Tech Impression – Blue Snowball USB Microphone

*The opinions expressed in the blog in no way reflect the opinions of the Blue Microphones company. Blue Microphones is in no way affiliated with nor sponsoring this blog post. Think of this as just another customer review.  All images (unless stated otherwise) are owned by Blue Microphones and not the author.*

 

The Search

Ever since deciding to begin my career path towards Voice Acting, YouTube and Let’s Plays, I have been gradually assembling the pieces needed for the perfect set up.

Around this time last year. My fiancee and I had just moved to a Las Vegas, and were living with her sister while searching for apartments. I spent my free time scouring the internet for Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals and reading reviews on what the best equipment to start with was. As always, my top concerns were price, quality, reputation and durability.

 

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“It became impossible to NOT see this logo everywhere I looked at microphones”

I was debating whether or not a USB Microphone would be the best choice for me. The plug-and-play convenience of them was very appealing as I was just starting out, as was the fact that there was no need to convert an analog signal to a digital one. However, I had also read that they can suffer from latency which can potentially become an annoyance during the editing phase. In the end, I decided to take my chances and go the USB route for the sake of convenience and price point.

Blue Microphones While reading customer reviews, on Amazon and Newegg and watching a vast amount of video reviews on YouTube,  Blue Microphones had continuously popped up during my research. It become impossible to NOT see the Blue logo everywhere I looked. I learned that Blue Microphones are actually pretty popular among the YouTube crowd. I decided to research this product line even further.

I had narrowed it down to the Blue Snowball and the Blue Yeti. While both looked like great options for a novice such as myself, I was swayed towards the Blue SnowballIt looked easy to use,  Blue had a more than decent reputation for build quality, and the price was about half as much as the Blue Yeti at the time.

There are two versions of the Snowball, the first being the iCE edition which is the “bare bones” model and the standard version which includes a switch on the back with 3 different positions to better suit specific needs while recording. The later is the version I will be talking about.

 

The Goods

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“The contents of the box were minimal…which isn’t a bad thing” Photo by Derek K. Miller

 

When my Blue Snowball arrived, it actually sat in my closet, in the box for bout 4 months. This was due to the fact that I didn’t  have a work space to put it. When we found a place of our own, I was finally able to find a temporary home for the mic, which was on the floor in front of my TV, which at the time was acting as a display.

The contents of the box were minimal…which isn’t a bad thing. The mic came with a brief instruction manual, 6-foot USB cable, and small adjustable desk tripod. The overall build quality is good, especially for the price point. It has a good weight to it without feeling too cumbersome or bulky, and when I hold the device, I doesn’t feel like I can easily break it. The main component is threaded and can be removed from the stock stand and can be placed on any stand that has a similar thread pattern (which is what I ended up doing). Some stands may require a thread adapter which can be purchased for a few dollars online or at your local electronics shop.

 

 

The best word I can think of to describe the design is simple which is, again not a bad thing! The rounded design of the Snowball makes it feel sleek and compact, without being obnoxious or overly designed. It has a joint at the base that allows for articulation.

There’s a red indicator light which tells you if the mic is plugged in and getting power. On the back of the mic, there is a port for a USB male type B connection, as well as a switch with the numbers 1,2, and 3. These toggle between the 3 recording modes available; The first being cardioid, which is idea for speech, vocals, and pod casting. The second position adds a -10 dB PAD to your input, for live music recording, and louder than normal sound sources. The third and final position is for omnidirectional recording, perfect for conferences, in person interviews, and capturing environmental or ambient sound.

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Is It Good?

You’re all probably wondering about whether or not this thing actually works. I’ve been using this mic for a few months short of a year now, we ended up moving a second time, into a much nicer apartment with a built in desk area which I have dubbed the “Corner Office” (the desk is built into a corner). My set up was now feeling that much more legit.

Set up was easy as easy can be…I just plug it in and it’s ready to go. At first I found the quality to be great. Captured audio was always clear and the device didn’t generate any extra noise (humming or buzzing).

If there was one thing I could change about my mic it’s the signal strength. On it’s own, the strength of the signal was a bit lacking. I felt like I had to “eat the mic” in order to get a decent sound level from it. After some self learning however, I learned that I could boost the input signal using a digital audio mixer known as VoiceMeeter  and if need be I can boost the audio even further using Audacity or Adobe Audition.  It would have been nice to have control of the gain from the device itself, which is a feature found on the Blue Yeti. However  VoiceMeeter solves this by allowing me to control the gain on any and all inputs and outputs. In fact, when I tell others that I use a Blue Snowball, they are actually surprised at the sound quality I get.

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I also found the mic to be a bit on the sensitive side, which is both good and bad. I can be a good distance away from the mic, and still capture clean sound. It also picks up background noise like computer fans, air conditioning, and  mouse clicks. I overcame this by setting up a noise gate in either during recording or in post, or by capturing a few seconds of ambient silence and using a noise reduction function in either Audacity or Adobe Audition

Overall I’m very happy with my purchase. I do plan to swap it out for a Blue Yeti or better mic in the future, but I can see myself using this mic for  a very long time. The simplicity, convenience and sound quality all meet my current needs. The price point isn’t bad at all either. I was able to pick one up for about $50 at the time.

The Blue Snowball is an excellent choice to go with for beginners, and I highly recommend giving it a try. While some may not like the out-of-box sound of the Snowball, this can easily be rectified with some post processing or use of a digital mixing board such as VoiceMeeter.

 

If you are looking for professional sound quality without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on your first microphone, this might be the right fit for you.

My YouTube – https://goo.gl/FsAem7

Blue Microphones – http://www.bluemic.com/

Derek K. Miller – https://www.flickr.com/photos/penmachine/

 

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