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I am in a need of a microphone for a specific setup and with some requirements, but I don't seem to have much luck in finding the best option. There is a possibility I am looking at this all wrong, so I am asking for advice here.

My setup is as follows:

My requirements are:

  • It does not have to be professional quality, I am hoping for something in the price range of 30€. Update: I understand that this budget is quite low, so it can go up reasonably if other requirements are met.

  • Small microphone (i think the terms my be: bug, lavalier, lapel, although I am not certain about the differences, but you get the idea).

  • Optimal sensitivity (I have used Genius MIC-01C with the sensitivity of -58dB at 1KHz and it was ok, but I think I would rather go above -45dB).

  • The most important thing is the noise requirement. I have had bad experiences with the Genius microphone, because its cable would collect too much 50Hz noise from the environment. If it was near the fluorescent lamp or a power source of any kind, the noise it collected was too high for any usage. Even when it is not near the EM source, it still gets much 50Hz noise from the environment. This is the main reason I am looking for an alternative microphone. I guess this requirement could be summed up as a need for a shielded cable?

  • The directionality should be unidirectional the narrower the better, because it is used to listen to one person only and try to eliminate anything else whenever possible.

What i have found in my search so far:

(I can't post more than two links yet, so here are only names)

  • Sony ECM-CS3
  • Bronstein LM15
  • Olympus ME52W
  • UPDATE: Olympus ME-12 - how can i know if it requires phantom power?

UPDATE: The ME52W has proven to be a bad choice due to phantom power, which i can't supply.

My questions are:

  1. Is there a microphone you know that would suit me these requirements?
  2. The Olympus ME-52W is the best I have found, it has high sensitivity, noise reduction and it has direct 3.5mm connector so I can replace its cable with a shielded one very easily. But the question here is: can i use this microphone with my setup, since it is ment to be used with the voice recorder? Seems that it needs phantom power to work? How do I know if i can supply this? UPDATE: Seems that without phantom power this microphone is useless. Thus, i need an option that doesn't require phantom power.
  3. How do i protect the microphone from collecting 50Hz noise from the surroundings with its cable? Should i use a shielded cable? Most mics come with their own unshielded cable, and replacing should not be an option for me..
  4. Do XLR cables help with this? Can i use a 3.5mm to XLR cable and get an XLR microphone that is small in size?
  5. UPDATE: After reading this discussion, I am wondering if my understanding about phantom power is correct for the Olympus ME-52W and ME-12 microphones? Do they indeed need the phantom power, or if this is something else. As quoted on that link:

    "Just plug the TP-8 jack into the "MIC" jack of your recorder"

Finally:

Thank you for your patience and I am sorry if my questions are wrongly directed or nonsensical. I am grateful for any help or hints as to how to direct my search.

  • Welcome to Sound Design :) As far as recommendation questions go - this is about as good as they get - thanks for an interesting question. – Tim Post Mar 5 '14 at 7:20
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If you go 50-100 bucks you would be able to get a good (seconhand) mic with a good Signal to Noise ratio.

The best low budget lavalier mics i came across where the sennheiser lavalier mics of the ew100 eng series.

If you can handle a normal size mic, go for the Shure SM 58. it is so versatile and a good 1st mic Option!

  • Thanks for your answer @Tobias, the ew100eng series looks promising, but I am uncertain about something. First, they seem to come only with a bodykit including wireless transmitter, which bring the question of phantom power up. Can I use such a microphone with my setup? As far as the normal size microphones go, my requirements can't bend that way, I really need a small mic.. – bosnjak Mar 13 '14 at 9:33
  • The transmitter feeds the mic with phantom power via 2 aaa batteries. The receiver also needs 2 aa batteries. This is the smallest setup I know. – Tobias Schmidt Mar 13 '14 at 9:37
  • It sure is a small setup when wireless mic is needed. But i don't need wireless, rather a wired solution. For this purpose i guess this microphone can't suffice. What would happen if i used the microphone without the possibility to provide phantom power? Would it not work at all, or just be extra quiet? – bosnjak Mar 13 '14 at 9:51
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    It is unusable without phantom power. If you amp this signal, you will get un unbelievable amount of noise. – Tobias Schmidt Mar 13 '14 at 12:46
  • No problem! Glad I could help! – Tobias Schmidt Mar 18 '14 at 8:08
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It's a bit out of your budget, but I'd consider a USB powered cardiod mic like the Audio Technica AT2020. It runs about $100 (though, you can find it cheaper) if you intend to use it with a Pi.

Going this route, you end up with (1) a better quality audio device (built into the mic) and (2) no need to worry about how you're going to power the mic, go from XLR to 3.5mm (all sorts of potential for noise there) (3) you've got all you need to get up and going (no need to get a mount, unless your application needs a shock mount).

There's a pretty good review of it here:

It does a fairly good job of cutting noise, and has the direction that you want.

Now, this is by no means a professional mic - but it is pretty good for one-off applications like the one you describe. Additionally, you'll find use for it beyond just this case, it's a really nice mic if you're ever doing a podcast, interview, Skype / Hangout / etc.

The down side is the same as the up side - it's USB, so you're pretty much restricted to using it with a computer - but that doesn't exactly describe a limited number of applications.

You could get something going within your budget, but it's not going to be very optimal. As you could use this for other things, it may be worth considering upping the cap a wee bit.

  • Thank you for the answer @TimPost, I really like the AT2020 and it fits all my requirements except the one that I can't break - it is too big for what i need, I would really need a small lavalier-type microphone. But the USB way might just be the best option for me, since I have USB and this would eliminate the need for the USB audio card and a shielded cable, since the audio conversion would be on the mic side and the digital signal wouldn't pick up the mains hum. So basically if there is something smaller like this that would be great. The price range will obviously have to go up as needed. – bosnjak Mar 13 '14 at 9:42
  • would you happen to know any such solution? – bosnjak Mar 18 '14 at 8:13
  • @Lawrence I'm thinking of one that is smaller that you could possibly modify a bit. Opposed to using a dremel to get just the right fit? – Tim Post Mar 19 '14 at 5:04
  • I don't quite understand what you mean? What is a "dremel"? :) – bosnjak Mar 19 '14 at 6:51
  • @Lawrence A rotary tool - often used by hobbyists to 'customize' things to fit particular applications. I can't think of anything out of the box that would be likely to work for you, so I'm digging my bookmarks for something that almost could, perhaps with a bit of tinkering. – Tim Post Mar 20 '14 at 16:22
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That is an exceedingly low budget. Forget professional, I think the cheapest mic I ever bought was about sixty quid, and it is just about okay.

Balanced cables will certainly help reduce mains him and other interference so yes, balanced XLR is essential.

If you have a mic that requires phantom power you need to have a way to provide it, whether that is a DI box with phantom, or a desk which can provide it.

  • Ok, forget the budget, clearly I will have to go over my budget significantly. But even then, what can I get that would fit my requirements? – bosnjak Mar 18 '14 at 8:12
  • I have updated the questions, if you could take a look please, I am a bit confused about the phantom power. Thank you! – bosnjak Mar 18 '14 at 8:54
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  1. i don't think you can find a quiet, sensitive, shielded-from-interference, directional, small, microphone for €20. but i could be wrong.
  2. the ME52W will need a battery box to operate (plug-in power)
  3. it needs to be shielded, with the shield connected to ground, that may or may not work, since the hum may be for another reason.
  4. read this. also, likely, no.

If you're up for some soldering, and can grab out 3V from the raspi rails, I'm told the mythical BT-EM172 capsule from Sony's ass-kicking portable M10 can be found online on the cheap. it's -28dB re 1V/Pa :] It's not directional, and isn't shielded but you can address these.

  • 1. I agree, the budget needs to expand if I want to get a proper microphone. Question edited to reflect this. 2. I guess its out of the question then. 3. I understand, probably best to use shielded cable since the hum is most likely the EMI from other appliances. 4. Thanks for the link! Thanks for the advice on the BT-EM172, but the soldering is out of the question for my purpose. – bosnjak Mar 14 '14 at 7:08
  • I see now that "plug-in power" is different from "phantom power", as described in my updates to the question. I didn't notice it before in your response since I didn't understand the terminology (I still don't tbh :)). Anyway, please check out my updates and maybe you have some advice... – bosnjak Mar 18 '14 at 8:55
  • @Lawrence, i shared all the advice i had. – georgi Mar 18 '14 at 8:59

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