A versatile mic at a righteous price
Blue makes fine mics—whether you’re talking specs or industrial design. Although the company built its reputation on high-end mics, Spark takes its condenser know how into a lower-priced world.
One Size Fits All
Spark seems designed so that if someone could only afford one condenser mic, they’d choose Spark. It’s a medium-diaphragm cardioid design with subtle response tweaking—a small lift around 11kHz (which brings out the clean, responsive high end) and 1kHz, a bit of a dip in the “mud” frequencies around 400Hz, and another slight dip around the 2kHz “honk” frequency. All of this is ideal for vocals. A boost around 90Hz can emphasize the proximity effect, or be tuned out with Spark’s unique “Focus” switch, which reduces bass and tightens the lower mids
Focus isn’t a standard low-cut filter; it alters the capsule’s voltage loading rather than processing the mic’s output, thus affecting both dynamics and frequency response. The effect is both subtle in that it retains the mic’s desirable characteristics, and striking in that it can make quite a difference with some sound sources. For example, switching Focus out with vocals gave a full, deep sound, but I had to be careful about plosives and air, even when using the included pop filter. With Focus in, the vocal cut more, minimized plosives, and had a “direct” quality. With acoustic guitar, switching Focus in helps control “boom” if you like miking close to the sound hole, while switching it out sounded best when I backed the mic off for more room sound. It’s almost like having two separate mics, increasing the overall value considerably.
A Class-A Act
The solid-state electronics are Class-A, which eliminates crossover distortion because there is no crossover, and handle SPL levels up to 128dB. But, the mic package as a whole is a class act. There’s an industrial-strength shock mount (improved over earlier versions) and semi-effective pop filter, included with the mic in a sweet wooden case (Figure 1). Also, the manual goes beyond just documenting the mic, and provides helpful miking tips.
If you prefer hand-held rather than shock-mount, at 1.25 lbs., the body feels substantial, yet fits comfortably in any size hand. It seems no more prone or immune to handling noise than any comparable mic.
At a below-$200 price, you’d expect compromises, yet the transient response and clarity excel, without the high-end “brittleness” sometimes experienced with low-cost condensers. It’s a sensitive mic— you have to be careful about “swallowing” it, and there’s a reason why it includes a pop filter (although you’ll probably want a heavier-duty one on call)—so it’s important to experiment to find the right mic positioning. That sensitivity is an asset, though, if you like to move the mic back a little bit to give more “breathing room” and pick up a shade more room ambience.
Fig. 1 Spark comes with a pop filter, shock mount, groovalicious wooden case, and helpful documentation.
If someone said they could afford only one condenser mic, I’d recommend Spark not just for the versatility, but the quality. If Blue’s goal was to produce the VW of mics, I’d say they succeeded—except that it’s the Turbo Diesel model.
Blue Microphones Spark $199 MSRP
Clean, transparent sound, with slight but effective response manipulation. Focus switch adds value and versatility. Improved shock mount. Useful on many types of signals. Striking look and packaging.
Pop filter lacks effectiveness with close-miking.
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