If you are starting to produce or even an industry veteran, you've already learned that a good mic is essential for any studio. You also quickly learn that every mic sounds a little (or a lot) different and you can rarely get by with just one if you are recording live instruments and vocals on the regular.
Sure there are ways to alter the sound to get different mic sounds digitally, but we are big believers in getting the sound you want right from the source.
Blue Microphones has recently retooled their Essential studio microphone line, and we got a hold of the Bluebird, Spark, and Baby Bottle SL versions to give them a test run. What's, even more, incredible is you can grab all three for under a grand, which makes this mic arsenal well within reach for most producers.
If you are familiar with Blue's microphone lines then you probably already know about the Essential line, this line is just an upgraded version.
The Bluebird, Spark and Baby Bottle have all been re-tooled to include filter and pad switches plus other tweaks to improve the overall user experience.
What's in the box?
• A two-year warranty
• A wire-frame shock mount
• A slick wooden case
The Spark SL is the entry level product in the Essential line coming in at a very affordable $199. If you are just getting started with your home studio, this is a great mic to consider. The Spark SL is impressive build wise with its solid construction and classic look of the Essential series. Coming in at 200 x 47.5 mm with a cardioid-pattern capsule and solid-state circuitry.
This an excellent mic for capturing both vocals and acoustic instruments like drums, pianos, and guitars. It won't give you the same level of pop for the severe highs like a sax or trumpet like the Bluebird SL, but it will deliver reliable recordings across the typical spectrum.
The Spark SL also comes with tiny toggle switches to turn on the 20dB pad and low-cut filter (100Hz, 12dB per octave).
This mic brings in high-quality sound to the entry to the intermediate level producer for a hard to beat price. This mic is an all around workhorse for guys that are just starting to learn about recording acoustic instruments and vocals, and for some of you, it might be the only mic you ever need.
The Bluebird SL comes in a bit bigger (222 x 51.5mm) than the entry-level Spark SL and has a slightly different shape (round on the back, not flat). The purpose of this mic according to Blue engineers is to add some details in the high end along with some warmth. This mic is great for capturing house music vocals and live instruments that you want to pop but still feel cozy. It's also ideal for recording instruments that have a high-end plucky sound, or just high in general like a snare drum, guitar (think Spanish style), sax, trumpet, etc.
There are two toggle switches for easy control, the low cut filter (100Hz, 12dB per octave) and 20dB pad. These switches help you to quickly dial in the sound and volume to align with what you are recording.
Like the Spark SL, the Bluebird SL runs on 48-volt phantom power, so it's a snap to connect it to your powered audio interface. I have both the Apollo Twin Duo and Komplete Audio 6, and it clipped into both quickly and was ready to rock.
This mic delivers big on sound with incredible details in the high end that allow you to capture rich and crisp vocals that feel right over the entire sound spectrum (high, mid, lows - but especially the highs) and the same with instruments. If you are a house producer or even downtempo, this is a great mic to get all the lush sounds to where they need to be.
I've not tested the Bluebird original, but the SL is an incredible condenser mic for the price and well worth a look if you are recording soulful vocals and jazzy vibes.
Ironically the "Baby Bottle" SL is the top of the line in the new Essential series with a similar design as the other two models and comes in a mean looking black metallic finish (it's a badass looking Baby Bottle).
The Baby Bottle SL is a cardioid mic that offers a tighter pickup pattern and less color in the recording overall, it's relatively flat and captures sound with a warm clarity that brings you true nature of the voice or instrument being recorded. In other words, it's giving you the real deal.
Baby Bottle SL by design is intended to replicate a classic sound of high-end vintage mics and allows producers to approach recording with a lot of versatility.
However, this mic is better suited for more experienced producers that are looking to do a lot of vocal recording and work with a larger variety of instruments like electric guitars, organs and even bass guitars.
The Baby Bottle SL also features the switchable high-pass filter and -20dB pad to dial in your recordings, but you probably already knew that at this point.
Blue Microphones has stepped up the Essential Mic series in a big way and made high-quality studio mics affordable and approachable for all levels of producers.
If you are starting out with your first home studio or simply looking to add a powerful mic to your quiver, these mics are a great option.