Does a microphone transmitter that boasts less than 5ms latency, 100m stable range and auto-pairing with the receiver right out of the charging case sound too good to be true? Not for Hollyland’s first-ever wireless transmission system, the LARK 150, with its two transmitters and a single receiver system.
First off, this is a very unconventional product. We’ve never come across another wireless transmission system that comes in a charging case. It’s also super easy to set up the system, as the receiver and transmitter modules auto-pair when removed from the charging case, which is pretty unique. Unlike any other charging case out there, the LARK 150’s has magnetic lids and battery indicators. The case functions as a charger and protection container, making it really easy to take care of the product.
In the box, you also get two lavalier microphones, which we don’t see a lot of other companies doing, so thumbs up to Hollyland for that. There’s also a USB-C to A charging cable included to charge up the charging case, and Hollyland even provides a 3.5mm cable to connect the receiver to your camera.
Another aspect we like about the LARK 150 is its minimalistic design. The power button doubles up as a mute button on the transmitter module and you have LED indicators on the top that show the battery status as well as connection status. There’s also a built-in omnidirectional microphone with an impressive frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, along with a 3.5mm port to connect a lavalier mic. There’s also a clip on the back to attach the pack to clothes.
But what blew our minds is the fact that the transmitter module is the smallest in the world at just 37 x 37 x 17.5mm, and it only weighs 20.5g! Usually, it is difficult to pack a quality sound system like this in a tiny package. Somehow, Hollyland managed to make that a reality in its first wireless audio transmission device.
Moving on to the receiver, it’s almost double the size of the transmitter, but with double the functionality to boot. There are two rotary dials that double up as buttons where settings like the gain can be adjusted. We do have to note here that throughout our time with the Lark 150, we never once had to go through the menu to adjust any settings at all, which is excellent.
Even better, the device produces professional sound quality.
There’s a 21-stage digital gain adjustment feature, from -10dB to +10dB, as well as a two-way mute and real-time audio monitoring system which comes in really handy. we were able to take more control of the audio recording’s volume. There is DSP intelligent noise cancellation and an antivibration sound chamber, which effectively isolates background noise to produce a crisp and clean sound file.
With this device, you can record audio in mono, safety track or stereo mode. If you plan on post-production changes to your audio, then mono is probably not the best option for you. On the other hand, recording in stereo lets you capture sound through the left and right channels, making it perfect for content creators who want to manipulate different audio levels after production. Meanwhile, the safety track mode records a -6dB duplicate of the original recording. This is especially helpful when you experience audio peaking or clipping during production and need to do some post-production edits to fix it.
Despite its advantages, we feel that there is a bit more to be desired from the LARK 150. For one, it does not quite live up to its promise of maintaining a stable signal at 100 metres. In our range tests, we observed that the audio cuts off at the 50m mark and at the 100m mark if the subject faces away from the camera. Facing the camera though, the audio doesn’t cut off at the 50m mark, but does start to get a bit wonky at the 100m mark. We also tested the antivibration sound chamber by jogging slowly, and it actually held up quite well except for an initial few thumps at the start.
Personally, we don’t think the audio issues are a very big problem as it would be a very rare situation to require audio monitoring from 50 or even 100 metres. As long as the subject maintains a direct line of sight with the camera within a reasonable range, it works perfectly fine.
We tested the microphone with some obstructions as well, and it was mostly fine, even with a single wall in between. The audio did start clipping out after turning around behind the wall though, but the audio connection after turning around and walking back to the camera was absolutely fine.
Before you whip out the LARK 150 for your next shoot, be sure to keep its battery life in mind. The transmitter has about four hours worth of juice, while the receiver lasts for around seven and a half hours. It’s a good thing that it only takes 45 minutes to charge the transmitter and 65 minutes for the receiver. In contrast, the charging case lasts as long as its charging time: approximately two and a half hours.
This is where Hollyland loses our vote because the only way to charge the transmitter and receiver is by putting it back into the charging case. Since the transmitter and receiver have a proportionally short battery life, they only benefit smaller productions with a single talent, as after the first transmitter dies, users can easily switch to the second one and continue recording. In large-scale productions with multiple talents or time-consuming shoots, using this system can be a hassle as it does not last that long unplugged and lacks interchangeable batteries that can be switched out during the shoot.
Coming in at S$329, the LARK 150 is relatively affordable because it comes with all the accessories you could need like lavalier microphones, so you won’t have to fork out additional cash to purchase them. That being said, there are a few cons that have to be taken into consideration because they could be dealbreakers for some.
We would have appreciated other threads being incorporated into the receiver so we don’t only have the option to clip it on. If the hot shoe mount is in use, the only other way to attach the receiver is to clip it onto the camera any way you can. In our case, we had a cage on the camera that we clipped it on to, which is not the best way of rigging it because it could fall off easily. Aside from that, you cannot carry out internal recording with this device, which means you’ll always require your receiver connected to an external recorder or your camera to record audio. There are also the issues of the relatively short battery life and a fixed safety track recording level at -6dB.
Another weird point to the LARK 150 is that the product actually comes with a cable that can be used to connect the system to a computer or laptop to update the firmware, but they recommend for people to only update the firmware on a PC. Since we’re using a Mac computer, we have had no way of updating the firmware ever since the product’s release in December 2020. Therefore, if you’re purely using macOS computers, you might want to reconsider purchasing this product.
With all things considered, we think that the LARK 150 is best for vloggers, solo content creators and videographers seeking a cost-effective wireless audio transmission system that can produce professional sound quality. If you won’t be shooting in situations where the transmitter and receiver will be more than 100m away from each other, or in situations where there’s plenty of pillars and walls in between the two modules, or in super long shoots, then the LARK 150 is perfect for you.
Content by Ryan Mamba (Tech360.tv Community Creator) [@ryanmamba]