I have used (I own) several cheap lavaliers:
- Audio-Technica ATR-3350
- Sony ECM-CS3
- Olympus ME52W
- Zalman Zm-Mic1
First Impressions of the Olympus ME52W
The ME52W it is minimalist and sturdy. Even though it’s cheap and made in China (I assume) it feels like it will not break as easily as my other cheap lavaliers. I flat out love the feel of this thing.
The cable length is a bit short and that the silver microphone clip is big and draws a lot of attention. The short cable length is not a big deal for me because I plan to use the ME52 with a digital recorder that will be in my pocket. The ugly silver mic clip is not a big deal either because I will be using this mic setup for personal use. If I was using it for a wedding or corporate work I would prefer a black colored clip. The clip is ugly, but nice and big – I am not concerned about it breaking.
The microphone articulates/swivels very nicely. You can position the mic which ever way you like. Overall, I am very happy with the ergonomics of the ME52. I would have liked the cable to be a bit longer. The cable is long enough for me to attach the mic to the collar of my shirt (I’m 6 feet, btw). But I would have liked an extra few inches…
Olympus ME52W Specs
- Electret condenser microphone
- Impedance: 2.2 k ohms
- Unidirectional (Cardioid)
- Microphone sensitivity: – 40dB/kHz
- Dimensions: 17.5mm x 27.3mm
- Cable length: 1.05m
- Weight: 4.2g
- Frequency response: 100 – 15.000Hz
- Input: 1.5v – 10v
- Plug Type: 3.5mm mini-jack
- Power Supply: power is supplied by recorder
- Price: $10 – $15
In Depth Look at the Olympus ME52W
The first thing I wanted to test was mic sensitivity. The more sensitive a mic is the less you have to boost it via preamps. If your preamps are crappy, then increasing the gain will add noise. So in order to get nice clean sound it’s nice to have a sensitive mic and good preamps. The ME52 has a sensitivity rating of -40dB. What this means is that it is more sensitive than the Olympus ME15 (-42dB), but less sensitive than the Sony ECM-CS3 (-38.0 dB).
The ME52W claims to have a unidirectional polar pattern. I assume this is a cardioid polar pattern. Most lavalier have an omnidirectional polar pattern (they pick up sounds from all sides). A cardioid polar pattern picks up sounds mostly from the side facing the microphone, though not as aggressively as a shotgun mic. Olympus’s claim that this mic reduces ambient noise is just marketing speak for “this mic uses a cardioid polar pattern”. I tested the mic a bit by turning it away from the source, and it certainly is directional. So if you need a mic that doesn’t pick up sounds from the sides this is a decent choice.
ME52W Sound Quality
If you need a cheap microphone that delivers good sound, then you are probably asking for something that does not exist. In my microphone shootout this was by far the worst sounding mic. Personally, I will likely never use this mic for filmmaking or anything that requires good sound. If all you need is a mic for basic voice recording or for Skype calls, this will be fine. But forget about it if you need good sound quality; your voice will sound as if you’re speaking through a can. If I was producing youtube video, I would skip this mic and get an Audio Technica ATR-3350, Sony ECM-CS3, Giant Squid Lavalier or Church Audio CA-10 (if you can afford to spend $100).
This is the second biggest problem with the ME52W. The frequency response is 100 – 15.000Hz and as a result everything sounds very weak and your cutting out the low end in your voice. Your voice will sound mediocre with this lavalier. If people are listening to the audio from this mic on laptop speakers or iPhone speakers, they won’t know the difference. If you listen on decent speakers or use headphones, you will notice the “lacking” sound quality instantly.
What I Like the Most About the ME52W
- No battery necessary, plug it into whatever device you have and it should work.
- Ease of use. It does not have lots of wires, the clip is big (too big maybe), and the mic can be easily positioned.
- Rugged build quality. I know this thing is not rugged compared to professional gear, but it feels tough. I am not afraid of handling it.
- Impressive directional performance: you don’t pick up a lot of the noise on the sides.
- Fair value. I got it for about $13, and it performs better than what I expect from a ~$10 mic.
What I Don’t Like About the ME52W
- The mic is fairly big, and the clip is rather large and ugly. If you need to mic someone up discretely, the mic may be too big.
- This microphone has poor sound quality.
My Final Thoughts on the ME52W Lavalier
If you have good speakers or a headphones you will definitely hear the unnatural sound this mic produces. The ME52W sounds very thin and small compared to the internal microphones of my PCM M-10. It is as if you are talking through a can or something. Really gross… It’s a shame because this lavalier has the best construction of any sub $50 lavalier I have tested. Overall, this is a decent mic for applications that don’t require good audio quality. If you need this mic for video work, YouTube prosecution, or anything that requires decent audio I would skip this mic and buy a ATR3350 or a Sony ECM-CS3 (both cost a little bit more).