It’s well known among enthusiasts that action cameras aren’t known for recording great audio. In an effort to fix this problem some cameras are equipped to handle an external microphone. Here I test one, the Movo GM100 lavalier microphone.
A lavalier microphone, usually abbreviated as lav mic, is a small microphone that you clip onto the collar or lapel of your shirt or dress. Typically this is done by way of a small alligator clip like the Movo’s. The GM100 is an omnidirectional microphone, meaning it should pick up sounds equally well in all directions.
Action cams like GoPro, the new SJCam SJ6 and the Dazzne P2 Plus I used for this test don’t have the usual 3.5mm port for a microphone mini plug. Rather the microphone is connected via their mini USB port with a microphone hard wired to a mini USB plug or via a mini USB x 3.5mm adapter plus a microphone with a standard 3.5mm plug. The latter is the route chosen by Movo for the GM100 lav mic.
Adapters are also available in a right-angle configuration instead of a short cable. Either way, the advantage to having a separate mic and adapter is that you can use the mic alone with other devices. That’s what I did while testing the Movo. I used both my Dazzne camera and an old RCA mono voice recorder.
So does the Movo make these devices sound better? It seems like a bit of a mixed bag. The following video was made using the Dazzne P2+ camera without and with the Movo mic. I left the lens cap on and added the graphic equalizer to show you the improved audio performance.
Both parts of the video were boosted the same amount just to make the first part with the Dazzne’s P2+ internal mic audible. That meant the second part was much louder owing to the improvement with the Movo mic. Because it was boosted so much you hear more hiss. It’s impossible to say if that’s due to the Dazzne or the Movo. The music was more than comfortably loud in the room where it was recorded.
The following video was made at a river dam. It’s a nice steady sound that in person has some subtlety you just can’t hear electronically. Still, give it a listen.
In this case the Movo mic sounds worse than the Dazzne’s internal mic. It sounds hollowed out and the loudness is actually decreased. Again both parts were boosted the same amount for a direct comparison.
I also tested an old digital voice recorder without and with the Movo GM100. In that case the recording sounded somewhat better with the Movo mic.
What about other uses such as an external microphone for smartphones and other mobile devices? Unfortunately the Movo GM100 can’t be used with them. One way to describe these types of audio connections is by the abbreviations TS, TRS, TRRS, and TRRRS, designating tip-ring-sleeve connections. In the photo below the Movo’s TRS plug is shown on top. A TRRS plug from an Eaton mic is shown on the bottom. Notice the two rings versus three rings. (The number of “R’s” doesn’t correspond to the actual number of rings.)
The GM100 can’t be used with a smartphone because it doesn’t have a TRRS connector. Similarly, a mic with a TRRS plug can’t be used with the typical mini USB x 3.5mm adapter including the Movo’s. However, you can buy separate TRS x TRRS adapters and some mics have a switch that allows you to use them as either one.
The Movo GM100 seems well made for it’s price. There was no wiggle in the connections and the alligator clip was sturdy without being too hard to squeeze open. The cable’s about 48-inches (122cm) long. Two minor complaints: The wind protector doesn’t fit very snugly over the bare microphone; and while the Movo is packaged neatly, it doesn’t include a small carrying case or bag.
The GM100 is available from a number of online retailers. I bought mine from Amazon for US $14.95. It’s also available on Amazon UK, Germany and Italy but not on Amazon Australia or The Netherlands. It can also be purchased directly from Movo or on eBay.
I can’t recommend the Movo GM100 because it doesn’t offer unequivocal improvements in audio recording. Granted, some of the problem might be due to the poor quality of the Dazzne’s audio circuitry but in the music recording the Movo just made things louder, not better. By contrast it actually decreased the loudness of the water falling over the dam. Yes, it’s cheap, but there’s no point if it doesn’t improve the sound. Unfortunately the Movo doesn’t.