Blue Spark Microphone
As modern music has become increasingly computer based, using fewer and fewer recorded sounds, the range of microphones needed to produce to a high level has shrunk – gone are the days of needing an arsenal of microphones to put together anything radio-ready. However the one sound that is pretty much impossible to ‘fake’ in the studio is the sound of the human voice, and thus the one microphone that remains indispensable to any studio is a vocal microphone.
The Blue Spark is aimed squarely at that role. It’s a retro-looking (in a very good way) cardioid condenser that comes in a handsome wooden box with a custom pop-shield and a shock mount. Build quality seems to be very good – overall it’s a really comprehensive package for the price.
The TestMy first test was on male vocals. I lined it up against my go-to vocal microphone, a Pearlman TM1 tube mic, and ran them both through an A-Designs Pacifica. Saying that the Spark was very close to the Pearlman is high praise indeed for a microphone costing a fraction of the price – the TM1 was slightly smoother in the low midrange and a fraction less brittle, but the Spark still captured a very well-focused and ‘finished’ vocal sound. The TM1 has a frequency response that captures a range of vocals extremely well, so judging by the similarities the Spark should be very versatile. Also, because of its medium diaphragm size, it’s less prone to proximity effect than an LDC, which means you can get really close without getting unwanted rumble.
An unusual feature of the Spark is the focus button, which boosts the higher midrange and generally captures a more ‘cutting’ tone, as opposed to the standard, more neutral presentation. Given the amount of processing on modern pop vocals I would have preferred a more pronounced effect, but it’s still a really handy extra that can get you a step closer to a ‘modern’ vocal sound at the push of a button.
Round two was a head-to-head against a Rode Nt1A and a Josephson C42 on acoustic guitar. Here the Spark was a clear winner – sounding, without any processing, like a finished product. It dispensed with the high-end ‘sizzle’ and jangly transients of the Rode and delivered a focused sound with smooth strums and great tone. And while there will always be a use for the C42 to get a bright, sheeny acoustic sound in busy mixes, for general-purpose use I preferred the more natural tone of the Spark, and felt it flattered my acoustic guitar more.The final test was a three-way on trumpet and flugelhorn, against an SM7B and the Pearlman, again through the Pacifica. While my brother (who did the recording) preferred the SM7B for its brighter, more expansive presentation, I really liked the more focussed Spark take – again it sounded finished, like the intro bars to a movie. The Pearlman was very similar to the Spark, but slightly boxier in this application. Both the SM7B and the Spark recordings ended up being used in the mix.
So what’s the overall impression? As a first studio microphone, for vocals and other bits as needed, I think the Blue is awesome for the price. It adds just enough colour to give everything that goes through it a focused, finished tone that I have never heard from a microphone in this price range. It has an uncanny knack of capturing just what you want it to and nothing extra. It’s flexible enough to use on a range of sources without losing the character that makes it so good for vocals. I’d have to go to a significantly higher price bracket to start finding any negatives, and the extras – great looks, great add-ons, and the focus button – make this pretty much a no-brainer at the price.
Price: R 3,505.50 incl. VAT
Supplier: Prosound (Pty) Ltd | Tel: 0861 4SOUND | Web: www.prosound.co.za