What would we get if we convinced a top microphone manufacturer to build the ultimate microphone and then surround it with all the proper flexibilities (e.g., multiple capsules, a power supply with adjustable sensitivity and fool-proof cartage)? If Blue were the manufacturer in question, we’d get the Bottle Locker, a comprehensive tube microphone kit.
The package is built around the legendary Bottle mic, quite possibly the largest mic I’ve ever seen (16 inches in length and nearly four pounds). This over-sized cylinder houses no-compromise electronics, which take up lots of room even without any circuitry for input attenuation (pad), filtering (high pass, nor low) or polar pattern circuitry. Rather, bottle patterns are changed by selecting the appropriate capsule then attaching it to the Bottle’s shaft via sleeve and locking pin. These capsules—nine available in total—are hot-swappable, or switchable without powering down. Numerous caps are available: large diaphragm cardioids in a variety of frequency responses and flavors as well as omni, figure-8 and small diaphragm offerings.
The Bottle Locker’s power supply operates with a slow power-up process that ensures proper operating temperature, with a super-beefy multi-pin cable and variable sensitivity featuring a total of nine settings. The Bottle Locker includes a large Pelican case that very securely houses the mic, power supply, cable and four capsules. For this review, Blue provided its B0, B6, B7 and B8 capsules—all large diaphragm, cardioid caps with varying response.
The first word that comes to mind for this Locker is “large,” as everything contained here is big and robust. A truly professional-level stand is absolutely necessary for this rig, as is a superlative boom; the Bottle is so very tall that, when placed upon a typical stand, the capsule is too high for singers any shorter than six feet tall. I found that I had to boom the Bottle in from the side, to lower it sufficiently, thus requiring ample support for its nearly 4 lb. heft.
Using the Bottle’s multi-pin cable just makes me happy. It is built so thick, well-shielded and heavily jacketed that I can’t imagine how I could damage it. It was actually long enough to run the power supply in the control room where I could adjust sensitivity while the talent stayed in iso.
I immediately was impressed by the power supply, too. Yes, its bold look makes clients “ooh” and “ahh,” but the solid feel, heavy weight and slow power-up got my attention. However, its multiple provided sensitivities weren’t terribly useful to me; the Bottle handled both high SPLs and quiet sources quite well in the nominal position. But a little extra flexibility never hurts, so the feature is welcome.
At first, I was skeptical of the capsule hot-swapping but grew comfortable with it. They can indeed be hot swapped, but regardless, please mute monitoring as there are loud pops and some hum as you re-connect. Oddly, this mounting shaft swivels and tilts if one applies non-perpendicular force when mounting a capsule, but it swivels back into place with no harm done. Listen to this audio clip detailing the ease of hot-swapping capsules on the Bottle.
The sound, you ask? In a word, it is “pristine.” The Bottle makes many other LDC choices sound “colored,” possibly slightly distorted and not nearly as sensitive to detail. In using the Bottle, there is purity of detail gained that goes well beyond translating frequency response. It’s as if the Bottle’s electronics are totally neutral, introducing no distortion and no dynamic influence, all without imparting nonlinearities. Therefore it feels as if the capsules impart all, if any, of the coloring and artistry while the Bottle simply conveys the information.
I was provided with four large-diaphragm, cardioid caps—Blue’s vocal collection, in my estimation. The B0 (tuned high, like a Blueberry) has big bottom and big top for a big modern sound (according to Blue); I concur and found this cap great to “bring the hype.” The B6 was quite sensitive, but with a little less top and bottom than the B0. The B7 was unique within the lot, with an unmistakably classic sound. Its pronounced mids, warm bottom and comparatively subdued top-end sounded rather close to a Neumann U67—close enough that an old-school male vocalist immediately gave my the “thumbs up” through the glass within seconds of donning the cans. Finally, the B8 was my all-around favorite cap. It had a naturally flatter response curve and a more forgiving nature; if I had no idea what to put up before a mystery client arrived, I’d start with the B8 and know that at least I couldn’t go wrong with so much versatility and grace.
In all, I applied a nice swath of inputs with the Bottle Locker: male vocals, female vocals, cajon, acoustic guitar, a nine-foot Steinway piano (in a gorgeous room), drum kit (lots of luck trying to get the Bottle in close on a single drum—I tried), congas and some percussion. Basically, the Bottle itself was always a good choice, as clean, open and neutral is nearly always desirable; it was the capsules that were ideal or not for a given job and, given the wide range of caps available, I’d say that the Bottle would be an ideal transducer choice for any input an engineer might encounter. Strong words? Yes. Then again, at $5,999, you should expect nothing less.