Blue Spark Condenser Microphone Review / Test

Today I am testing out a mic that I have been dying to try out. The Blue Spark.

If you are interested in this microphone, it will set you back $199 on Amazon.

WARNING: This microphone will require phantom power to function. So if you plan on purchasing this, make sure to purchase a phantom power supply, or make sure your audio interface is capable of providing sufficient voltage.

What's In the Box

  1. Microphone
  2. Metal Pop Filter
  3. XLR to XLR Cable (certain packages)
  4. Shock Mount (5/8" to 3/8" Stand Adapter NOT Included)
  5. Documentation

note: I do not believe that all Blue Spark microphones come with an XLR cable. 

Performance / Features

The build quality of this mic is awesome. It has an all metal body and a nice metal grill. The shock mount is a nice sturdy metal and performs it's job without any problems. The windscreen has a very fine mesh to help eliminate plosives as well. The XLR cable is a very nice and high quality cable and the box is a nice wooden box which will provide sufficient protection while storing the microphone.

The frequency response of this mic is 20Hz - 20kHz, and you can hear every bit of this in the microphone. The sound is incredibly full without having any excess boominess in the low low end. The acoustic guitar, voice, and electric guitar all sounded great on this mic.

There is a button on the back that activates a FOCUS MODE, which slightly alters the EQ of the microphone and provides slightly improved clarity through boosting mid & high frequencies, and gently rolling off frequencies around 100Hz.

The Spark provides a Cardioid polar pattern which performs very well for voice & guitar. It picked up very minimal background noise while providing the freedom to move around the microphone a bit. As I got farther away from the microphone, you could hear a decrease in volume, and the largest drop in velocity seemed to appear between the 1-2 foot mark.

Lastly, this requires FULL +48v PHANTOM POWER! 

Pros

  • Full frequency response
  • Great vocal/guitar sound
  • Does not pick up excess background noise
  • Nice shock mount
  • Nice wind screen
  • Focus button to add Clarity

Cons

  • None?

Conclusion

I have to say. This is my favorite XLR mic that I have tested out to date. I couldn't find anything that I didn't like about it at the price that I paid. I do want to recommend that you shop around. I found this for $70 less than the normal price tag.

This microphone will not be for everyone. It will be for people who are more serious about recording music, voice overs, etc. It will require additional investment in an audio interface that provides +48v phantom power, and some people may not like that. If you want a plug and play microphone, there are plenty of other options for you to choose from. If you are in the $200 price range, and you're looking for a good XLR condenser microphone, I would highly recommend this one. 

If you have any additional questions about this headset, leave them in the comments on this site or on the youtube channel, and I will try to reply ASAP. 

Buy it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1YWlPz1

 

Blue Icicle XLR to USB Mic Converter/Mic Preamp Review / Test

Today I am testing out another "cheap" microphone interface. This time it is a device by Blue Microphones that is designed for a single microphone; The Blue Icicle.

What's In the Box 

  1. Blue Icicle
  2. 6-Foot USB Cable

Performance / Features

The build quality is not that great. It is a plastic enclosure, and it feels very light. The volume knob is plastic as well, and it is wobbly. 

The design is incredibly simple, on one end is the XLR connector to plug your microphones XLR cable into. The other end has a USB port to connect the device to your computer. On the body is a single knob that controls your microphones input volume, and lastly the word ICICLE lights up when it is connected to the USB port.

The Icicle is listed as providing +48v of phantom power and when measured, I showed +44.4v of power making it through the XLR Cable. This power should be sufficient to power most, if not all, condenser microphones. 

Pros

  • Cheap Interface
  • Good sound
  • Low amount of noise
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Cheap build quality
  • No Latency Free Monitoring

Conclusion

This device is pretty cool. It powers condenser microphones and it has a very low amount of noise. The NW-1500 sounded great through it. I don't think you need this if you are just going to be using a dynamic microphone though, I think you would be fine with just a simple XLR to USB Cable. Other than that, this is a nice option for a single XLR Condenser microphone user who wants to record to their computer.

If you have any additional questions about this headset, leave them in the comments on this site or on the youtube channel, and I will try to reply ASAP. 

Blue Icicle: http://amzn.to/1SoI6o7
Behringer UM2: http://amzn.to/1WYlPMI  
XLR to USB Cable: http://amzn.to/1QCXZU8

Can Phantom Power Improve Your Cheap Mics Audio?

This is my third video of the week because people keep asking good questions, and I can't wait to answer them. Over the past few weeks, I have received countless comments asking if adding a phantom power supply to your cheap mic setup can improve your microphones audio. To put it simply, yes and no. Let's look more at this.

The Test

For this test, I ran the Excelvan BM-700 directly into the Sabrent USB Audio Adapter as well as the Gino Stereo USB Audio Adapter for a base quality test. Then as a comparison, I ran the microphone into the Neewer Phantom Power Supply, and then ran the output from the phantom power supply into each adapter. I include comparisons of me talking, and then samples of the background noise. 

Results

The initial audio from the Sabrent Adapter was pretty good. My microphone input gain was set at 7% on my computer and there was very little background noise. When I added the phantom power supply to this set up, I was able to drop my input gain from 7% down to 4%. You can hear a slight bump in clarity and high end once phantom power is added, but you also hear a slight increase in background noise (a new hiss).

The first test with the Gino Stereo USB Adapter is horrible. The audio sounded digital, quiet, and I had to set my microphone input gain to 72% which yielded a ridiculous amount of background noise. Once I added the phantom power supply, the audio for this adapter improved considerably! The sound was clearer, crisper, and less digital sounding. We were able to drop the input gain from 72% down to 35% and this led to a significant decrease in background noise. 

Conclusion

If you have a Sabrent audio adapter, or an audio adapter that gives you plenty of gain, and you don't have much background noise, I do not think that it's justifiable to purchase a $20 power supply. On the other hand, if you have a cheap piece of crap USB adapter that forces you to crank your input gain, causing ridiculous background noise, the phantom power does seem to improve that.

However, keep in mind that regardless of what accessories you get, you are running a microphone into a cheap USB Adapter. Your audio quality will always be limited by this. The pre amps in these USB Sound Cards are nothing special, and quite frankly, kind of suck. If you really want to improve your audio, I recommend looking into an audio interface that was designed to record microphones. An audio interface that has real preamps in it. But if that option is out of your price range, this solution seems to work just fine.

Neewer Phantom Power Supply: http://amzn.to/1llLK3a
Sabrent USB Audio Adapter: http://amzn.to/1llLGR6
Gino USB Audio Adapter: http://amzn.to/1IkwCIQ
BM-700: http://amzn.to/1InMPgb