I know I’m not the first person to ever review the Blue Snowball iCE microphone (Snowball), but I am a professional reviewer, podcaster, and videocaster, so I’m evaluating it from the point-of-view of someone who might shop for this microphone to create professional voice recordings.
I purchased this unit from Amazon, myself, so it is not a review unit supplied by Blue Microphones or a PR company. I bought it for use as a home recording unit, because I use my Blue Yeti microphone for creating professional SecurityNOW podcasts with Preston Smith. Originally, I purchased this one to be the SecurityNOW microphone and to leave my precious Yeti at home. However, the Snowball lacks certain features that I require for my professional podcasts. So, I’m reviewing it here to give you the highs and lows of it in case you’re considering it for your own work.
What I like:
The Snowball is small, light and well-built. The price is right at $44.99 and free shipping from Amazon. The Snowball dismantles into the ball, the small stand, and the USB cable for a fairly compact transport. The sound is very good for the price. The microphone and parts feel durable and should last until its $45 value has been fully extracted. I like the cardioid voice pickup pattern. It filters out a lot of the ambient background noise from behind the microphone and in other parts of a large room, focusing on your voice.
What I don’t like:
The Snowball has no features. It’s a microphone on a stand and that’s it. It has no volume knob or any other adjustment buttons, sliders, or switches. It’s on when you plug it in and off when you unplug it. There’s no mute feature on the microphone. The non-adjustable stand is small and three to four inches lower than optimal height. The stand attaches to the microphone with a non-standard screw size, so you can’t mount it to a tripod of any kind, though you can optionally purchase an adjustable microphone ‘arm’ for $18.
The only accessory that I know of for the Snowball is the Ringer, which is a shock mount for $43.00 on Amazon. The shock mount gives you more options for placement, like the adjustable arm, plus it dampens sounds from bumps and other movements. Frankly, the Snowball should be used with a Pop Filter to filter out the “pops” you hear when speaking close to the microphone, which you really have to do with the Snowball to capture good sound quality.
The optimal distance from the microphone is probably three to four inches, depending on your voice quality and volume.
Here is a sample of raw audio from the Blue Snowball iCE.
However, if you spend $45.00 for the Snowball, $43.00 for the shock mount, and $10.00 for the pop filter, you’d be better off buying the Blue Yeti USB microphone for $100.00. It’s a much superior microphone and you’ll like it a lot better.
Overall, the Snowball is a decent microphone. I can’t say that I’d purchase another one, but for $45.00, it’s OK. I think my money would have been better spent on a different microphone that has options, better sound, and a more convenient or adjustable stand. If you’re wanting a microphone for some light podcasting, Skype, or test recording of some type, this microphone is certainly good enough. If you have any aspirations of doing anything long-term, professional, or something with an adjustable stand or even a volume knob, don’t buy this one.
Recommendation: Don’t buy it unless you really like having no options and a mediocre microphone. Opt instead for the Blue Yeti.
The Hammer & Anvil MK-ENG600 Professional Supercardioid Shotgun Microphone (ENG600) is a professional XLR microphone for serious videographers. Most amateur videographers won’t have the equipment required for connecting XLR microphones to their video equipment. The ENG600 can be mounted on-camera in the hot shoe, onto a boom pole, onto a tripod, onto a cold shoe, or hand held.
At $139.95, the HAAMKENG600 is a bargain when compared to other microphones of this quality. By comparison, microphones of this quality range in price from $199.95 at the low end and top out around the $600 mark.
For you audiophiles who understand all the details, here are the ENG600’s specifications:
Type: Supercardioid Directional Condenser microphone
Frequency Response: 30-20,000 Hz
Sensitivity: -33dB +/- 1dB / 0dB=1V/Pa, 1kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio: 80dB or more
Output Impedance: Phantom – 300 Ohm or more, Battery – 600 Ohm or more
Power: 1.5V AA Battery or 48V phantom
Plug: Mini-Pin Plug (3.5mm) & 3 Pin XLR
Net Weight: 146g
Filter: Low-cut, Switchable
Why it’s Frugal: The Hammer & Anvil Professional Supercardioid Shotgun Microphone (HAAMK-ENG600) is frugal because it is a high quality, professional microphone that is half the cost of its competitors, plus it includes the XLR to 3.5mm connector (A $10+ value), and the “dead kitten” wind muff (A $25+ value). It also features phantom power and power from a simple AA battery. Frugal.
The ENG600’s proof is in the demo that I recorded using my iPad as a video device in the video. The audio is excellent even with the ceiling fan and two computers on just next to me. The audio is clear and I’m not peaking as I usually do with microphones of lower quality. Professional audio also doesn’t have too much bass in it or amplify any particular range, but rather replicates accurately.
The ENG600 is an all-around great microphone and this won’t be the last you’ll hear of it in my videos. I’m pretty sure that this microphone is going to be my professional “go to” microphone for stationary, as well as, walking around video using my iPad and my video camera. The XLR interface makes it an excellent choice whether you’re using it directly from XLR to the camera, to an audio recorder, or through the 3.5mm converter.
This microphone is great for interviews, documentaries, and YouTube audio capture. The size of the ENG600 (15 inches) is impressive as well as its ability to pick up sound directionally in front of it. It has a standard cardioid pickup pattern, but on supercardioid mode, its reach extends to grab input from several feet away, while still filtering out unwanted side and back noise. Although the ENG600’s size seems daunting, you’ll appreciate it once you hear the audio. It’s true that you might “stick out like a sore thumb” where you’re recording, but the results and the price speak for themselves.
I’ve never seen a bad review of this microphone and you’re not likely to find one. The ENG600 is a lot of bang for the buck. I highly recommend it and I really love the quality of construction, its ease of use, the incredible shock mount (spare bands included in the package), the wind muff, and the XLR to 3.5mm converter cable. The only thing missing is the three pole to four pole converter so that the microphone can be used with iPhones and iPads. I know that’s not a requirement, but it would be a ‘nice to have.’ It’s an absolute winner.
Recommendation: If you’re serious about audio, buy it. Buy two and realize that you’re still under budget.
All microphones are not created equal. That statement is an overly obvious one to those of you who are in the filmmaking or videography game. However, not everyone knows it. There seems to be this highly outspoken rule that great audio is better than great video. In other words, if your video is mediocre, it doesn’t matter if your sound is great. And no matter how great your video is, if your audio is poor quality, then the whole thing is poor quality. It doesn’t seem fair does it? Well, it isn’t, but since people love great audio, there’s only one thing to do: Purchase great audio equipment for your videos.
The problem with creating great audio is that it’s not cheap to do it. But anything worth doing is worth doing right, so save your money for better equipment. There are some exceptions to the more expensive equipment rule making a better audio product. Hammer & Anvil products transcend that rule. In fact, I’d say that they break it. The HAAMKSLR100 (SLR100) microphone is one of those exceptions. Sure, you can spend more, but you won’t really get more. The SLR100 microphone is a directional condenser mike that delivers great audio for under $40.
Type: Directional Condenser microphone
Frequency Response: 38-20,000 Hz
Sensitivity: -40dB +/- 3dB / 0dB=1V/Pa, 1kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio: 75dBOutput
Impedance: <1k Ohm
Power: 1.5V AAA Battery
Plug: Mini-Pin Plug (3.5mm)
Net Weight: 52g
I like the SLR100. It’s small, compact, has its own power (AAA battery), has a pop screen, and a “dead kitten” for windy outdoor shooting. You can attach it to a hot or cold shoe or directly to a tripod mount. It also sports a shock mount of sorts on the base. It’s a complete video camera shotgun microphone that delivers very good sound for a small price.
Why it’s Frugal: The HAAMKSLR100 condenser microphone is frugal because it is inexpensive ($39.95), but yet delivers great audio. If you’re on a budget, this is a perfect audio unit to start with. It’s frugal because you get a lot of audio quality for a little money and you can use it with your iDevices, if you buy an adapter/converter
Now, you’re probably asking, “What are the practical applications for this microphone?” That’s a good question. If you’re a YouTuber who doesn’t want to be wired to a lavalier microphone or dish out hundreds of dollars for audio that’s imperceptibly better, then this is the mike for you. Would I use it for filming a documentary that’s going on Netflix? Probably not. Not because it isn’t a great little microphone; it is, but Hammer & Anvil offers some very reasonably priced professional directional microphones for about $100 more and they’re just too tempting to resist. For example, I’m actually reviewing the HAAMKENG600 microphone as I’m writing this post.
The HAAMKSLR100 microphone will do just about anything you want it to do and, as I pointed out in the review video, for a few dollars, you can buy a three pole to four pole converter and use this microphone on your iPad or on your iPhone as an external shotgun audio capture device. Awesome.
It’s awesome because you don’t have to blow a lot of extra money buying a microphone specifically designed for your iDevices. You can use this one everywhere and that’s a very good thing.
One of the things that I really love about the SLR100 is that when you turn on the mike, you can see clearly that it’s on because of the green light on the back near the ON/OFF switch. I’ve seen complaints on much higher priced microphones that don’t offer this basic feature. Bravo to the folks at Hammer & Anvil for providing that much needed feature.
Why am I making such a big deal about the ON light, you ask?
Well, after you run down a lot of batteries because you left your mike ON, you’ll understand why. The light clearly lets you know when the unit is ON and when it is OFF. To me, that feature alone is worth $40.
I’m quite pleased with the sound quality that I get from the SLR100. It’s quiet where I need it to be and it picks up sounds that I want it to and all for the price of an afternoon matinee. I’m sold on it. As I said in the video, it’s a solid microphone and deserves the rating I give it.
Adorama.com is a top-notch camera and accessory store for the amateur and the professional alike. This microphone is perfect for those who need something better than the built-in microphones on DSLRs, video cameras, and iDevices.
Recommendation: Buy it for all your general video creation needs. It’s not a pro-grade microphone, but it’s darn nice for $40.
3Pod Orbit 4-Section Aluminum Photo/Video Monopod with Fluid Base and Tilt Head with Quick Release (Review)
3Pod Monopod (3PVM4A)
3Pod T1 Tilt Head with Quick Release (3PSHT1)
3Pod Monopod with Tilt Head Bundle
$59.95 Monopod only
$32.00 Tilt Head with Quick Release
$79.95 with Tilt Head with Quick Release Bundle ($12.00 savings)
If you’ve searched high low for a monopod that you can use in just about any situation, stop looking, this is it. The 3PVM4A Monopod by 3Pod, sold by Adorama is one fine piece of photographic machinery. And for under, a lot under, $100, it’s the best I’ve seen. At a whopping 65.5 inches high (max), it’s comfortable for taller photographers to use, without having to crouch or bend down. I should know; I’m one of those taller photographers. This one also quickly adjusts from two feet high (23.5 inches, to be exact) to any height in between. The fluid base allows you to make smooth panning movements when the feet are down. Without the feet in the down and locked position, you have a standard monopod featuring three fast open/close flip locks for quick and easy height adjustments.
Joseph Butler and I review the 3Pod Monopod with Tilt Head.
The best feature of all. Wait for it. Look at the picture and see if you can figure it out. That’s right! It can stand on its own. At the very bottom of the monopod, you can fold down three locking legs to steady the monopod while you walk away to get yourself on camera, have an interview, or just to check focus. Sure, you can use it like a standard monopod, but those three little legs make this the bringer of the best of both worlds. Frankly, since receiving this, I haven’t used a traditional tripod again. Which in part is some of my excuse for the delay in posting this review.
I suggest purchasing the bundle. You save $12.00 by buying the Tilt Head with Quick Release, so why not make a frugal choice? For $79.95, you get the Monopod, the 3PSHT1, bag, and adjusting wrench. Even if you decide to buy another monopod head, this one will serve you well.
If you’re worried about camera weight on the monopod, let me put your fears to rest. It has held a Canon 60D with 18-135 zoom lens and a shotgun microphone without any issues.
What I really love about this setup is that it’s built for the run-n-gun photo/videographer who also might need to jump in front of the camera to narrate or to introduce a guest. You can walk away with confidence that you’re not going to end up with a smashed camera in the process. For photographers and videographers on the move, the monopod has a large padded handle that’s easy on your hands, plus it’s non-slip feature keeps your equipment safe while you’re running for the shot. The three quick-release height adjustments allow you to keep moving while you adjust the height of the monopod too. And if you don’t want to run with the monopod feet in the down position, they have “step-on” releases so that you can pick up and run without hesitation.
The Tilt Head with Quick Release is a ‘must have’ item because you can remove your camera from the monopod without disturbing the monopod’s position with just a snap of the silver lever you see at the right of the quick release mount. You can also come back and place your camera on the monopod without twisting, turning, or fussing with a ‘pod screw mount. Just place your camera back onto the monopod and turn the lever to secure the quick release mount and start your scene. It is literally a one-two movement and you’re back in business. Plus the Tilt Head stays gravity-centered for vertical shots.
I love the 3Pod monopod. It is the perfect ‘pod for me. It’s not bulky and cumbersome like a tripod, nor is it awkward and always in hand like a traditional monopod. It’s also not a pain to setup and adjust like most tripods are. To me, it’s the best of both worlds. It is the monopod that I wish I’d invented, but for $80, who needs the headache of prototyping, crowdfunding, begging for supporters, and wasting a bunch of energy when 3Pod has created the perfect ‘pod.
- Material: Aluminum
- Max Height: 65.5 inches
- Collapsed Height: 23.5 inches
- Weight: 2.2 lb
- Max load: 18 lb
- MountingReversible: 3/8 and 1/4-20
- Leg Lock Type: Flip lock
- Leg Sections: 4
- Tilt Head Tripod mount: 3/8
- Tilt Head Camera mount: Standard ¼-20
- Tilt Head Movement: 180° tilt on a single axis
- Tilt Head Weight: 9.4 oz
- Tilt Head Max Load: 11 lb
Why it’s Frugal: If it isn’t already obvious, the 3Pod monopod-tilt head with quick release is extremely frugal. First, you can buy the pair and save $12.00 (frugal). Second, you don’t have to carry a tripod and a monopod everywhere you go and fumble around with them–you have a monopod that can stand alone (frugal). And third, you don’t have to have another person with you to handle the camera while you go stand in front for an introduction, an interview, or a focus (frugal). It’s the best $80 you’ll ever spend on photography equipment.
As you can see in the video, Joseph and I both love the monopod. We fight over it and it’s hard to pry it from our grubby hands once one of us has it in possession. Seriously, it’s that good. For serious photographers and videographers at any level, this monopod beats any that I’ve ever used or seen. And yes, I’ve used the one that you’ve heard of (Sounds like a character from Lord of the Rings) and this one beats it many times over. The build quality is excellent. The quick release latches are easy to use and quick to adjust. No slips, no tips, and no lost cameras.
Recommendation: Buy the bundle, save a small bundle, and enjoy your new favorite and essential accessory.
The first thing I need to tell/warn you about is that you should NOT purchase this from Amazon. On Amazon, it’s $29.99 plus $21.00 for shipping. Purchase this from the Secur Products web site for $34.99 and free shipping. I’ve reviewed other Secur products on The Frugal Networker and I’ve never been disappointed with any of them. They always do what they say they’ll do and the build quality is superior. None of the Secur products that I’ve tested have ever failed or broken–even after multiple years of use. The SP-4003 Six-in-One (6in1) is no different. It is a superb product that does more than just charge your mobile phone when plugged into your car.
The 6in1 is a must have device for anyone who travels any distance at all on a regular basis. It is an emergency tool and you can keep your mobile phone charged on the way. It has a flashlight, an emergency flashing beacon, a seatbelt cutter, a window breaker, and a USB port. If it also functioned as a wallet, you wouldn’t need anything else.
- Car Charger: Gives You a USB Outlet from Your Cigarette Lighter
- Power Bank: Removable 2000 mAh Power Bank
- High Power LED Flashlight
- Flashing Red Emergency Light
- Emergency Window Breaker
- Emergency Seat Belt Cutter
The 6in1 is so good that my videographer, Joseph, “borrowed” it and then gave it to his daughter to take with her on her drive to school in California. He felt that it would make her safer on the long trek halfway across the country. Good dad. Bad reviewer. Hence we have no video review of the product. However, the fact that he took the device from the review queue and gave it to his daughter says something about how good the product really is. In fact, here is Joseph’s statement about the 6in1 after it hit the “next in line” in our review queue:
My daughter and I have been using this product for the last month. She just drove from Oklahoma to her college in LA. As a dad, this was the perfect item for her to have in her car at all times, because I knew if she had any troubles she could cut off her seatbelt quickly. Also, she did not have a reason she could tell me her battery was dead on her cell phone.
As she drove cross country, she was able to utilize the charger for her phone while she was navigating the highways from Oklahoma to California. While driving, we could use the flashlight and not turn on the overhead light in the car which would cause distraction to the driver. We were able to find change that had dropped on the floorboard much quicker.
Once the phone was dead it took the normal amount of time to recharge the phone from the device. The other feature that’s available on the charger also put me at ease is the window breaking tool, which we did not test, but I know she has that it if she were to get trapped. She carries the 6in1 in her Coach handbag. One other feature I liked being a dad, was that it has an emergency red blinking light.
I feel better knowing she has this device on her person while she is living in California away from me here in Oklahoma. She rides the bus, trains, and Uber, so I know she can get a quick charge on her phone and use it to get herself out of harm’s way if needed. The 6in1 does not take up much space in her hand bag; it fits perfectly next to the can of mace I gave her.
There you have a testimonial from a happy customer.
- 12 Volt cigarette lighter charger
- 1000 mA USB charging port
- 2200 mAh lithium battery power bank
- 150 Lumen LED flashlight – 4 hours with full charge
- Flashing red emergency light – 10 hours with full charge
- Green LED four level battery power level indicator
- Shock resistant case
- 1.5″ x 4.5″ x 1″ diameter
- 3 oz
Why it’s Frugal: The Six-in-One Charger is frugal because it is a multifunction device for the same price as many single function chargers on the market. For $35, you can have peace of mind and a charge for your mobile phone, no matter where you are. The peace of mind alone is worth far more than $35. Just ask Joseph.
I’m not sure that I can say more than Joseph did in his testimonial. But to summarize, the 6in1 is a safety device and a charger. You can charge your mobile device while driving or while walking, watching a football game, or taking a bus ride. And you can find your keys in the dark, cut your way out of a bad situation, or break glass in case of whatever. I’d say that the 6in1 is a premium device that is well worth the money.
Recommendation: Buy one for yourself and for anyone you care about.
The EasyAcc 2nd Generation Brilliant 10,000mAh Power Bank (10K PB) is a portable, high capacity USB charger for your smartphones, tablets, and other USB-chargeable devices. Weighing in at eight ounces, it is a lightweight, go anywhere charger that provides multiple smartphone charges, one full large tablet charge, and power for multiple devices at once. Never be without power for your devices again with the 10K PB.
The video showcases both the 10,000mAh Power Bank and the 20,000mAh Monster Power Bank.
- Capacity: 10,000mAh x 3.7V=37.Wh
- Battery type: Li-polymer rechargeable battery cell
- Input: DC 5V 2A
- Output: DC 5V 2.4A (max)
- Size: 5.67 x 2.95 x 0.58 inch / 144 x 75 x 14.8 mm
- Weight: 7.97 oz / 226 g
It’s hard to remember a time before smartphones. It’s even harder to remember a time before cellular technology for most of us. And now to continually use a smartphone without access to extra power is going to be hard to remember in a couple of years. You can get the jump on those fading memories with a portable charger and the 10K PB fits your budget and your travel gear perfectly. At only $17.99 from Amazon (Prime), you can have it in two days (or less), and have all the power you need in every location and at every event from now on.
Why limit yourself to a few hours of smartphone usage during the day when you can have power any time you need it and anywhere you need it? You don’t have to turn off your phone or run it on power save mode anymore. Enjoy full access to cellular, WiFi, app stores, and the Internet with all the power you’ll ever need.
What is Included:
- 1 x EasyAcc Power Bank 10000mAh
- 1 x Micro USB Charging Cable
- 1 x User Manual
- 18 months warranty and provide friendly, easy-to-reach support
Just remember to plug in the 10K PB at night, using the included microUSB cable to replenish your portable Power Bank.
I’ve used the 10K PB for a couple of months now and can tell you first hand that it does what it says–it provides a lot of power in a small package. I’m never without mine. I’ve used it at events. My wife has used it to power up her ever-present smartphone. My daughter has used it to power her iPad mini and her smartphone multiple times.
The 10K PB can recharge a device multiple times–so many in fact that I forget that my daughter has it. And then days later she brings it to me to be recharged. So, the 10K PB is a wife-approved, teenager-approved USB charging unit. No complaints from them means the product scores major points.
Why it’s Frugal: The EasyAcc Power Bank 10,000mAh is frugal because it provides something that you can’t get at any price when you don’t have access to an AC power outlet. Plus, its capacity allows you to power up multiple devices or one device multiple times. You can take it anywhere and use it. It’s well made and perfectly priced for any budget. Frugal.
The EasyAcc Power Bank 10,000mAh and it’s big brother, the EasyAcc Monster 20,000mAh Power Bank ($35.99 Amazon (Prime)) are both must have devices. When you can’t be without power and you also can’t be tethered to an AC outlet for hours, then you need portable power and these two will do the job with no complaints.
Recommendation: Buy one or more immediately. You gotta have the power.
The EasyAcc DP100 Bluetooth 4.0 Portable Speaker (DP100) is a small (2.6 x 2.6 x 3.8 inches), coffee cup-sized speaker that is one cool sound machine. The DP100 sports a full 4 Watt 45mm driver that can turn any room into a fully immersed music experience. But please don’t damage your hearing or disturb your neighbors with this speaker. Now this speaker won’t vibrate the car next to you at a traffic light, but it does put out some great volume. And its small size means that it’s ultraportable and easy to carry with you on camping trips, day trips, picnics, and on the days when you can have lunch outside at work.
- MicroUSB charging
- 2,200 mAh capacity
- Up to 25 hours of continuous play time
- 10.6 ounces
- Phone answering
- 4 Watts
- 30m/100ft unobstructed connectivity distance.
The DP100 pairs in seconds as you can see on the video, so no matter where you are or who you’re with, someone can connect to the speaker for shared play. You can control volume and all music controls via the soft press buttons on top of the unit. You can also control the speaker from your phone.
At home or in an office, the Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity limitation might be the standard 10m/30ft, but outside where there are no walls or metal frames, you can be separated by 30m/100ft. The cool thing is that you can still hear the speaker at that distance.
EasyAcc makes some great products and the DP100 is no exception. Look for other EasyAcc product reviews here on The Frugal Networker site. Every product from EasyAcc is well made, performs very well, and is priced perfectly.
Why it’s Frugal: The DP100 is frugal because it is a lot of product for a little money. Its solid construction, long battery life, and big sound means that you can keep this little gem for years of enjoyment and that’s frugal.
Check out the video for a good review of what’s in the box, a demonstration of the speedy Bluetooth connectivity, and a good sound sample. I really like the DP100, but did find that I have trouble with the controls. It’s possible that I just haven’t taken the time to learn the controls, but I haven’t really needed to use them either, so it’s a tradeoff. Read the included documentation to find out how to use the device and you’ll be happy. The DP100 is a great little speaker at a great price and it makes a great gift and a nice stocking stuffer.
Recommendation: Buy it. It’s good frugal fun.