At first look, Blue’s Baby Bottle SL doesn’t look like much of a “baby”—that is, until you compare it to its behemoth predecessor, The Bottle. I’ve reviewed The Bottle, and it is indeed a testament to “no holds barred engineering.” It’s quite possibly the world’s most versatile microphone. The Baby Bottle SL doesn’t take such a purist (or expensive) route, but still delivers a similarly focused and forward sound.
Blue’s hand-tuned, gold-sputtered, brass back-plated Mylar diaphragm starts the party, coupled with discrete electronics, Class A circuitry, a 100 Hz HPF (-12 dB/octave) and -20 dB pad. The end result is (reportedly) best-in-class self-noise of about 10 dB, SPL handling of up to 134 dB and full bandwith frequency response. A shock mount and wooden storage box completes the package.
The Baby Bottle SL is part of Blue’s new Essential Series; I’m already a fan of Blue’s Hummingbird small-diaphragm condenser with its swiveling head and extended high end response.
Blue calls the Baby Bottle SL its “warmth and presence” model of the line and I agree—yet with the caveat “for an affordable condenser microphone.” I say that because the Baby Bottle SL does indeed sound bright on many sources (acoustic guitar, drums, some vocalists, percussion), but it never quite crosses over into what you could call harsh or brittle. Drum room applications emphasize cymbals, even while there are some kick/toms to pull up with processors. Instrument applications brought forward attack and articulation, with body and resonance, just understated. Vocal applications delivered warm baritones recreated perfectly, even if tenor and soprano vocals aren’t the best match for the Baby Bottle SL.
I really got to know this mic well while using it for a live recording featuring a jam band whose singer really sings his scratch vocals like a keeper take. His warm baritone and Southern drawl made for a smooth sound. His Baby Bottle SL scratch vocals were fantastic, nicely balanced, never crispy, always warm, with plenty of detail and lots of soul. All this was doable with a mere SM58 foam windscreen stretched over the Baby Bottle SL’s head-basket (a perfect fit, actually!) paired with a top-shelf Millennia Media mic preamp/compressor front-end.
Vocals were my favorite via the Baby Bottle SL, yet all the usual stuff worked well with it: guitars, drum overheads, bass guitar cabs, electric guitar (while utilizing its -20 pad), piano, etc. You may need some top or bottom EQ to balance things out, but the Baby Bottle SL’s midrange is trustworthy, as are the microphone’s dynamics.
I can recommend the Baby Bottle SL over most similarly priced condensers for its wider versatility, smoother than-most top-end and an overall purity with low self-noise and low distortion. All those perks may not be “The Bottle” pure, but pretty darn close for only $399 street.
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Charlotte’s Catalyst Recording and has been a long-time Studio Contributor. twitter.com/robtavaglione