Having been on the live/concert side of professional audio for 30-plus years, I have only admired BLUE microphones from afar. Recently, I was sent two new models — the enCORE 100 and the enCORE 200, both dynamic cardioids — marking the company’s entry into the competitive handheld vocal microphone market. Now I personally realize the quality that BLUE builds into its respected mics.
The enCORE 100 has a very well crafted appearance; the main body is gunmetal gray with a banded non-slip finish, threaded to the capsule/ windscreen portion, with a shiny chrome finish. Street price is just under $100. The enCORE 200, a phantom-powered dynamic, is identical in size, but the body is black oxide in color with the same non-slip finish, joined to a shiny coppercolored windscreen. Street price is around $150. The 200 uses the same Aria capsule as the 100 but adds BLUE’s proprietary Active Dynamic Circuit to drive the mic output, providing consistency no matter the cable length. (The sibling to these mics, the 300, utilizes an Aria condenser capsule.)
Both models are emblazoned with a BLUE logo and come with a travel pouch, with “enCORE” nicely silk-screened on the pouch and the model number tag sewn into the pouch seam. Both mics come standard with a threaded clip and product guide.
The manufacturer describes the mics as “studio-grade,” referencing its Aria Capsule-technology, offering a frequency response of 50 Hz to 15 kHz. These BLUE mics are comparable in size to what you might expect for a typical handheld vocal mic, weighing a comfortable, solid .88 lbs.
I used the enCORE 100 first, employing it as my FOH “wring out mic” on a show with Little Big Town, where I provided full production of audio and lighting. I was immediately impressed with the clarity and smoothness of the 100, and compared it to other vocal mics that you might find in a typical concert arsenal. I was hugely impressed with the dexterity of the 100’s vocal warmth and definition. On this particular gig, I also did the same test with the 200 mic. This microphone offered amazing range for vocals; I was immediately enamored of this mic. I compared it to various other vocal mics, even condensers, and found it be among the smoothest I have heard.
I really wanted to see how these mics would behave with conventional wedge monitors on stage, so our next test was at a concert with Las Vegas chieftain, Tony Orlando. Our wedges were Yorkville TX2Ms (12-inch/2-inch, biamped) controlled by our Soundcraft SM20 analog monitor console and Klark Teknik Square One EQs.
The enCORE 100 behaved very nicely with no unexpected frequency issues, and its cardioid pattern made it a pleasure to use. The cardioid pattern is not severe, actually quite forgiving for an artist that likes to hold the mic a foot from his mouth, against his chest. I had plenty of gain before feedback. When the mic was held off-axis, it performed very well with no notable roll-off until about 45 degrees off-center.
I subjected the enCORE 200 to an identical test, finding similar results. It had a hotter output (2.25 mV/Pa vs. the 100’s 1.55 mV/Pa) and was just a pinch hotter in the 4-8 kHz range. The 200 had an uncommon smoothness and warmth in the lower frequencies for talking/singing at very close proximity; I envision it could be used successfully as a radio broadcast microphone for on-air types with deep voices.
I was FOH for this Tony Orlando show, so I had the opportunity to employ both microphones in actual show setting. I had them both placed as BGV mics, one being near the drums and the other near the guitar amp. In both cases, I had no unusual issues with secondary audio sources causing me grief. In fact, I found the rejection of surrounding sources to be quite admirable.
I had a most pleasant experience with these new live mics from BLUE. I found them to provide great clarity and perform with great dexterity through all the vocal tests I conducted. They are exceedingly well built and perform with rock-solid accuracy. I give these microphones my highest recommendation. It’s clear: BLUE does live microphones right.
Will James, owner and chief engineer of Atlantis Audio and Lighting, is a longstanding PAR contributor. www.atlantisaudio.com