Blue Microphones Spark Digital Review - A Stable iOS/USB Mic For Recording On The Way (Part 1)

4/18/2013 9:07:35 AM

Back in January when Blue Microphones made the announcement at CES that the Spark Digital would first be released with two other mobile recording devices. Our interest was immediately aroused by the mic's iOS and USB 2.0 connectivity, which allows it to support the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch via the 30-pin jack. After a long and tiring time of waiting that lasted until a few weeks ago, Blue’s latest product finally arrived. Was the long wait worth it? Does the Spark Digital do a good part to strengthen Blue Microphones’ reputation of its excellent recording products? Please join us as we bring accessories to the test and give you the answers to these questions.

Blue Microphone Spark Digital

Blue Microphone Spark Digital


In Vegas when we tried to make a good quick test on the Spark Digital, we noticed the stable build quaity, which has become a mainstay throughout Blue’s microphone series. This unit is a product of other metals with blue and silver color scheme is quite luxurious. Despite its claims to a studio-quality experience, the device remains comparable in size to a SM57 or SM58, measuring a hair less than 7.5 inches tall and an inch and a half in both width and depth. Of course, its size increases quite a bit once you attach the accessories to the metal stand that's included in the box. Don't let those figures fool you; however, the Spark Digital has much weight. Let's understand it this way: you will know when you've added it to your daily luggage.

Its accessories

Its accessories

On our tour around the device, a combination volume and gain control stays on the front with four LED lights above it that serve as a level indicator. Turning the knob left or right while pushing it mutes the mic. There is also another larger LED on the dial itself that lets you know when you are on mute mode and when the microphone is hot. All of those controls are great, but the plastic button/dial comes off just too easily. It is not attached to any pin to help hold it firmly and it sometimes came off while we were movig. Another built-in switch is an on/off toggle for the Focus Control around the back. Last but not least, a jack lies on the bottom of the unit that accepts both the 30-pin cable for iOS devices and a USB option for connecting to a laptop or desktop.

As we mentioned briefly earlier, the Spark Digital is accompanied by several essential accessories in the box. First, there is a metal desktop stand – which is similar to the Yeti’s hold included for handling accessories throughout the recording time. The base rotates 180 degrees and can be pinned into a position once it is positioned like that. Our only complaint with the microphone stand is that the pedestal on which it is mounted is held firmly by a small bungee cord/rubber band-type rope, acting as a shockmount to keep the microphone safe from vibration. This makes a stand not firm enough when placed in a corner due to the weight of the microphone regardless of the purpose of the holder, even if you will not move it between the recording time. However, if you keep everything vertical, you will not have any problems.

In addition to the stand, other necessary cables are included as well. Again, you can connect via a 30-pin connector or a USB port. The Spark Digital doesn't have a built-in headphone jack like its bigger brother, the Yeti, but it offers said connection along with the cable that connects to your laptop or mobile devices – a pretty nice detail. A soft bag for carrying the mobile recording unit also comes as a standard, along with a second compartment on the inside to keep both of the cables tidy. You may be asking: "a 30-pin connector?" Yes, unfortunately you have read that correctly. In order to use this beast with the latest iPhone, iPad and iPad mini, you'll have to grab an extra adapter to make all the things operate. Perhaps a third cable will soon be introduced for the Lightning connection, but for now, it must be made sure you have picked up that $30 adapter before you intend to record anything.

Software and setup

Blue Microphones made the Spark Digital's setup process extremely simple.

Blue Microphones made the Spark Digital's setup process extremely simple.

Continuing its pattern of the plug-and-play devices, Blue Microphones made the Spark Digital's setup process extremely simple. If you've already installed a couple of recording software for example, GarageBand, StudioMini and others – you are just a plug-in and some clicks in the Settings menu away. The entire process takes you less than a minute, which keeps the focus on actually recording, and not getting the equipment set up and connected. During our time with it, we didn't face any trouble going through the process every time we moved in and out and the fact that GarageBand automatically detected the accessory made the job become even easier.

Let's talk a bit about that Focus Control, is it all right? On the outside, the feature is supposed to enhance recordings for greater clarity and detail when used in the the "Normal" mode, but there is more to it than what has been mentioned. Toggling the Focus Control on will alter the voltage of the microphone's internals (specifically the capsule) and, therefore, alter also the dynamic frequency response. This provides a much deeper change than a filter would do, which does not adjust the unit's signal output. Instead, the input driver takes all of the changes. All of that can be summarized like this: the Focus Control offers two unique options for recording with the same sound quality for each. It's not really a matter of whether either of them works better than the other, but rather of selecting which of the two works best in a given scenario.

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