Overall EM Rating (1 through 5):3.5
Blue Microphones' first dynamic mic, the Ball ($279), takes a novelapproach: it adds a phantom-powered Class-A amplifier to the outputstage. The discrete output amplifier maintains a consistent 50žload, which, Blue says, results in a more consistent and accuratefrequency response than typical dynamic mics provide. The balancedimpedance also helps maintain sound quality over long cable runs.
Not a Softball
The Ball was created for use on loud sound sources — guitarand bass amps, drums, and percussion — onstage and in the studio.I used it in both types of setting and on a wider variety of sources(drum set, percussion, acoustic and electric guitar, upright andelectric bass, cello, flute, tuba, and vocals) through several makes ofpreamp (including a Focusrite Green One preamp, a Mackie VLZ mixer, anda Studer D950 console).
The Ball can handle SPLs of 162 dB; the cardioid polar pattern'soff-axis rejection is intended to maximize separation in livesituations. The mic's frequency range is 35 Hz to 16 kHz, and it has apresence boost at the top end, which is unusual in a dynamic mic: theboost peaks at +5 dB between 7 kHz and 8 kHz and drops off sharplyaround 11 kHz.
The mic's low-end response, while not terribly beefy, is tight anddefined. The frequency curve shows a rise at 125 Hz, a slight dipbetween 250 Hz and 500 Hz, and a downward slope below 100 Hz. Blue saysthe low-end response was designed to bring out the tonal subtleties ofcertain kinds of sources, such as the small-size kick drums used injazz and hip-hop settings.
A nonresonant ABS plastic shell with radial ports carved into theaddress side houses the mic's electronics. The LED above the logoindicates the presence of phantom power. The XLR jack is on the rear ofthe mic, and the swivelmount stand adapter, at the bottom of the mic,gives you a 45-degree range of motion up and down.
The Ball provided plenty of punch and sounded great on toms andsnare. It captured the tonality of the drums along with the definedattack from the sticks. It also sounded fantastic on hand drums, wherethe presence peak accentuated the crisp sound of fingertips on theskins while presenting plenty of body from the drums. However, for mytastes, it didn't have quite enough juice in the low end for trackingkick drum.
The Ball excelled at miking electric bass and clean electric guitar.In fact, the Ball gave a true representation of how the bass amp reallysounded in the room. In this application, the Ball had betterdefinition in the low end than my EV RE20 and a crisper top end than mySennheiser MD 421. The mic's top-end brightness proved a bit much fordistorted guitar sounds.
Unfortunately, the performance of the mics I received was sometimesmarred by the presence of radio frequency interference (RFI) whiletracking acoustic instruments. (It didn't happen in my studio, but inplaces where RFI is inherent.) At times, when I increased the preamp'sgain to get a decent signal to tape, the track became haunted by theghost of an oldies station. Although the Ball sounded rich and definedon upright bass and cello, I couldn't get the Beatles and ArethaFranklin out of the signal path. At one point, while recording a tubaduring a concert, I abandoned the Ball for a dynamic mic with better RFprotection.
The Ball was easy to use and place with several exceptions. Due tothe mic's bulbous shape and the swivelmount's placement and limitedrange of motion, I had difficulty positioning the Ball on bass drum,toms, and snare drum. The Ball's profile made it difficult to place themic between a rack tom and hi-hat to get at the snare drum, forexample.
A full-range ball-socket mount, positioned at the rear of the mic,would make the going a bit easier. As it is, positioning the mic insidea kick drum requires either a gooseneck or taping the mic to a shortstand.
Positioning quibbles and RFI issues notwithstanding, the Blue Ballwould make an excellent addition to any mic collection. It soundsfantastic on percussion, electric bass, and electric guitar. And in itsprice range, the Ball is a real bargain.