----------------------------------the sony ecm-51


AT LAST - I'VE GOT ONE!! The Sony ECM-51 - "The Game Show Microphone."

Although it made the rounds of all the networks back then, it was seen most often on CBS' game shows of the 1970s. Now, it's most associated with Bob Barker on "The (New) Price is Right," and Gene Rayburn on "Match Game '7x."

This list is pretty impressive - "The Joker's Wild," "The Price is Right," "Hollywood's Talking," "The $10,000 Pyramid," "Match Game '73," "The Girl in My Life," "Now You See It," "Tattletales," "Celebrity Sweepstakes," "Musical Chairs," "Hot Seat," "The $128,000 Question," "Double Dare" (the 1977 Alex Trebek version) - all used the Sony ECM-51 at one time or another. Heck - look close enough, and you'll even see it on "Celebrity Bowling."

There are a number of really neat features on the Sony - the design is truly modern; there's a "cough" button on the handle that allows the holder to mute the mic briefly; and, perhaps most notably, it's telescopic - it has a wand that can almost triple its length, and lessen arm movement on the part of the interviewer.

Fans remember that Barker had his microphone fully compacted, while Rayburn had his all the way out. But that wasn't always so. Look at the earlier episodes of TNPIR, and Barker's mic was extended about half way up the second extension. When Rayburn began using the Sony in late 1973 (he wore a lavalier for about the first six months of MG '73), his was at its shortest length. It was later in 1974 that he began using it fully extended (and contrary to some reports, no, he did NOT invent this microphone. In one MG episode, he picked up his extended Sony and said in apparent disbelief, "I didn't know this thing telescoped!"

However, the ECM-51 wasn't only used on game shows - they were used by CBS News in Washington, Lesley Stahl and Bob Schieffer could be seen using them in stand-uppers during the Watergate years; and during the 1976 political conventions, CBS' floor reporters used them. They were also used on a number of variety and awards shows, including the syndicated "Pop Goes the Country" with Ralph Emery; they were even used by NBC on the earliest "Dean Martin Roasts," when they were a segment of his variety show in its last season (1973-74).

I thought the ECM-51 was the most fantastic microphone I had ever seen. But at $150 or so, it was out of my price range back then. So owning one was only a dream - and even more so since Sony has long since stopped making them, and used ones can fetch upwards of $1000 on ebay. But I snared one at a decent price a while back. Yes, it's been used and it shows the scars. But I don't care. It works, it's mine, and I'VE GOT ONE - AT LAST!!!

Text and pictures copyright © 2009-2012 by Kenneth I. Johannessen.

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