Rode smartLav

sadly disappointed with my Rode smartLav mic.

I had always associated Rode with quality, I’ve used their products before and always been very happy with them. However I find myself sadly disappointed with the quality of my recently purchased¬† Rode SmartLav lavalier microphone. They advertise it as “a professional-grade wearable microphone” but I found it far from that.

The first thing I noticed was a physical problem, the foam cover / windshield was not properly attached to its frame. That got sorted by fully removing the cover and then the application of some superglue to re-attach it.

The microphone did come with a tie-clip which does quite a good job of holding the device and keeping the cable secure. The microphone itself is quite small, somewhat thicker than a toothpick, a lot thinner than a pencil. Assuming you could route the cable out of sight then it could go totally unnoticed if attached to the side of a monitor or to one side of a desk. Its omnidirectional pick-up pattern means it does not have to be pointing at the speaker in order to pick up speech.

The device is advertised as a smartphone device, I did try plugging it into my Zoom H1 recorder and also my video camera but (as expected) it didn’t work with either. I’ve tried it with three different phones. Using a Nokia Lumia 520 it gave an audio file that sounded a bit wooly with a loss of upper end frequencies. Using a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 gave a very tinny sound with loss at both the lower and upper frequencies. My iPhone gave the best overall sound in terms of frequency response however I still class it as ‘poor’ and far from the ‘professional-grade’ that Rode claim. There was also a noticeable background hiss all the way through and an intermittent crackle just to add to the distraction.

The one area where it did perform better than other microphones I’ve used is outside in that it picked up less wind noise than most. This does not, however, compensate for its overall poor quality of performance.

Sorry Rode, the phrase “could do better” springs to mind.

Link to my YouTube test of it.

3 responses to “Rode smartLav

  1. You get superb performance with it but only if you use it in conjunction with the rode rec app on the iphone. Then you get great quality.

  2. @Paul it would certainly be nice if they warned about that on the package – that it is NOT intended for anybody using anything other than an iPhone.

    Worked great for the first year, but now I’m having tons of software issues; it will only detect if I reboot my phone, and occasional pauses where the audio skips out.

  3. The SmartLav requires bias voltage (often referred to as “plug-in” power) and features a TRRS plug. To work properly with a Zoom or video camera, you need to make sure the device can supply the ‘plug-in power’ (not phantom power, the bias voltage is ~2.5-3,3v though devices can range between 1.5-5v) and most likely need to use a TRRS-TRS adapter.

    As far as the noise issue, plugging a decent microphone into the pitiful lowest-cost ADC and preamp often found in small devices is going to result in less than ideal noise and frequency performance, especially if the phone’s smarts are also filtering the low and high end with the intent of phone-call clarity.

    To get decent results you need a phone with decent audio hardware, and you need a recording app with noise filtering else you compensate with speaking louder to stay above the noise floor and cleaning up in post.

    I’ve got a couple of SmartLav+’s and I’m very happy with their performance, but you’re not going to get professional results from a “professional grade” microphone unless the rest of the signal chain is decent.

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