A Pastorís Perfect Microphone
By: Andrew Kornstein
WANTED: A mic to preach with that is comfortable AND sounds good.
Most preachers think you can only choose one: comfort or quality. It takes a little research to find the perfect combination of the two. The good news is that it does exist. SoÖwhere to begin?
Before we get into too much detail, I need to review the No. 1 rule of audio: "It always depends." There usually isn't a right or wrong way to do things. It's more about matching the solution to your scenario to get the results you are looking for.
First, let's take a look at form factor.
There are three forms of presentation mics: headworns, earsets, and lavalieres. Each one has its pros and cons.
While headworn mics provide the greatest stability and placement consistency, some pastors find the double ear hooks to be quite uncomfortable. Another disadvantage is that some pastors are conscious of having a mic attached to their head while greeting visitors before or after service.
Earsets provide a greater level of comfort than headworns, as they are usually lighter weight and hang on only one ear. Care must be taken when fitting them, however. They are usually more delicate and require a great deal of finesse to get the perfect fit.
Also, it's important to be careful when taking them on and off, as to not bend it and ruin all the hard work we just did to fit it. For this reason, I always recommend that each earset be dedicated to one person and not shared. This, of course, can only be done if budget permits.
Lavaliere mics (or "lavs") are generally very comfortable. It's quite easy to conceal the cable, also. Many times, however, the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired. Placement on the shirt, tie, or jacket must be perfect to avoid unwanted fabric noise and must be the right distance from the source of sound (in this case, the mouth). Proper distance and placement depends on the make and model of the mic, so make sure you consult the manufacturer's documentation for their recommendations.
Aside from the form factor, let's talk about the polar pattern of the capsule.
There are two main choices when deciding the right polar pattern. Omnidirectional mics pick up sound equally from the front to the back of the capsule, where cardioid mics tend to point in one direction, while rejecting sound from the side and back of the capsule.
Both of these patterns have their place in the right application. Omnidirectional mics tend to pick up more natural sound around the person speaking. When used properly, we can get a more realistic reproduction, as ambient noise is naturally mixed in. Omnidirectional mics, however, can cause major issues if used on a very loud stage, since the voice is not isolated.
Cardioid mics focus mainly on the voice since we would point the capsule in the direction of the mouth. Unlike omnidirectional mics, cardioids reject a lot of noise from the side, which makes it a perfect candidate for use on a loud stage or in a place with a lot of background noise. These types of mics, unfortunately, have a significant disadvantage in that they are usually larger than omins, making the mic more visible.
Sensitivity is another variable we need to consider. Each microphone has its own unique characteristics when it comes to sensitivity, so it's important to know what's currently on the market.
Higher sensitivity mics are best used with soft spoken speakers. While they do tend to pick up the voice quite well, unfortunately, they pick up other unwanted noise around the speaker. Lower sensitivity mics are best when used with singers or very dynamic and enthusiastic speakers. Unlike high sensitivity mics, they tend to reject unwanted noise.
We've looked into several variables when choosing a perfect mic. It may seem like a daunting task, but, as stated before, it's important to keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers.
There is, however, a more desirable choice for your specific scenario. Considering the form factor, capsule type, and sensitivity to decide your perfect mic will yield years of comfort and confidence while on stage.
Andrew Kornstein is the house of worship market development manager for Sennheiser, www.sennheiserusa.com.