Wireless Microphone Alternatives – iPhone, Sony, Zoom

Paul Shillito Audio 4 Comments

Wireless Microphone Alternatives, in this video I look at a different ways to record your audio when you are too far from the camera or you need to move around without microphone cables to fall over or put out but you don’t want or need to buy an expensive wireless microphone system.

This all came about when I had to do some video work outside showing a monopod and giving a commentary as I walked away from the camera. The problem was that I had no wireless system that I could take outside and my trusty old Sennheiser has a mains powered based station.

Now in hindsight and with a bit of messy around I could of got a power inverter and a 12v battery or made a 12v battery power unit as that’s what the base station of the Sennheiser Freeport uses.  But I didn’t and in stead chose to use an audio recorder and then record my audio as I was walking around, then sync it up in the edit.

I used my iPhone 5 and the Audio-Technica ATR3350 lapel microphone in the initial setup, thought that was not without some issues that didn’t actually show until I was in the middle of a field.

After the videoing was over I thought I would look at some other audio recorders so that I would then have something to use on a production basis and without some of the issues i had with the iPhone 5 and ATR3350 setup.

Subsequently I then bought a Zoom H4n audio recorder and although its bigger than the iPhone or a voice recorder like the Sony ICDUX522 it has a lot of features and capabilities like XLR inputs and a set of stereo mics which turn it into a great high quality general purpose recorder.

Anyway have  look at the video and leave any comments in the box below… somewhere after the transcript.

Video link : http://youtu.be/fcz6UO8EqB0

{Video Transcript}

Wireless microphones are a great tool both in and out of the studio BUT they can be expensive and they also have their own issues. However there are alternatives that can not only be a lot cheaper but also don’t suffer from the wireless problems.

In this video I’ll show how I came to find a few alternatives to wireless mics that may not have thought of.

Now when I’m in the studio I use a lapel mic connected to a Sennheiser  wireless system. This consists of the transmitter where the microphone plugs into there, this transmits a signal which goes to my base station which is over there and this picks the radio signal and then outputs the audio in to the camera.

This arrangement works very well and allows me to move around without having to worry about getting tangled up in wires and pulling something out maybe damaging either the mic or camera.

However, last summer I needed to do a piece about using a mono-pod which  meant i had to film outside and away from the camera so I couldn’t use the cameras internal mic because that’s too noisy and I couldn’t  or a camera mounted shotgun mic because I was going to be  too far away from the camera.

Now because my current wireless mic uses a base station which is powered by the mains, I couldn’t use that either because there was no power where I was filming.

So I had a choice to either buy a new wireless system that used battery powered transmitter and receiver, all of which are pretty expensive. Or I could use something else.

Back in the old days before we used camcorders with built in audio, cameras just recorded the visual element and the sound was recorded on to tape separately. Today we have replaced the tape machines with much smaller solid state devices but the principle remains the same.

The microphone is connected to a portable audio recorder which you carry around with you in the same way as you would with the wireless transmitter, so you’re recording all the audio as you move around.

All you have to do is make sure both the camera and the audio recorder are set to record at around the same time, then in the edit, the audio and the visuals are synchronized together.

Another advantage to this method is that you are not limited by the range of the radio signal and you don’t have radio interference problems either.
Now the setup I ended up using for the mono pod shoot was my iPhone 5 and an Audio-Technica ATR3350 powered lapel mic.

The iPhone and other smart phones can work really well as an audio recorder. There loads of apps available which will do the job of recording your audio. The one I use on the iPhone is the iRig recorder by IK multimedia.

It is free and allows you to adjust the record level and has a visual meter to check the external mic is plugged in and working and that’s its not too loud or quiet. Once you have recorded your audio you can export it by iTunes, FTP, WiFi  or to a sound cloud account.

Now whilst the iPhone did a good job I did notice there were some problems, the biggest was that if you put the battery box of the microphone near the iPhone, for example if you put both in your pocket when your using it. One the actual recording  you could hear a rapid clicking noise in the background. This turns out to be interference coming from the iPhone which in being induced in to the electronics of the little battery box of the micro phone.

In the end I had to separate the by putting the iPhone in my sock and the mic battery box in my back pocket, that worked OK but it’s not really the best solution.

The other issue is that because of the iPhone’s touch screen, it’s all too easy do something you don’t want to when you’re handling it like putting it in your pocket for example or in my case putting it down my sock.

So after I did this I started to look around for something that was specifically made for the job. This can range from voice dictation devices up to multiple input field recorders.

One that I did find that looked quite good was a voice recorder made by Sony which is the ICDUX522, it’s quite cheap at about £55 or $85, it small and light weight and can save you files to a micro SD card or you can plug it in to your USB port to get access to your recordings that way.

A couple of things to watch for with these dictation recorders, and one is that they can take an external mic, because not all of them do and another thing to do is try and get one which has a manual gain control or have the ability to turn off the automatic gain control or AGC when recording.

Now I didn’t buy one of the Sony’s because in the end I bought one of these.

This is a Zoom H4n audio recorder. Its bigger than both the iPhone and the Sony but it can still be placed in to a pocket out of the way, the only thing that is really missing from this is a belt clip though I’m sure you could use a small pouch or something similar to attach is to you in some way.

The great thing about these is that you have a high quality low noise input section that can not only take microphones with a 3.5mm sockets like the lapel microphones but in the case of the zoom H4n they have two XLR inputs so you can use it with any professional microphone like shotgun mics, boom mics and condenser mics and other audio equipment that uses XLR connections.

They record directly to a standard SD card so your recording time is only limited by that of the card capacity. they also have a built in speaker so you can review what you have just recorded and the headphone socket can also be used to monitor the audio input as it is recorded to make sure your levels are actually OK.

The only thing that bugs me with the Zoom H4n is that the 3.5mm mic socket input is on the back of the device and means that the plug and lead stick out when I think it should have been mounted on the top or bottom like on the iPhone.

Audio recorders like this also have full control of the input levels. They have compressors, limiters and EQ   which can help maintain a high quality recording and stop unwanted distortion from unexpected loud speech or noises.

These type of recorders are available from about $100 upwards, though the Zoom H4n was about £200 which is around $300.

So whilst they are not super cheap, they can give you a very good audio and can be used as the centre of your audio recording for other types of microphones and XLR equipment.

And with ones like this Zoom H4n which have built stereo mics they give you a very good quality  sound recorder too, with a much better quality than the microphone that are built in to most video cameras.

So that’s it, by using a small portable audio recorder you don’t have to use an expensive wireless microphone system if you want to be free of those pesky wires.

If you enjoyed this video then please rate and subscribe and if you have any suggestions that you think would make a good wireless microphone alternative then please leave your comments in the box below.

If you think someone would benefit from this video then please share it with them, so until the next time, my name is Paul Shillito, see you later, bye

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Stop yakking and get on with some work, will you!

Cheeky bugger

Comments 4

  1. Janaj

    Hi Paul,
    Thank you for the cool iPhone app suggestion. That will certainly bee good for those immediate uses “in the field” when stuff is happening and all my gear is back in the studio!

    I have a Zoom H4N, but have not used it mainly because I have not studied all its capabilities. Your video assists in how to use it quite a bit. The XLR connections make the Zoom a good choice for voice through a mixer or into the cam direct.

    I have a remote Sennheiser lavalier transmitting and receiving unit that works for about 85% of my needs, except in wind. I love that because of ease and quality – and it goes into the cam direct as well..

    Thank you for these useful tips and ideas how to get more performance from the gear we have.

    1. Post
      Paul Shillito

      The XLR inputs will work with the mic directly or from a mixer, you might need to adjust the levels between them and also you may need to enable the phantom power if your mic requires 48V but if you using a mixer then you don’t need to worry about that.

  2. Paul Larisey

    Excellent “detail” and worthwhile conclusion “spend a little more.” Also enjoyed “background” video. Think you’ll be successful here with your delivery style and obvious intelligence.

    1. Post

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