Headworn Microphone Mythbusting: March 2017 Subscriber Question of the Month

Allison Wolcott | May 11, 2017
Shure Notes® email newsletter subscribers submit their burning audio questions every month, and we pick one to publish in the email and here. This month, we debunk the myth that the sound quality of wireless headworn microphones is inferior to wired handheld microphones.

Vaughn asked for a headworn mic recommendation:

I really want mobility while singing, but most sound engineers tell me that there are no quality headworn microphones out there. Is this true? What would you recommend?

Pete from Shure Product Support answered:

For live performance I suggest taking a look at our SM35-TQG or WBH54 microphones.

The SM35 is our new ergonomic cardioid condenser mic that sounds nice and detailed. The WBH54, part of our BETA® microphone line, has been popular in live music for a while now [see Michael Jackson wearing it in the video below]. It offers a very comfortable headband that securely wraps around both ears and has a narrow, supercardioid pickup pattern that will focus nicely on your vocals.


But do headworn microphones sound as good as handheld?

Yes. Pete says there's absolutely nothing about the headworn form factor that would cause it to deliver a lesser sound quality than a wired handheld mic.

Sound quality aside, there are many reasons to use a headworn mic:

  • The mic is as close to the sound source as possible, which means less gain is required.

  • Shure headworn microphones are incredibly ergonomic and comfortable to wear.

  • You don't have to worry about handling noise like you do with handheld mics.

  • You don't have to worry about the sound of the mic bumping up against clothing like you do with lavalier mics.

Another thing to consider: mic technique. Vocalists who are not positioning the mic correctly won't get the sound they want. That's true about any mic form factor, though. The good news is that engineers can help by using a windscreen as well as EQ, compression, a de-esser, and other signal processing tools.

While engineers and performers ultimately have to trust their ears about what sounds good to them, on the technology side, there's nothing inherently lesser about the sound quality of a headworn mic. Just look at the long line of elite performers who have delivered great vocal performances with headworn microphones.

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Allison Wolcott

Allison Wolcott started singing at Shure and now sings wherever she can. She wishes she were Brandi Carlile, Neko Case, and Johnny Cash all rolled up in a voice box. Her favorite mic is the BETA®87A.