Sony ECM-90 Electret Condenser Microphone review

What is it?
The Sony ECM-90 Electret Condenser Microphone is an ultra-compact, dual-diaphragm omnidirectional microphone. It has a flat, and wide, frequency response from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, a dual-diaphragm mechanism to help reduce cable noise and a splash-proof design built to withstand everyday use.

What’s great?
The sub-miniature design is discrete and tidy with remarkably low handling noise and excellent sound quality.

What’s not?
The price will put off some purchasers, but this is a high-quality microphone designed to give many years of service.

The verdict
Lavalier microphones are no longer looked down upon as a necessary evil, exhibiting poor quality sound only balanced by the convenience they offer. With advances in design and manufacturing techniques, we are now seeing a wider range of high-quality capsules available. With the ECM-90, Sony has updated their range and released a truly well designed high-quality sub-miniature microphone. With a mic head barely thicker than its cable, at 3.5mm wide by 20.5mm long, and with an optional, but still discrete, urethane windscreen, the ECM-90 is comparable to the size of other sub-miniature capsules on the market. An update to the long-standing and ever-popular ECM-77 and ECM-88 models, the ECM-90 introduces several key features.

The dual-diaphragm design offers a manufacturer quoted 20Hz- 20Khz frequency response with a typical dynamic range of 99dB. The capsule can withstand a maximum input sound pressure level of 125dB and typically provides a signal to noise ratio of 68dB. However, the design also claims to vastly reduce cable handling noise, the subject of my first investigation.

Lavaliers succeed or fail in their ability to capture speech, clearly, and with as few artefacts as possible. As anyone who uses them will know, they can vary greatly, some having a poor frequency response, peculiarities of polar pick-up and excessive handling noise. The latter of these is a particularly annoying trait, often requiring very careful positioning.

For the ECM-90, Sony has adopted their popular wireframe clip from previous models. This is easy to use and secures to the microphone at the base of the body, below the removable windshield. The microphone is omnidirectional, so placement direction is less crucial. To test handling noise I took the microphone, along with some headphones, into our Hemi-anechoic chamber. With the microphone attached to clothing in various typical positions, I proceeded to charge about the comparatively silent space muttering loudly to myself. The vocal quality was clear and full and uninterrupted by undue handling noise. The noise cancellation offered by the capsule was effective and I was only aware of the very low noise floor of my monitoring system.

In a practical test the following day the ECM-90 was used in conjunction with Sony’s DWX Generation 3 digital wireless system. The sound was clear and full and the combination of the capsules wide frequency range and low handling noise produced a very high-quality broadcast sound. The test was probably unfairly taken alongside some existing sub-miniature microphones on an older analogue wireless system. The Sony stood out so much it was rejected from the broadcast as the quality was so noticeably better, we would have needed three! This was not just down to the wireless system, in all aspects, the ECM-90 outperformed expectations.

We are seeing sub-miniature capsules appear in an ever-increasing number of situations, as discrete vocal or instruments microphones for broadcast as well as live concert and theatrical performance. A test with the ECM-90 with a medium-sized sound reinforcement system found it also very capable in this field, both for vocals and on a small variety of musical instruments available to test. I would be very confident to try this microphone in a wide range of situations.

The ECM-90 is available in two cable versions, with either a Hirose 4 pin or Lemo 3 pin connector. 

The bottom line:
If you are in the market for a new sub-miniature microphone, or lavalier system, especially if you are already a Sony user, then this is a great choice. Combined with the new DWX digital wireless systems, Sony has brought their microphone technology right up to date.

ECM-90 Subminiature Lavalier Microphone: List Price £403.17

Lemo Version

Hirose Version