Lavalier microphones (also called “lapel microphones”) are small, lightweight, and versatile tools for capturing audio. They clip directly onto clothing, remaining a constant distance from the subject’s mouth for consistent results.
But you don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on a lavalier microphone. We’ve rounded up some of the best budget-friendly lavalier microphones for around $50 or less.
How to Use These Microphones With Smartphones
Most microphones with a 3.5mm stereo jack can be used with a smartphone, provided you have the right adapter. If you look at the jack on a microphone, there are several layers for different audio elements. This is commonly referred to as TRS or TRRS, standing for tip-ring-sleeve, or tip-ring-ring-sleeve respectively.
Apple and the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) helped establish a standard by which most equipment manufacturers and Android vendors now use when designing their products. The standard uses TRRS in the following order: microphone, ground, audio right, and audio left.
If you have a TRS microphone with three stripes, you’ll usually only need a TRRS adapter to make your four-stripe microphone work. Many of the microphones below include adapters or already conform to the TRRS standard. If you’re using an Android phone most TRRS iPhone microphones will work, but you might want to search for information regarding your exact model just to be sure.
If you need wireless audio on a budget, you can’t do much better than the FIFINE wireless lavalier microphone system. Like other wireless systems, it includes the lavalier microphone, UHF transmitter, and receiver with a 1/4-inch jack.
Choose from 20 frequencies for an effective range of 40-65 feet (12-20 meters), and a hassle-free setup. The lavalier microphone itself uses a mini-XLR connector, while the receiver can be used with the included 1/4-inch to 3.5mm adapter cable for smaller devices.
Reviewers have praised the microphone’s value for money, noting great sound quality and ease of use. If you head to the Amazon reviews you can see some example videos where the FIFINE system has been used, so you can make your own mind up.
The only real drawback seems to be build quality, which is always bound to suffer at this price point.
Looking for a dual-microphone setup but want to avoid bringing a mixer along? Normally you’d need additional audio hardware to record two microphones at once into a single source, but not with the Movo LV20.
Movo has produced a dual-capsule microphone that runs into a single line. These are powered via an LR44 battery, which means the system will work with most cameras and audio recorders that accept a 3.5mm TRRS jack.
The system is good for recording both an interviewer and subject who are standing fairly close together. It’s clearly aimed at producers on a budget who want to travel light, and reviewers seem to like the overall sound quality and versatility of the setup.
Movo also produces a single capsule powered microphone for slightly cheaper, just in case you only need the one.
Sitting right in the middle of field between the sub-$10 and entry level brand names is the PowerDeWise OmniDirectional Lavalier Microphone. It uses a 4-pin TRRS 3.5mm jack connected to a huge 59-inch (1.5 meter) cord. On top of that you also get an additional 79-inch (2 meter) extension cord.
You’ll also get a velcro wrap for tying up unwanted additional cable, a 3-pin TRRS adapter, two wind muffs, a carrying case, and the required clip for attaching the microphone to clothing. Reviews are excellent overall, particularly for the inclusion of the massive extension cable.
Note: This is a passive microphone, so it won’t work with devices that need powered microphones.
4. BOYA BY-M1
If you spend slightly more you can get yourself a powered lavalier microphone, like the BOYA BY-M1, which uses LR44 batteries to improve its compatibility with sources that require powered external microphones. That includes professional camera systems, mirrorless and SLR cameras, and devices that lack amplification.
Included is a 20-inch (50cm) cable, complete with a 1/4-inch adapter. You’ll also find a clip and a wind muff in the box, a battery, and a carrying case to keep it all together. The microphone captures 360º audio, and you can switch between powered mode and passive/smartphone mode using a switch on the battery compartment.
Reviewers have praised the BY-M1 for its sound quality, the fact that it’s a powered microphone, and the long cable that comes in the box. It’s popular with YouTubers on a budget, amateur film makers, and anyone looking for an inexpensive way to capture interviews and the spoken word.
BOYA also produces a twin pack, which includes two microphones and all the accessories you need, at a discounted rate.
At the very cheapest end of the spectrum is the AUFGELD Omnidirectional Condenser Mic, a sub-$10 lavalier microphone from a brand you’ve never heard of. At such a low price point you really shouldn’t expect much, but we’ve chosen it due to the sheer volume (ahem) of positive Amazon reviews. For the price, this one seems to do the job.
This lavalier microphone comes with an extra-long 59-inch (1.5 meter) cord with a 3.5mm jack. It uses TRRS, which means it can be used with most smartphones as a microphone. It even comes with an adapter to extend smartphone or laptop compatibility.
In the box you’ll find the microphone itself, two clips, two wind muffs, adapter, and a handy carrying case. At this price point build quality and durability might be a concern, but these might make suitable “disposable” microphones in situations where you don’t want to risk your expensive gear.
Note: This is a passive microphone, so it may not work properly with some devices (like digital SLR/mirrorless cameras) that require powered external microphones. It should work fine with smartphones and as a microphone for the PS4 and similar devices.
Bonus: RODE smartLav+
At the top end of the spectrum is a familiar name in audiovisual equipment. RODE produces everything from consumer products to professional-level shotgun microphones, so you’re paying for the name and the sound quality and durability the company is known for.
That’s why the RODE smartLav+ itself is a pretty basic affair. It’s a passive mic, so it will only work with smartphones and recorders that have a built-in amplifier. It uses TRRS via a 3.5mm jack, which means it should work with most smartphones, tablets, and laptops. You’ll need a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter for newer iPhones.
The smartLav+ uses a kevlar-reinforced cable for improved durability. In the box you’ll find the lavalier, a clip, a wind muff, and a carrying case. RODE recommends using the RODE Rec app for iOS, which according to reviewers helps clean up the audio and isolate background noise.
Note: Remember, this microphone isn’t powered, so it may not work with all cameras and audio recorders. It may also cost you slightly more than $50, depending on where you source it.
Cheap Is Still Better Than Your Built-In Microphone
Even though these lavalier microphones are cheap, they will still provide better sound than most built-in microphones. Microphone placement has as much to do with sound quality as your chosen microphone, and these lavalier systems make it easier to get consistent audio with even levels.
Looking for a video camera to create short films, documentaries and YouTube content? Keep your kit light by opting for a mirrorless camera instead of an SLR.
Image Credit: futag/Depositphotos
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