The choices for stage equipment, especially microphones, are numerous and in some cases, daunting to make. For a customer who only occasionally uses stage microphones, the differences in use between similar pieces can be difficult to remember. Here is a handy breakdown of common stage microphones courtesy of Zeo Brothers.
Wireless microphones are integral to modern theater productions. They allow performers free range of movement across a stage, allowing for greater interaction with other performers and with the audience. This is achieved by the microphone sending sound signals to its corresponding transmitter in a manner similar to radio. The transmitter then sends the signal to the audio consoles and then to the PA speakers. Wireless microphones come in various makes and models, each occupying a specialized audio niche.
Consider the following: Before we talk about microphones, we need to take into account various parts of a theater production.
Lavalier mics, also known as body mics, are specialized wireless microphones designed to be discreetly attached to a performer’s clothing. Speech is critical in on-stage performances, and this is even more so if the performer’s voice needs to be captured. The microphone is attached to the clothing approximately eight to twelve inches from the performer’s mouth. This ensures consistency in picking up the performer’s voice in addition to freedom of motion. A downside of lavalier microphones is the need for additional transmitters backstage.
At Zeo Brothers, we stock 100+ units of Sennheiser Evolution series wireless systems. We carry them in individual units, racks of 4, and racks of 8. The racks of 4 and 8 units include antenna distribution systems for the best possible performance. For an added upgrade, we also carry Sennheiser directional paddle antennas, for professional-level reception. This antenna upgrade is highly recommended any time a rack of wireless is in use in city such as Philadelphia.
Headset/Earset wireless microphones are also another option. They are used in conjunction with the same belt pack wireless system shown above with the exception of the lavalier. These can be flesh-toned to blend in with the performer’s skin color. Headset microphones are ideal for vocalists as the microphone is positioned just near the performer’s mouth. Their disadvantage is the possibility of breaking up the aesthetics, especially for small productions.
At Zeo Brothers, we stock several headset/earset options.
Budget level Earset: Samson SE10T (Tan color)
Professional level Headset (more stable for dancers) Countryman Isomax (Black)
Another common type of stage microphone is the hanging or “choir” microphone. These mics are suspended over the stage performers. They are best used for choirs or ensemble casts of multiple voices that do not move too much around the stage. The major drawback on hanging mics is their stationary nature at one point of the stage.
We stock the Shure MX202 Hanging Microphone for rental.
Hanging Microphones are often used in conjunction with a floor microphone, or PZM (pressure zone mic), which are placed on the stage edge. These do a great job of picking up voices when an actor is facing the audience. They are also ideal to pickup footsteps when dancing if desired, however this is also a drawback if this is not the desired result. Another drawback is they are also very sensitive to feedback, especially due to their proximity to the main speakers from the downstate edge.
We have the Crown PCC-160, an industry-standard floor microphone available to rent.
In the end, the best tip is to coordinate closely with all the departments in a production – audio, lighting, costume, set-design, cast, stage-management – to ensure that you know exactly which microphones you need for your theater production and for what. And after all that, watch your confidence grow!
Zeo Brothers stock a variety of stage mics for the needs of any theater production and is always available for real-time equipment advice.