Potted History Lesson
Lavalier or Lavaliere or Lavalliere is a term used by the jewellery trade. It usually refers to a particular type of pendant, consisting of a large jewel hung on a chain around the wearer’s neck, that is said to have been popularised by either:- a) La Duchesse de la Vallière (1644-1710), a mistress of King Louis XIV of France, or b) the French actress Eve Lavalliere (1866-1929).
Hence, it is easy to see why the blossoming film and television industries, in the mid 20th century, came to borrow the term and apply it to a small personal microphone hung on a cord around the neck of the actor or presenter.
By the 1950’s American companies such as RCA , Electro-Voice, and Shure made a range of purpose built Lavalier microphones. In Europe, AKG and Sennheiser also manufactured a number of very successful models.
Eventually, with the proliferation of miniature condenser mics in the 80’s and 90’s, the old Lavalier microphone on a cord around the presenter’s neck gradually disappeared. Although the cord has long gone, and the new miniature mics are simply held in place with clips or micropore tape, they have still retained the name Lavalier, although these days it very often sadly gets abbreviated to ‘Lav’.
End of Lesson
Here is a real gem of a Vintage Lavalier from the late 1960s the AKG D109
The D109 was designed in the mid 1960’s to meet the demands of high quality speech reproduction on television and in film. It was beautifully made, with a sleek nickel plated brass body, and ingeniously engineered so that it could be used in a number of different ways :-
- With the Lavalier collar removed it makes a very unobtrusive interview microphone. Even today there are few omni dynamic interview mics this small (less than 3 inches).
- With the collar in place it can be used as a classic Lavalier hung around the presenter’s neck.
- It also has a clip on the back of the collar for fixing to clothing.
- By raising the collar above the microphone grill the high frequency response can be increased to compensate for the mic being positioned on the performer’s chest below the chin.
- With the collar raised it can also be hidden under light-weight clothing.