Matthews Back – Mic Test

Sony ECM-CS3 vs Rode SmartLav+

Audio capture is an important part of making videos.  As a result, I thought I’d do a quick microphone test or comparison or review between my two new little mics – the Rode SmartLav+ and the Sony ECM-CS3.

Part of the brief here on is documenting my back injury recovery journey and my sore back.  Another part is to document my come back to the real world.  Also, I am documenting my side hustles, online learnings and all things that go along with this.

And new audio gear is always good fun.

Given that I’m a bit of an audio nerd – I love speakers and recording gear – this blog has given me the minor excuse I wanted to purchase some new clip on lapel microphones.

And, as I was a little early for my doctor’s appointment, I thought I’d test my new microphones out.

Introducing the Rode SmartLav+ and the Sony ECM-CS3

I did some research online before buying these two mics and quickly came to the conclusion that there are approximately forty seven gazillion options for capturing audio – most of which can be used when recording a video.

Obviously the easier option is to just use the built in microphone within your smart phone or tablet or video camera.

However, more often than not and in certain situations – such as wind, lots of background noise – this may not capture the best sound.

Yes, in an enclosed and quiet space, the built in mics in phones, tablets and camera are very good these days, but relying on the built in mics is not always be the best idea…hence the option of a separate specific microphone.

There are cheap options of under $7 and at the other end of the spectrum you can pay thousands of $$$ for an allegedly you-beaut-whiz-bang microphone.

So – what to buy ?

I couldn’t choose purely based on the online reviews, so I bought both Rode SmartLav+ and the Sony ECM CS3.

I simply plugged these little mics directly into an Android (Samsung) smart phone.  I have not edited anything – the sound you hear in the video above is straight from the mic.  I have tried also into an iPhone.  The results are very similar with both phones.

Sony ECM-CS3 review

(or is this a Sony ECMCS3 review review ?)

I couldn’t find a retail shop in Melbourne that sold the Sony ECM-CS3, so I bought one online from Amazon.  It came from Japan and was surprisingly cheap – a bit under $25 including shipping.

I am impressed with its simplicity and its sound. For the price it’s fantastic.

The Sony ECM-CS3 is a stereo mic which helps make it capture an overall better quality of sound.

If your recording gear and software can support this then with a few little editing tricks you could make the audio it captures sound impressive.  I did not do this with my testing.  It’s simply a plug in and record.

It certainly handled the wind noise very well.  Initially I was concerned about how it would pick up the sound of my voice given its odd horizontal configuration, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.

Plugging the Sony ECMCS3 directly into an Android phone or tablet is not a problem.

Connecting it to an iPhone or iPad requires an adaptor given that there are variances in the internal connections within the two styles of phone hardware.  The Rode SC4 TRS to TRRS adaptor does the trick.

Rode smartlav+ review

(or is this a Rode smartlav plus review ?)

Next I tried the Rode SmartLav+ microphone.

Again, this is a clip on lapel mic from a company that are famous for their microphones of all shapes and styles.  Rode studio mics are awesome so I was interested to try out their little SmartLav+ clip on mic.

Because these are a little more expensive, I wanted to buy it from a retail shop just in case I needed to return it for some reason.  I paid $58 for mine.

Again, the Rode smartLav+ is a simple plug and play mic that clips on to your collar, shirt, tie, chest area.  It has a little foam wind break covering and it comes with a little bag/pouch to keep it in, which are nice touches.

Again, because of the hardware connectivity differences between android and apple devices, an adaptor needs to be used if you wish to plug the Rode Smart Lav + into an Android device.  The Rode SC3 TRRS to TRS Adaptor can be used in this case.

The Sony ECM-CS3 plugs directly into an android device but needs an adaptor for an apple device.

The Rode SmartLav+ plugs directly into an Apple device, but needs an adaptor for an android device.

The resulting audio quality sound for the Rodes smartlav + microphone was quite good, as was for the Sony ECM-CS3.  In fact, I found it difficult to tell them apart.

The Rode was perhaps a little more sensitive – it picked up more sound from further away, which can be both good and not so good, depending on the situation at any particular time.

Something that I found a little frustrating with both of these mics is actually NOT the fault of the microphones themselves.

It is very difficult to control the audio input volume on either an android or an ios (apple) phone.

The simple solution is to adjust the distance of the microphone(s) from the audio source – in this case my voice and my mouth.

Having the mics too close to my mount resulted in a too loud and distorted sound recording.  While these are called “lapel” mics, I would suggest that actually attaching it to your lapel or collar is too close to your mouth and will result in distorted audio.

I found that the Rode SmartLav+ mic was best when placed down towards the bottom of my rib cage – perhaps two hands width above my belly button.  Similarly, the Sony ECMCS3 was best slightly higher, but not much.

Perhaps it is my lack of knowledge, but neither the Android phone nor the iPhone I used in this test had any mic input volume controls that I could find.

I checked afterwards and yes, there are audio / video recording softwares that are available for purchase (some quite expensive) that have this functionality, but out of the box the default camera apps for both iPhones (and iPads)  and Android phones (Samsung) do not appear to have this.

As a result, I have the choice – to do some post recording audio editing / adjustment or to just remember to put these mics down quite low half way between my navel and my mouth…

Anyway – overall both of these mics are great.

If budget is a concern, the Sony ECMCS3 is a great microphone for the price.

The Rode SmartLav+ is perhaps a little more sensitive – and therefore may give better results in more situations.

In short, I don’t think you can go too far wrong with either of these two great microphones – especially for simple voice recordings in “talking head” videos.

Do you have a favourite microphone ?  What is it ?  What do you use it for ?

Please share your thoughts and experiences below in the comments section, and please share this post using the social sharing icons below.



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