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Testing the Sony ECM-AW4 Bluetooth Wireless Microphone System


I own two sennheiser wireless G2 sets for client work, but for my personal stuff i have always desired a smaller, simpler system. I stumbled across this system and started digging, could it be what i was looking for? The reviews around the net are mostly positive, and i caught a nice open box deal on a set and grabbed it. The outcome? I'm very much liking it! I'm still doing tests, but thus far here are my thoughts:

-The set is wonderfully small, both units could fit in the same space as 1 G2 pack
-Bluetooth is compressed, thus the audio is compressed, but for many uses i think it sounds very good.
-The built in mic works quite well, and plugging in a lavaliere works as expected
-LOTS of handling noise if you use the built in mic, be careful of anything rubbing where you mount it or just use a lav plug in.
-Range is fine, claims 164ft, i have tested it to be reliable much shorter than that, but i mostly only need 20ft tops.
-uses AAA batteries and they last a few hours each, totally fine for my needs.
-I have tinkered with the 2 way communications functionality, but doubt i will actually use it.
-Canon make a seemingly identical unit, would love to figure out if they are in fact identical.
-Comes with an odd windscreen that does work, but is just peculiar and makes the pack look even bigger if you use it directly on talent.
-As far as i can tell, you CANNOT pair directly with another bluetooth enabled device, you must use the transmitter/receiver together.
-Be sure to plug them in correctly, the top are both mic ports, the sides are both headphones/camera out ports. If something's not working, double check this!


But, it's BLUETOOTH, it must be destroying the sound quality?

It's true, bluetooth isn't the method of choice for professional sound transmission. However, it has come a long way since that pretty terrible bluetooth 1.0. Digging through the manual, i found that the AW4 is using BT 3.0, in A2DP. BT 3.0 has a possible transmission rate of up to 24mbit/s. While we can't be sure exactly what rate they are using within the AW4, consider a 'high quality' mp3 at 256kbps: you could (technically) stream 93 of those within BT 3.0's bandwidth. Don't hold anyone to those numbers, they're just theoretical maximums, the point is that there sure is a good amount of bandwidth to work with in BT 3.0 spec, and judging from what i've heard so far on it, Sony is putting it to very good use. 
 

Range 

This will be the make or break for many folks. For myself, i really only need 20ft tops for most of what i intend to do with this set. If you're looking for true reliability at longer ranges than 35ft, you really should be looking at more professional systems. They do say this will work up to 164ft, but that's in totally ideal conditions with line of sight. I did a basic walkaway test in the park and found that even having my body turned away from the receiver introduced interference at less than 100ft away. I need to find me one of them golf cheat rangefinder laser scopes and do accurate distance tests, but suffice it to say you should plan on fairly short ranges with this set.

Overall, this is something super useful to me, and you're going to see me use this set on all my future reviews even though i have higher end systems. Many sound pros will be quick to point out it's compressing the audio, but for many uses the sound is perfectly suitable. I might not recommend it for profession/client based usage, but for bloggers/vacationers/personal use i think it's great. I likely will also keep it in my bag for client use as either a backup, or a 'just in case' set.

One little oddity/unknown is that i detect perhaps some over-modulation with the built in mic if i talk too loud even though the camera levels show as less than 0db. You can adjust the output level from the receiver only, and it has no readout to know what level you're at. You cannot adjust the microphone sensitivity, i'll have to do more tinkering to see if i can nail down exactly what it is i'm noticing. It's not present in the current test video listed here, but another video i did seems to have it. Will update when i figure it out!

   
           
   
Added on 2015-11-12 by
Darren Levine

Darren Levine

Stimulus Video

DP/Videographer, Video/Film Editor
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