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What Year was the Sony ECM 55 introduced?


Whit Norris
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The ECM-50 (battery operated version) came out right around 1972-1973 or so, because I remember when we got rid of the old desk mics in local TV and went with ECM-51 (telescoping version as used on The Price Is Right). Both the ECM-50 lav and ECM-51 wand mics were initially battery powered. I think about two years later, after many complaints, Sony introduced the ECM-50PS (I think that was the model number), which finally added phantom powering. The electret condensor ECM-50 was a huge improvement over the common dynamic lavs that had been used in the prior decades, and (to my ears anyway) added at least another couple of octaves above 10kHz, which made them sound incredibly crisp and clean -- for the time.

 

I think the ECM-55 was an improved model, smaller and flatter-sounding, that came out about 7-8 years later. They also had variations that were either cheaper or offered cardioid patterns, but I don't see Sony lavs nearly as frequently today as I did 20 years ago. 

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I first worked with the silver ECM 50 in the late 70s.

I thought the ECM 30 came out in the very early 80s - but I do have a faint memory of using one in an old Cetec Vega system before I came to Atlanta - maybe 79 or 80. The black version of the ECM-50 came out in the early 80s.

In the mid 80s I seem to remember the release of the ECM 77 - (Sony's response to the Sennheiser MKE2 ?)

In the late 80s I seem to remember the simultaneous release of the ECM 55 and the Cardiod ECM 66.

Cardiod Lavs were a new thing then and found utility on the live walk and talk corporate stage arena, and more importantly for me -

in capturing "string music" on basketball broadcasts.

I never noticed any appreciable difference with the ECM 55 from the ECM 50.

I think the ECM 44 is a less expensive version of the 55 - it seems to have the same large "handprint" !

MF

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The Sony ECM-55 is a 'proximity type' and has a pronounced bass response, and a 'tight' omni pattern and not very forgiving of off-axis sounds. The lower cost 44 and slightly smaller actually borders between proximity and transparent and more open sounding than the ECM-50 or 55, but still suppresses background noise to a degree. The 44 exhibits a slight warmth in the mid-range and does not have the bass sensitivity of the ECM-50 and 55. As I recall the ECM50 used a 'N' cell battery, the 55 a AA or Phantom Pwr. I think the 50 could use Phantom Pwr. as well but I'm not totally sure. The 55 is/was available in both silver and black, but I've never actually encoutered a silver one.

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Great explanation from Rick Reinke above. I would also add that I think Sony's lav mics kind of fell out of favor in the last 20 years when a lot of alternatives started getting more widely accepted, at least on American TV. I see lots of COS-11's, Trams, and occasionally Sennheisers on shows -- not that many Sony's, at least on national news/documentary shows.

 

I remember the ECM77 was very big in the 1980s -- that was an improvement over the 50, plus they managed to make it quite a bit smaller. It's funny to look at the ECM50 today: it's relatively huge, compared to what we're used to. And the dynamic lavs of the 1960s were the size of cigars, just crazy-big...

 

I forgot to mention how failure-prone the battery-powered ECM50's were. I was in a control room at a CBS affiliate when Walter Cronkite's on-air lav failed, and there was about 10-15 seconds of fumbling to get a desk mic to him on the air. From that day forward, he always had two ECM50's, and I think that tradition survives even today...

 

walter-cronkite331249584506.jpg

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...the Cardiod ECM 66.

Cardiod Lavs were a new thing then and found utility on the live walk and talk corporate stage arena, and more importantly for me -

in capturing "string music" on basketball broadcasts.

MF

 

I've got 9 of those that were bought a few years back for a panel discussion with a live PA... they haven't seen a whole lot of use since as I mostly use Trams. But come next basketball season, they may get trotted out for just this application...

 

Ken

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"he always had two ECM50's, and I think that tradition survives even today..."

 Probably the mics survived too, they were pretty rugged. Unless CBS chucked them in the garbage.

Which reminds me, I had an older relative who worked at the RCA B'cast center. He recalled seeing boxes of RCA 44, 77s and such being chucked when newer 'better' mics were brought in.

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Great shot of Walter! Besides the two ECM-50s, I love seeing the typewriter in back, the old beige telephones, his glasses off to the right sitting on a pile of papers. One still photo, when you really study it, can tell a whole story.

 

Yes, and Walter has "analog iPads" on his table: actual paper!  Nobody today has the grace, style, and impact of Cronkite in his prime. 

 

That's an awful story from Rick Reineke about boxes of RCA mics being thrown out. Man, a great-condition DX77 is worth at least a couple of grand these days. I know of a case where NBC abandoned a video format (MII), and an executive/acquaintance of mine had to supervise hundreds of VTRs and camcorders that were carted out to a landfill in New Jersey, where they were all bulldozed. I think that was at least a $20,000,000 write-off for the network when they abandoned the format. Sad.

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A little off topic but talking about lavaliere microphones I found a picture of the first type of lavaliere microphone I ever used (carried 2 of them in the kit). You can see why the ECM-50 was such a revelation --- that Sennhesier lav (designed to be hung around the neck, hence the term lavallière) was not too easy to hide under clothing.

 

post-1-0-34089800-1363226761_thumb.jpg

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In Oregon OEPBS was so poor that I started off with the RCA version of that mic (BK6B) which was left over from the late 1950s.   We had ECM50PS mics in the mid 1970s--it was pretty much the standard lav in video production in CA in those days.  An ok mic--but SO much better than the dynamic lavs we had before.  I think I still have a pair amongst all the stuff I thought I got rid of but actually still have.

 

philp

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I seem to recall in 1973, we used the EV version of the RCA BK6, which was the EV649 dynamic lavaliere:

 

ev649b.jpg

 

It was like wearing a half-pound giant thumb on your chest. On the other hand, then there's Dave Garroway's "lavaliere" attached to his chest on NBC's original Today Show from 1952 or so...

 

Garrowaymic_zps7e29dd4e.jpg

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