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Blue Snowball USB Microphone Review
The boom of podcasters and videographers creating online content has created a demand for affordable “prosumer” microphones. Companies like Audio-Technica, M-Audio and Samson have been scrambling to make USB mics that are very easy to use and also provide good enough sound to maximise the potential of MP3 audio. Podcasters have discovered that there isn’t much point in spending thousands on a Neumann when the final recording needs to be squished into streamable 16-bit audio.
Blue is well known for uniquely-shaped pro microphones with names like bottle rocket, hummingbird and dragonfly. Once only the domain of enthusiasts and studio owners, Blue has since created a line of affordable USB mics with the same innovative spirit. Currently the two hottest podcasting mics by Blue are the and Snowball. Yeti
High-tech meets 40s gangster would be an appropriate way to describe the styling of this mic. The grill and oval Blue emblem is reminiscent of the front of a classic car superimposed on a sphere. The Snowball is the size and shape of a softball. It has a solid, durable feel to it.
Inside the device there are two separate capsules for use in a variety of different applications. The first position is a cardioid pattern which picks up sound from directly in front of it, and filters out the rest. A good use for this would be doing voice overs in a less than ideal, noisy environment. The second position picks up audio in the same way as the first but this time with a -10db PAD activated. This would be an ideal setting for miking loud guitar amps. The third position activates the omnidirectional capsule. This captures everything in the room in 360 degrees, making it good for dialogs between two people or to record environmental sounds. The omnidirectional capsule has a different character which is more ‘open’ and transparent than the cardioid. You might find yourself using this position more than anticipated.
Early on the Snowball had issues with gain. It was difficult to get volume gain levels high enough to compete with traditional microphones. A downloadable firmware update has long solved the problem. Out of the box new Snowballs are now capable of dialling in adequate gain. It is a very sensitive mic for this price point as tests showed that setting it at thirty-two percent volume worked well for one-person podcasting applications.
You’ll want to ‘dig in’ or ‘eat the mic’ with the Snowball for best results. By speaking about two inches from the mic, a deeper, richer sound is achieved. The problem with this is it also may create popping when pronouncing words with a 'p' sound or words with 'sh' syllabication. For best results, add an inexpensive pop filter by Nady or Shure to smooth out the sound and avoid popping issues.
The sound quality is impressive for such an inexpensive microphone, with pleasing lows and crisp highs. The tinny sound common in other USB mics isn’t present. Frequency response is 40-18,000Hz for which is more than enough for recording voices or singing. Sonics are fairly neutral with some spiking at around 3kHz and 11Khz.
The included desk-stand looks sexy and futuristic but is lackluster when it comes to adjusting the height. Build quality isn’t as high as that of the unit itself. As it was prone to sliding down, you’ll probably want to keep it at its lowest setting when you have it on your desk. Luckily you can ditch the stand completely and use any mic stand of your own as it uses a standard screw-in connection.
Blue’s Snowball performs as well as it has to sound good in recordings meant for distribution on the Web. The design has a level of wow factor that is rare for an item so cheap. Overall, if you are a podcaster on a budget this is probably the USB mic for you.
- Blue Yeti vs Snowball USB Mic
Budding podcasters and musicians often have a tough time choosing between the Blue Yeti and its smaller cousin the Snowball. It’s a strange phenomenon because