LARK Max review: it will make your life easier!

Jun 29, 2023

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

LARK Max review: it will make your life easier!

Jun 29, 2023

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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If you are using a small microphone for interviews or even solo recording, you have quite a bit of options today. But Hollyland just released their LARK Max (buy here), and I think it’s a piece of gear worth talking about because it brings quite a bit to the table.

LARK Max – a powerful two-channel recorder

The LARK MAX is an evolution from the LARK 150 (buy here) so it carries many of its features, but it also has some nice upgrades. The LARK Max is a two-channel kit. It has one receiver and two Built-In Omni Mics. So you can run two microphones in parallel and record two people at the same time, say an interviewer and an interviewee. There is quite a bit of control over how you can do that, but first, let’s dive right into the receiver unit.

LARK Max receiver unit

LARK Max receiver unit

The LARK Max receiver unit has a clip that goes on a belt, but it “just happens to” be the size of a hot shoe so that you can mount it directly on a camera or a cage.

It is not the smallest unit in the market. The RODE GO, or SmallRig W60 are smaller, for example. But considering the incredible amount of control you get, it is a welcomed tradeoff.

You can access pretty much any function from the LCD and completely control the transmitters. this includes gain, mute, recording behavior, noise cancellation, which I’ll talk about later, and much more.

LARK Max LCD controller

For controls, you have a push dial and a touch button which usually operates as a “back” button. I started playing with the unit even before I read the manual, and the menus are super-intuitive. It takes a little bit of getting used to a single dial vs. dial per channel. But mostly, it is very comfortable. On the other hand, the user interface has been redesigned from the 150, and you can see everything that matters in a single glimpse. That includes battery, modes, levels, ENC status, if a transmitter is recording, and a bunch more.

There is a headphones jack that gives you the option to monitor your audio directly before it goes into your camera or your phone. This is quite useful for debugging audio and also setting the right levels and gain on both your camera and the mic.

LARK Max camera connection

LARK Max transmitter units

The transmitters are matchbox size, and they look a bit different from the standard mics out there. Instead of a tiny delicate mic on the top, they have a nice mesh that protects the capsule. This makes them much easier to handle. And you don’t need to worry about accidentally touching the delicate parts of the microphone. Also, putting the dead-cat on is much easier than other mics. Actually, the entire build feels very solid and can probably take some minor abuse.

LARK Max transmitter

I think that Hollyland really wanted to make this set comfortable for the solo operator, so you get a nice amount of control from the transmitter unit as well. Not everything you get from the receiver, but all the operational functions. You can mute, start noise suppression and control the recording right from the transmitter.

As with most such units, you can either use the built-in mic or connect a lavalier (like this one) via a 3.5mm jack on the side of the unit. And like many of those microphones, you can either clip it on or use a small magnet. Or you can clip it to your belt if you use the lav mic.

Hollyland boasts a 250 meters line-of-site range, but we ran out of space after about 60 meters of testing. This is also where we had to face the camera to get line-of-sight to get a signal. The good thing is there is a safety feature exactly for those situations.

LARK Max safety features and recording modes

Once you start recording, you want as much safety as possible. Bad audio is the sworn enemy of a good video. The LARK Max provides three safety features which I found quite useful.

The three recording modes

Safety channel

Once you are all set up, you can start recording, and depending on what you do, you may opt for one of three different modes:

  • Mono mode – In mono mode, all the audio comes in as a single stream to both channels. This is the most basic mode, and it’s good for solo speakers or voice-over. But if you are already using Mono mode, you may as well look at the Safety channel mode.
  • Stereo mode – In stereo, every mic gets its own channel. This way, you can easily split them up in post and process them separately. It’s great for interviews as it gives you more control over each of the speakers.
  • Safety channel – The last mode is called safety channel, and it’s very similar to mono. Only the second channel records at a different gain. You can choose to record at a lower gain to recover any clipped sounds or up the gain if you like. This is the first time I am seeing gain control on the safety channel, and just like the other settings, you can control it directly from the receiver.

Internal recording

The LARK Max has another critical safety feature. Each of the microphones also records the audio internally, so even if you lose the signal for some reason, you still have your audio file. This is 2.4Ghz kit, so it is not as safe as DECT or UHF units. To retrieve your audio files, just connect the transmitter to your laptop, and you’ll find an eight GIGs flash drive with all your recordings. This is about 14 hours of audio, and you can set the unit to start recording as soon as it turns on so you always get that safety net

ENC – Environmental Noice Cancelling

I was not sure if this should go on safety or on Audio, but since it can help you deal with unpredicted situations, I’ll put it here. One interesting feature that Hollyland added is ENC which stands for Environmental Noise Cancelling. Ideally, this is a simple feature that can reduce ambient noise while keeping your voice very crips. I was quite impressed with this feature, and you can see in the video that even when a truck drove by, it had very little impact on how you heard me talk.

LARK Max case, run-time, and auto pairing

Before going into the audio part, I want to talk about run time. One of the biggest complaints about the LARK 150 was the short battery life. And run-time is critical with devices that only have an internal battery. You can not swap the battery, so once it’s done, you’re done for the day.

The LARK MAX almost doubled the runtime over the 150. It runs for seven and a half hours, which should be enough for one day of work, especially if you turn the unit off between shoots.

But! The case is also a charger that can top off the set. Twice. It takes about two hours to do a full charge cycle. This means that going out with a fully charged set (units and case) should last for about three days of work.

There is another “magic” function with the case. The transmitter and receivers know when they are in the case and immediately auto-pair when you open the lid. So, once you are on set, by the time you open the case and hand the mic to your talent, everything is already paired up to the right receiver.

Audio on the LARK MAX

Audio is always a personal preference, but I like the way that the LARK sounds. It has a nice crisp and a full feel to it. You can listen to some samples in the video above.

You have some control over the audio using some accessories and features. Obviously, you get two windshields (A.K.A dead cats), and in my test, they proved quite effective. As I said before, they mount like “regular” dead cats, so its super easy to put them on and off.

You can also control the gain of each mic separately and engage a low-cut filter. Lastly, there is a mini-equalizer that lets you control some of the audio characteristics.

In the box

  • Hollyland LARK MAX Duo 2-Person Wireless Microphone System (2.4 GHz, Black)
  • 2 x Hollyland LARK MAX Clip-On Wireless Microphone Transmitter (2.4 GHz, Black)
  • Receiver
  • Hollyland LARK MAX Charging Case (Black)
  • 3.5mm TRS Cable
  • USB-C to Lightning Cable
  • USB-C to USB-C Cable
  • USB-C to USB-A Cable
  • 2 x Furry Windscreen
  • 2 x Magnetic Clip
  • Storage Bag
  • Limited 1-Year Manufacturer Warranty

LARK Max specs

System
Wireless TechnologyAnalog/Digital Hybrid 2.4 GHz
Included Transmitters2 x Clip-On with Microphone
DiversityNon-Diversity
Max Operating Range820.2′ / 250 m (Line of Sight)
196.9′ / 60 m (with Obstruction)
Max Transmitters per Band2
Built-In RecorderYes
Timecode SupportNo
Mobile App CompatibleNo
*As of June, 2023: Check with manufacturer for the most up-to-date compatibility
OS CompatibilityAndroid
iOS
*As of June, 2023: Check with manufacturer for the most up-to-date compatibility
Sample Rate/Resolution48 kHz / 24-Bit
ModulationGFSK
SNR70 dB
Receiver
Receiver TypeCamera-Mount
Mounting OptionsShoe-Mount (with Included Hardware)
AntennaInternal
Number of Audio Channels2
Audio I/O1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Unbalanced Output
1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Unbalanced Headphone In/Out
Frequency Response20 Hz to 20 kHz
Network I/ONone
USB/Lightning Connectivity1 x USB-C Female (Audio, Charging)
Power RequirementsBattery
Battery Type1 x Built-In Rechargeable
Internal Battery Capacity490 mAh
Battery Charging Time2 Hours
Approx. Battery Life9 Hours
Display & Indicators1 x OLED Touchscreen (Battery Status, Channel)
Operating Temperature-4 to 113°F / -20 to 45°C
Dimensions2.3 x 1.6 x 0.9″ / 58 x 40.8 x 23.2 mm
Weight2.1 oz / 60 g
Transmitter
Transmitter TypeClip-On with Microphone
RF Output PowerNot Specified by Manufacturer
Audio I/O1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Female Input
PadNone
MutingOff/On Switch
Auto-Level ControlNo
Recorder Sample RatesWAV:
48 kHz
Recorder Bit Depths24-Bit
Audio File FormatsWAV
Gain Range30 dB
Signal ProcessingNone
Frequency Response20 Hz to 20 kHz
AntennaInternal
Power RequirementsBattery
Battery Type1 x Built-In Rechargeable
Internal Battery Capacity300 mAh
Battery Charging Time2 Hour
Approx. Battery Life7.5 Hours
USB/Lightning I/O1 x USB-C (Charging)
Display & IndicatorsLED
Operating Temperature-4 to 113°F / -20 to 45°C
Dimensions1.9 x 1.2 x 0.8″ / 48.5 x 30.3 x 19.4 mm
Weight1.2 oz / 33 g
Microphone
Microphone TypeIntegrated
ColorBlack
Sound FieldMono
Polar PatternOmnidirectional
Frequency Range20 Hz to 20 kHz
SNR70 dB
Equivalent Noise Level24 dB A-Weighted
Maximum SPL128 dB SPL Peak
120 dB SPL
Sensitivity-36 dBFS at 1 kHz
96 dB
Operating VoltageNone
Charging Case
Additional Runtime22 Hours
Recharge Time2 Hours
Battery ChemistryLithium-Ion Polymer (LiPo)
Capacity2800 mAh
Charging InterfaceUSB-C
Dimensions4.5 x 2.5 x 1.8″ / 115 x 63 x 46 mm
Weight6.8 oz / 193.5 g

Price and availability

The LARK MAX sells for $299 for the Duo, or $199 for the solo, and they come in black or white flavors. This unit is packed with value, and it is definitely setting a high bar for the competition.

You can pre order the LARK Max on B&H.

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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