Blue Snowflake Inverness

Founded in 1995, Blue is a relatively young microphone company that has quickly established an enviable reputation for its products both in terms of quality and innovative design.

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Blue Snowflake

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Founded in 1995, Blue is a relatively young microphone company that has quickly established an enviable reputation for its products both in terms of quality and innovative design. In light of this Apple-style aesthetic, it seems appropriate that it was a Blue Baby Bottle mic that Bob Dylan sang into for his 2006 iPod ad.

However, in addition to turning out such high-end studio staples, Blue has ploughed a parallel furrow developing low-cost, but equally distinctive, mics for the home studio, notably its spherical Ball range. The Snowball was one such mic and its first USB offering. Now it has Mac-compatible company in the form of the Snowflake.

It lacks the three-position capsule switch and -10dB pad of its big brother, but the cardioid-only Snowflake features, the same pre-amp and 16-bit/44.1kHz quality converter on-board. Its specs also boast a slightly improved, wider frequency range - 35Hz to 20kHz.

The mic's core purpose is to be your goanywhere, professional-quality recording friend. Roughly the size of an iPod Classic (albeit with the thickness of a first-gen iPod), the whole device neatly folds up inside its own case for protection on the go. The mic head can even be rotated to face inwards to better shield the capsule.

Sliding off the white plastic half of the case turns the silver aluminium half into an angled desktop stand. It can also be hung over the open lid of a laptop and offers a vast improvement over any Mac's built-in microphone. The Snowflake's shiny chrome head looks very professional and its overall construction feels very solid.

To start recording, plug the USB cable in to your Mac, select the Snowflake in System Preferences (or Audio Midi setup) and you're ready to rock - no drivers are necessary. Being a condensor mic (drawing its phantom power from your Mac's USB port), the Snowflake is more responsive and sensitive than dynamic mics. For iChats, podcasts, iMovie voice-overs and such like, it's ideal. For recording music, it's never going to rival a traditional studio microphone, but for capturing ideas quickly - and with impressive clarity and definition - it's hard to beat, especially for laptop users on the road.

In all situations, it produces its best results when fed a sufficiently strong signal to employ its full dynamic range. This essentially means keeping relatively up close and personal with Snowflake, as at any appreciable distance, the sensitivity of the mic is less pronounced and the negligible noise floor becomes more apparent.

However, since the mic doesn't have a pad, we found it easy to overload the input on barely loud sources if placed too close - experimenting with micing a small guitar amp, for example - despite a stated maximum sound pressure level (SPL) of 120dB. With only System Preferences to control the gain, you might not notice the resulting distortion until after the fact. Careful placement is key to avoiding any unpleasantness. For acoustic sources - guitar, woodwind, violin - and vocal duties, our results were more consistently clean. For the record, Snowflake showed up as an input in every audio application we tried - Live, Peak, Nuendo, Cubase, GarageBand and Logic (as an Aggregate device).

The Snowflake is by no means an essential purchase, but it's so inexpensive and flexible that it's easy to find multiple uses for it without fretting about the cost, and it's stylish and unobtrusive enough not to be any sort of burden on a crowded desktop or in a travel bag. The Snowflake is a very cool solution for audio capture on the go.
Needs PowerPC G3 + Mac OS X + 64MB RAM

Author: Jonathan Wilson

Blue Snowflake