What I Liked At Macworld|iWorld: Blue Microphones

Blue Spark Digital MicrophoneThis is the first in a series of posts of interesting things I saw at Macworld|iWorld 2012. I’ve been on the lookout for a new podcasting mic for a while. I currently record with a Heil PR20 plugged into an M-Audio breakout box to convert the analog sound to USB for use with my Mac. While the Heil’s audio quality is a step up from my previous Mic, the Samson CO1U, I do miss the plug and play connectivity of an all digital setup. There are quite a few pieces that I have to pull out of the closet and drawers each week to setup the podcast. I’ve also felt that the audio quality on the Heil could be better. I’ve felt like my voice sometimes comes across as sounding too “tinny” and the Heil has to be right up in my face which causes the mic to pick up my breathing from time to time, especially if I have the sniffles.

Many of the podcasters on 5by5 use the Rode Podcaster and I’ve been eyeing a $350 package that includes a USB Mic, shock mount and boom arm that would permanently attach the Mic to my desk. However at CES this year Blue introduced two new microphones that I had the opportunity to see at Macworld|iWorld that make me wonder whether they may be my next microphones.

The Blue Spark Digital Microphone is a sub $200 condenser microphone is deigned to be used with a Mac or an iPad. The Spark Digital ships with USB adapters for both the Mac and a 30-pin adapter for the iPad and has a built-in shock mount and adjustable stand. This means the Spark Digital could be used to record a podcast at my desk or potentially taken on the road and used with Skype on the iPad or Garageband. The unit has a built in mute switch, focus controls for different recording options and a headphone jack for no-latency audio monitoring. One of my favorite things about the Spark Digital is that it is an all in one unit that looks good. This means I could store the Spark Digital on a shelf in my office with pride, and connect it up for podcasting and when I’m done it goes back on the shelf.

Of course, what’s yet to be heard is the audio quality of the Spark Digital. Blue is known for making excellent quality microphones and boasts that the Spark has the same studio-grade condenser capsule and hand-tuned components for high-fidelity recording of the XLR version. David currently records with the Blue Yeti and while I think his voice quality is good, I’m a little disappointed in how the Yeti picks up all kinds of background noise in the room making the editing job of the podcast a bit more difficult. Anytime David reaches for the keyboard or brushes against the table the Yeti picks it up.

Blue Microphone TikiAnother interesting new product offering from Blue was the Tiki. The Tiki looks like a snail and plugs into the USB port of a notebook. While able to fit into your pocket, Blue boasts that the Tiki has onboard intelligence that allows the microphone to focus on the users voice and cancel out background noise such as a computer fan, street noise or background conversations. Again, I wasn’t able to demo the Tiki in person, but the sales rep at Blue tells me this device is built for the mobile podcaster and everyone who has heard the Tiki in action was amazed by the results. The Tiki will retail for around $60 when it is released in the next few months and if it performs as promised could make an ideal addition to a mobile podcasting rig.

These microphones aren’t shipping until March or April of 2012. So for now I think I’ll hold off my microphone decision a few more months to see how the initial reviews come out. For the price, I could pick up both a Spark and a Tiki and still have a $100 to spare compared to the Rode Podcaster set, that’s certainly appealing.