Carpenter Creative
Damien Hirst at Tate Museum

Blog

RODE smartLav+ Review

The RODE smartLav+ lavalier microphone is not new, but I've had enough people ask about it when they see me using it that I thought I would do a quick review. However, let me say clearly from the start, I'm not an audio guy. I will not share with you the nuances of the tone of this mic verses another. Honestly, I don't know. What I do know is my experience with it, and that I will share. 

The smartLav+ is intended to be used on your iOS device with the RODE Rec app, though it can be used with other apps as well. It's biggest strength is that it utilizes a device that the majority of us carry in our pockets everyday, our iPhones. The ability to throw the smartLav+ in my pocket or pack, with almost no noticeable space taken by it, makes it part of my regular kit, even when I plan to use something else. 

Overall, the smartLav+ has performed very well for me. The first time I realized I would use it on a regular basis was after shooting an impromptu interview at the Operation Christmas Child box sorting center in Atlanta almost two years ago. The warehouse was loud...REALLY LOUD! The whole time I was shooting the interview I was thinking what a waste of time it was. There was no way I was going to be able to use it. Once I actually got home and had a chance to listen to the audio the smartLav+ recorded I was really impressed. Here's actually the raw video file with the original audio (I believe I had a RODE VideoMic GO on the camera) and smartLav+ audio for you to compare:

Since then, the smartLav+ has become a go-to for quick shoots that I have to do on my own or that can be redone easily if there are any issues. Just a few weeks ago I shot this (again, raw file out of camera) for additional comparison:

As happy as I have been with the smartLav+, I do have to share the few negatives I've found to using it. First, you're unable to monitor the audio you're recording. The most common issue I've had as a result is distorted audio. You are able to adjust the mic gain settings in the RODE Rec app settings and once you play with it a bit, you can usually figure out what will work best for you.

Second, I've had issues where I know for a fact the audio was recording and coming through, but the "talent" pulled the mic out of the iPhone or iPod and as a result it loses the recording. I'm not sure if that's been everyone's experience with that, but by default I make sure the "talent" understands they are not to unplug it for any reason without my permission.

Overall, the RODE smartLav+ is a great purchase at $65. If you're looking for an affordable or simple lavalier microphone, this is a great option.