I'm doing some video work on a budget, so I followed a suggestion I found online for audio to combine an inexpensive lavalier mic with a portable voice recorder. In my case, I chose the Olympus ME-15 microphone with the Olympus VN-702PC recorder.

The recorder only has two input volume settings, high and low, and on the lowest setting I'm experiencing frequent clipping when my characters talk, especially when they get excited. Originally we had clipped the mic to the collar of a t-shirt, somewhat off-center, but it also happens when clipped lower on the lapel of a coat.

I'm not concerned about whether the mics are visible, but I'm wondering how to pick up clear sound that isn't louder than the recorder can handle. Would it be better to place it under a layer of clothing? I'm willing to experiment, but I thought it would be helpful to ask others with more experience for suggestions.

What can I do to my microphones to avoid clipping? Can I put them somewhere else? Can I cover them with something?


There unfortunately isn't enough information here to give you a definitive answer but I will try to cover the most likely bases. The first thing you need to do is determine the source of the clipping. Is it actually clipping at the recorder or are the microphones themselves clipping. Clipping occurs whenever the signal level exceeds what a particular piece of equipment is designed to handle and can occur at almost any point in the process.

If the levels you see on the recorder are actually exceeding the levels it is capable of recording, then you need to use a device called a pad to bring down the levels and match the impedance of the microphones to the impedance of the recorder. You can try working around it by positioning them further away, but any sufficiently loud noise is still going to cause them to clip and background noise will become a much larger problem. Bringing down the signal level with a pad is the correct solution.

The other possible problem, particularly with cheap microphones, is that the mics themselves could be clipping. If this is the case, it would likely be a distortion but not peak the recorder. In this case, you would need to move the mic further away and ensure that nothing is bumping in to the diaphragm that could be causing direct shocks to it. Alternately, a better mic could be used which would allow it to stay closer to the signal source and thus reduce your background noise.

The main thing to keep in mind when getting clean audio is that you want to sample as much signal and as little noise as possible, which means keeping things as directional and as localized as possible and/or keeping the environment quiet.

  • There are no levels to see on the recorder, so that makes it tough to tell where the clipping is actually occurring. Nov 28 '13 at 21:34
  • Okay, I just checked by plugging the mic into my computer and testing it with Audacity - no clipping happened there unless it was right in my face. So I'm going to guess it's the recorder. I'll look into an attenuator pad. Nov 28 '13 at 21:42
  • Considering now that the distortion is in the recorder, it grabs my attention that it does so since both devices are the same brand and Olympus more than likely made them to work in a set up like the one you are doing. I would recommend to talk to the Olympus team and see if we are missing something (I didn't find any reference in the manual).
    – Claudio
    Nov 29 '13 at 19:43

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