I’ll start by confessing that until recently, I’ve not been a big fan of headworn mics. Most of the ones I have used in the past were big, bulky and didn’t look or sound that good. In the last several years, several manufacturers have introduced lightweight, unobtrusive over-the-ear mics that actually sound pretty good. And if you get them in a color to match the face of the person wearing it, they are not that noticeable.
We had been using Countryman e6’s at our church for a while. The e6 is somewhat the gold standard of over-the-ear mics for many people. Maybe it’s my contrarian nature, but I didn’t really care for them. When it came time to purchase some new mics for an upcoming Christmas Eve drama, I looked around to see what was out there. I decided to give the AT892 a try. Here’s what I found.
For starters, this mic comes in a really nice, hard plastic case with a custom foam insert (in contrast to other mics which cost a third more and come in flexible pouches). Also included in the case are two windscreens, an additional capsule that brightens the response and a clip to take the cable strain off the ear – a really nice touch that other manufacturers should follow.
The mic runs under the ear, rather than over which for some, is a great benefit. For others, it doesn’t work quite as well. The 892 seems ideally suited to those with average size, somewhat round ears. Those with taller ears tend to have issues getting the mic to fit securely, though a piece of clear medical type tape will help.
After unpacking the mic, I was anxious to hear what they sounded like. We have several different models of Shure wireless mics that we used them in for our large drama. As soon as the first actor wearing the 892 walked up on stage for a sound check I was immediately impressed. I have noticed that other headworn mics require a significant amount of EQ to get them sounding natural. Keeping in mind the main goal of what we do is sound reinforcement, my top priority is to get the amplified sound matching the actual source as close as possible. The spoken word is really tough, but we have to get it right – especially for sermons and dramas where there isn’t a bunch of other music to cover up the difference between the source and the amplified.
Anyway, back to our story. The first actor stepped on the stage, I dialed up the gain and that was it. It sounded just like her. A slight tweak at 3K to take just the slightest bit of edge off and we were done. Six actors later and the EQ on the board was still nearly zeroed out. I was in shock. Having used the mics for the last several months with dozens of different speakers and with several engineers, I’m still impressed. They are the most natural sounding mics I’ve heard of this type. And I’ve yet to have one feed back; even when the pastor walked right in front of the front fills during his message!
Downsides? There are a few in addition to the previously mentioned size of the ear thing. The cables are molded into the body of the mic and thus not replaceable (as they are on the Countryman), and they are very lightweight. This is good from a comfort standpoint; I just hope they hold up for the long term. The windscreens fall off pretty easily (we’ve lost 4 already), though I’m going to try the slightest dab of silicone to hold them in place.
Other than that, I have to say I’m very impressed. So much so I bought 7 of them for our church. Most of those who have worn them like them right away, though it’s taken some tweaking for a few people. For me, the biggest benefit is the sound. People just don’t sound “mic’d” when wearing these – and that’s the best compliment I can give a mic of this design.