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Sony ECM-88 Subminiature Lavalier Microphone - ProSoundNetwork.com

Sony ECM-88 Subminiature Lavalier Microphone

Although the lavalier landscape has changed dramatically since the introduction of the early broadcast-standard Sony ECM-50 more than 30 years ago, one thing remains constant: Sony ECM-series mics still reign supreme.
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Fast FactsApplications: Studio and location video production, recording studios, sound reinforcement, public address

Key Features: Omnidirectional pattern; low-profile lavalier; electret condenser capsule

Price: $440

Contact: Sony Professional at 800-686-7669, http://bssc.sel.sony.com.Although the lavalier landscape has changed dramatically since the introduction of the early broadcast-standard Sony ECM-50 more than 30 years ago, one thing remains constant: Sony ECM-series mics still reign supreme. The new heir to the throne is the subminiature ECM-88 electret condenser microphone ($440), and it promises to be every bit as popular as its immediate predecessor, the ECM-77.

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Features

The omnidirectional ECM-88 is roughly half the size of the ECM-77 and features several notable design changes that increase the mic's overall fidelity and usability.

The ECM-88 features a dual-diaphragm mechanism that adds to the mic's high sensitivity and low-noise characteristics. The diaphragm and back-plates are fixed vertically to the microphone capsule, which reduces the mechanical noise caused by cable vibration and friction, according to Sony.

As part of the new design, the mic uses a unique rectangular tray to support the diaphragms instead of a typical (and more fragile) ring configuration. The rectangular tray design minimizes deformation of the diaphragm to maintain sound quality throughout changing conditions, according to the manufacturer. A thin waterproof sheet is mounted on the outside of each diaphragm to protect the capsule from damage caused by perspiration and rain.

According to the manufacturer, frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz (no tolerance given) and sensitivity is –52 dB. At 26 dB of inherent noise, the ECM-88 offers a 4 dB improvement over its predecessor. With the increase in low-frequency response, however, comes a 5 dB increase in wind noise (45 dB SPL or less using the supplied windscreen). Maximum input sound pressure level is 125 dB.

The low-profile mic capsule measures a mere 5/32 x 5/32 x 11/16 of an inch—not much wider than the cable to which it is attached. The heavy-duty (for a lavalier, anyway) cable is 8.2 feet long and the combined capsule and cable weight is 32 g, including the attached SMC9-4P miniature four-pin connector. This is the same connector found on Sony's WRT-8B and WRT-822B wireless transmitters. A no-connector version is available as model ECM-88PT (pigtail).

The ECM-88's electret condenser capsule requires DC power in the 1.1 to 10 V range. The optional DC-78 power supply unit ($100) can power the mic with either a single AA battery or 12 to 48 V from an external DC source, and also provides audio output on a standard male XLR connector. Stated AA battery life is 6,000 hours.

The ECM-88 mic comes in Sony's standard soft vinyl/hard plastic flip-top case, which has individual compartments to store the mic plus cable, optional power supply, and the supplied windscreen and mic holders (double-pin and tie-clip style).

In Use

The ECM-88 provided for review was used with the optional DC-78 power supply unit running on an AA battery for field use and 48 V phantom power in the studio.

On first use, the improvement in handling noise was immediately apparent. The decrease in inherent noise, plus the significantly extended frequency response came close to giving me the impression I was listening to a full-size studio microphone and not a miniature lav.

The sound of the mic is surprisingly smooth and free of undue midrange hype. It felt relatively flat across the specified frequency range (or as far as my unspecified hearing range allows), with a slight but noticeable lift between 5 and 12 kHz.

Although the extended low end does open the door for more wind noise, it is well worth it, considering the overall improvement in fidelity and flexibility. The supplied windscreen was a must for most outdoor use, and a 30 Hz shelf in post took care of any remaining rumble. The windscreen is discreet in appearance, and its shell slips tightly onto the capsule so there were no worries about it falling off in use.

Despite the increased bass response, the ECM-88 mic handled pops and impact bursts better than most other lavs I have used. Sony worked a bit of magic here regarding the isolation of the capsule and recovery time of the diaphragms.

In a side-by-side test, when the mic and areas proximate received an impact, the low thud was markedly less obtrusive than the ECM-77, which has far less bass to start with.

The fidelity of the ECM-88 is such that I was compelled to try the mic on several musical sources including male and female vocals, acoustic guitars, congas and percussion. The sound of the mic in these applications was impressive and, though it is not the mic for every instrument, guitars and voice sounded very good.

Changes in placement and proximity had a somewhat exaggerated effect on overall tonality, so be sure to lock down the position of the mic on instrument well. While I would not necessarily reach for the ECM-88 in a situation where larger studio mics could be used, the ECM-88 would easily be my first choice when discreet or imperceptible placement on an instrument is required.

For more typical broadcast use of lavalier mics, I would easily reach for the 88 first over its predecessors and similarly priced competitors.

Summary

Not just another model in the ECM series, the ECM-88 stands apart as a successful redesign that provides significant benefits to the user. Its flat, full-range frequency response, excellent isolation and easily concealable size make it ideal for field and studio broadcast use.