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Bad Mic or bad unit? UPDATE: Bad camera firmware
on July 30, 2013
I just picked up this microphone from the Sony showroom and was excited to get it onto my NEX-6. However when I played the videos back I noticed a constant hissing noise in the background. It's not extreme, but noticeable enough to drown out fine details. It almost sounds like the mic is turned up too high, so it can never deliver silence. I did some comparisons in a quiet room with this mic and with the camera mic, and the on-board microphone of the NEX-6 doesn't have the problem and actually delivers better sound at those levels.
This microphone may deliver better tones and have a better range, but if all your audio is contaminated with a low level hiss, what is the point?
I read a comment on the Sony website complaining about the same issue and Sony said it is because the SD card was too fast and to use a non-high speed card (how that is not a product flaw of the mic, I'm not sure). Anyway, I tried it with a Sony branded non UHS-I card and still had the same problem with the microphone. For as much as this thing costs, it should be an improvement to the on-board mic.
I'm going to return this unit to Sony tomorrow and will update the review if the replacement unit has the same issue. I fear that it is a problem with the design or the firmware because I noticed some youtube sound tests that had the same hiss.
So I returned the unit to Sony and they gave me a second unit. It exhibited the same problem, but to a slightly lesser degree. So I went back and the tech guy did a bunch of tests on it and finally admitted that there will always be that low level hiss because the NEX-6 camera has no way to adjust the microphone gain (like an audio input level) and uses an "auto" setting. So, the unit is not actually defective, but the camera's firmware is cranking up the gain to the point where it is causing that hiss during silence.
With a firmware update on the NEX-6, I guess the issue would be resolved. I opted to get a digital voice recorder instead of waiting for an update that may never come. It was more expensive, but adjusting the levels means you can get "clean" sound. I would suggest going that direction if you have the NEX-6... UNLESS Sony adds the ability to adjust audio input levels. I have been told that the Sony camcorders allow you to make these adjustments, so I think this product should work well for those.
I bumped it up to three stars, from two, because it is not really the microphone's fault. However, I can't give more because the box and all Sony documentation indicates it is compatible, and it's really not.
I just purchased the Sony Alpha a7 (in HK it was released Nov 15). The a7 allows for microphone input gain adjustment. However, when this unit is attached, it disables this function in the camera. I couldn't believe it. So, you still need to do some post production to get rid of the hiss. I have contacted Sony about this issue, so hopefully it will be fixed with a Firmware update. But, this is the second MI Shoe product that this item hasn't really been compatible with.