The penultimate year of the century was an outstanding one for microphones. More new mics than ever were released, including some of the finest we've seen. In the Large-Diaphragm Condenser category, two mics in particular-the Neumann M 147 Tube and the Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics (BLUE) Blueberry-proved so superlative that we had one heck of a time choosing a favorite. (That the two mics performed so differently made the choice even harder.)
In the end, we settled on the Blueberry. At $1,295, this piece of work is an opportunity for the personal-studio recordist to own a world-class vocal condenser at a manageable price. Hand-built (all components are made in-house by BLUE) and solid as an ingot, the mic's precision pedigree shows in every sumptuous detail. But the Blueberry is no mere looker. Inside, the mic employs Class A discrete circuitry, a custom transformer output, and a hand-tuned capsule.
BLUE's focus on quality build and unique approach pays off in the mic's revealing signature sound. Although we love this mic on acoustic guitars, certain percussion instruments, and drums (as overheads), its true calling is vocals, especially when an "in your face" sound is desired. Designed to emulate the bright response of certain vintage vocal mics (especially the rare and coveted Elam 251), the Blueberry is not a tool for coloring or concealing a lame source sound. On vocals, for instance, rather than "warm up" the sound with hyped low mids, the Blueberry takes a different tack, its airy top end and superb transient response combining to deliver an open, natural sound replete with nuance. The mic is meant to be worked close (one to three inches) without causing undue bass boosting from proximity effect, and it can handle all the SPL you throw its way. Because it tends to downplay low frequencies, the resulting vocal track sits perfectly in even the densest mix, typically with no need for EQ.
Granted, the Blueberry is not an all-around, workhorse-type microphone. Its penchant for naked revelation sees to that, as do its single polar pattern (cardioid) and dearth of extras (no attenuation pad, no low-cut filter). But if your productions call for a large-diaphragm mic that delivers supreme clarity, detail, and lifelike presence, without unwanted low-end resonance, the Blueberry will definitely float your boat.