Well, I never thought I’d be writing about blue balls. You know, nothing about blue balls sounds good to me. Okay, now that I have gotten that out of my system I can honestly tell you that the newest release from the BLUE Microphone Company is the Ball. And unlike the previous statement it does sound good!
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, studio, broadcast
Key Features: Cardioid pattern; dynamic element; round body
Contact: BLUE at 805-879-5200, Web Site.
This blue sphere called the Ball is BLUE’s first dynamic microphone. Oddly it is a phantom powered dynamic. Yes, a dynamic mic that requires 48V phantom power. The Ball has a proprietary active Class A buffer amplifier in its output stage. This circuit maintains a constant pure-resistive 50 ohm load across the useable frequency spectrum. Since it is a dynamic mic, it can withstand extremely high sound pressure levels unlike the standard condensers that require phantom power.
The BLUE Ball has a cardioid pattern and frequency response from 35 Hz to 16 kHz. It can handle a maximum SPL of 162 dB yet maintains the constant output impedance of 50 ohms. The Ball is a very versatile microphone for use in studio and live applications. Mounting is simple on a standard mic stand and the Ball has a swivel mount for optimum positioning. It also has a red indicator light for the presence of 48V phantom power – all this for a price most can easily afford.
I had the opportunity to use the ball on many different instruments while working with a pit band for a local play. I “threw” the ball at everything from kick drum, snare, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and yes, even vocals. Although most of the musicians looked at the Ball like it was from outer space, they loved the Ball once they heard it. Now I know from BLUE’s product line that they like to be more on the artsy side of the spectrum when it comes to the look of their mics. This is good as long as the performance (i.e. the sound) of their products is good. In this case, it both looks and sounds good.
I was expecting the sound of a standard dynamic mic with a smoother output but I heard a lot more than that. On the horn section I was happy to hear all of the warmth and clarity I wanted with the tonal quality of an expensive studio condenser. The trumpet and saxophone cut through in the mix with ease, and with less erratic gain movement. I was less impressed with the trombone sound, yet could not totally attribute this to the Ball due to a musician who did not always play to the mic.
When it came to the kick drum, I was pleased to hear the punchy nature I was looking for although it felt a little lacking in the sub (ultralow end) frequencies. I like a good thud and rumble at 63 Hz to really move the subs. It did do well when I added it artificially at the board EQ. The other point to note was that placement inside the kick drum was easier than any other mic I have ever used due to the swiveling mount. As far as the snare drum, the placement of the mic was more difficult. The Ball has a rather large radius so squeezing it in a crowded trap kit at the snare was a bit of a challenge. The hard work was worth it for the consistence and crispness needed to make a snare sound good. The smooth sound at 2 kHz was just what I wanted to make it stand out and sing.
Now when it comes to vocal mics, as an engineer you should have an arsenal of varying types to use. We can now add the Ball to that arsenal. Although due to it shape and size it is not a mic that I would put out for a lead vocalist in a rock band. I would have the off-stage vocalists for a musical use it. Once again the sound was remarkably smooth with very little “p” popping and breathy wind noise. The only EQ needed was a high-pass filter at 150 Hz and a little 2 dB boost at 3 kHz for some brilliance. Throughout the entire run of the show the Ball found new uses every night. It shined better than some of the “off Broadway” stars.
In all, even thought the Ball might look like Sputnik fell to Earth it is the sound that matters. It is a wonderful sounding, smoothly responsive, and very versatile microphone. The Ball, in all its spherical essence will not take Galileo’s head back off the block, but will be an added tool in my tool box.
Yamaha M2000 console; dbx DriveRack 480 processor; QSC PL1.4, BGW gtc amps; EAW KF300 speakers.