Cheap vs Not So Cheap Shotgun Mic Test

A short while back, Tony Carreti shared a test with a very inexpensive shotgun microphone (found here). Today, provided some additional data while comparing the sub $20 dollar EM-320E to the $230 dollar Audio Technica AT897 (found here). It's fairly obvious that the more expensive microphone sounds better, but the debate was about whether the sub $20 dollar microphone is worth using for those who may just be getting off the ground shooting video and without a budget. You can find the cheap EM-320E shotgun microphone via eBay (click here).

EM-320E Shotgun Microphone Condenser eBay
find-price-button EM-320E Shotgun Microphone

15 thoughts on “Cheap vs Not So Cheap Shotgun Mic Test

  1. Emm

    Post author

    @nicola - There will be an interesting test of a cheap shotgun posted next week. Stay tuned for that one.

  2. nicola

    Surely the actual record level is completely different on both mics?

    Both to my ears and the video waveform (if that's even slightly accurate) the cheap mic is set at a much lower level.

  3. Jack Burtan

    RE to Dollar Bob.
    Even in the silent film era, they would hire a person to play the organ while the film was going. For the really big venues they would have an orchestra play. Some sound whether it’s been music or what have you, has been very important from the get go. Even during the silent era. Read up on your history, or better yet watch your TV while in mute.
    If you didn’t care about the sound in the first place why don’t you simply use your on camera microphone than? Hey Blair Witch did it, but could pirates of the Caribbean do it as well?
    Well AMY, have actually mixed horrible audio yourself, or are you just guessing it will work. Try to do it in post I dare you. In fact a program that could do that would be worth $$$$ of money (you will be better off buying a decent mic). So why don’t you use better gear to save you some time and money?
    You know self-noise is a lot easier to get out in post then, taking lots of time to edit a crappy audio. Even a free programs can take out self-noise from a mic.
    RE to those that can’t…..
    Where some decent enclosed head phones and you will hear a huge difference.

  4. ROE

    I have to respectively disagree with Amy. You can technically play with anything in post but "garbage in=garbage out" is still in effect. You can no more take terrible audio and make it great than you can bring detail back to overexposed footage in post. I think for $20 it beats recording on the camera, but thinking that horrible quality can be fixed in post is a fatal error that has resulted in a lot of crappy audio.

  5. Josh

    Amy is right; the important issue is noise. The sound of the mic can be easily tweaked in an NLE with no problem.

    The noise on the chart on the $20 mic is about the same as the AT 897.

    At that level, running a noise reduction filter would make the cheap mic a great buy.

    Also, just want to commend the reviewer on a great video. the noise prints plus the samples and other info are terrific. And very high production value of the video shows that he take his time to produce quality reviews.

    Great Job!

  6. Amy Barrett

    You can play with audio easily in post. I was amazed at how low the noise was on the less expensive mic. Noise in audio, like noise in video is a much harder thing to deal with. Adding bass or depth in post is super easy.

  7. MN


    I understand the evolution of where films came from, and I personally love silent movies (My favorite of all time is "Big Business")

    But I truly believe that one can easily watch motion picture storytelling (can we assume it's a story where people talk to each other?) with visual flaws if the audio is great, but in general, (there, I qualified it) I challenge you do the same if you reverse the order.

    BTW, darn near every assertion in the world can be deconstructed and counter argued with the "It depends" clause.

    The desire for pristine audio to tell a story is my personal opinion. I need it. Perhaps some people are used to the YouTube quality of video these days and do not; don't know.


  8. Dollar Bob

    >I contend that ( in general ) people who aren’t serious about making motion pictures, but are serious in playing with their cameras are the ones that would even consider messing with the cheap mics.

    No True Scotsman.

    I suggest you consider the traditional (and practical) distinction between television and motion pictures. Television was an evolution of radio continuing its emphasis on the audio component as its principal means of storytelling. Motion pictures evolved from silent pictures into talkies, and thus its principal means of conveying its story is visual.

    Am I saying audio isn't important? Nope. I'm saying its a big world and there are countless ways to use audio and use it well. Is it most important? That depends. Is it second most important? That depends. Is it third most? That depends.

    For instance, do you want perfect fidelity to simulate a telephone call or an old-time radio announcer? To depict a telephone conversation you might purposely choose a carbon microphone for its audio signature and association with telephony. For a depression era radio announcer, you might use an RCA Type 44A microphone. Using a high fidelity microphone in these instances would destroy the illusion.

    Usually, I'd prefer a high fidelity microphone over a low fidelity mic because the hifi signal presents more options for post-processing. However, given the comparison samples in the DSLR Now video, I prefer the sound of the raw EM320E over the raw Audio Technica 897. The reviewer's voice has a breathy, raspy quality that I find annoying. These undesirable qualities were masked by the EM320E but expressed in full by the AT 897. Yeah, the AT 897 affords me more post-processing options, but I have to admit the EM320E gets me closer to where I'd take his voice anyway, meaning less work for me in post.

  9. MN


    I really like the Sony ECM-77B. Good value, built strong, and solid performance. Used on eBay for around $200.

    As for the video. At least it's getting people thinking about the other more IMPORTANT half of motion picture creation.

    How many folks that visit this site are eager to spend their money on mounting rigs, follow focus, red banded lenses, and random DIY creation stuff before they even consider investing in good audio?

    I contend that ( in general ) people who aren't serious about making motion pictures, but are serious in playing with their cameras are the ones that would even consider messing with the cheap mics.

    Meanwhile their DSLR set-ups end up eventually larger than an old Hitachi Z-1 ENG rig and just about as expensive.

    And, look, if your hobby and enthusiasm is to have a good time with your DSLR, that's perfectly fine. Nothing wrong with that. Just consider your production priorities if you want to make decent motion pics.

  10. I am looking for lav microphone that comes at a decent price. Any thoughts? I am not looking at 20 bucks but don't want to spend 500 either. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  11. moebius22

    Was this video really necessary?

    If I'm buying a $20.00 or let's say a $60.00 shotgun mic, it's because I can't afford a Rode or a $230.00 mic.

  12. Dollar Bob

    I'd consider it for a backup mic. I can't afford an array of expensive mics, so one good mic and a couple cheap "good enough" mics might work for me. This $20 shotgun condenser is way better than using the camera's build in mic.

  13. Ouch! That cheapy EM-320E sounded horrible, not even close to natural. It sounded like the recording was run through a filter in post to give it that squeezed midrange sound.

    Considering that many of us don't even blink when asked to pay $5 for a coffee or $500 for an iPAD, I'd say that even those with no budget could save up for a mic comparable to the AT897 without too much trouble. It's soooo worth it when you consider that decent audio is one of the things that sets the pros apart from the amateurs.

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