Design and features
The smartLav is an omnidirectional microphone with a 3.5mm jack that can be plugged directly into most smartphones, tablets or computers. Included with the mic is a lapel clip, which allows it to be attached to the wearer in a number of different configurations, making it ideal for capturing content like speeches or interviews. It could also be used in place of a wireless audio system, which in itself, can cost many hundreds of dollars.
As it's an omnidirectional mic, it can capture sounds around 360 degrees, which makes it ideal for capturing speech. If you move your head away from the mic or back and forth, there is little difference in the audio captured. A pop filter is included to help reduce wind noise, as well as hard speech sounds by the wearer.
The smartLav is compatible with iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch over several generations, but it is also for use by Android users, too, thanks to the TRRS connection. Rode provides a compatibility list on its website.
At the time of writing, the Rode Rec app is iOS only. There are two versions, either the free or the paid app (AU$6.49). The free app has three sample rates (11025Hz, 22050Hz or 44100Hz), visual levels, the ability to enable or disable iOS processing and turn on boost or playthrough. The full version of the Rode Rec app unlocks EQ settings, timed recording and playback speeds, among other options.
Once the audio has been captured, users can share it through Soundcloud, send via email, FTP or use iTunes file sharing. Dropbox integration is available from the full version of the app.
The smartLav is very easy to use — just plug and play. Load up the Rode Rec app, adjust levels and settings as needed, then start the recording.
Audio quality from the smartLav is very good for such an inexpensive mic. While it's not going to replace a dedicated audio recorder, this highly portable solution produces sound that's definitely suitable for video, podcasting or interview purposes.
Here are two snippets of audio: the first uses the iPhone 5's internal microphone while the second is from the smartLav. Both were recorded using the Rode Rec app, with no adjustments to either in post, though levels were matched as best as possible. As you can hear, the phone's internal mic picks up a lot more ambient noise than the lapel mic, but the smartLav could do with a small degree of hiss reduction to bring out the clearest response.
Both of these were recorded in a controlled studio environment, so there isn't much ambient noise anyway. Where the smartLav really comes into its own is in situations where there's a fair amount of extra noise, like an auditorium or outdoor space.
One disadvantage with the smartLav solution is that there is no way to monitor the audio during recording — you will have to visually eye-off the levels or review it post-record.
For the price, the smartLav is an incredibly effective solution that delivers very good quality audio in place of a more expensive lapel mic or wireless system.