Microphones are an increasingly essential part of a computer. Whether you’re an aspiring podcaster, want voice control or just want to make Skype calls they’re something to be carefully considered. Most systems have a built in mic but it’s usually at best acceptable.
If you’re working at a single desk the answer is a free standing microphone and if you need quality you need a condenser microphone. These have a greater frequency response and transient response than their dynamic counterparts but are usually more expensive. The Blue Microphones Snowball iCE USB Microphone is among the most economic condenser mics available.
When you first see the Snowball iCE the reason for it’s naming is obvious. It looks like Snowball with a couple of speaker grills and the Blue name on the front stuck on a metal tripod stick. The ball has a single LED on the front to indicate if it is live and a single USB port on the back to connect to your PC. The tripod is removable and of a standard screw size so it can be attached to an arm should that be desired.
The Snowball is Plug and Play on Window and Mac computers – plug it in and off you go. It’s really that simple. There are no hardware switches or adjustments possible – this is designed to be simple and provide a consistently good experience optimised for a single user.
I’ve experimented with the Snowball iCE recording a number of types of sound and with the proviso that the source of sound needs to be in front of it and (preferably) from a singular source it gives great quality results. To be clear that means it’s great if you’re talking and playing the guitar but it’ll be somewhat less good (but still better than your built in mic) if you’re trying to record your entire band.
It should be noted that Blue also makes a microphone called the Snowball which looks very similar but is distinctively very different under the covers – they’re easy to confuse!
Price: £46.96 (RRP £69.99)
Included in the box: Snowball iCE Microphone, USB Cable, Tripod
Paid Extras: Pop filter recommended for close up work
About Blue Microphones
Blue Microphones was founded in 1995 and made (and still makes) studio and professional microphones. They were brought on board by Apple when they wanted to make GarageBand in the early 2000s to create a high quality USB microphone and have expanded their range gradually whilst staying deliberately at the top end of the market.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
As a condenser microphone the Snowball iCE is somewhat vulnerable to knocks and sudden movements so it’s best used on a desk or in a stationary environment – this is one for your desk not your bag.
The mic is straightforward to set up. The ball has a single large screw fitting on the base which has the rod screwed into it and then the three tripod legs screw into this. At this point you arrange it in a comfortable position on your desk ideally around a foot and a half away from you, plug in the USB cable and off you go.
I’d recommend adding a pop filter and found this one for £3.30 which clamped onto the stalk perfectly.
The mic has a single LED which lights up to show you when you have an open mic. It’s not possible to disable this and I did find it somewhat distracting until I realised that just putting a sticker over it covered it up.
Condenser microphones are far more economic than they once were but broadcast quality units are still relatively expensive. A very basic unit could be purchased for around £35 but that would not usually include a stand and higher level consumer units go up to several hundred pounds.
Size: 27 x 23 x 14 cm
Item Weight: 798 grams
Operating Systems: Windows or Mac OSX Plug and Play
USB: 6 foot cable, USB 2.0
Input: 16 bit 44.1kHz
The Snowball iCE is a USB microphone and will do best with a direct motherboard connection rather than via a hub. It will however work with a hub although I found that it was unreliable with an unpowered one.
If you are looking to record audio from a single source such as your own spoken word the Snowball iCE is a good choice. It’s simple and straightforward to use and has a decent quality output that will more than suffice for most needs. If you’re looking for a pretty, attention catching mic that you can setup and forget and be sure of decent quality audio the Snowball iCE is the one for you. Recomended.
The review is based on the Blue Microphones Snowball iCE.