A while back we did an unboxing of the Blue snowball. Now we have used it for a while we can give it a proper review! So, is the snowball worth your money or do you need the Yeti? Also I’ll explain the difference between the snowball and it’s slightly cheaper brother, the snowball iCE.
If you are looking for a good microphone to start a Let’s Play/streaming/YouTube channel or do any style of recording you probably have found the selection to be a bit overwhelming and probably very expensive. (Who knew that microphones could cost so much?) Luckily though, there is a brand that dominates mindshare more than any other which is where we can focus and pretty much be sure to get a quality product. That company is Blue Microphones and from what we have found they are often referenced online as the best microphone you can get for the money. This is what persuaded us to purchase the snowball for ourselves.
If you have done some research you probably know that usually all the reviews focus on their much more expensive Yeti. The Yeti starts at $120 for the standard and over $200 for the Pro. Who has that kind of money to spend on a microphone when you are just starting out? That’s where the snowball comes in.
So if you are like us and don’t want to spend more than 100$ on your first stand alone microphone, Blue offers two cheaper options named snowball and snowball iCE at the $50-60 (USD) price range.
snowball vs snowball iCE
Before we review the snowball it’s very important that we cover the differences between the two models available. So let’s see what you get for the extra 10 or so dollars with the snowball vs the fewer featured iCE.
There is a very key feature available in the snowball that is not part of the iCE. This is omnidirectional pick-up which is enabled with a setting switch(there is no switch on the iCE). What is that? Basically the snowball (NOT the iCE variant) is capable of picking up sound from all directions instead of one direction. Why is this important? It’s very important based on how you plan to use your microphone and how soon you think you may need this feature. being able to record sound from all directions is very useful especially if you will be working with others to record in the same space. This allows you to sit across from one another instead of having to sit next to each other. So it’s perfect for interviews etc. What other group settings can this can be useful for? Multiplayer Let’s Plays for one and anything where you can’t fit everything in front of the microphone that needs to be picked up.
The other notable feature is -10dB pad setting set with the same three position switch that enables omnidirectional recording. This basically restricts how much sound the microphone will pick up by -10dB so you can get clearer sound when in non-optimal recording environment. When using it at your PC, the -10dB was enough to remove some echo and remove the pick up of the fans on my PC under the desk. This does only work on the standard cardioid(single direction) pick up though.
Easy as 1,2,3
The last main functional difference is that it has a switch to enable three modes of recording. The first option is standard single direction recording, the second the single direction recording with -10dB pad and the third activating the omnidirectional feature.
It’s not a major feature, but the snowball comes in a variety of colors to choose from while the iCE only comes in black and white. Some of the other color options are more expensive though, at least on Amazon where I purchased mine from.
The iCE has a fixed, non-adjustable stand while the snowball has an extendable neck. This may or may not be very useful. We rarely extend our snowball for recording and have found that the weight of the microphone and the poor grip of the stand neck adjuster is enough that you can easily push it down without loosening it. It makes me feel as if that will wear out sooner than expected, but honestly, both are designed to sit on your desk or table and if you want the best sound you can opt for a floating mount to have it suspended by cables to reduce vibration entering the mic. We will probably have to upgrade to this sooner than expected just because the added neck adjustment doesn’t seem to work well. It certainly shouldn’t be a reason why you buy the snowball over the snowball iCE.
Now that you know the key differences between the two variants of the snowball let’s talk about how the snowball performs. I assume the iCE will perform similarly as according to the manufacturers web site, the only differences are the ones we listed above. However not having used one I can’t say if there is anything else noticeable, especially with build quality as the iCE does look to be less polished from a visual stand point.
The microphone itself has a solid feel and great build quality. It has enough weight that it feels well make and the finishes are well done with no injection mold lines or detail separation(such as gaps between the chrome Blue logo and the main microphone body). The switch for changing modes is equally well made with no jiggle and a solid feel when sliding between options. You can feel when you have properly selected your desired setting and it makes a nice audible click so you can adjust it without spinning it around to look at it. I think the only place for improvement would be to have lights to show the selected setting, but really that’s just nit picking.
The quality stops with the microphone though which is disappointing. The stand feels incredibly cheap and like an afterthought. It’s nice to have something for it to sit on and use it, but its made of chromed plastic and as I mentioned above, the adjustable stand doesn’t tighten well enough to feel solid. In addition the feet on the stand don’t seem to be designed well for balance as a gentle tug on the USB cord can topple the whole device, especially with the stand fully extended.
Other than the stand, everything else looks and feels professional. You certainly get your monies worth from the microphone itself. Just keep in mind that depending on your taste and how often you bump or pull cords you may want to get a more sturdy stand.
This is a standard USB microphone and should work just about anywhere. It is compatible even with older equipment supporting USB 1.0 so literally any USB port should support it. I would like to note there is a list of supported OS’s which is pretty much and modern Windows and Mac. I haven’t tested it on Linux, but I would guess it would work. I will test this and report back later.
Also, oddly just a line in the features list is that it is compatible with iPads with Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit. This means you can record vocals or podcasts on your tablet while on the go with no need for a laptop. A great feature, but one we haven’t tested as we don’t have this adapter for our iPad.
As we are only in the entry level for mics, you will not get any other form of connectivity other than USB. So you can’t use this with standard music cables. If you need this you will need to look elsewhere.
That said, it does come with it’s own USB cable, although it is a clear/silver braided cord which looks straight out of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. However it is a standard USB B(on the mic) to A(standard PC USB) connection so if you have any old ‘printer’ USB cables lying around those will work just fine if you would prefer a different color or length of cable.
As mentioned in the iCE comparison above, the snowball has a switch with three recording modes. A standard cardoroid pattern, that pattern with a -10dB pad and omnidirectional input. Having these options are great and the -10dB pad and omnidirectional support is well worth the additional $10 for the upgrade. We actually find ourselves using these options more than the standard input.
The microphone records at 44.1kHz/16 bit which although may sound ‘low’ if you have a sound card set to output 24bit 96kHz. However there is nothing to really worry about as my understanding(I haven’t studied up on the technical side more than a brief search) is that this is CD quality sound and if you have ever listened to a CD with high quality speakers/output you should know that this creates very crisp clear audio. The important thing here to note is that it is very clear detailed audio. It is hard to verify this yourself especially if you are only recording your own voice, however as Allyson and I have recorded a number of videos using it we have found that when played back we sound just as we hear each other when conversing. So although not having a full technical understanding to back up why this is good, I can say that from use, it just sounds great. So for those who haven’t a full understanding of audio and all those special descriptors of function, you can safely know that it does make great clear audio and you shouldn’t be disappointed.
In terms of performance I also compared the quality to that which is available on my iPhone5S. If you didn’t know the 5S contains a fantastic microphone and to date we have been using our iPhone’s and it’s built in mic to record our videos and sound clips. We have used it for ‘Let’s Play’ recordings and found no difference in quality between the snowball and the iPhone. However, the major difference is convenience. Being able to record directly to your PC means you can record without worry that your phone will run out of space and that it can automatically be synced to your video(if your software supports it) makes it entirely worth it.
What about recording background noise etc? Well this is all dependent on your environment. The -10dB feature certainly helps in many situations as we have discovered although you can always post process your audio as well. We haven’t done distance testing, but we have used it with onmidirectional recording with three of us on a couch playing a game and it picked up all of us without issue and it sitting about 3 feet in front of the person in the center. So it picks up sound very well.
Bottom line: It works as you would expect, high quality and good range.
If you are looking for an entry level microphone that works as advertised, this is definitely it. High quality, clear sound at a fantastic price. If you are on the fence or feel pressured to buy the more expensive Yeti or other option as that’s what the big YouTube stars use I can safely say don’t waste your money and get the snowball (non-iCE). It has enough features to do all your standard recording activities in the new online world. I would only suggest spending more if you really know you need the extra features and have a full understanding of what those features are and how to properly use them.
If you are interested in learning more about the snowball you can check out the detailed specs on Blue Microphones website here: Blue snowball
If you would like to pick one of these up for yourself, you can find it on Amazon. Click this link to be taken to Amazon.com’s product page for this product: Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone (Textured White)