ATR-3350 Lavalier Microphone: a Podcasting Review
The ATR-3350 (or Audio Technica 3350 to use it's Sunday name) is an omnidirectional condenser lavalier mic, which sells for the truly affordable price of £22/$21.
So, what's a lavalier? When we think of podcasting microphones we tend to imagine them attached to a boom arm at a desk in a permanent recording area. Lavaliers however, are those small mics that pin to your clothing that are often used on television. Is there a place for the lavalier mic in podcasting? If so, how does the ATR-3350 fare?
Who Would Use The ATR-3350?
Commonly lavalier, or ‘lav mics' are used by television presenters, public speakers, theatre actors or anyone that'll be watched as the present. They are small, unobtrusive, and easy to disguise or hide. They also enable the user to concentrate on their content without having to worry about holding a microphone, or being close enough to one.
If we relate this to podcasting there are a few scenarios that immediately make a mic like this really useful.
If you do a lot of location interviews you might come across some people who aren't used to audio recording. These interviewees may seem to seize up when you stick a mic in front of them. Pinning a lavalier mic to them can go a long way to helping them feel like they are just having an informal chat, and that makes for a much better interview.
Where Would You Use The ATR-3350?
You might also struggle to find a suitable recording space at home or in your office. In this scenario recording wherever and whenever you can may be your only option. A lavalier microphone can be great for this. You can sit in your car or even go for a walk whilst recording your show. This is especially handy if you record with a co-host on location and you don't need to hold a microphone for the duration of the episode.
The ATR-3350 is an omnidirectional microphone, which means it picks up sounds from all around it. With most podcasting situations this would be considered a curse, but with lav microphones it's more of a necessity. Even in relatively noisy environments, though, your voice should still be the closest and loudest sound to the mic, and finding a completely silent place to record isn't necessary.
In fact, the poorest sound quality you'll get from it (in my opinion) is using it in a quiet room that isn't sound treated. A room like a kitchen or living room with lots of hard surfaces. In this situation, the reverb becomes very noticeable and the noisefloor seems to be exaggerated. I mentioned recording in a car; this is actually a far better ‘studio' option instead of certain rooms at your work or at home.
What Kind Of Recording Setup Suits The ATR-3350?
Ideally you'll want a digital recorder to run your mic from. You can also use a mixer or preamp, though these are often less portable and require their own power sources. I run my two 3350s through a Zoom H5 and have a great working setup.
The lav mics are connected to the recorder via two adapters, 3.5mm to 1/4″, stereo to mono, these will need to be mono (TS) as opposed to stereo (TRS) to work. See diagram.
I then use a headphone splitter so that myself and my co-host (or interviewee) can both monitor the recording, and are able to quickly realise if the positioning of the mics need adjusting.
There's also an exceptionally long cable on this mic. It can be a little annoying, unless you're careful about keeping it tied up. But it's hardly something to complain about. Much better to have the option of extending a long cable than being stuck with one that's far too short.
How Much Does It Cost?
The ATR-3350 alone costs only £22/$21 brand new on Amazon, which is great value. Let me run through the cost of my recording setup and total the whole thing up.
- 2 x ATR-3350 lavalier mics (£22/$21) = £44/$42)
- 1 x Zoom H5 digital recorder = £198/$245
- 2 x 3.5mm to 1/4″ mono adapters (£2/$1) = £4/$2
- 1 x headphone splitter = £4/$2
- 2 x earbuds (£10/$14) = £20/$28
Total setup cost, £270 or $298. This certainly isn't the only option available however, and you can buy an older/cheaper recorder to run these mics off (you maybe already have one), and it's likely you probably have a couple of pairs of earbuds lying around too. You can see a similar setup on our original ‘face to face' recording article here. But, I'd definitely recommend the ATR-3350 setup these days.
What Does It Come With?
Inside the box you'll find a tie clip which slots onto the stem of the mic quickly and easily. There's a little foam windscreen that you pop on over the mic head, and an LR44 cell battery to power it with.
A minor annoyance is the lack of a power light beside the on/off switch. The first time I recorded with these mics I neglected to switch them off and put them away for a few days before realising.
There's also no way on the mic to read the status of the battery, so if you've left them on for a while but the battery is still alive it would be nice to know roughly how long you had before they went flat.
The kind of battery – an LR44, the type of cell battery you'd find in a watch – isn't the most common or easy to find in the shop. Having a few as backup is essential, along with devising a way to keep track of the approximate health of each one.
I've also heard reports of the clips breaking, though mine seem to be in good condition. It's a good idea to handle them with care and store them in a tidy, organised manner to try and avoid this happening. Don't just throw them in a bag with lots of other gear when you're finished with them.
ATR-3350 Sound Sample
We recorded this in semi sound-dampened conditions, into a Zoom H5. I've applied no post-processing at all to the file so you'll hear it exactly as it was recorded.
So, should you buy an ATR-3350 or two for your own podcast? Well it depends on your circumstances. If you do a monologue show from a permanent home studio setup then there isn't any real need for you to use a lavalier microphone. Likewise, if you run an interview show over Skype then there are better options for you out there.
However, if you're frequently recording on-location with a co-host or interviewee then these are great bits of kit to have around. Even if you're flying solo but don't have a fixed recording area I'd recommend going down the ATR-3350 route for ease of recording in the car or out walking.
They are very affordable, offer a great sound quality, are small and portable, and can drastically improve interviews where the interviewee suffers from ‘mic fright'. Just remember to switch them off once you're finished to save you burning through the batteries.