Making a Sound Decision

Feb 16, 2023

Making a Sound Decision

by Ian Lowe

I’ve had my current hand-held microphone for around twenty years. During that time it’s been dropped and dented numerous times. The battery cover has been split and broken twice. And it’s probably about time I bought a new one.

So, I’ve been looking into buying a new microphone, and thought I’d let you know what I’ve discovered.

First of all, it might help if I knew how a microphone works. The voice is converted into an electrical signal that is sent to a pre-amplifier before being sent to the PA system. The pre-amp boosts the strength of the electrical signal without degrading it significantly before sending it to the power amp. I’m not sure if knowing that helps decide which one to buy, other than to say buying cheap isn’t going to work. Each stage has to produce the best signal and that means spending money.

Moving on to the microphone itself, there are four types: condenser, lapel or lavalier, hand-held, and headset.

The first one isn’t really suitable for what I want. The condenser microphone, although it gives a high-quality signal, is for larger groups of people rather than a solo performer.

The other three are possibilities. Whichever one I go for, it will have to be wireless. I need both hands free when twisting or performing magic, and, when I am doing games, I need to move around a lot. A microphone connected to my PA system by a cable would get in my way and reduce my mobility.

The hand-held microphone can be slipped into a holder worn around the neck, and this is what I use at the moment. This is quite a large unit to wear, but I find it useful to be able to remove the mike and hold it in my hand when doing the games part of my show. At one point I get the kids to imitate a pig, and this gets lots of laughs from the parents when the kids snort into the microphone. I can’t get this with a lapel or headset.

If it wasn’t for using it for games, the headset would be my first choice. It allows me full movement; with a hand-held in a holder, or a lapel microphone, you can’t really turn your head to the side while talking, without a loss of sound level and quality.

The lapel mike can be clipped to a collar, tie, or jacket. The microphone is connected to a transmitter pack by a cord. These microphones are often used in television studios. These don’t really appeal to me.

I’ve narrowed my choice down to the headset or the hand-held. There are pros and cons for each. I really like the ability to take the hand-held mike out of its holder and use it in my hand to amplify other people’s voices at times. On the other hand, the headset is much more convenient.

At the moment I can’t decide which to choose.

What do you use? Is it the right choice under all circumstances? When doesn’t it work as well as one of the alternatives?

Send me your opinions by email to or post on the balloonhq forums.