I have used (I own) several cheap lavaliers:
- Audio Technica ATR 3350
- Sony ECM-CS3
- Olympus ME52W
- Zalman Zm-Mic1
My Audio Technica 3350 First Impressions
The Audio Technica ATR 3350 is the most popular lavalier under $50. It comes with 20 feet of wire! Maybe that’s why it costs more than the Sony ECM-CS3 and Olympus ME52W? The microphone is smaller than my other lavs, the clip is small and black. It is a nice sized microphone if you need to hide it.
When you open the package and look at the mic, you will notice that there is nothing interesting about the ATR-3350. It is small, has no special features, is drowned in cable, has a rather large compartment for a battery, and that’s it. You get a foam wind cover. The clips does not allow for any adjusting. Pointing the mic perfectly at your subject could be troublesome.
Audio Technica ATR 3350 Specs
- Frequency response: 50 – 18,000Hz
- Microphone sensitivity: -54 dB
- Impedance: 1k ohms
- Battery types: LR44 or SR44 or 357 type
- Weight: 6g (0.2 oz)
- Cable: 6m (20′) 3.5 mm (1/8″) dual mono mini-plug
- Price: $18 – $25
An In Depth Look at the ATR 3350
The two biggest turnoffs are the fact that the cable is very long and that the mic requires batteries. Maybe you need a 20 foot cable? In that case this mic is awesome. Needing a battery for such a weak mic is annoying, and the fact that the on off switch has no light (reminding you to turn off the mic) only adds to my frustration. I’m very forgetful and it’s only a matter of time before I forget to turn off the mic and it runs out of juice. If you don’t need the 20 foot cable I would probably skip this mic and check out the Sony ECM-CS3.
Battery powered: You cannot plug your lavalier into a device and use plugin power. I hate batteries, and as your battery slowly dies your mic will sound worse and worse. Audio Technica recommends LR44 batteries, but these batteries die off slowly over time. You are better off getting SR44/357 batteries because they work strong right up until they die meaning you will not experience weak mic sensitivity for the duration of the battery life.
If you buy an Audio Technica ATR-3350 and it sounds quiet or bad, then try replacing the batteries. The ATR-3350 ships with a Maxell LR44 battery, and Lithium batteries gradually die off. Try putting in either a fresh LR44, or an Energizer 357 silver oxide battery (they work perfectly up until they die).
Audio Technica ATR 3350 Sound Quality
Fortunately, this little mic delivers when it comes to sound quality. The mic sensitivity is low (a bad thing) so everything sound quiet and you will have to turn up your gain. Once you have boosted your signal it sounds decent. If all you need is cheap usable sound then get an ATR-3350 or a Sony ECM-CS3. Don’t get an Olympus ME52W if you need usable sound, that thing sounds pretty awful. The ATR3350 delivers a flatter sound than the Sony ECM-CS3 (gives you a bit too much at the high frequencies). But unfortunately, because the sensitivity is low, once you boost the audio you get preamp and room noise. For this reason I would buy a Sony ECM CS3 over an ATR 3350.
Things I Didn’t Like About the ATR 3350
- On/Off switch has no LED, so you might forget to turn the mic off.
- Mic placement: the mic has no swivel, so pointing it in a particular direction is a bit difficult. Luckily the polar pattern is omnidirectional and so the mic placement is not as essential as with a cardioid mic like the Olympus ME52W.
- Weak mic sensitivity: -54 dB means you will have to either use a lot of preamp gain, or boost your audio in post. -54 dB is the lowest mic sensitivity I have encountered amongst the cheap lavaliers.
- Cable length: way too long for normal use.
- Price: Overpriced. If you only need good audio get a Sony ECM-CS3. It is often priced lower than the ATR 3350, and the audio quality is superior.
Things I Liked About the ATR 3350
- Frequency response: The sound from this mic is like night and day when compared to the Olympus ME52W. The 50-100 MHz that this mic picks up really makes a difference.
- Omnidirectional polar pattern: you get a fuller sound, and mic placement is not as crucial.
- Cable Length: I know, I know. I was bitching and moaning about the long cable length. If you don’t have an external recorder and need to plug this lavalier into your camera, you will appreciate the long ass cable. So when I need 20 feet of cable, I like this mic.
My Final Thoughts on the Audio Technica ATR 3350
In conclusion, I have to say that if your sole mission is to improve the audio from your DSLR, then you will benefit from the ATR-3350. The omni directional polar pattern is easy to work with, and this mic picks up a good bit of the low end frequencies. You get nice flat audio for $20. What is there to complain about? Not much really. The sound is okey, not great. If you own an external recorder, then you most likely don’t need 20 feet of cable, and getting a plugin power lavalier that does not require external batteries would result in a more relaxing experience. If this mic did not have a long-ass cord, did not require batteries, and was more sensitive then it would be an amazing value. But as is, priced at $20+ I’d go for the Sony lavalier.