Blue Microphones has been wowing the audio industry with one amazing microphone after another for the past several years. Its newest mic, the Bluebird, is available only as part of a bundle with one of three Focusrite Platinum products (the VoiceMaster Pro, the TwinTrak Pro, or the Trak Master) or with a Digidesign Pro Tools LE system.
The Bluebird is a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser mic with no bass rolloff switch or pattern selector (see Fig. A). The mic houses a fixed capsule and requires 48V phantom power. Although it resembles some of Blue's application-specific designs, such as the Baby Bottle, the Bluebird was designed to handle a wider range of recording tasks, according to the company, including the close-miking of drums and electric guitar amplifiers.
I began my review by comparing a pair of Bluebirds to each other, to ensure that they sounded similar. On a variety of sources, I could hear no difference between the two mics, which is a sign of Blue's excellent quality control.
Next, I compared the Bluebird with several other large-diaphragm condenser mics, including the Baby Bottle and a matched pair of Blue's Dragonfly Deluxes. On drum overheads, the Bluebirds gave a more shimmering and less washy image than the Dragonflies, which are my standard overhead mics. The slightly smaller capsules, together with the 3 dB high-end boost around 10 to 12 kHz, gave the Bluebirds a slight edge over the Dragonflies for the pop band I was recording. For a less modern jazz sound, I would probably stick with the Dragonflies.
On both male and female vocals, the Bluebird was consistently too bright for my taste; I opted in every case for either the Baby Bottle or a Neumann U 87. Even if you prefer a brighter vocal sound, you may need some extra de-essing if you use the Bluebird on a sibilant vocalist. A fellow engineer and local producer said his favorite new vocal setup is the Bluebird coupled with a vintage RCA 77DX ribbon mic, because the high end of the Bluebird complements the warmth and fullness of the ribbon mic.
I actually preferred the Bluebird to the U 87 on a session in which I miked a Fender Precision bass through a small Gallien-Krueger combo. I was surprised to hear the Bluebird's smoother low end compared with the Neumann's lows. Both the Dragonfly Deluxe and an AKG C 414 EB, however, sounded fuller and, in the low mids, tighter and punchier than the Bluebird. Overall, the Bluebird sounded most similar to the C 414 EB, which is my favorite all-purpose large-diaphragm condenser mic.
The biggest problem that I had with the Bluebird was when I was trying to mic a loud electric-guitar cabinet. The guitarist wanted his amplifier cranked for tonal reasons, but I had to position the microphone fairly close to his rig because of the bleed from other amps in the same room. Even with a pad engaged and the trim set all the way down, the Bluebird's hot output-8 dB stronger than the C 414 EB, for example — overloaded every preamp that I had connected to it.
The Bluebird package includes a high-quality mic cable, a shockmount (the BirdCage), and a pop filter (the BirdNest). It would be nice if Blue included a regular clip, because the shockmount is bulky and prohibits the use of the mic in tight places such as inside a kick drum or nestled up to a snare. In addition, the custom metal-mesh pop filter, while good looking, is cumbersome to remove and attach (two lengthy thumbscrews are used) and didn't work very well. With a variety of vocalists, more plosives left the Nest than would have with a standard pop filter.
Small complaints aside, the Bluebird is a great mic for a variety of sources, and it sounded particularly good on trumpet, bass clarinet, percussion (the mic excelled on triangle), acoustic guitar, banjo, and marimba. If you are looking for a mic that can handle multiple tasks with ease, consider the Bluebird. Of course, you'll have to get a TwinTrak Pro or one of its cousins as well, but that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. Blue Microphones; tel. (818) 879-5200; email firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.bluemic.com.