Blue Microphones Snowball USB Pro Microphone Review

Blue Microphones bills its Snowball as “the world’s first professional USB mic.” Sporting a unique look, great sound capture and amazing versatility this mic is worthy of serious consideration.

Great Timing

The event was just a few days away and I was lacking one crucial piece of equipment. I had been hired to record a focus group and they were to be seated in round table fashion. I needed some sort of omnidirectional conferencing microphone in order to record all the participants equally. This was on my mind as I walked into Videomaker’s offices to see what “goodies” they had for me to try out and review. I was presented with the Snowball and after a brief overview I knew I had the perfect testing ground for this uniquely designed piece of equipment.

In The Round

With a design inspired by a 4″ round Dudley softball literally and a retro front grill the Snowball has a very unique appearance to say the least. In true plug n’ play fashion, setup is a snap. No additional software is needed and the device can be used with many audio capture programs. In fact I just used the default sound recorder on my Windows 7 equipped netbook with very good results. I merely had to go into my Audio preferences and make sure the Blue Snowball was selected as the input device.

Its dual capsule design and three-position switch enables the Snowball to handle a wide variety of audio environments by allowing the user to switch between its two polar patterns. Polar pattern refers to the shape of the area in which a microphone picks up sound. Position one uses the Cardioid pattern which picks up sound from directly in front of the microphone at full volume while other sounds are picked up at increasingly reduced levels as the sound source moves away from the mic’s center.

Position two uses the Cardioid pattern with a -10dB pad. This reduces the output when recording loud audio sources. Position three selects the omnidirectional pattern which picks up everything at equal volume in a 360 degree sphere surrounding the microphone.

Performance

I arrived at the venue where I was to record the focus group’s participants and set up the cameras and direct-to-DVD recording deck. There was the usual rigamarole in setting up these devices but the Snowball’s setup was very quick and easy. I set the switch to position three for omnidirectional recording, screwed it onto its stand and placed it in the center of the conference table. Needing more than the included cable’s six feet I connected it to a sixteen foot USB extension cable and plugged it into my netbook on the other end.

Once recording was complete we (and our client) were very pleased to hear that all the participants’ comments were picked up equally regardless of their position around the microphone. Delivering 44.1 kHz/16-bit CD quality, reproduction and clarity of their voices was excellent.

Later I tested it at the other two switch settings to determine its more directional recording capabilities. To try out its abilities with loud noise, i.e. some forms of music, I strapped on my guitar and belted out a few verses of a favorite song. The result was quite pleasing – at least as far as the Snowball’s ability to faithfully reproduce the sound it was hearing.


Support

Support is handled using the online Service Request Form or by emailing service@bluemic.com. If repair is necessary the Service Request Form will result in your receiving a Repair Authorization (RA#) by email. Packing and shipping instructions are included with the RA#. Telephone support is available by calling 1-818-879-5200 ext. 102 and is handled in-house by what appear to be very nice and capable people. I was able to get right through, a very nice and welcome change from the non-personal support methods employed by many companies today.

Conclusion

If one’s desire is to become a singer and record professional quality CDs for mass distribution then you’d probably want to find a suitably equipped studio with very high end professional microphones. For just about everything else though, the Snowball is definitely worth a listen.

Tech Specs

Windows: Vista or XP; USB 1.0 or 2.0; 64MB RAM minimum

Macintosh: Mac OSX; USB 1.0 or 2.0; 64MB RAM minimum

Transducer Type: Condenser, Pressure Gradient with USB Output

Polar Patterns: Omnidirectional or Cardioid

Frequency Response: Position 1-3: 40-18kHz

Sample Rate: 44.1 kHz/16 bit

Power Requirements: USB Bus Powered

Weight: 460g (16.2 oz)

Dimensions: 325mm (12.8″ circumference)

In the Box: Snowball microphone, 6-inch tripod stand, USB cable

Strengths

  • Easy setup; USB connection
  • Very sturdy stand
  • Dual-capsule design allows switching between cardioid and omnidirectional modes
  • Powered by USB cable
  • Quality sound production

Weaknesses

  • Cool look but a bit bulky for portability
  • Could use a longer cord

SUMMARY

Unique look, ease of use, versatility and great sound capture equal a product worth investigating. The Snowball has definitely made my short list of future purchases.

Blue Microphones

5706 Corsa Avenue, #102

Westlake Village, CA 91362-4057

www.bluemic.com

$100

Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.

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