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October 10, 2011

Blue Microphones Spark Review

Filed under: Microphones — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 2:20 pm

The American manufacturer Blue Microphones — famous for its emblematic Bottle — decided several years ago to extend its products range by offering more accessible microphones with the same reliable manufacturing quality. Today, the brand reaffirms its ambition and launches the Spark, a condenser microphone that redefines the down-market mics, both for Blue and its competitors. Will it sparks things off?

Explosive Package

Blue Microphones Spark

It seems that “famous brands” have made it a national (international, I beg your pardon) sport to offer low-budget products to compete directly with more aggressive competitors… even if still surprising. Especially if the manufacturer’s flagship costs almost $6,000. Now, the Bottle can be seen in many recording studios and in front of many famous artists, however, it’s not the first time Blue has tried to offer low-budget recording tools… From USB mics to iPod accessories, its product range grew over the years and reinforced the reputation of the brand that was previously inaccessible…

 

What’s at stake with the Spark is very high, especially due to it’s low price: $199! How can a mic with such a low price find a place in such an aggressive market segment? Is the brand trying to use its fame to attack a market segment that is almost saturated?

 

I must admit that, at first, I didn’t understand a thing. The first nice surprise was the packaging itself. The Blue Spark is sold in a small wood case including accessories we didn’t expect considering its price. In fact, you get a small shock mount and a windscreen conceived by Blue to match the capsule size. In spite of its modesty, the brand didn’t relinquish its habits nor professionalism — on the contrary, it has kept its identity.

 

Blue Microphones Spark

Inside the case you’ll also find a brief user’s manual with original layout and pictures. In fact, the technical documentation provided reminds a matchbox, which only reinforces Spark’s universe and design. Very well done. The manual is comprehensive enough and easily readable. Beginners and experienced users alike will find something interesting inside. For instance, you’ll find small schematics explaining how to use the Spark optimally, i.e. in which recording situations, with which instruments, how to place it in front of the sound source, etc. You will also find all standard technical data, in case you’re looking for precise information instead of nice images. Certainly, the manual is only a small part of the product, but it reflects the quality of the whole… And, considering the price, the manual is surprising and very well conceived.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

It’s always a surprise to see a high-class brand attack a low-budget market segment, but we can affirm that Blue didn’t rest on its laurels to conceive the Spark. This all-around microphone feels at home in the studio and can capture almost any sound source without a sweat. It certainly can’t compete with its famous big brothers but it offers a rarely reached performance and high-quality manufacturing at a very affordable price. An excellent new product and certainly a new standard for all home-studio owners.

Advantages:

  • The sound
  • Comprehensive package considering the price!
  • User’s manual
  • Manufacturing quality and overall design
  • Incredible value for money

Disadvantages:

  • Shock mount is not “optimal”
  • No pad… but considering the price…!

To read the full detailed review see:  Blue Microphones Spark Review

 

 

 

 

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October 28, 2009

Microphones: How to choose

Microphone Types

Figure 2

Long the role of the professional sound engineer, choosing the appropriate microphone has now become, with the proliferation of the home studio, the task of the amateur and even the beginner. This choice should depend upon what you’re going to be using the mic for, but also on personal preferences. In this article we’ll be dealing with the two main categories of microphones: dynamic microphones and condenser microphones.
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Signal 1.Sound Waves, 2.Diaphragm, 3.Coils, 4.Magnet, 5.Audio Signal

Dynamic Microphones

These mics generally have a more robust design due to the fact that they are more often used in live settings. They are also usually less expensive and resistant to moisture.

Dynamic microphones use a diaphragm which is attached to a coil of wire placed within the magnetic field of a permanent magnet. When there’s a variation in pressure on the diaphragm it will cause the coil to generate a varying electric current which then needs amplification. Because it’s necessary to attach the coil directly to the diaphragm, dynamic mics tend to have thicker diaphragms than condenser mics. Because of this, recordings are less precise as they’re less sensitive to high frequencies than condenser mics. Popular models include Shure SM57 and SM58.

Dynamic mics generally don’t need any electrical power to operate (as opposed to condenser mics). They are ideal for all-round high sound pressure levels (SPL).

Signal reverse1.Sound Waves, 2.Diaphragm, 3.Metal Plate, 4.Battery, 5.Audio Signal

Condenser or Capacitor Microphones

Also known as capacitor or electrostatic microphones, this type of mic picks up sound through a thin, flexible diaphragm that’s placed next to a metal plate ( as opposed to the rigid diaphragm/coil system used by dynamic mics).

Condenser mics can range from inexpensive Karaoke mics to ultra high level recording mics. Generally, they produce high-quality audio signals and are sensitive to distant sounds and high frequencies. Because of these reasons they are often used in studio recording situations.

Because condenser mics are more sophisticated and are more difficult to manufacture, high quality condenser mics are rather expensive. Condenser mics are ideal for recording voice, acoustic guitars, pianos, orchestral instruments, percussion, and sound effects. Some of the most famous models are the Neumann U47 or the AKG 414.

Phantom Power

Condenser mics require a power source, provided either from microphone inputs as phantom power or from a small battery. The most common type of phantom power is +48v DC. This phantom power is used to charge the diaphragm and plate. It also supplies a small amplifier which boosts the small current* generated by diaphram movements. Phantom power supplies are often built into mixing desks, microphone preamplifiers and similar equipment.

Ribbon Microphones

Ribbon mics are a type of dynamic microphone. They use a very thin metal ribbon that’s suspended between the poles of a powerful magnet. Sound waves cause this ribbon to move and create an induced current. Voltage output of older ribbon mics is much lower than dynamic mics so a transformer is used to increase voltage output and to increase output impedance. Modern ribbon mics avoid this problem by using improved magnets and more efficient transformers. Ribbon mics are usually bi-directional (see next page on pick-up patterns). Classic models include the RCA 44 and 77 as well as Royer mics.

Now let’s take an even closer look…


Other Considerations

Fig.1: A Typical Frequency Response Chart Signall

Frequency response

This is a measure of the microphone’s sensitivity to different frequencies. It’s a characteristic of all mics that some frequencies are exaggerated and others attenuated. So the frequency response shows how a particular mic responds to particular frequencies.

A chart usually shows a mics’s frequency response. The x axis shows frequency in Hertz, the y axis shows response in decibels. A higher value means exaggeration and a lower value means attenuation. A completely flat chart (frequency response) would show that the mic is equally sensitive to all frequencies. But in reality a totally flat response is impossible and even the best mics have some degree of deviation. Also it should be noted that sometimes a mic is especially chosen for the specific frequency response that it has. For example, a mic with a frequency response adapted to the human voice would be a good choice for recording in an environment with low frequency background noise.

Self Noise

This measurement represents the lowest point of a mic’s dynamic range. This is important if you want to record very soft sounds. Basically, the lower the number is, the better.

Maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level)

This is the maximum level a mic can accept. Here, the higher the number, the better. But one should note that mics with very high SPLs have higher self noise.

Sensitivity

Indicates how well the mic converts sound pressure into output voltage. The higher the number, the higher the sensitivity. A highly sensitive mics produces more output and will therefore need less amplification after. It should be noted, however, that a higher sensitivity rating does not necessarily make one mic better than another.

To read the full detailed article see:  Microphones: How to Choose

August 25, 2009

Se Electronics – Se 2200T Tube Microphone

Se Electronics presents the new sE2200T, the tube version of the sE2200a microphone.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

June 11, 2009

AKG Perception 820 Tube Mic

AKG presents their new Perception 820 Tube condenser mic.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

April 23, 2009

Video Demo: MXL 67 Series Microphone

MXL talks about their new 67 Series.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

April 14, 2009

Video Demo: New Behringer Condenser Mics

Behringer presents some new condenser mics : the C4 pair, and the T1 and T47 tube condenser microphones.

For more Musikmesse videos visit Audiofanzine Musikmesse

February 25, 2009

Video Demo: Electro Voice PL Microphone Series 1/2

Filed under: Microphones, namm 2009 — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 9:03 am

Rick Belt from ElectroVoice presents the new PL microphone series, starting with those dedicated to voices.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

February 5, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo Audio-Technica New Stereo Condenser Microphones

Gary boss drops us a few words about two new stereo condenser microphones from Audio-Technica.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

January 28, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo Sennheiser e965 Microphone

Short presentation of the new Sennheiser e965 large diaphragm condenser handheld microphone.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

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