Low-Noise Binaural Mics For Location Interview Recording

When most of us hear the term “binaural” lavalier mics, we think of amateur location music recording. However, the term also can mean a pair of interview lavs where the audio for the subject and the questioner are sent to different tracks of a stereo recorder for easier editing.

Rarely does the marketing copy for binaural lav mics mention separate interview tracks because so few people use them that way. But, as a multimedia reporter, I wanted to upgrade my interview mics and began looking for options. I found dozens of no-name, very low-cost mics wired to a stereo 3.5mm connector. Yes, they worked, but they were also quite noisy even in locations with high ambient sound.

First, some background. I always carry a small stereo audio recorder, a pair of binaural lavs, a digital camera and an iPhone for video in a small bag virtually everywhere I go. Even when just writing a story, I always take photos and usually record the interview. Though I own recorders and mics with XLR connectors, this equipment is too large and heavy to take everywhere. So, my daily travel package contains much lighter gear.

Sure, I could use one mic (and sometimes I do) but when editing, it helps a lot to get my voice on one channel and the subject of the interview on the other. This way, I can more easily edit and get similar levels in coffee shops, parks, trade shows or wherever I’m recording.

When searching for the new mics, I wanted high-quality, low-noise lav mics — not the cheaper ones I knew too well. Ironically, most major manufacturers of lavalier microphones don’t make them in binaural configurations. However, I found a third party company in Florida that does. MMAudio, also called Microphone Madness, buys high quality mic capsules from third parties and configures them into binaural configurations.

I bought their MM-PC-11 dual lav omni directional mics. These dual lavs come with six-feet each of cable with a total separation of 12 feet. A mic is used for each the subject and interviewer. Though the company will not reveal who made the original mic capsules, the specs are listed.

The Rohs-compliant omni-directional back electret condenser mics have a frequency response of 20hz to 20Khz. The maximum SPL is 150db, the dynamic range is 93db and the equivalent noise is 32dba.

These mics offer excellent sensitivity from soft spoken words to full out rock concert environments. They produce extreme clarity and detail, even in coffee shops where plates and cups are constantly being shifted around. Included in package are two premium windscreens and two miniature rotational holding clips.

Like so many lav mics for portable audio recorders, these terminate in a 3.5mm mic jack. The recorder supplies the condenser capsules with the consumer-standard 2.71-volt “plug-in power,” rather than the 48-volt phantom power that one would expect of a portable mixer with XLR inputs.

For years, experimenters have worked with binaural lavs seeking the best quality. Twenty years ago, I had a hand-wired set of PSC Millimics made into a binaural pair. They were the only mics at the time with a low enough power requirement to work with the small recorders that supplied 2.71-volts.

Now there are dozens of low voltage mics of different quality on the market. At the same time, DIY kits and plans have proliferated on the net for years. Again, you had to take the word of the unknown builder or seller. I wanted a good, reliable product I knew would do the trick on a long term basis.

I found that quality sound and reliability with the MMAudio product. Based in Palm Coast, Florida and sold by B&H Photo and Video in New York City, their binaural lavs begin at $55.95. The top of the line MM-PC-11 cost $350 when I bought it, though it is now down to $250.00. I talked with the owner on the phone and he offered the quality assurances I needed to hear as well as a warranty.

When plugged into a high-quality portable audio recorder, the MM-PC-11 mics offer incredibly clean sound in a very portable package. The harsh audible noise was gone. These mics are highly recommended for interviews when you are seeking excellent quality audio in the worst locations.

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