I live in a retirement community (Pennswood Village) and help with the technical side of lectures and stage performances. We own 16 lavalier style wireless microphones to amplify the voices of performers and speakers. Unfortunately, when pinned to the lapel these mics are too far from the mouth. Feedback and ambient noises become a big problem. If we had an unlimited budget, the solution would be to purchase lightweight over-the-ear microphones that hover just two or three inches from the corner of the mouth.
For many years the thespians have improvised by affixing the mic wire to their cheeks with surgical tape. Tape works, but perspiration and facial hair can sabotage the best efforts to keep the mic position. After the performance, it can be painful to peel the tape off. The mic wires get sticky and stained with makeup and old adhesive from the tape. It’s not a very satisfactory solution.
I’m working on a design for an ear wire that can be used without taping anything to the face. Here is the design so far.
The wire is what bead crafters call “memory wire” and is used for bracelets. It is spring steel and retains the shape that it is bent and shaped into. I formed the wire to curve around the ear and tuck in behind the earlobe. Guide loops with elastic o-ring closures hold the delicate coaxial microphone wire without crushing it.
These loops are the key to the design. The mic and wire can be removed for cleaning, and are held securely when worn allowing confidence and freedom of movement equivalent to expensive purpose built mics. Viewed from the audience, they are only slightly more visible. The part of the wire that descends from the earlobe may be taped to the neck behind the ear for added stability.
Here is a slide show of close-ups showing construction details of the first iteration. Note the heat-shrink tubing over the part of the wire that contacts the skin.
After wearing and experimenting with the design above I made a second, simpler one. The microphone end is the same, but the tail that guides the mic cable down the neck is simply a helix. The helix wraps easily around the cable and unwraps for cleaning. A single piece of surgical tape over the ear wire just behind the ear lobe holds the assembly securely in place. Users usually thread the wire down inside their clothes to the belt pack.
I’ve ordered the tiny rubber bands that orthodontists use on braces to loop around the bottom of the helix to keep the mic cable from sliding through it.
May 29, 2017
I’ve made the ten ear wires for Pennswood’s ten Audio-Technica lavalier mics. While I was at it, I set up a video camera to record the whole process. If you are interested in a demo, it runs just under 18 minutes and includes how to fit the wire onto the mic cord. (I’m studying how to use Adobe Premiere Pro, so the film is a practice project for that purpose more than any perceived need to tell the world about my little invention.)
bending the wire_2 from Richmond Shreve on Vimeo.
One of our neighbors here alerted us to a wonderful NJTV PBS video, “I Can’t, I Have Rehearsal” directed by Maddie Orton, which explores the experiences of New Jersey high school students who perform in their school’s Spring musicals. I couldn’t help noticing the various clever way microphones were taped to cheeks and foreheads. Maybe this post will find its way to school tech crews. With that in mind, here is the ear wire template and a bill of materials with my sources for them.