Panasonic Gh4

Apr 022014

SonyECMCS3I have used (I own) several cheap lavaliers:

  • Audio-Technica ATR-3350
  • Sony ECM-CS3
  • Olympus ME52W
  • Zalman Zm-Mic1

The Sony ECM CS3 is considered to be the best $25 lavalier microphone on the planet. Is it? In my opinion… kind of. It’s certainly the best sounding mic. But the build quality leaves me unhappy.

My First Impressions of the Sony ECM-CS3

This mic has a short cord length (about 3 feet), so you will likely need to plug this thing into a recorder and not directly into your DSLR. Not a big deal since you can buy an extension cable. An extra foot would have been nice. If you are plugging this thiing into your recorder, the cable length isn’t an issue.

Feels cheap as hell. This is thing cost me twice as much as the Olympus lavalier and it feels twice as cheap. It’s very light, the clip is made out of plastic, and it is wrapped in a softish, silver battery-like cover/enclosure. In other words: I hate the build quality, and I am genuinely afraid that I will eventually break this lavalier.

It does not come with a foam windscreen. Not a big deal, but weird since all the other mics I  bought come with one.

It is a stereo mic. You should not use stereo for speech. In your editing software you should delete one of the audio channels and then duplicate the remaining channel. If you record speech in stereo, it sounds very gross which is why no one uses stereo for speech (unless it’s for music, or some abnormal reason).

Sony ECM-CS3 Specs

  • Electret Condenser Microphone
  • Omnidirectional
  • Frequency Response : 50 – 15,000Hz
  • Sensitivity : -38 dB
  • Cable : 1.0 m (~40 in)
  • Power : Plug-in Power
  • Weight (Approx.) : Approximately 12 g (0.42 oz) (with Cord)
  • Price: $18-$25

In Depth Look at the Sony ECM-CS3

The clip does not allow you to articulate the microphone in all three dimensions like the Olympus lav. You can only spin the mic on one axis (kind of like spinning a bottle). The clip is black, and small. I would prefer a larger clip that was not so cheap feeling. Really, there is  not much to say about the lavalier in terms of cool features. This mic is truly all about the sound…

Sony ECM-CS3 Sound Quality

Is this the best sounding mic under $25? Yes, no question. If you need audio quality buy this mic. Does it sound better than my internal mics on the Sony PCM M10 digital recorder? No. The built in mics on my recorder sound better. But guess what, my recorder costs $200+. If you buy the Sony ECM CS3 lavalier, and plug it into a  Tascam DR-05 you’ll get similar sound for half the price.

This mic is very sensitive for a cheap lavalier. You don’t have to turn up the gain on your recorder or DSLR like you do with the Audio Technica ATR3350. Also, having stereo is a nice bonus. If ever I need to capture some stereo sound effects I guess I can? What I don’t like about the ECM-CS3 is the high frequency response. This mic really favors the high frequencies, and so you may need to edit your audio to your liking. Personally, I like the flat frequency response of the Audio Technica ATR3350. Despite the Audio Technica ATR3350 having a “flatter” sound, it sounds worse than the Sony ECM-CS3. If you need a cheap lavalier mic that has decent sound quality, the Sony ECM CS3 is your best option.

Things I Didn’t Like About the Sony ECM CS3

  • Silver color
  • Cheap build quality
  • Plastic clip
  • No Foam Screen
  • High frequencies are a bit overrepresented

Things I Liked About the Sony ECM CS3

  • Great (for the money) audio quality
  • Stereo if needed
  • Short cable
  • No batteries necessary
  • Picks up the low frequencies (unlike my Olympus ME52W)
  • Great off axis performance. Since you have two mics on this lav, if the lavalier shifts on your shirt or something, you will still pick up great audio.

Sony ECM CS3 Conclusion

If you need good sound quality buy it. If you need good sound quality and good build quality, spend more money on a better lavalier because this thing reeks of cheapness. Overall, I rank this lavalier higher than the Audio Technica ATR3350 (still decent in my opinion) and Olympus ME52W.

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Sony ECM-CS3 Stereo Lavalier Microphone
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