Communications

Blue Snowball USB Microphone

img

Good low-priced omnidirectional microphone

Years ago my headset broke. Being in need of a new USB microphone but not wanting to spend too much I looked around local classified ads and stumbled over a pretty good deal for a used Blue Snowball.

I knew that the Blue Yeti was pretty popular, and the ratings for the Snowball looked good too so I figured I‘d give it a try. Used as a regular, run-of-the-mill microphone for a single person it’s alright, but nothing special. I‘m pretty sure you‘ll be able to get better for less. Where the Snowball shines is when making use of the little switch on the back where you can change the pickup configuration of the microphone. It comes with three modes – directed pickup, directed pickup -10db for less sensitivity, and omnidirectional. The last one is what truly makes this microphone outstanding in its price class and incredibly useful for any conference-type situation where multiple people are around the microphone.

I have used this microphone placed in the middle of a long table while playing role-playing games with 6-7 people to allow a non-present player to virtually be with us, with him having no problems understanding any of us around the table. At the beginning of this year’s pandemic, my university lab group had to hold a presentation in a lecture hall fitting at least 200 people, but for obvious reasons, only a handful were allowed to be present in person. So I lent my Snowball and placed it on the desk between the lecturer and the present guests.

Despite some sitting easily 12-15 feet away from the microphone, the virtual attendants had no trouble understanding the lecturer, anyone asking questions, or the discussion of the presentation.

Later during the pandemic my workplace was looking for a new conference microphone and given that the professional ones are quite expensive, I brought the Snowball in to test it as a cheaper alternative. I placed it in the middle of our conference room and while facing forward and speaking in a normal loudness walked a circle around the microphone, about 8-10 feet away from it. No matter where I was, and not even speaking in the direction of the microphone, it still picked up everything just fine, which was really impressive, so they got themselves one as well.

When I‘m the only speaker I still fall back on a headset, but the second another person comes into play I‘m happy to pull the Snowball out of its drawer and make use of its omnidirectional pickup pattern. Be aware that the cheaper ICE version is not the same, as it only has a unidirectional recording pattern and is therefore unsuited for omnidirectional recording.

-- Kristian Reinhart 03/23/21