As you may expect from Blue Microphones, its new en-CORE 300 handheld cardioid condenser microphone for live applications is a visually striking product with unique features that convey a true understanding of its potential users, especially geared toward use with modern vocalists of all types — "unique" in that it was obviously designed with special considerations for hip-hop MCs and artists with similar vocal delivery types.
We reviewed the series' first two models — the en-CORE 100 and 200 — with great results in early 2010.
The en-CORE 300 offers a relatively flat 40 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response with some key peaks and valleys: a dip between 100 and 250 Hz; a slow rising bump between 500 Hz and 4.5 kHz; a slight dip at 5 kHz, then another larger dip at 10 kHz; and finally a big bump (+7 dB rise) to 15 kHz. As such, the en-CORE 300 offers a carefully carved response for smooth vocal transduction with a nice, open top end. Maximum SPL is 146 dB; output impedance is 25 ohms; and sensitivity is 11 mV/Pa (Blue's specs). The mic weighs 0.9 lbs. and measures 7.9 inches long and from 0.9 to 2 inches in circumference.
The en-CORE 300 feels sturdy in the hand and looks downright handsome and classy — with strong, defined physical features that make it unmistakably Blue. It comes with a flexible, oversized mic clip and a well-made cotton canvas transport bag lined with blue faux fur for padded protection: typical neat, well-conceived packaging from Blue. Like all other Bluemanufactured products, the en-CORE 300 is covered by a 2-year full warranty.
Upon plugging in the en-CORE 300 to a phantom-powered input on a Mackie Onyx preamp, its white oval suddenly glows blue, which —other than looking very cool on a dark stage — lets the user know the mic is ready for action. Its first application was on lead vocal on an old-school, R&B-style crooner with a wide dynamic range, a deep chesty bass, and the kind of detailed diction that just sounds superb with a condenser mic like this. After one soundcheck, the vocalist commented that his vocal sound "really nice, like a studio track," reminding me of comments I'd repeatedly heard years ago when auditioning premium, live cardioid condensers for the first time. I agreed, too; having a condenser available for at least lead vocal in a live setting adds that special sparkle and aural spotlight to the most crucial element of a live mix. I also used the mic on other lead vocalists, background vocalists, and even on a guitar cabinet, the latter of which was especially sparkly, cutting and comparably bright. I feel that the en-CORE 300 cries out for adventurous experimental applications, both studio and live.
In Blue's literature, the en-CORE's "proprietary floating capsule mount" is touted, and the mic reveals very little handling noise. And regarding its "MC-friendly" design, as mentioned above, the windscreen is designed so that, no matter how you hold it, it's nearly impossible to "cup the mic" to the point of severe frequency-response degradation. Believe me, I tried (but you won't want to hear my attempts; I'm no Zack de la Rocha). For that reason, engineers will be happy to let those performers that grip mics in that manner do their thing, as they can still provide the audience with a surprisingly full, crisp vocal.
My only criticism of the en-CORE 300 is in the potential vulnerability of its windscreen's "Saturn ring." When dropped — and as a live mic, it's going to happen — the en-CORE 300 ring may solidly hit the floor. Time after time, dropped on hard surfaces such as concrete, I believe that the beautiful en-CORE 300's ring would soon look rather beat — it being such a focal point of the mic — and maybe become even rough to the touch, as diecast metal can pock-mark rather easily when dropped. For that reason, I'd suggest that Blue consider "rubberizing" the ring itself. Alternately, users may get creative and add their own rubber surround.
The en-CORE 300 is a very good condenser microphone for live applications featuring some unique design elements for a very affordable price. In hand or on a mic stand, the en-CORE 300 should aesthetically and aurally impress your talent as well as their audiences.
Contact: Blue Microphones | 818-879-5200 | bluemic.com
Strother Bullins is the reviews and features editor for Pro Audio Review