The Sabinetek SmartMike+ is a tiny lavalier Bluetooth microphone that was a 2020 Honoree at the 2020 CES Innovation Awards.
Designed for vlog shooting, live streaming, interviewing and online training, I have seen the Sabinetek SmartMike+ advertised regularly on social media. Claimed to be the “Smallest True Stereo Wireless Microphone” weighing just 15g, I was attracted to its lightweight credentials, but wondered how it would cope with the rigour of a fitness class?
Costing just over £100, there are cheaper wireless microphone options available if you search Amazon, but it is still less than the medium to high-end radio devices designed specifically for fitness coaching from companies such as Samson and Shure.
If you are coaching fitness online full time, and the budget stretches, I would certainly suggest going for a high-end device, such as the Shure BLX14UK/SM31-K3E Wireless Headset System, which is what Les Mills presenters use in their On Demand videos (if it’s good enough for Les Mills right?).
However, for part-time coaching, is this £100 well spent?
Sabinetek markets this device towards bloggers, shooting content on a mobile phone, supported by a companion app. In this review, I am focussing on its suitability for fitness, so won’t be expanding too much on the app, but to summarise, the app offers supporting features such as 4 levels of noise reduction, video filters and music mixing.
For those who wish to use the SmartMike Plus app as the ‘camera’ for Zoom classes, for the ability to adjust the music and microphone levels in its software, you are out of luck. Zoom automatically chooses your default phone camera.
There is possibly a workaround, but I will focus on using this for laptop Zoom fitness classes as the vast majority of instructors either use a tablet or laptop.
In the box, you receive the microphone, a wind shield, an earpiece and a charging cable. Using Bluetooth technology, you can stand up to 15 metres away from either your laptop or phone.
What was especially appealing to me, was the included in-ear earphone, for real-time monitoring. This enables you to wirelessly listen to your computer music, avoiding any echo effect when the music from your laptop speakers is picked up by your microphone during a Zoom class.
What would have been nice is an ability to hear back what the microphone picks up too, so you can adjust the music levels to your voice before a class (if you do not own a mixer).
Setup could not be more simple. You just need to add the SmartMike+ as a Bluetooth device to your laptop and select the SmartMike + as your microphone in Zoom.
Sabinetek SmartMike+Sound Quality
The sound quality is satisfactory. I found that any slight shouting would be distorted and clipped (as evident in the video below). This means it is essential to reduce your microphone levels before you go live.
It didn’t blow me away and it does have a certain ‘muffled’ effect but to be fair to Sabinetek, that might be more of a compression artifact from Zoom. However, for fitness instruction, it is perfectly fine and the audio quality is an improvement on my existing SubZero Mini Digital Wireless Lavalier System (£50).
The video below will allow you to judge for yourself!
I did not detect any noticeable delay and neither did my participants. They all put their thumbs up when I asked if they could hear me okay during a test class.
The sound quality of the in-ear microphone did leave something to be desired, but again, in terms of pure functionality, where you are using the music as the backing track for your choreography, it perfectly suffices.
Sabinetek SmartMike+ For Fitness
This is the crunch. In terms of a wireless microphone, with real-time monitoring, the SmartMike + is perfectly adequate in terms of battery life, sound quality, ease-of-use and compatibility with Zoom.
But how well does it hold up with the rigours of fitness? Fortunately, the clip is ‘deep’ meaning it remains very secure when you are punching, squatting and tucking.
Despite its lightweight, it did ‘dangle’ on my top. When donkey kicking, it would swing and sometimes hit me in the face! However, by wearing it more under the ear, rather than directly under the chin, it felt more secure and didn’t reduce the sound quality in any way.
Probably the most irritating was the earpiece. To be honest I have always had issues with earpieces falling out (maybe I have odd-shaped ears!) but with the movement of the exercise, I feel I had to really dig it deep down into my ear to avoid it falling out.
After a while, this can become uncomfortable. It is a shame a soft foam earpad is not included. However, they are very cheap to buy from Amazon. The wire could also prove to be irritating, but that will be an easy fix by tying it in a loop to shorten it and securing it in place with an elastic band.
Pros and Cons of Sabinetek SmartMike+ Bluetooth Microphone
Excellent battery life of up to 5 hours. There is no danger of it dropping out halfway through a class. 5 hours is plenty, even for a few back-to-back classes.
Easy to use. Very quick to connect to the laptop and to be discovered by Zoom. It works in exactly the same way as sharing computer audio when playing music during a class, except you are outputting to your earpiece rather than TV speakers. This has the added benefit of echo prevention and feedback if you typically stand close to your speakers.
Lightweight. Apart from the earpiece (which is optional anyway) you really do forget you are wearing it, with it being so small and lightweight. The only distraction is the earpiece.
It is incredibly useful to hear the music in your ear, but it can feel uncomfortable over time and the wire can get in the way. Both of these issues can be fixed with an elastic band and ear pads.
Sound quality. Whilst it lacks a ‘punch’, the Sabinetek SmartMike+ voice quality is perfectly clear and adequate for online fitness coaching.
The microphone is highly sensitive. When I stood close to my screen, when my participants spoke, they would complain about an when they spoke, meaning I would need to turn my television volume level very low.
The only way to avoid this is to stand a good distance from your laptop/TV when speaking to your clients pre and post class.
Noise monitoring is great – apart from the included earphones, which are not designed for the rigours of fitness.
They might be fine for slow-moving workouts, such as Pilates and Yoga but something like a HIIT class, they are prone to falling out the ear.
Even though it is light, it can hang heavy, especially for floor exercise, however, I found if I positioned the microphone more under my ear, rather than my chin, it would solve the problem.
For a microphone designed primarily for vlogging, it worked surprisingly well for coaching fitness online.
The microphone remained secure with its deep clip, it is plug and play for Zoom and my participants certainly had no complaints. Putting the issue of the earpiece aside, I soon forgot I was wearing it. With some cheap home hacks, I am confident the earpiece issues could be solved.
It will not match the dynamic range and punchy bass of the higher-end microphone/headsets designed for fitness, but at £100, this is expected.
I will switch from my existing SubZero microphone to this Sabinetek SmartMike+ moving forward but will want to upgrade to a higher-end microphone/headset when I increase the volume of classes I coach over the winter months.
I believe this is more of a £70 product rather than £100, but if Sabinetek ever offers such a discount, I believe this could be a great option for the more casual/part-time Zoom fitness coach.
Score – 70%