Wire-Lists#5: 4 Ways to Mangle Your Mic

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We think of lavaliere mics as being indestructible because they’re self-contained, but the fact is that some seemingly innocuous things can wreak havoc on them. And you often won’t realize that you have a faulty lav until you listen to your recorded tracks and realize that they just don’t sound right (talk about wasted time!). Here are 4 ways that you can mangle your mic:

  1. Keeping the mic attached to the transmitter it’s being used on, and wrapping it around the unit body when you’re finished. This is a BIG no-no. Over time, doing this can weaken the inner threads of the wire, or worse, break the 5-pin connector. There is no inexpensive fix for these if they happen. Disconnect your lav when you’re finished with your project and store it in its case.
  2. Allowing the lav to come in direct contact with skin. We realize that you want to hide the lav on camera if possible, and the easiest way to do that is underneath clothing. It is best to keep a layer of fabric between the lav cord and talent’s skin, for the simple reason that sweat is corrosive. Lav wire encasements are slightly porous, and over time, sweat can leech inside, corroding the copper wires underneath. Like wrap damage, there is no easy fix for this.
  3. Improperly cleaning dirty mics. You know without a doubt that a lav cord is dirty, because it takes on an unappealing gummy, sticky or gritty texture. A commonly used cleaner for this dirt is rubbing alcohol, which removes most substances but is still harsh. Some users employ acetone, which we do not recommend because it can weaken and stiffen the cord encasing over time. The best things to use to clean dirty lav cords and preserve the pliability of the material are WD-40 or non-oily baby wipes. Many of our customers also swear by Remove, which is gentle and used in hospitals to remove medical adhesive from skin.
  4. DEET use. Those who work in outdoor or wildlife environments are often more concerned about protecting talent and staff against ticks and other insects than preserving the integrity of their gear. Part of that protection is repellents containing DEET. These repellents are incredibly corrosive to lav cords. If you are working in this environment, use the cleaning tips in #3 at the end of each workday. Don’t give the repellent time, even overnight, to settle in.

Being mindful of these simple things will go a long way towards ensuring that your lavalieres are in top working order.