Provided that loads of the USB microphones we take a look at price $100 or extra, the Snowball Ice from Blue stands out. At $49.99, it is a very inexpensive possibility from an organization recognized for its high-quality pro-level mics. The usual Snowball prices about $20 extra, and options a number of mic pickup patterns to report with, whereas the Snowball Ice is a cardioid-only possibility. Seeing as that is one of the crucial common types of mic sample for recording vocals, loads of customers will see the worth in saving a little bit cash by selecting this fixed-pattern condenser. Within the fingers of an skilled engineer or a musician with strong mic approach, the Blue Snowball Ice is appropriate for a variety of tasks, and earns our Editors’ Alternative for finances USB mics.
Out there in black or white, and measuring 12.7 inches in circumference (a roughly four.2-inch diameter), the orb-shaped Snowball Ice has a plastic cowl that exposes metallic grille on the entrance of the mic, the place the Blue emblem is, and in addition on the alternative finish. A standing LED is positioned on the prime entrance face—it lights up when the included USB cable is linked to each the mic and a recording supply. Internally, the Snowball Ice employs a strain gradient-style condenser with a cardioid sample.
The mic screws into the tripod mount, and as soon as it is securely in place, it may be angled upward or downward. That mentioned, we discovered the angle to be barely much less excessive than we might desire to ensure that the mic’s diaphragm to correctly line up with the speaker’s mouth. If the desktop stand have been a little bit taller, this would not actually be a difficulty. As is, the mic is pointed extra on the higher torso/neck space. Whereas this could truly be helpful for controlling plosives with an unruly vocalist, people who do have strong mic approach might want to crouch down, most certainly, to line their mouths up with the diaphragm. The farther the speaker is from the mic, the much less of a difficulty that is, however should you’re on the lookout for a comparatively shut sound, this can be a minor annoyance. That mentioned, you may merely choose to make use of your personal mic stand, and the pivot motion (which is constructed into to the mic itself, not the stand) will nonetheless be accessible.
Blue claims it would not use DSP (digital sign processing) in its mics, and our checks help this assertion—the Snowball Ice will be pushed to distortion extra simply than some others we have examined. Which will sound hyperlink a detrimental, however that is the way in which skilled mics are—they distort in case your pump the achieve too excessive or yell into them up shut, and within the professional recording world, the idea of a mic with built-in DSP would ship shudders down an engineer’s backbone. Higher to report a pure sign and apply your personal EQ and dynamic processing later (if wanted).
That mentioned, a technique the Snowball Ice feels barely finances is its 44.1kHz/16-bit specs. Most of the mics we take a look at have notably larger sampling charges and may report 24-bit indicators. However once more, these mics all sometimes price a minimum of $100, a few of them $200 or extra.
The Snowball Ice is suitable with Home windows 7, eight, and 10, and Mac OS 10.four.11 and better, and requires USB 1.half.zero (or newer) and 64MB of RAM (or higher). It is a plug-and-play type possibility that will likely be instantly acknowledged by many recording programs, corresponding to GarageBand. Some pro-level software program, like Pro Tools, would require a workaround should you want to use the Snowball Ice (or any USB mic)—Google search “combination gadget USB mic ProTools” to search out explanations on learn how to set this up.
In GarageBand, the mic exhibits up instantly, and that is the place you may modify your recording ranges, because the mic itself lacks achieve knobs, in addition to headphone jacks, which is typical of an XLR mic however considerably much less typical for USB mics. As soon as you have set a strong degree, the Snowball Ice delivers clear, crisp audio.
Addressed dead-on, from a couple of foot away, the mic tends to select up loads of room sound, and if the room you are in is not acoustically handled, this may very well be problematic. We examined the mic in an acoustically handled room, and located a foot to be too distant for a transparent recording. Shifting in to about six to eight inches supplied a clearer recording, with far much less room sound, and crisp highs. Nonetheless, the mic appeared to sound finest when addressed much more intently. This may very well be an issue for the inexperienced vocalist, however when you’ve got strong mic approach, the nearer proximity provides some low and low-mid richness to the recording with out issues getting muddy.
The mic additionally delivers strong audio from a distance of about 5 to 6 inches, however with the vocalist barely off-axis and the achieve adjusted accordingly. On this situation, you continue to get crisp highs, not a lot (if any) room sound, and you’re going to get fewer plosives from inexperienced vocalists. In fact, you can too choose to make use of a pop filter to soak up the plosives that even these vocalists with strong mic approach generally introduce right into a recording, however should you’re not fascinated about shopping for one other accent or making one your self (it is doable with coat hanger wire and nylon), the off-axis trick is a strong wager right here.
This mentioned, the Snowball Ice does a comparatively strong job of avoiding plosives because of its design—the grille has is personal display screen built-in behind its floor. That is true of loads of mics that also profit from a pop filter, however the Blue Snowball Ice’s forgiving design appears constructed with the podcaster or burgeoning vocalist in thoughts.
Is the Snowball Ice the best-sounding mic available on the market? No. Solely being 44.1kHz/16 bit does restrict its sonic capabilities considerably. And a few customers would possibly miss the kind of customary (for USB mics) achieve knob and headphone jack. However for $50 we’re keen to let quite a bit slide, and for many vocal functions, it is greater than appropriate. It is easy, and the shortage of DSP means a leaner, extra pure sign than you will get from some gaming-oriented USB mics.
If a number of mic patterns appeals to you, in fact, the Snowball is just a little bit more cash and has lots of the similar primary options. In case your finances permits, we’re additionally followers of the Blue Raspberry and the Beyerdynamic Fox, and if a DSP-applying gamer’s USB mic is extra what you are after, think about the Turtle Beach Stream Mic or the Razer Seiren Elite. However for $50, the Snowball Ice is a succesful entry-level USB mic that does an ideal job and earns our Editors’ Alternative.