Vloggers and video podcasters typically use traditional vocal mics like Shure SM7/SM7Bs, Electrovoice EV RE-20s, and even R0de NT1-As. The sound quality of these mics work incredibly well for any content whose audience consists primarily of listeners (think Joe Rogan’s “Powerful JRE” podcast), but these microphones are enormous, often obscuring the faces of the people speaking. The reason we still see radio broadcast microphones is that unmistakably clear, listener-oriented recording requires that speakers keep their mouths close to the mic at all times. Lavalier microphones can pose some challenges with noise from fabric, or with people wearing clothing that don’t have a lapel or collar (e.g., women in dresses).
Unfortunately, content creators are forced to choose between clear audio specifically primarily intended for listeners and the visual aesthetic of the video. There ought to be a solution that’s smaller than large radio broadcast microphones, but works more like a traditional microphone than a lavalier.
Introducing the Lollipop Microphone
“Lollipop” large-diaphragm condensers like the Audix SCX-25a (pictured above) are smaller versions of large-diaphragm condensers (LDCs) with very few compromises. Internally, the SCX-25a is virtually identical to our often-recommended Audix CX-112B, except that has its housing shrunken down just large enough to fit the capacitor. Even better, the SCX-25a has a built-in shock mount, eliminating the need for bulky external shock mounts to reduce extraneous noise from unwanted vibration.
Like most large-diaphragm condensers, these microphones are ultra-sensitive, offering superior frequency responses to dynamic mics and other traditional radio broadcast microphones. Of course, it has a directional cardioid pickup pattern, offering some off-axis rejection. From a pure audio quality standpoint, there are no downsides to using an SCX-25a over an SM7/SM7B, Electrovoice RE-20, or R0de NT1-A.
Lollipop microphones are often marketed for use on pianos, guitars, and other instruments, so they’ll work well for music recording should the need arise. The shock mount and small footprint come in handy where a larger microphone and shock mount assembly would be too large, such as the inside of a piano or inches from a guitar cabinet. In our experience, the SCX-25a excels in virtually every studio recording application. Quite frankly, we’re surprised at how infrequently these are used considering all of the advantages.
The downsides of recording with lollipop mics are few, but worth noting. Because these microphones are so small and contain complex internal shock mounts, they’re significantly more expensive than traditional large-diaphragm condensers. These can be obtained on the used market at about 60% of retail price, but this can be somewhat prohibitive when three or more of these microphones are needed.
As large-diaphragm condensers, their front membrane is still sensitive to pops and wind like any other condenser microphone. This can be overcome by addressing the microphone at a 45-degree angle, or by using a pop filter. Fortunately, there exist small pop-filters, like those from Zramo, which are more appropriate for microphone’s size. Even using a pop-filter, these are smaller than traditional radio broadcast microphones, and the attractive design of the microphone usually grabs people’s attention. In our opinion, the visual aesthetic is still better than a traditional radio broadcast microphone for video recording.
Lastly, the SCX-25a and similar lollipop mics are often designed for music recording and lack the high-frequency presence peak of microphones like the Audix CX-112B. This microphone in particular sounds very close to the Audix CX-112, and side-by-side, can sound “dull” compared to mics dedicated to vocal recording. That said, these possess wide frequency responses and can be corrected quite easily with equalization.
Where audio clarity and screen real estate are a concern, the SCX-25a makes for a far better alternative to traditional radio broadcast microphones for vocal recording. Lollipop mics also work well for instrument recording should the need ever arise. From a pure audio quality standpoint, our go-to Audix CX-112B sounds slightly better out of the gate with its high-frequency presence peak, and also costs significantly less than a lollipop microphone like the SCX-25a. Unfortunately, a CX-112B fitted with a shock mount and pop-filter is roughly double the size, posing some challenges with visual aesthetics when used for video.
As content creators recognize the affordability and superiority of condenser microphones, we’re hoping that dynamic microphones become a thing of the past, save for some specialty applications like live concerts. Now that some smaller alternatives exist, large-diaphragm “lollipop” condensers will hopefully gain momentum for audio-oriented recording on video.
Have any of you had any experience with vocal recording on video or have any recommendations? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Photos by Eryk Thompson. Instagram: @ErykThompson