Sony F-96

Have a look at the picture, and you know what time it is – yup, it’s cheap omnidirectional unbalanced tape recorder mic time once again! The Sony F-96 really doesn’t look like much, especially when seen on pictures in online auctions, but it has become kind of an insider favourite, mainly in the USA where they seem to be way more common than in Europe. Its cardioid twin, the Sony F-98, has even been featured on a popular home recording podcast as “actually quite nice on guitar cab”! Same goes for the F-96, but its area of application is a little different since it is omnidirectional. It does sound very pleasant and is definitely usable, though.

Nope, not an endoscope. It's the Sony F-96!

Nope, not an endoscope. It’s the Sony F-96, “probe microphone” style!

Sony tells us quite proudly that they come with a “removal plastic stand” and can be used as “probe microphone”, so that’s already two fabulous features, I guess? The F-96 is actually made of solid metal, and even though it is really small and slim, it is quite heavy and has a nice balance, being a handheld tape recorder mic. As Sony themselves have admitted in the manual, they come with a useless throwaway plastic mic stand and are most likely connected via one of these old unbalanced 1/8″ TS jacks which don’t even fit into your laptop’s mic in because they are too bulky or too short or both. I’ve seen pictures of Sony F-96s with small three-pole DIN jacks, but I am pretty sure they didn’t have balanced wiring either.

If you want to rewire it to XLR, cut off the connector and solder the hot output of the mic to pin 2 of the XLR plug and the ground to one of the other two pins, with the ground and the cold pin of the XLR plug bridged. If you are planning on getting one of these for studio use, make sure it’s the low impedance version – I suspect it is nigh impossible to open this microphone and rip out the transformer without terminally damaging it.

If you want to use it as a harp mic, though, I suspect it is quite competent for this job as well, it sounds rather smooth and not very harsh and might be well suited for taming the sometimes obnoxious high end of some harp/amp combinations; you should get the hi-z version then and simply solder on a large TS jack or an unbalanced XLR jack, whatever connector style you like.

  • Pickup pattern: Omni
  • Frequency Response: 80-12,000 Hz
  • Impedance (low impedance version): 600 ohms
  • Cable length ~200 cm


Style: (4.5 / 5)
Sound: (3.0 / 5)
Uniqueness: (3.0 / 5)
Usefulness: (3.0 / 5)

Trash:Gold ratio 1:1

  1. I just bought one, but doesn’t seem to work, but I’m not sure if it’s a power issue. Do these use phantom power or do they use a battery? Thanks!

    • Hey Joe – it doesn’t need any kind of external power supply or battery, it is a simple dynamic mic. Have you checked the wiring? It normally comes with an unbalanced connector, so maybe it is wired in a way that is incompatible with your preamp.

    • Hi, thanks for the response! I haven’t checked the wiring. I’m pretty new to the electrical side of mics so I wouldn’t exactly know what to look for/adjust. That being said, I’m trying to use the mic with a Marantz PMD 222, which has the 1/8th inch input so my understanding is that it should be able to work. It might be an issue with the 1/8 input, so I’m going to test out the XLR input. Any recommendations for other mics to use with a Marantz 222? Thanks!

  2. I have the F-98 plugged into my PC and I noticed that the audio from this microphone is too low for my liking. Would you recommend using this mic for podcasting today? What are the limitations of this microphone when compared to other dynamic USB/ XLR microphones from Audio Technica [AT2005 OR ATR2100]? Do I ditch the F-98 and buy a better mic? I had to ask you because you seem to be the only one replying to others on this topic. Help!

    • Hi, you’ll need a preamp with a little more power than the built-in one in your PC to use the F-96 or the F-96, they are not very sensitive. For podcasting – especially if you don’t have any other audio equipment – you’ll be much better off with a cheap (electret) condenser mic, preferably with USB connection for ease of use.

  3. Thank you very much for the response. I guess, I’ll be buying a new USB/ XLR dynamic microphone and maybe get an audio interface at a later stage. My F-98 may not see better days ever again.

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