Lavalier Mic vs Handheld: Which is Better for Interviews?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 26, 2023

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There’s a lot of debate about which is better, a lavalier or handheld microphone.

Lavalier mics are great for interviews because they’re small and easy to hide, while handheld mics are better for podcasts because you can hold them and control the sound better.

In this article, I’ll explain the differences between these two types of microphones and when to use them.

lavalier vs handheld mic

Handheld vs. Wireless Interview Microphone: A Tale of Two Mics

As a seasoned interviewer, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with both handheld and wireless interview microphones. When it comes to audio quality, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. In general, handheld mics tend to have a higher audio quality due to their larger diaphragm, which allows them to pick up a wider range of frequencies. On the other hand, lavalier mics are small and discreet, but their audio pickup can be more sensitive to background noise. It’s essential to consider the environment you’ll be recording in and choose the mic that best suits your needs.

Flexibility: The Dance of the Mics

When it comes to flexibility, wireless lavalier mics take the cake. With no cables to hold you back, you’re free to move around and engage with your interviewee without being tethered to a recording device. This can be especially helpful when conducting interviews in tight spaces or when you need to capture multiple angles. Handheld mics, on the other hand, require a more stationary approach, as you’ll need to keep the mic close to your subject’s mouth for optimal audio pickup.

Directionality: The Art of Picking Sides

One key difference between handheld and wireless interview microphones is their directionality. Handheld mics are typically more directional, meaning they pick up sound from a specific angle and are less sensitive to incoming noise from other directions. This can be great for interviews in noisy environments (here are the best mics for that), as it helps to isolate your subject’s voice from the surrounding chaos. Wireless lavalier mics, however, are usually omnidirectional, meaning they pick up sound from all directions. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as it allows for more natural-sounding audio but can also make it difficult to separate your subject’s voice from background noise.

Setup and Ease of Use: The Race to the Finish Line

When it comes to setting up for an interview, time is often of the essence. In my experience, handheld mics are generally quicker and easier to set up, as they typically require just a simple connection to your recording device. Wireless lavalier mics, on the other hand, involve a bit more setup, as you’ll need to attach the mic to your subject, connect the transmitter to the mic, and then connect the receiver to your recording device. However, once everything is in place, wireless lavalier mics offer a level of freedom that handheld mics simply can’t match.

Compatibility: The Great Tech Tango

When choosing between a handheld and wireless interview microphone, it’s important to consider compatibility with your recording setup. Handheld mics commonly connect directly to your recording device via an XLR cable, making them a versatile choice for a variety of setups. Wireless lavalier mics, however, may require specific transmitters and receivers to function properly, so it’s essential to ensure that your chosen mic is compatible with your recording equipment.

Handheld Mic: A Versatile Audio Companion

A handheld mic, as the name suggests, is a microphone designed to be held in the hand while speaking or singing. These mics are typically connected to an audio system via a cable, which carries the audio signal from the mic to the sound system. Handheld mics are a popular choice for various uses, including interviews, live music performances, and public speaking events. Some key characteristics of handheld mics include:

  • Dynamic or condenser microphone types
  • On/off switch for easy control
  • Metal body for durability
  • Directional pickup pattern to reduce background noise

Why People Prefer Handheld Mics

There are several reasons why people might choose a handheld mic over other types of microphones:

  • Versatility: Handheld mics are suitable for a wide range of applications, from interviews to live music performances.
  • Control: Being able to physically hold the mic allows the user to control the angle and distance from their mouth, which can help achieve the desired sound quality.
  • Noise reduction: Many handheld mics have a directional pickup pattern, which means they are more sensitive to sounds coming directly from the front and less sensitive to sounds from the sides or rear. This helps to minimize background noise and focus on the speaker’s voice.
  • Durability: Handheld mics are usually built with a sturdy metal body, making them more resistant to wear and tear.

Handheld Mic Uses and Benefits

Handheld mics are ideal for a variety of situations, including:

  • Interviews: A handheld mic allows the interviewer to easily pass the mic between themselves and the interviewee, ensuring that both voices are picked up clearly.
  • Live music performances: Musicians and singers often prefer handheld mics for their ability to control the sound and create dynamic effects by changing the distance and angle of the mic.
  • Public speaking events: Handheld mics are a popular choice for speakers who want to move around the stage or interact with the audience while maintaining control over their audio.

Choosing the Right Handheld Mic

When selecting a handheld mic, it’s essential to consider the specific needs of your intended use. Some factors to keep in mind include:

  • Dynamic vs. condenser: Dynamic mics are generally more durable and less sensitive to loud sounds, making them a good choice for live music performances. Condenser mics, on the other hand, are more sensitive and can capture a wider range of frequencies, making them ideal for recording or situations where high-quality audio is required.
  • Pickup pattern: Consider the environment in which the mic will be used and the amount of background noise you’ll need to minimize. Directional mics are great for reducing unwanted noise, while omnidirectional mics can capture sound from all directions.
  • Wired vs. wireless: While this article focuses on wired handheld mics, it’s worth noting that wireless options are also available. Wireless mics offer more freedom of movement but may require additional gear, such as receivers and transmitters.

Unraveling the Mysteries of the Lavalier Mic

Let me tell you, the first time I heard the term “lavalier mic,” I was stumped. But fear not, my friends, for I have since become well-versed in the world of these little audio wonders. A lavalier microphone, often referred to as a lapel mic or simply a lav, is a small, discreet microphone designed to be attached directly to a person’s clothing, usually near the mouth. This type of mic is popular for a number of reasons, but its biggest selling point is the hands-free experience it offers.

Wired or Wireless: The Lavalier Mic’s Evolution

As with most things in life, lavalier mics come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. The initial models were wired, connecting directly to recording gear via a cable. However, as technology advanced, wireless models began to appear, providing users with even greater freedom of movement. When deciding between wired and wireless options, consider your specific needs and the potential benefits of each type.

Condenser Capsules and Sound Quality

Lavalier mics are typically condenser microphones, which means they’re sensitive to incoming sounds and can produce high-quality audio. However, this sensitivity also means they can pick up unwanted noise. To combat this, many lavs offer built-in filters to help reduce background noise and create a more natural sound. Remember, though, that the quality of your audio will also depend on factors such as the mic’s placement and the environment in which you’re recording.

Choosing the Right Lavalier Mic for Your Needs

When it comes to selecting the perfect lavalier mic, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Here are some key factors to consider when making your decision:

  • Budget: Lavalier mics can range from affordable to significantly expensive, so decide how much you’re willing to invest in your audio gear.
  • Wired or wireless: As mentioned earlier, both options have their pros and cons. Consider your specific needs and preferences when making this choice.
  • Sound quality: Look for a mic with a good pickup pattern and noise reduction features to ensure clear, natural audio.
  • Compatibility: Make sure the lavalier mic you choose is compatible with your recording equipment, whether it’s a camera, smartphone, or audio recorder.

Hands-Free vs Handheld: Deciphering the Mic Conundrum

When it comes to the biggest difference between a lavalier and a handheld microphone, it’s all about the hands-free aspect. Picture this: you’re in the middle of an interview, and you want to gesture or emphasize a point. With a lavalier mic, you’re able to do so without any restrictions, as it’s typically attached to your clothing, leaving your hands free to express yourself. This type of mic is designed to be small and unobtrusive, allowing for a more natural conversation flow. Some key benefits of a lavalier microphone include:

  • Greater flexibility in movement
  • Less physical strain on the interviewer or interviewee
  • Ideal for video interviews, where a handheld mic might be visually distracting

Handheld Microphones: The Classic Choice

On the other hand (pun intended), a handheld microphone is exactly what it sounds like: a mic that you hold in your hand while talking. This type of microphone is commonly used in radio interviews, live events, and situations where a more direct sound pickup is needed. Handheld microphones are typically more directional, meaning they pick up sound from a specific angle, which can be great for reducing background noise. Some advantages of handheld microphones include:

  • Higher sound quality due to the proximity to the speaker’s mouth
  • Better control over the directionality of the mic, reducing unwanted noise
  • A more professional appearance, especially in live event settings

Dissecting the Key Characteristics: Handheld vs Wireless Interview Microphones

1. Directionality and Sound Pickup

Let me tell you, as someone who’s been in the thick of it, the directionality and sound pickup of a microphone can make or break your recording. Here’s how handheld and wireless lavalier mics differ in this aspect:

  • Handheld mics:

– Typically have a more directional pickup pattern, meaning they’re sensitive to sound coming from a specific direction.
– Ideal for focusing on the speaker’s mouth and minimizing background noise.
– Require the user to physically hold and angle the mic towards the sound source, which can be a bit of a hassle.

  • Wireless lavalier mics:

– Often have a more omnidirectional pickup pattern, picking up sound from all directions.
– Great for capturing the natural ambiance of a space, but can also pick up unwanted background noise.
– Mounted on the speaker’s body, offering hands-free flexibility and consistent audio quality.

2. Transmission and Signal Quality

When it comes to transmission and signal quality, there’s a world of difference between handheld and wireless lavalier mics. Here’s what I’ve experienced:

  • Handheld mics:

– Can be either wired or wireless, with wired options usually delivering higher sound quality and lower latency.
– Wireless handhelds may experience radio frequency interference, but modern models have improved in this regard.
– Ideal for studio settings or when a stable connection is crucial.

  • Wireless lavalier mics:

– Rely on radio waves for transmission, which can be susceptible to interference and signal dropouts.
– Require a separate transmitter and receiver, adding to the complexity of the setup.
– Best for on-the-go interviews, video shoots, and situations where mobility is key.

3. Size and Portability

Size and portability are crucial factors to consider when choosing the right mic for your needs. Here’s how handheld and wireless lavalier mics stack up:

  • Handheld mics:

– Larger and more conspicuous, which can be both an advantage (easier to handle) and a disadvantage (more visually distracting).
– Can be cumbersome to transport, especially if you need multiple mics for a group interview.

  • Wireless lavalier mics:

– Small and discreet, making them ideal for video interviews where you don’t want the mic to steal the spotlight.
– Easily clipped onto clothing or mounted on a camera, freeing up the speaker’s hands for a more natural conversation.
– More portable and easier to set up, making them a popular choice for on-location interviews and varied recording situations.

So, there you have it! The key characteristics that set handheld and wireless lavalier mics apart. As someone who’s been in the trenches, I can tell you that the best choice ultimately depends on your specific needs and the type of interview you’re conducting.

Deciphering the Ideal Mic for Varied Interview Scenarios

Handheld microphones are a popular pick for studio recordings and live interviews, such as on TV or radio. They offer a few great advantages:

  • Directional: Handheld mics are typically more sensitive to sound coming from the direction they’re pointed in, which helps to minimize incoming noise from other sources.
  • Flexible positioning: Interviewers can easily adjust the angle and distance of the mic to the interviewee’s mouth, ensuring optimal audio quality.
  • Connection reliability: With a wired connection, there’s no need to worry about interference or signal dropouts that can sometimes plague wireless mics.

However, handheld mics do have their drawbacks:

  • Less freedom of movement: The interviewee must physically hold the mic or have it mounted on a stand, which can be limiting for some.
  • More visible in video: If you’re conducting a video interview with a green screen or other visual effects, a handheld mic may be more noticeable and less aesthetically pleasing.

Lavalier Mics: The Discreet Option for On-the-Go Interviews

Lavalier microphones, also known as lapel or clip-on mics, are a popular choice for interviews conducted outdoors or in situations where a more discreet mic is needed. Here are some of the benefits of using a lavalier mic:

  • Hands-free: Lavalier mics are small and unobtrusive, allowing the interviewee to move freely without having to hold a mic.
  • Consistent audio quality: Since the mic is clipped to the interviewee’s clothing, the distance to their mouth remains constant, ensuring consistent sound levels.
  • Wireless capabilities: Many lavalier mics come with wireless transmitter kits, offering flexibility and freedom of movement.

But lavalier mics also come with their own set of challenges:

  • More sensitive to background noise: Lavalier mics can pick up more surrounding sounds, which may not be ideal for interviews conducted in noisy environments.
  • Potential for clothing rustle: If not properly mounted, lavalier mics can pick up the sound of clothing rubbing against the mic, which can be distracting.


So, when it comes to choosing a microphone for your needs, you need to consider the type of sound you need and the type of environment you’re in. 

Lavalier microphones are great for interviews, while handheld mics are better for live music and public speaking. So, when you’re looking for a microphone, don’t just look at the brand, look at the type and ask yourself, “Will this work for me?”

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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