Sony ECM-AW3 Wireless Microphone Review - Bluetooth Audio
What is the ECM-AW3?
As the title gives away, it is a wireless microphone that can be used to capture audio when filming with a camcorder. The Sony ECM-AW3 Wireless microphone system is the latest generation of Wireless Microphones to use with your camcorder. Unlike previous wireless microphones, this one does not use the Sony Active Interface shoe (AIS).
A little history... The previous versions, the Sony ECM-HW1 and ECM-HW2 were fantastic microphones, but the drawback was that they came with an AIS fitting which meant that they could only be mounted onto a camera that had an AIS connector. What this meant was that you needed a Sony camera to use them as them.
The wireless system is actually a bluetooth pairing between the Microphone transmitter and the receiver which works seemlessly to give you quality audio recordings.
Sony ECM-AW3 Wireless Microphone
Receiver with 3.5" Male/Male cable
How does it work?
As with previous models, there are two components to the microphone. The reciever and the microphone. Each is paired to the other by bluetooth automatically. This is a setting that is done in the factory and cannot be changed. What this means is that if you damage the receiver or the microphone, you cannot simply replace the damaged part. You have to replace the whole unit (not just the damaged part). You cannot simply swap a broken recveiver with another working one that you may have (for example if you two sets or if purchased a second hand part from ebay).
The receiver connects to your Camcorder by a standard 3.5" male/male cable directly into the Mic input jack. The other side of the male/male cable plugs into the 3.5" Mic output jack which is on the receiver. The Connection diagram above illustrates how to make the connection. Also pictured is the actual receiver and cable.
What do you get?
The Microphone comes with the following:
- Bluetooth Microphone Transmitter
- Bluetooth Microphone Receiver
- 3.5" Male/Male Cable
- 2 x mono headphones
- Earpiece holder
- Protective jacket (optional to use)
- Carry pouch
Ease Of Use
The microphone set is extremley easy to use. All you have to do is
1) Insert a AAA battery into the mic and into the reciever and set them both to ON. The blue light will turn on begin to flash. This indicates that it is trying to pair with the other device and it will stop flashing when paired.
2) Plug the receiver into the Mic input jack of your camera as pictured above
3) Start recording!
Yes it is as simple as that.
The packaging says that it can record up to 150 feet away from the receiver. However, this is something that I have not managed to test yet. I have tested it at various distances between 6 and 100 feet and it has recorded the sound perfectly.
The audio quality of recordings is excelllent. It works just as well as it's predecessors. Even when moving away from the receiver or when constantly moving around, the sound is very clear. The protective jacket works well to cancel out any background noise if used.
Both the transmitter and receiver are very light. Even with a AAA battery in each, I would say that their combined weight is around 50 grams. For a portable microphone, this is very good.
The one drawback of this is that it eats batteries, so make sure that you set the mic and the receiver to off when not in use. You will need 2 AAA batteries to operate this, one for the Mic and One for the receiver. With that, you can record up to 7 hours of audio if used properly. This is a small step back from the ECM-HW2 which only needed 1 AAA battery but it's a trade off because the ECM-HW2 receiver was powered by the camera.
Both the Microphone and the receiver have a nice chrome finish. I've not used it long enough to test durability, but if it is anything like the ECM-HW1 and ECM-HW2 then there will be no problem. So far, it feels like it is a better build than it's predecssors. Maybe I will update this review when I have used it for a few months and have a better idea of the how durable it is.
The Mic comes with a handy clip that allows you to attach it to your belt, breast pocket or even to the provided armband. This saves you having to hold anything when recording. The receiver also has the same clip which can be used to secure it to the hand strap of the camera.
The Mic also has a headphone jack, which allows you to listen to what is being recorded by plugging in one of the provided headphones.
Another nice feature carried over from previous models is the warning light that glows red to show you when the battery is about to die. My advice on this one is, if you are trying record something important then heed the warning and change the battery immediatley.
Another great Microphone from Sony. Overall, this microphone is a great piece of kit. It is very light and portable and the recording quality is great. See below for a video of an actual recording using this Mic. Priced between $169 and $200, it not cheap but it does a great job. You can record sound without any messy wires and you can move around. The build quality is fantastic, what you would normally expect from a Sony product.
On the downside is the battery life, as I said before, it can eat batteries fast. However, if you use it sensibly it can last. This is only a minor drawback though, and it would not stop me from recommending it. The other negative aspect is that if one part is lost or broken, you cannot simply buy a replacement and pair it. Again this is a minor drawback the previous versions only ever got damaged through lack of care (something that takes some doing!)
As have I said, I have been using the previous versions happily for many years and I have not been disappointed with this one. The fact that I am not restricted to buying Sony cameras is an added bonus (the ones with AIS can be very expensive).