Over the course of years, I learned (the hard way) that audio is as important to the average YouTube follower as video. Some of you were very keen to point out various audio mishaps… which I always consider. The final straw was visiting Maker’s Central, where most of my audio equipment let me down. I have been eyeing DJI Mic for a while now – one simple does not impulse buy Lavalier microphones for £289 with 40k subs on YouTube.
Small, neat package
I have not anticipated how small the DJI Mic case is. Having a similar setup from Comica (RX + TX +TX) I imagined the case to be bigger, bulkier, and heavier. After all, it stores two transceivers, one receiver, and an internal battery to keep the set always charged up and ready for action. As lame as this may sound, it was one of the biggest arguments favouring the purchase. Time is my most precious resource and keeping three Comica units constantly charged with 3 different cables and chargers is really annoying.
So here I am with DJI Mic in my hands marvelling at the £289 purchase, hoping it will fix all my audio issues at once. Don’t laugh at me, but these 3 features were the most important for me:
- keep everything charged and ready to go
- magnetic clips
- local backup of the recording
The microphone quality is of course a very valid consideration, but I did my due diligence and I know that this rather expensive set delivers in that regard (if other reviews are to be trusted).
Where are the lavs?
The ergonomics of the carry case are undeniable, but I have to take more than just the case with me. DJI Mic case can’t sore the audio cable, and what’s worst at £289 it doesn’t even come with a dedicated lav mic. Something, that Comica included in their set at half the price. Shocking. While dissing DJI, let’s mention that the included 3.5mm audio cable is shockingly short. As a solo creator, I appreciate the fact that the OLED display for the receiver can face the front of the camera, but in this configuration, the included cable barely reaches the microphone port on my Lumix S5.
Considering how small the receiver is, I’m surprised not to see a dedicated 3.5mm adapter alongside the USB-C for Android and Lightning Port for iPhones. It’s neat that I can remove the shoehorn clip and use the receiver directly with phones (works as a USB headset), but considering how small the unit is, it could hang off the 3.5mm jack in the same way.
I’d gladly take a bigger case if it included space for the audio cable and two lav mics as well. It’s not a deal breaker, but a part of the appeal of the DJI Mic is the all-in-one approach, except the fact, I still have to carry extra bits in the included pouch.
Everything I said above is true, but also the only criticism I have about how DJI Mic has been put together. The case is stellar, units power up automatically and pair once the lid is open and each time I take the case with me, I’m seconds away from recording.
The truth is, DJI Mic feel great in my hand and thanks to their small weight and size, they will be easy to conceal. Apart from the carrying pouch, the set comes with two wind socks, previously mentioned, a short audio cable and a short charging lead.
They are small, light and roughly half the size of the Comica ones I own. Each one comes with a standard clip which doubles as a magnetic plate. It’s a simple, but brilliant solution to the century-old question: “Where do I clip this thing for the best audio?”. The answer finally is: “Anywhere I want to“.
There are 2 LED lights (that can be disabled for stealth) on each unit, power, link and record buttons and a USB-C port to access built-in 8GB storage capable of keeping up to 14h of audio. The battery of the transmitter will last approx 5.5h on a single charge, but it’s possible to keep the transmitter powered up via a USB-C port. To provide additional feedback to the user, each transmitted comes with a vibration motor inside. Short buzzes of the motor are there to let you know, that the unit is working when LED lights are disabled.
To extend the functionality of the wireless microphone, a standard 3.5mm port for lav mics is included. To check the live sound levels, you must plug your headphones into the receiver.
In case you wonder, yes, you can use DJI Mic transmitters as stand-alone recorders. Recordings can be simply retrieved from the unit by plugging it as a USB drive.
I was genuinely surprised by how small the receiver is. Something this small, should not be capable of 250m of range. Clips and phone adapters can be added to the unit, expanding its abilities but the slot with pogo pins is tight. I wish the swap was less troublesome. Each time I try to remove one of the adapters it ends up shooting off into space.
Apart from the power button, the unit comes with AUX OUT, Headphones preview and USB-C port which doubles as a charging port and firmware flashing interface.
The OLED touch screen is where all magic happens. When the case is opened, the screen shows the battery stats and available local storage space for each transmitter. Once I take these out from the case, the display shows the paired unit, operation modes and audio levels. I like the fact that the display is located on the side of the receiver, as when mounted on the camera, it can be seen from behind the camera and monitored while I’m the star of the show too.
Swipe up to reveal a quick menu with an option to start local recording remotely, format the storage of the transceiver remotely or increase the volume of the connected headphones. Swipe down for more recording controls including gain, mono/stereo modes, low cut filter and settings for each transmitter.
The most important aspect of DJI Mic is the audio quality. All fancy features mean nothing if the lav mics cannot deliver in that area. After using the microphone on a couple of shoots, I was definitely impressed.
Transmitters can be positioned relatively far from the mouth and still have strong pick-up without the need to raise the gain too much. The built-in low-cut filter cleans the voice a little bit – just enough to smooth out your voice, but not aggressive enough to cause problems in post.
Without dedicated lavs, the position of the transmitters is crucial to capture the rich depth of the voice. Move the microphone away from your face, and the low frequencies will fall a little bit flat. The issue can be addressed by using dedicated lav mics, as they tend to focus on picking the voice close by.
DJI Mic isn’t a studio microphone, so I didn’t expect the “podcast quality” to only be possible with big, dedicated cardioid microphones. While I can tell the difference between my mid-range Comica set and DJI Mic, the difference isn’t as big as I would expect from the rather premium price tag. One thing to notice: DJI Mic really disliked the WiFi function of my Lumix S5. When remote control over WiFi was enabled, the microphones would pick up random noise and distortion. It took me some time to isolate the issue.
Will they pass the test of time? The only true answer will be in my YouTube comment section – or to be precise, the lack of comments about audio quality. For that, I will have to wait just a little longer.
One of the most useful features is the ability to store audio files locally as a backup. Should anything happen to your transmission (interference, battery issue, loss of signal) transceivers can be set to automatically (or manually) record the track to their onboard storage. What’s even more exciting, is the option to record the local backup file with a -6dB gain to prevent clipping.
The Mono/Safety Channel option can save your files by storing versions of the audio files which are not clipped so you can use these tracks instead or substitute the quieter versions of the audio where the audio was compromised. I wish I had DJI Mic with me at the Maker’s Central where I ended up recording a lot of files using questionable gain settings.
Mic over USB
A USB-C adapter allows the receiver to be plugged in directly to my phone. It will work the same way as a USB headset with a microphone (you will lose the audio stream when playing back the videos until you disconnect it) but DJI Mic works without the need for special apps and delivers high-quality audio recording directly to your Android (or iPhone) phone.
It’s not just Android devices that can benefit from that. As the device acts as a USB microphone, it can be plugged into a laptop and used as an additional audio input device. No extra drivers are required. A nice and simple way of getting your audio into a computer without messing about with the correct audio cables. Just note, that in the USB mode the gain for transmitters and received will be ignored and appropriate levels must be set via Windows audio panels.
I have not tested the iPhone adapter, but there is a reasonable expectation for this to work equally well.
It’s a costly upgrade. Part of me wishes I was famous enough to simply ask DJI to work with me, but I’ll have to put in some more work for this to happen. For now, I can rest assured that no matter what, I always have lavs ready at the moment’s notice and each clip comes with a backup of the audio just in case. Now, I have to get myself out there and speak to some interesting people in person to take advantage of the DJI Mic properly. Until then, you will see me pottering around the videos with DJI Mic clipped to my shirt somewhere. Got questions? Let me know in this Reddit thread.
💳📈 – See the transparency note for details.