Sound Recordist Paul Keyworth, who has worked in broadcast sound for over 35 years and is part of the crew at Sabsound, gives an indepth review of the Shure TL47 and TL48 lavaliere microphones.
Paul’s recent Credits include: Celebs Go Dating, Terry Wogan Remembered: 50 Years at the BBC, Back In Time For The Weekend, Victorian Bakers, Horizon, Her Majesty The Queen’s Christmas Message, Crimewatch, World War 1 Remembered.
Sabsound has been involved in a huge array of projects, working alongside leading broadcasters, production companies and producers to deliver technical and award winning solutions and services around the world.
Its Award winning Technicians with diverse skill sets has seen the company working on everything from the “Queen’s Speech” to “The Olympics”, “Bear Grylls” to “Geordie Shore”, “Formula 1” to a “U2 Music Promo”, “The Hobbit” to “The Apprentice”, BBC News to Nike Commercials.
“Shure lavaliere microphones do not have a huge presence amongst sound mixers in the broadcast and film industry, in a contest for the market dominated by DPA, Sanken and Sony, the Shure TL47 and TL48 might be the microphones that tough it out and make us reconsider our ‘go-to’ choices.
“Shure introduced the new TwinFlex microphone range at NAB in April 2019 and I had an extensive, hands on look, and listen, recently.
“The Shure Twinplex series consists of four lavaliere microphones the TL45, TL46, TL47 and TL48 and one headset microphone, TL53. Only the TL47 and TL48 are reviewed here. Each of the new products is available in different colours such as Black, White, Tan and Cocoa and a selection of connectors. The microphones feature a new design with two parallel diaphragms, which Shure says is the most complex condenser capsule that the company has ever produced. According to them, the design delivers “bigger low frequencies and a smoother top end”. The small size of the capsule is achieved by placing the circuit board between the two diaphragms. For sweat resistance, the mics feature a micro-moulded frequency response cap with a super-hydrophobic coating, which the manufacturer claims offer ten times the sweat resistance of uncoated caps.
“Drama and film mixers usually resort to lav mics only when they have to, though that ‘have to’ is increasingly more often as dramas and films shoot multicamera. In theatre, live TV and much of pre-recorded episodic and documentary TV, sound professionals use them all the time, so the main requirements for lav mics are that they capture speech as cleanly as possible, have excellent mounting options for hiding in costume or tidily in vision and can handle the rigours of daily use on set or location.
“So, perversely, let’s deal with the second requisite first.
“Shure have clearly thought long and hard about microphone mounting options, some of the subtle advances they have introduced are, in a game of small changes, important. The sticky mount is cleverly made from a flexible silicone, nicer than the solid version DPA have, it holds the TL47 well, although the longer TL48 protrudes somewhat and could probably benefit from a redesign of the mount as the end of the capsule is fully exposed and subject to clothing rustle. Shure provide their own version of the ubiquitous Rycote sticky, it’s much thinner, with no cushioning, but the pliable mount handles it well, the adhesive works fine on skin and clothing but is very much a one-time only product as the adhesive properties are lost after a single application. There are only nine stickies provided in the box so you’ll need replacements pretty much immediately, at the moment no UK suppliers list the replacement stickies on their websites, but US suppliers sell them at $10/15 or $26/50 which doesn’t compare well with classic Rycote stickies which are £18 for 100 and are compatible with the Shure sticky mount.
“There is a vampire clip which ingeniously can join onto the sticky mount for an alternative method of using the sticky mount under clothing.
“It would have been nice to see a couple of small stitching holes in the sticky mount which could be used to sew it into costumes which might be being used for several days.
“The simple, plain obvious, tie clip has a cleverly designed rubber grip which has grooves sized to hold the mic cable in place, it’s something DPA have worked on, but Shure have a better solution. Unfortunately this positive is slightly negated by the use of a small and rather fiddly ‘stand-off’ clip used to separate the mic from the tie clip, it needs to be connected to the mic cable before attaching to the main clip, although it works very well, “Shure obviously anticipate them being lost or broken in the field as they provide five replacements in the case! The stand-off clip will mount either vertically or horizontally to the tie-clip and the vampire clip providing versatile mounting methods for the microphones.
“The TL47 has two differing plastic caps, one has a generally flat frequency response whilst the other is a presence cap which creates a frequency response which rises from approx. 6kHz to a 5dB boost at around 12kHz, before rolling off slightly more quickly at about 14kHz. Both these caps fit tightly to the main body of the microphone, and are quite tricky to change, they need easing off, either with your fingernails, or a small bladed tool, but care is needed either way. Again, there are replacements provided in the box for loss or damage.
“The TL48 has a frequency response with a 9dB peak at about 6.5kHz falling to approx. 2dB at 9kHz before rolling off at about 12kHz.
“Shure claim both variants can handle a maximum SPL of 142dB which compares well with DPA’s 4061 rated at 144dB and with a dynamic range quoted as 117.5dB is 6dB better than its rival.
“Sensitivity is stated as -45dBV and self-noise is 24.5dB SPL-A, both figures compare favourably with other microphones of this type and size.
“The TwinPlex paintable cable is, Shure claim, an exclusive double helix shield which provides superb flexibility and minimal memory effect of kinks and twists, at 1.6mm it is slightly thicker than the DPA, and even though it is possible to pinch the cable together and produce a kink, it is also easy to remove by straightening the cable again. Depending on the connector options the microphone comes with a generous 2.43m of cable in the XLR or NC versions but a more sensible 1.67m in the microdot, Lemo and TAF versions.
“The TL47 mic body measures 13.5mm in length and 5.6mm in diameter, whilst the TL48 is 19mm long but just 5.3mm in diameter.
“We’ve come to expect great things from these tiny microphones in recent years, manufacturers have invested heavily in new technologies to deliver clear intelligible dialogue or smooth capture of musical instruments.
“So, finally, to the sound of the mics themselves, how do they compare and compete with the main players in the TV and Film world?
“Frankly, very well. The TL47 sounds good when compared to a DPA 4061, it has a slightly better bass response and, on some speech, has definite better clarity. When mounted on the chest and under clothes it performs equally well, the clever mounting options reduce the likelihood of clothing rustle. There is an improved off axis response and, importantly for presenter style desk-based situations, the speech enhanced TL48 has much better rejection of reflections. Dialogue capture is clean and clear with both microphones, from a quiet whisper to a pretty loud shout.
“In comparisons such as these differences are often subtle and subjective, some people simply prefer the sound of one mic compared to another, some voices might sound better or worse on a microphone purely down to it’s placement, some sound people prefer one microphone because they know how it and all its siblings will sound.
“And so, there seems little point in declaring that the Shure Twinplex lavalieres are the only choice you should make when buying your next set of lav mics, but if you do choose them, you’ll add a proper streetfighter to your army of go-to microphones. Both microphones retail for about £420.”