Rode's SmartLav mics have made recording audio extremely easy and accessible over the last few years.
Lav is short for lavalier. This type of mic (also referred to as a collar, body, or lapel mic) is most commonly associated with TV and film work. They’re really small microphones which pin to the speaker’s clothing. This makes them unobtrusive and easy to hide or disguise.
You might think that's not important when you're only working in audio, but using a lav mic on an interviewee can often yield better results than holding a mic under someone's face. Most people aren't used to talking into mics and can sound uncomfortable are even seize up when presented with one.
A small lav mic pinned to their shirt is far less likely to intimidate though.
Lav mics are also small enough to fit in your pocket, meaning you don't have to carry a load of kit around with you. When Rode moved to develop the “SmartLav” which could record directly into your smartphone, they took podcasting simplicity to a whole new level.
Rode released the original SmartLav, followed a couple of years later by the SmartLav +, so what's the difference?
The cost of the SmartLav + has come down quite a bit recently, so it's actually cheaper to buy one new than it is to buy the original model. At the time of writing, the SmartLav + is selling on Amazon for £42/$74 whilst the original SmartLav costs £50/$80.
One thing Rode obviously sought to improve with their SmartLav + model was the level of noise-floor ‘hiss' in the audio. There's a noticeable improvement here as the hiss was very high in the original SmartLav's recordings. This might have come at the expense of removing a little depth or bass from the vocals, but it's a worthy trade off in my opinion. I think the SmartLav + offers a far better recording than it's predecessor.
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I'll usually sit on the fence a bit when summarising a comparison between two different microphones. That's because there's always at least one reason for choosing the ‘inferior' option over the superior one.
This time, however, I'll make an exception. however.
There's no reason at all to buy the original SmartLav – unless you find a second hand one at a good price.
The SmartLav + has substantially less hiss, and your recordings will sound a lot better for it. It's even cheaper to buy new than its predecessor nowadays.
I hope that's useful in helping you make your mind up. If you're still unconvinced by either model however, you can check out our lavalier comparison post for a look at some other options too.