RODE Lavalier. First Impressions.

So I’ve just gotten off a week long set of an American short film production with a couple of these puppies in tow. I got them literally two days before the principle shooting begun and didn’t even get proper adapters for my Sennheiser G3 transmitters until two days into the production (will talk more about that later), so, I was using these, in every sense of the words, rough and ready.

As always, when I have received any RODE product, I have always been impressed by the emphasis placed on durability by the company, and the RODE Lavalier is no exception. Apart from the small cardboard box you get it in,  the microphone and all of its accompanying accessories (of which there are many compared to other vendors of lavalier mics) are housed within a sturdy little plastic trauma case, which you will probably keep it in. Included with the microphone is a cable management clip (so you can clip it onto someone’s shirt or tie), a windjammer and a pop filter/foam wind jammer, as well as an adjustment tool (to adjust what I am not sure yet… Haven’t used it so far).

All of this is pretty cool considering some of these accessories i.e. the windjammer, could set you back as much as $50 from Rycote, but the most exciting thing to find in the box is the microphone itself, and the most exciting thing about the microphone, apart from its sub miniature form factor and COS11D resemblance (which opens up a plethora of accessories you could use for it, which were designed for Sankens venerable mainstay), is the fact that it is MODULAR.

It wouldn’t be so impressive except for the fact that, as a professional sound recordist, I have often wondered why this wasn’t the case for all lavalier microphones. Previously I have favoured Countryman lavalier microphones particularly the EMW or B6 variety depending on the situation (EMW’s are cheaper so if they break no big deal, B6’s are incredibly tiny and easy to hide), but there have been many occasion where, for some reason out of my control, either the talent I have rigged it up on has done something stupid, for example, go to relieve him or herself without notifying me and then somehow breaking it in the washroom, or not allowing me to de-rig them properly, either through supervision or personally doing so myself, and ripping it off themselves the first moment they can and dumping it in an unsafe area. For all of the conveniences of Countryman Lavs, their one fault is their incredible fragility (although it is not limited to this brand per se). Often I may go through 2 or 3 of them per year purely because of talent breaking them, and over a five year period that really starts to hurt the bank balance.

The fact that the RODE Lavalier was modular was a big, big reason why I switched over to them (look to see more of these modular systems arriving). If the microphone capsule breaks, simply order another one from RODE. The cable is made of kevlar, and apart from the fact that adhesives stick to it to no end (grr) it is practically unbreakable, the standard size you get may be a bit too short for my liking but you can order a longer one from RODE (genius), so depending on where you put the bodypack you can minimize the amount of slack. Now, here is a big one, MiCON connectors.

MiCON connectors… Are amazing… For the first time, a Lavalier has been made where you, the recordist, can hot swap different terminations that are designed to fit anything from XLR to Sennheiser, to Sony, to Lectrosonics. It allows an incredible amount of flexibility, which means you don’t need to buy a new mic for every new system you buy, and, best of all, these connectors only cost like $30 a pop. Speaking of which, I didn’t have workable connectors until 2 days into a shoot I was doing last week. It seems that the first batch of MiCON 1 connectors (made for Sennheiser G2 and G3 systems) were incorrectly made so that the thread on them doesn’t quite fit the bodypack. That’s probably the reason for all of the hullabaloo about poor handling noise, pops and hissing that a lof of people have experienced. I simply called RODE and they promptly sent out another set of MiCON 1 connectors free of charge (they are aware of the problem), and voila, they work perfectly. Annoying that it didn’t work right out of the box, but nothing brains couldn’t fix.

In terms of the sound (and this is where RODE has typically fallen down in the past), as a person who has worked with Countryman in the past, I like the wide dynamic range provided by the RODE Lavalier mic, which matches well with my existing set of Lavalier microphones. It is significantly brighter than say a TRAM TR50 or Sanken COS11D, but it has incredibly low self noise (even lower than I have observed in Sennheiser MKE-2’s and definately lower than ME-2’s) and maintains body with sparkling clarity, so it is able to pick out dialogue extremely well even in harsh environments, while still maintaining depth i.e. not resorting to it sounding like everyone is using their head voice (used this on one of the windiest days I’ve ever seen in Melbourne… Playing havoc with my boom operator). The best thing, however, is it achieves this sound at a great price point (AUD$300) considering all the goodies you get along with it as well. It mixes in well with the Sennheiser MKH8000 series mics I have recently switched over too.

All in all, for the first time RODE have released a product I am truly excited about. It sounds excellent, just as good as microphones twice its price, it comes with a box of goodies, which make it rugged and set ready basically out of the box apart from your chosen MiCON connector, and, of course, the modularity and MiCON connectors make this a lavalier mic that is designed to stay in your kit for the long haul. Finally… A RODE product I would recommend (I would still buy this even if I had enough money to buy a bunch of Sanken COD11D’s). I think we have a winner…

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3 thoughts on “RODE Lavalier. First Impressions.

  1. Hey Chum, I’m soundslikejustin from JWsoundgroup.net. Just so you know, both DaCappo and DPA have had interchangeable connectors for a long time, in fact I’m pretty sure the Rode Micon system is either leased or (*clears throat*) ‘borrowed’ from DaCappo.

    The adjustment tool is for tightening the various parts together – you use it like a spanner (or two) to get them firmer than finger tight.

    Glad you like them, I’ve got a pair that I use with my G3’s, and I don’t really like them that much. If they’re under even a thin layer of clothing I get BIG handling noise issues and the talent sound like they’re talking through a pillow. More experimentation is necessary, I think…

  2. Hey justin, thanks for the comment, I wouldn’t pretend to know everything, I’m pretty new still (although melbourne is not a friendly place for newbies right now). Oh, I haven’t come across DaCappo before, and DPA is pretty hard to find down here. Yes, RODE “borrowed” (cough, cough) the technology, heh.
    Oh, right, but then I never try to get anything tighter than finger tight because I know what kind of finger strength I have.
    Yeah, I do like them. I’m not sure how you are rigging them, but I have had no problems with them (at least since I replaced the connectors), clothes rustle or otherwise, although I do know of some of my other fellow soundies around here who have had more problems rigging these up than usual (I don’t know, maybe I’m just good at this kind of thing). I use these under layers of clothing (I even used it under a woolen vest once) with the rycote overcovers and they seem fine, no pillow talk here.
    Anyways, thanks for dropping by Justin! I’m pretty sure no one else reads this blog, it’s just a way to keep my sanity.

  3. Maybe its the kevlar cable. I’ve found if the cable has just the tiniest bit of slack it can add to the rustling, so I make sure that the cable is flat against the talent’s body and not moving, loops can take care of necessary slack. Anyway, that’s the only thing I’m pretty picky about when using these, haven’t had any issues so far.

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