12dB of signal and can lower the system gain by 12dB. It also means you are four times more immune to feedback.
There are other advantages to a headworn microphone such as constant level. With a lapel microphone, the voice level will go up and down as the speaker moves their head from side-to-side or up and down. A headworn microphone is always the same distance from the corner of their mouth so the level remains constant.
Close proximity microphones like headworns can be omnidirectional, which have less wind noise, handling noise, and cord noise than cardioid microphones. This contributes to a smoother, more natural sound. Omnidirectional microphones can also be placed just behind the mouth (ideally about one inch from the corner of the mouth) to reduce “P” pops and breath noise common with directional headworn or podium microphones.
With all that being said, lightweight headworn microphones must be the greatest thing since sliced bread, right? Well, they are a great solution if the speaker can be persuaded to wear one but there are still some things to be aware of:
o A firm, comfortable fit is very important. Most of these mics need to be adjusted (on the small side) before putting them on, then “open” the ear loop up just enough to hold firmly.
o Cord clips are a must. Because the microphone is so light, any tugging on the cord can dislodge it. Secure the cord to the user’s clothing at the neck line with the provided clip and allow just enough slack to allow their head to move side to side.
o Microphone positioning is part of setting the level and gains. Make certain that the microphone is positioned in the same place each time and check the levels before showtime.
o Every speaker’s voice is different. Don’t expect to pass a headworn microphone from speaker to speaker without adjusting for levels and EQ. It is best to have some sound check time with each person before the service starts.
o Have a back up. Any of you that read my article on backing up your wireless microphones know that it can’t hurt to have a lapel microphone at the ready in case something goes wrong with the headworn.
So, what do we know? Certainly, light-weight, headworn microphones are the wave of the future. They provide better sound, more control, and even a sense of style when compared to old-fashioned lapel microphones. But like any tool, they need to be used properly. Good luck and good audio.