Hands-On Review:BLUE Dragonfly, Blueberry, Mouse, and Baby Bottle Condenser Mics


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I’ve got a serious case of the Blues

By Darius Van Rhuehl
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer

I like to take my time testing a microphone since there are so many variables to deal with before a valid judgment can be made. Basically, you have at least three moving targets to take into account: room characteristics, the mic’s compatibility with different preamps, and most important, placement. However, in the real world, an engineer has only minutes to sort it all out and get a great sound. You have to work fast when the clock is ticking at $250 an hour. Even if you have unlimited time in a home studio, artists quickly lose their inspiration (especially if you’re the artist too), so testing multiple mics and preamps while adrenaline and patience fades is out of the question. That’s why certain mics and preamps became standards in the studio—you put them up and the right sound is there.

First up, the Dragonfly

If I were going to do justice to four Blue mics (I’m a Blue man-groupie), I’d have to place myself under house arrest. Factor in my 20 preamps, the fact that I move mics around like a hazmat team looking for radiation, and we’re looking at a month of marathon sessions.

 

The first mic out of the box was the Dragonfly. I placed it in front of a Koch ST20-C amp, about five or six inches away, fired up the nearest preamp (my trusty A Designs Audio Pacifica), picked up my PRS CE 24, and began recording. This was just to test signal level. I fully planned to start the celebratory peasant dance of the ever-moving mic, followed by a rousing game of preamp roulette. But playback of my test track revealed the best guitar sound I’ve gotten, and in the shortest amount of time ever. Just intuitively placing the Dragonfly in front of the amp gave me the most incredible tone. Okay then, done deal. I could recommend this mic to anyone. Time elapsed: 10 minutes. (I later discovered that the Dragonfly was like sonic cornstarch on thin female vocals. It has an amazing ability to thicken the voice while retaining clarity.)

 

As I mentioned before, I’ll move a mic to find my sound long before I’ll ever think about EQ. Once I have the right distance, I go for angle to fine-tune. To do this, you have to rotate the mic as though there were a line going through the center of the diaphragm or you lose the first component of your sound. Blue obviously made this mic with that in mind. There’s a pin that rotates the capsule so that the diaphragm can "look" up and down. I experimented with this while listening in noise-canceling headphones. It was so easy to craft the tone; a slight turn this way for more treble, a little turn that way for more mids, and so forth—all without having to upset my initial distance placement.

I found my thrill . . . on Blueberry hill

Next up, the Blueberry. It also worked nicely in front of the amp, was great on acoustic guitar, but I was more interested in vocals with this one. My voice is soft and tends to need help coming forward in a mix. Now, bear in mind that in playback, no one likes the sound of his or her own voice (with the possible exception of Rush Limbaugh). But the Blueberry made my voice, wait for it . . . dare I say, likeable; plenty of body, creamy sounding, yet lots of detail. It also had a marvelous way of bringing my vocals forward without being aggressive, which is great when you need an intimate, breathy phrase to be heard without using extreme EQ or exciters. Okay, putting my new vocal mic on the short list and about 20 minutes into testing.

The Mouse that roared

It may look like one, but there’s nothing "Mickey" about the Mouse. Solid build, plenty of heft, and that movable capsule (an essential feature in my mind). This mic begs you to put it in front of a kick drum or bass amp. It offered plenty of low-end body with a highly detailed attack. Just for fun, I put it in front of a monitor and re-recorded a synth kick drum track. Depth for days and the feeling of pushing air is what I got in return, plus a great new trick for adding a live feel to sampled drums. Talking through it yielded another useful application: if you want to speak with the voice of authority, this is your mic. What can I say? The Mouse trapped me, and my short list is getting longer. Time elapsed, 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the combination of Blue mics and the A Designs Pacifica is one of those secret studio discoveries I’ll be keeping to myself . . . oops.

It’s all overheads now, Baby Blue

Next up, Baby Bottles. Didn’t need the sample; I own two of them. Because of their low self-noise and hot output, I use them when I need rock vocals to punch through a heavy mix; to make electric guitars sound huge, and for drum overheads—that’s right, overheads. Baby Bottles are adept at capturing the full kit along with the high-end sizzle of cymbals. What I really like about them is that even though they are cardioid mics, they behave more like omnis, which means more off-axis clarity. That’s why I also use them extensively as room mics. (Ultimately, I found that I preferred the easily adjustable Dragonfly for overheads.)

My Blue heaven

Regarding my time concerns for reviewing four mics: Didn’t need a month. Didn’t need a week. One hour was more than I needed to feel comfortable recommending these mics to anyone, professional or talented amateur. I later discovered the reason it went so quickly. Blue designs and hand-tunes their capsules to be application-specific with final mix in mind. Hence, the quick and easy placement with fine-tuning options, and little or no need to EQ when mixdown comes around. That, by the way, is the hallmark of a superior mic: it gives you all the frequency information to use EQ creatively, rather than forcing you to EQ to make a sound fit.

Blue buy you

Unless you feel the need to get on the forums and waste time getting second opinions from those who might be giants (usually more like 10,000 maniacs), just run out and get yourself some Blue mics and get busy recording. Not to be rude, but if you can’t make a great record with these . . . well, the fact is, you can. It’s that simple. As for my next musical journey, I plan to take my pet Mouse on a trip to Blueberry Hill; takes no time to get there, if we travel by my . . . Dragonfly.

Features & Specs

 

Dragonfly:

  • Rotating head for optimal placement
  • Hand-built capsule
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Integrated elastic shockmount
  • Includes wood storage case
  • Applications: Vocals, electric guitar and bass, drum overheads, percussion, sax, and stringed instruments

Blueberry:

  • Excels at placing vocals at the front of a mix
  • Minimized proximity effect
  • Handbuilt capsule
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Includes cherry box
  • Applications: Vocals, acoustic guitar, hand percussion, drums, high-frequency sources

Mouse:

  • Larger-than-life sound
  • Upper and lower frequency boost, strong presence
  • Rotating head for optimal placement
  • Hand-tuned and tested
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Integrated suspension shockmount
  • Includes cherry box
  • Applications: Kick drum, bass guitar cab, acoustic bass, broadcast voice

Baby Bottle:

  • Based on Blue’s flagship Bottle
  • Handcrafted
  • Solid state, Class A discrete condenser
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Includes custom shockmount and pop filter
  • Applications: Vocals, percussion, and acoustic instruments