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Review: Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone

February 13, 2014


The Snowball USB Microphone is part of Blue Microphone’s line of affordable desk devices designed for podcasting, voiceovers, and some recording applications. While the Snowball provides a clarity and professional sound suited for podcasting, it has limitations when it comes to recording music.

Sound Quality

The Blue Microphones Snowball has a clear and detailed sound that offers quality production for podcasting or other vocal applications. The Snowball is also advertised as a budget option for music recordings, however there are some characteristics that prevent this microphone from truly delivering on that front. The Snowball has a frequency response from 40Hz-18kHz. While this covers the vast majority of what we’re looking for, it lacks the true depth and reach of a condenser microphone with a full frequency response (20Hz-20kHz).

While the Snowball’s speech and vocal reproductions are good, the microphone has a bright high-end that can come across as harsh when recording certain instruments. The low-end response leaves something to be desired when recording instruments that rely on bass content. That being said, the Snowball does provide clear and detailed recordings that far surpass any built-in computer microphone. If you are looking to record speech, vocals, or even some instruments for podcasting or home-studio projects, the Snowball will suffice. But don’t expect the most polished instrumental recordings from this microphone.

Features & Design

Blue Microphones are known for their iconic aesthetic designs. Modeled after vintage recording gear, the Snowball is no exception. The Snowball is designed as a desk microphone. Along with the included microphone stand, the Snowball has a solid build quality that gives us no worries about its durability. In addition, the microphone has a simple plug-n-play design that works for both Mac and PC. No drivers or additional software is needed.

One feature that is seen on a number of Blue Microphones is a switchable pickup pattern. The Snowball is built with two capsules, offering two different pickup patterns and a third setting for a -10dB pad. The first setting is the standard cardioid polar pattern – the one you would use for most speech, vocal or instrument recordings, where the microphone will pick up only the sounds facing it. The second setting is that cardioid mode, but with a -10dB pad. The third setting is an omnidirectional pickup pattern, used for getting a room sound or making a simple recording for a whole band, as it picks up sounds equally from all directions.

While this versatility is a great plus for an affordable microphone, there are a few issues we encountered with these settings. The basic cardioid setting exhibited some noticeable self-noise. While this hum was not hugely prevalent, it does make recording soft sounds difficult, as the self-noise will be noticeable in the mix. The -10dB pad setting is great for recording loud instruments, however the output level was very low, making the microphone lack some middle ground between the two settings. These issues aside, these settings do give the Snowball versatility in its ability to capture both soft and loud sounds. While it won’t do a great job of recording a performance with many dynamic changes, the Snowball does have the ability to record just about anything.

Accessories & Extras

As we mentioned above, the Blue Microphones Snowball is designed as a desk device. The microphone comes with an adjustable tripod that makes for easy positioning, although you will need to buy a separate pop filter if you plan to do lots of vocal or speech recording. The microphone comes with a USB cable and it is available in a variety of different colors.

Conclusion

The Blue Microphones Snowball is an affordable desk device that is excellent for podcasting or speech recording applications. The plug-n-play design and its variety of settings make the Snowball one of the most affordable and convenient options for these tasks. That being said, there are better affordable microphones out there for recording instruments. If you are looking for an affordable USB microphone dedicated to recording instruments and vocals, try looking at some of the USB condenser microphones from Audio-Technica or CAD (the AT2020 is a good choice if you’re willing to spend a bit more). Overall, we highly recommend the Blue Snowball for anyone interested in getting quality recordings for speech or podcasting applications, all at a very affordable price.

MSRP: $60
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