Recording Reviews: Blue Microphones Ember Condenser Microphone Review
Put your best side forward…
Blue Microphones has built up a enviable reputation in professional recording circles. They've also made significant inroads into the consumer market, with products like the USB-equipped Yeti that are targeted at gamers and podcasters. Today we'll be looking at a new microphone from Blue that bridges the gap between the two - the Blue Ember. Part of their Essential Series, it has professional features but a very project studio friendly price.
What You Need To Know
- The Blue Ember is a side address small diaphragm condenser microphone that is intended for podcasting and live streaming, as well as for project studio recording.
- The Ember is an attractive looking microphone, with a blue-gray colored body and black chrome grille and metal accents, including a raised Blue emblem on the front side of the microphone.
- Size-wise, it's larger than I was expecting, measuring 219 mm L x 38.26 mm W x 1.26" D (8.62" L x 1.51" W x 1.26" D), and it weighs 0.38 kg (0.84 lbs).
- The head grille appears to use multiple layers of screen mesh, with a tighter mesh layer covered by a more open one on the outside. This should help reduce p-pops and plosives when singing into it, and in actual use it does seem to reduce them, although using an external pop filter would still be advisable for vocal recording purposes to insure none get through and on to your tracks.
- The Blue Ember uses a hand-tuned custom electret condenser capsule. While most side-address condenser microphones tend to use large diaphragms, the Blue Ember's capsule is 14 mm, placing it squarely into small diaphragm territory.
- Unlike some of Blue's other podcast and streaming-oriented microphones, the Blue Ember eschews a USB connector for its output, and instead uses a professional XLR output that makes it ideal for connecting to computer audio interfaces and mixing consoles.
- The XLR connector is located at the bottom of the microphone, which is also where the threads are for attaching the included metal stand mount. The mount comes with an insert adapter that allows it to be used with European mic stands, or that can be removed for use with American mic stands.
- The Ember has a "tight cardioid" pickup pattern to help reduce pickup of sounds other than the source you're trying to capture. Off-axis rejection is 12.8 dB at 90 degrees.
- According to the folks at Blue, the frequency response is 38 kHz - 20 kHz (+/- 3 dB), and is relatively flat (+/- 1 dB) from 100 Hz - 3 kHz.
- Sensitivity is 12 mV/PA, and the maximum sound pressure level the Blue Ember can handle is 132 dB SPL (1% THD). Output impedance is 40 ohm, and the rated load impedance is 1 k ohm.
- The Blue Ember has a signal to noise ratio of 73 dB, and a self-noise rating of 19 dB (A-weighted), which is quite reasonable for an affordable small diaphragm condenser mic.
- The overall sound is fairly bright and open. There is some proximity effect when you move in close, which can be beneficial if you're trying to add weight and body to a vocalist - whether they be a singer or announcer.
- The Ember works well on the types of sound sources most often encountered when podcasting, live streaming, or when tracking music in a home studio - male and female vocals, acoustic guitars and electric guitar amps, acoustic piano - with a maximum 132 dB SPL handling capability, it can even tackle high volume sources like drums. I tried a pair as stereo overheads on my five piece kit, and was pleased to find that despite the very reasonable price, they work fine in that application - especially if supplemented with up-close mics on snare and kick.
- Unlike USB-equipped microphones, the Ember is designed to interface with professional audio equipment. Since it has an XLR output, it requires a mixer, mic preamp or audio interface to connect it to - you can't connect it directly to your computer without additional equipment. Furthermore it requires 48 V phantom power, so you'll need a mixer, mic preamp or audio interface that can properly power it.
- There is no pad or high pass filter switch. Many users won't miss them since the bottom end below 100 Hz drops off gradually anyway, and the mic can already handle fairly hot sound sources, even without a pad.
- No shockmount is included - at this price, one shouldn't be expected, but if you need one, the Blue S3 shockmount is compatible with the Blue Ember - although at $99 "street", the shockmount costs as much as the microphone itself does.
The amount of low-cost yet good-quality recording tools available to the general public today is much higher than at any previous time in history - and the Blue Ember is yet another example of this. It's a very good sounding entry-level general purpose condenser mic that is suitable for a wide range of live and recording purposes, yet at under $100 each, even a pair of them (for stereo applications) isn't going to break the bank.
Blue's unique sense of style is on full display with the Ember's classy looking design. It's sure to turn heads. Additionally, the slender body and side address format means it won't be blocking the view when you use it for live streaming / on-camera purposes. The side address design is rather unusual for small diaphragm condenser microphones, but it makes it super-easy to get it into tight locations, such as when close miking toms and snare drums.
The sound of the Ember is quite good, especially when you consider the low price point. It does tend to sound open and detailed, as Blue claims in some of their ads, with a bit of emphasis on the upper mids and high frequencies, and with a level of definition and transient resolution that most dynamic mics simply can't match.
If you're looking to step up from USB and / or dynamic mics and want a good quality XLR output-equipped condenser mic, you should check out the Blue Ember. It's a very stylish and capable mic that won't bust your budget but that still delivers the goods whenever you need to put your best side forward. -HC-
Want to discuss the Blue Microphones Ember or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Studio Trenches forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Blue Microphones Ember Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone ($99.99 "street")
Blue Microphones product web page
You can purchase the Blue Microphones Ember from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.