By Robert Menta 11/29/06
Don't let the cool retro styling of the Blue Snowball USB Microphone fool you It's no gimmicky bit of kitsch pretending to also be a serious piece of audio equipment. Despite its novel and nostalgic appearance, sort of Sputnik meets vintage '40s crooner/bullet mic, the Snowball offers the latest in modern innovation (USB connectivity and plug 'n' play functionality), sophistication, and "CD-quality" sound (16-bit, 44.1KHz).
Within minutes of opening the box, I was up and running and ready to give the unit a try out. The experience can be summed up in these terms: simplicity and convenience. I inserted the included cable into the USB slot of my laptop and the mic was immediately recognized and all set to go - no muss or fuss.
Other than the ease of operation the Blue Snowball provides, the main selling point is its three pickup pattern settings, which characterize its versatility and enhance its sound fidelity. The microphone offers the following modes: cardioid or unidirectional (good for single vocal), unidirectional w/-10dB pad (reduces amplitude and controls overload/distortion - good for recording live music) and omni-directional (provides a 360-degree pickup range).
Blue Snowball USB Microphone
Relying on a basic sound app and holding the mic in my hand, I first conducted a simple test on the initial cardioid setting. Using my best clichéd and cheesy DJ voice, I recorded a mock radio broadcast. Reproduction was full-bodied and clear with no hiss or other distortion. So far, so good.
Next, seated at my desk with the unit on its tripod, about 8-inches away at chest-level, I switched to the middle cardioid-with-pad setting to record myself singing and playing guitar. Once again, utilizing bare bones software without the aid of equalization, mixing or mastering, and in spite of my mediocre abilities, the result was surprisingly nice. The levels of my vocals and the instrument were well-balanced; one didn't overwhelm the other, and for the most part, the audio quality was clean, warm and full. In addition, there was little or no background noise, distracting pop/puff sounds from the vocal, or muddiness on the low end. Very impressive.
Overall, the Blue Snowball USB is a fun, nice-looking and well-performing design that comes at a reasonable price (about $120-$150 when bundled with tripod). It's ideal for a variety of applications, from podcasts to straight-forward musical recording. Not only is it unique in its look, but also in its ability to deliver the goods in an easy to use package.
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