The Spark offers good sound and versatility at a low price point.
There are plenty of inexpensive condenser mics on the market these days, so what does the Blue Spark ($199) have to differentiate it from the pack, besides its nifty red color and lollipop-style capsule? Actually, quite a bit. I''ve had one in my possession for the past month or so, and I''ve been constantly surprised by how well it does in just about every situation I try it in.
BLUE TURNS RED
Before getting into details on the mic''s sound, lets talk about what you get when you purchase Spark. The mic comes in a fairly large (6 x 9.5 x 9.75-inch), red-stained wooden box with a sliding top and foam compartments for the mic and its accessories: a shockmount and metal windscreen. The shockmount is fairly large and has a threaded cylindrical base that you screw the microphone into. A large thumbscrew with the Blue logo on it adjusts the angle of the shockmount to the stand. On my review model, the thumbscrew didn''t always stay tight, and occasionally it would loosen and the mic would slip out of position. According to Blue, the company has updated the shockmount design, which should solve that issue.
The pop filter comprises a metallic mesh screen inside a circular frame, and is just slightly larger than the capsule''s surface area. Its lower section is a metallic hoop that sits at a right angle to the screen and slides over the capsule. The hoop section has a thumbscrew on the back that fits into a threaded hole on the rear of the mic, securing the filter in place.
The mic itself has a fixed cardioid pattern and its stated frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz. There is no pad or low-cut filter. The only variable from a sound-pickup standpoint is what Blue calls the Focus Control, a small button on the back of the mic that dials in an alternate EQ curve. When it''s engaged, the mic rolls off fairly steeply below 100Hz, which is intended to produce a sound that will sit in the mix better (more on that below). The Focus Control button resides in a recessed part of the mic, just above the hardware that screws into the shockmount, and you need to make a conscious effort to fit your finger into the slot to push the button. I''m guessing that Blue did this intentionally to reduce the chances of accidental switching.
Also included is a printed manual, designed to look like a giant matchbook, in keeping with the mic''s fire-related name and color. When you read the manual, it becomes clear that Blue is aiming this mic in part at the novice recordist because there is useful tutorial content on mic placement and technique for both vocals and a number of other instruments. The manual is well-written and is a good example of Blue''s attention to detail.
Overall, I was impressed with the sound of the Spark. While it''s not going to make you ditch your high-end mics, it''s very usable and can certainly hold its own with many mics costing twice its price. If you look at the frequency response graph, it has a boost in the 1kHz region, as well as one from 8 to 12 kHz. It''s definitely a bright mic and puts forth a nice, present sound for vocals. There''s a dip in the lower midrange, which reduces muddiness.
I tried the Spark on spoken and sung vocals, and liked it for both. I used it for voice-overs on a recent “EM Cast” podcast, and by getting up close and using the proximity effect, I was able to get a big voice-over sound.
I miked a variety of acoustic instruments with it, including acoustic guitar, dobro, mandolin, and shaker, and it provided me with solid results in virtually all cases. If I had to fault its sound, I would say that it lacked a little bit in warmth, at times feeling a tad metallic. For the most part, I was quite happy with the results on all sources on which I tried it.
I didn''t find the Focus Control to be useful; activating it yielded thin-sounding recordings. I preferred to keep it off, which resulted in a much fuller sound. Personally, I''d rather EQ a signal after I''ve tracked it.
For just less than $200, the Spark is a bargain. It can give you solid results in a variety of applications. Blue has succeeded in producing a mic that performs beyond its price range.
Overall rating (1 through 5): 4
Spark Product Page