Review: Blue 8-Ball Condenser Microphone

A microphone suitable for podcasting, string, and woodwind instruments (August 1st, 2008)

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Blue Microphones

Price: $139.00 US

The Good

  • Good price. Suitable for wide range of recording needs. Strong look. Phantom power LED indicator. Swivel mount provides placement flexibility. The Ringer is an excellent addition.

The Bad

  • Little bass frequency response. No easy way to store it. Connects tightly with Blueberry cord. Large mic setup when using The Ringer.

Whether you're a jammin' music hero, the next great podcast host, or a vocal artist, when you need a high quality consumer microphone with a unique look, look no further than the Blue Microphones 8-Ball. This phantom-powered, spherical cardoid dynamic microphone functions equally well on a variety of mid to high-range instruments and voices.

The Look

This round softball-sized black plastic microphone includes the Blue logo placed loud and proud at the center of the mic. A red LED just above the mic screen indicates that phantom power is activated. Your audio interface's phantom power switch serves as the on and off switch. I ran the 8-Ball through a Native Instruments Audio Kontrol 1 audio interface that has a phantom power switch and the mic worked flawlessly.

Blueberry Cable

Blue Microphones recommends you pair the 8-Ball with the Blueberry 22-AWG High-fidelity XLR Cable, which I used to test the microphone. The Blueberry cord plugs into the back of the 8-Ball so snugly it requires some force to remove it. You have to be careful not to jar the microphone awkwardly when removing the cord; it's like trying to pull a vacuum cleaner cord that is stuck in an old socket away from the wall. I doubt this is good for the lifetime of the 8-Ball, but on the plus side, you never have to worry about the cable dislodging, because it is not a loose cable. The $35.00 Blueberry cord features a 95% tinned copper braided shield and twisted pair construction.

Blueberry cord

The Ringer Universal Shockmount

The 8-Ball swivel mount screws into a standard-sized mic stand thread with no problem, which allows for a back and forth pivot. I also used Blue Microphones mount accessory, The Ringer ($100). This shock mount suspends the microphone centrally, surrounding it in the vertical plane. The vintage style mount is an homage to the iconic microphone mounts of the 1920s. Most suspension mounts today surround a microphone horizontally instead. The Ringer reduces noise from external vibrations, like walking on the floor, or from grabbing the mic, which could transmit up the mic stand. The sturdy tightening mechanisms leave you worry-free from the mount falling out of place. The Ringer swivels 180° which gives even more placement flexibility, since the built-in swivel provides about 30° of directional range.

The Ringer

The Test

In testing the 8-Ball, I played tenor saxophone into GarageBand 4.1.2. The 8-Ball manual explains the different mic placements for woodwind instruments as well as vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboard amplifiers to maximize results in what sound image is recorded. For saxophone it suggests placing the bell slightly below, above, or directly in front to record a different sound image. I found a wide range of sound when recording from different placements. Sound recorded varied from plenty of highs, to all frequencies represented, to no highs, depending on mic placement. The low spectrum was never represented very well. High frequencies came through with varying degrees, so you should choose your placement carefully when you need to highlight the high sounds. If you want to work with low frequencies, this mic doesn't allow for much creative mic placement. Blue Microphones sells The Kickball mic for low frequency sources. I found a similar sound description when playing clarinet and flute into the 8-Ball, except in the highest range of these other instruments you need a lower mic level to reduce the over-powering top octave.

-Ball Three Quarter View

8-Ball Three Quarter View

Podcast Test

In addition to the woodwind instruments, I tested the 8-Ball in a podcast environment. The mic brings a nice sparkle to spoken vocals. In female and male voices it delivers brilliance to the foreground and just enough mid frequencies to provide body to the sound. Again, low frequencies aren't highlighted, so there isn't a boomy feature to the sound, which makes for an attractive spoken sound. I recommend this mic for podcasting as well as for wind instrument recording.

A Good Prosumer Product

I think the 8-Ball acts as a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. Originally released at $279, the reduced price makes it a fine high-end multi-purpose consumer or hobbyist microphone that doubles as a good microphone in multi-mic set-ups. Professionals on a budget will not be disappointed with this mic either. The 8-Ball is not easy to store and is a bit large to leave on a typical mic stand though. For the style-minded user it adds to the shiny metallic look of any Mac-based audio set up. It packs a visual punch when paired with the titanium MacBook or aluminum-enclosed iMac models. Thank you to Dr Bott, LLC., who supplied these evaluation products to MacNN.

Technical Specifications:
  • Transducer Type: Condenser, Pressure Gradient
  • Directional Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 35Hz - 20kHz
  • Sensitivity at 1 kHz into 1kohm: 10mV/Pa.
  • Output Impedance: 50Ω
  • Rated Load Impedance: Not less than 1kΩ
  • Maximum SPL: 150 dB SPL (1kΩ, 1.0% THD)
  • S/N Ratio: 72 dB-A (IEC 651)
  • Noise Level: 22 dB-A (IEC 651)
  • Dynamic Range: 128 dB (@ 2.0kΩ)
  • Power Requirement: +48V DC Phantom Power (IEC 268-15)
  • Power Consumption: 1.5mA
  • Weight: 1.10 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 4" (circumference)




Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Marcus Sholar


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