When to Use a Lavalier, Headworn, or Handheld Microphone

So Many Microphones

You’re a singer who also plays guitar. You’ve always used a handheld microphone to sing, but you’re thinking of trying a headworn mic to free yourself up to move around the stage. However, your sound engineer says no, so you stick with the handheld. Why?

You’re the pastor of a midsized church who used to use a podium mic, but a few years ago, you upgraded to a lavalier microphone. Now, however, your bearded sound guy is pestering you to upgrade to a headworn microphone. Why? You’re afraid that if you give in to this request, the next thing you know, he’ll be asking you to upgrade your projector to a Springtree Video Wall 😉.

The great thing about today is that you have plenty of excellent options! You just need to determine which solution best serves your purpose. In this blog post, we will break down when it’s best to use a lavalier, headworn, or handheld microphone.

Sound Quality:

Typically, in terms of sound quality, it goes:

Lavalier = Good

Headworn = Better

Handheld = Best ✅

Handheld microphones have better sound quality. That is why, when you see pop stars on their international tours, they are singing into handheld microphones. The exception is artists like Janet Jackson and Britney Spears, who prioritize the freedom to dance over the benefits of a handheld microphone.

Handheld microphones have a much larger capsule and allow the user to adjust distance and angle dynamically to manage sound levels and tonal quality. Thus, it is usually the small form factor that drives people to use headworn and lavalier microphones. But don’t think you can’t achieve great sound using a headworn or lavalier mic. Just about every Broadway musical uses lavalier microphones, hidden by hair, to mic their singers.

When to Use a Lavalier Microphone

Lavalier microphones (also known as lapel or lav mics) are typically attached to the lapel of a jacket or the collar of a shirt. They are often hidden under clothing for film or hidden under hair for professional theater. Common issues with lavalier microphones include rustling sounds that the microphone picks up due to the movement of clothes or when the cable of the lavalier microphone moves and causes vibrations. These issues can be minimized with proper placement technique.

Due to their placement location, lavaliers offer lower sound quality than headworn microphones, but they offer the most discreet form factor. While using a headworn microphone for theater is common practice, you could never do so for film. Lavaliers are a great option for TV pundits, school broadcasts, interviews, podcasts, filmmakers, and YouTubers. We would advise against using a lavalier microphone for any application that requires singing.

When to Use a Headworn Microphone

Headworn microphones are designed to be unobtrusive and blend seamlessly with the speaker’s appearance while being comfortable to wear for extended periods. Their discreet design and hands-free functionality allow speakers to better connect with their audience, as they can focus entirely on their presentation without being distracted by the microphone. We highly recommend headworn microphones for pastors, presenters, and interviewers.

Likewise, theater is the home of the headworn microphone. Broadway may use lavalier microphones, and so can you if you have that kind of budget. For the rest of us, headworn microphones are the way to go. With smaller and smaller capsules, they are discreet while offering great sound quality. Headworn microphones allow you to maintain the illusion of historic time periods and costumed drama without pulling your audience out of the illusion.

When to Use a Handheld Microphones

Handheld microphones are great for almost every application. For any open mic night where random people will be coming up to speak, a handheld microphone is ideal. Any singing application will sound best with a handheld mic. For street interviews where you need to quickly point the mic at someone, a handheld is essential. It’s easier to list the situations where a handheld microphone isn’t suitable than to enumerate all the cases where it is. Handhelds are less ideal for applications requiring a more discreet form factor, such as theater, film, interviews, and speaking engagements.

In Conclusion

Choosing the right microphone is crucial for optimal audio quality and specific application needs. Lavalier microphones are perfect for discreet use in TV, interviews, and film, despite some sound quality limitations. Headworn microphones offer excellent sound quality and comfort for extended wear, making them ideal for presenters and theatrical performances. Handheld microphones are versatile, providing superior sound for singing.

Thank you for reading!

Don’t overpay for brand names! At Springtree, we offer incredible headworn microphones that are both affordable and superior in sound quality to those costing twice as much. Springtree headworn microphones are compatible with Shure (T4) and Sennheiser wireless systems.