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Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone, Cardioid – Black (Review)

January 17, 2017 Comments off

Blue Snowball iCE USB MicrophoneBlue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone
Blue Microphones
Amazon (Prime) $44.99

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.

Rating: 6/10

Recommendation: Don’t buy it unless you really like having no options and a mediocre microphone. Opt instead for the Blue Yeti.

Hammer & Anvil MK-SLR100 Directional Condenser Microphone (Review)

July 15, 2016 Comments off

Hammer & Anvil MK SLR100Hammer & Anvil MK-SLR100 Directional Condenser Microphone
Adorama.com
$39.95

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)
Dimensions:    109x75x45mm
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.

HAAMKSLR100 with Pop screenThe 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.

Rating: 8/10
Recommendation: Buy it for all your general video creation needs. It’s not a pro-grade microphone, but it’s darn nice for $40.

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