I recently bought the Sony ECM-719 microphone to accompany my Sony Hi-MD minidisc recorder for the purpose of record my band playing live. Our band use Samplers (A technology capable of recording a sound and then playing it back in a different key) so I wanted a microphone to record and capture sounds for use in our songs. I also wanted the microphone to be small enough to be used in 'Stealth Mode' so that I could covertly record my surroundings without the cries of - "Mummy why has that man got a microphone pointed at a duck" spoiling my recordings!
Choosing a suitable microphone within budget was proving to be a difficult task. There are so many models in varying sizes and specifications that it did get a bit confusing. After several hours of goggling and visiting music recording forums I finally narrowed my requirements to the following wish list;
Uni Directional vs Omni Directional;
I required a microphone that would capture the sound of the object it is pointed at and pick up as little of the surrounding sounds as possible. This narrowed my choice to Uni Directional.
Some microphones a power feed to make them work. This feed is known as plug in power or Phantom power.
The Sony Minidisc machine that I was using could supply 1.5v of power to a microphone so I needed a microphone that would operate off this voltage.
The cheaper the better (providing all my wish list items were met)
Decibel levels and Range;
This was the most important item on my wish list. As its primary use was to record my band live the microphone must be capable of recording LOUD sounds without distortion. The greater the Decibel amount the microphone could handle the better.
The microphone must be unobtrusive and easily used in stealth situations.
With advice gained from the minidisc forums and after reading several online reviews I decided on the Sony ECM-719 as it met all of my wish list requirements - a uni directional microphone that was small in size, has a good recording range and sound level handling and cost just under £50. This may seem quite a lot to pay for a microphone, but some of the other microphones with slightly higher frequency ranges and louder decibel capabilities could cost up to ten times this amount - ouch!
The Microphone arrived blister packed (I personally dislike blister packs as I usually end up slicing my fingers in eagerness to open the packet), with an instruction manual and microphone.
The first thing that I noticed was the cable length which was way over 1 meter which meant I had no need to buy an extension cable. The cable leads directly from the Microphone and terminates in a gold plated 3.5mm stereo jack plug. The gold plating ensures a good connection to my minidisc. The cable has a material coating to it which I found helped to avoid tangles.
The microphone itself is about 5cm wide and 3cm Tall. On first appearances it strangely reminded me of a silver pair of Mickey Mouse ears. Two silver grill meshed circles represented these 'ears'. Each of these 'ears' is in fact a microphone combining to make a stereo pair. On the front there is a two-way slider switch to alternate between music and Voice settings. This is used to adjust the microphone sensitivity so that it is suited for your recording environment. On the top of the microphone is a power on off switch. Earlier I mentioned the need for plug in power required for a microphone to work, the Sony microphone can supply the power itself by using an onboard button cell battery, or alternatively can draw the voltage required directly from your recording equipment (if it supports this function). Finally, the back of the microphone has a sprung clamp so that you can attach the recorder to a fixed point such as a lapel. The back also has the battery compartment for the plug in power button cell.
My first test for this microphone was to make a recording of our band practicing live in a rehearsal room. I sat the minidisc and microphone on a table at about 4 meters from the drum kit. I set the recording levels at slightly under maximum to avoid distortion; I also set the switch on the microphone to its Music setting. There was no need to turn the microphones power on as the minidisc was supplying the voltage required.
Our band are extremely noises, with loud drums bass and guitar, well loud everything actually! I was expecting the recording to be a wall of distorted noise. To my surprise, after transferring the recording from the minidisc to the PC, the end results were fantastic. The high range sounds such as cymbals were crisp and clear whilst the lower tones such as the bass guitar and tom tom drums were punchy and full of depth. There was no sign of distortion (other than the intentional distortion of the guitar playing!). I was pleased with the results.
The second test for the microphone was the absolute opposite end of the scale in both volume and difficulty - ambient sounds at the local train station. I wanted to record a background sound of a functional train platform for use as a sample intro for a song. A bit of a cliché maybe, The Jam used a tube train sample on their 'Down in the tube station at Midnight' single, however I had to give it a go.
I sat on the platform, with the microphone covertly attached to my lapel and let life carry on as usual. I set the microphone switch to its Voice setting, a more sensitive level than used before, and the recording began. Commuters scuttled by, trains came and left and timetable announcements were made - all of the things that you'd expect from a train station! The results of this recording were entirely different. The overall sound was clear and pristine, however due to the uni directional nature of the microphone a lot of sounds were either too loud and out of context or too quiet. The only success on this recording was the stereo panning from left to right that was captured as a train passed by.
Outside of these tests it is also worth noting that the microphone can also be used on a PC and has great sound quality when used with compatible conference or telephony (VOIP) software.
Overall I was very pleased with the microphone.
Firstly it is very light and its small dimensions make it easy to carry around alongside your portable recorder. Secondly the sound quality and overall crispness of the recordings it produced were in my view excellent for the price paid. Thirdly, its battery life (when required) is again noteworthy. The manufacturer quotes a figure of 100 hours battery life which is indeed incredible for such a small battery. Finally, its overall build quality and reliability is outstanding. It may not suit the pro-recording market, but it is definitely suited to the amateur recorder such as me.
To conclude, the ECM-719 is a great microphone for a great price.
These technical specifications were taken directly from the Sony UK website. I know that some people on Dooyoo are not keen on lists of specifications, but these are needed if you are seriously considering the purchase of this microphone.
Frequency (Hz):100 - 15,000
Impedance (Ohm): 1,500
Output level (dB): -46.0
Cord type: OFC balanced-type shield wire
Cord length (m): 1.5
Plug: Gold-plated L-shaped stereo mini plug
AC power supply: YES
Battery power supply: YES
Type of battery: LR44
Number of batteries: 1.0
Battery life (h): 100.0
Weight (g): 28.0
Width (mm): 51.0
Height (mm): 34.0
Depth (mm): 30.0
Purchase and Pricing Information
The microphone was available for £48.35 from Amazon.co.uk at the time of writing.
***Warning*** - I would suggest that any potential purchaser needs to source this microphone from a reputable dealer as there are known 'fake' copies of this microphone in circulation that have far inferior microphone capsules inside them.
Copyright 2008 - M Jones (Otalgia)