Blue’s Snowball microphone is the very definition of simplicity: mount it on the sturdy, height-adjustable tripod stand, plug the thick USB cable into its spherical rear, wait a few seconds while Windows automatically installs the drivers and you’re off. All that’s left is to fire up your preferred audio recording software and start podcasting, playing or singing away to your heart’s content.
Both power and audio are ferried via the USB cable, and the mono recordings are fixed at 16-bit, 44.1KHz. Our Windows 7 Ultimate system recognised the Snowball and installed the drivers almost instantaneously, and in seconds we were able to fire up Windows Sound Recorder and start prattling away.
We also tested it with the free Audacity editor and Sony’s Acid Pro 7. The only downside we found was that we couldn’t get the Snowball to work in conjunction with our E-MU soundcard’s low-latency ASIO drivers; until, that is, we followed Blue’s suggestion of using the free Asio4All program.
Unlike many budget microphones, the Snowball has a handy trick up its bulbous sleeve. A switch at the rear allows switching between cardioid and omni-directional polar patterns. The latter allows the microphone to pick up sound from all around; the former only “hears” what’s right in front of it at full volume.
The omni-directional pattern rewards with crisp, full-bodied recordings packed with surprising amounts of detail. But while the cardioid pattern is great for recording in noisier environments, or particularly loud instruments, the noticeable boost in the upper-midrange occasionally left recordings with a somewhat harsh, nasal quality.
It’s certainly not cheap, but the Snowball is a versatile little devil. Podcasters and bedroom musicians will find the sound quality a noticeable step up from other budget microphones, and the desk-flattering retro design and straightforward ease-of-use make the £62 exc VAT asking price seem really quite reasonable.
I'd call it the best camera for that price. I'd go for it.
FYI, Downsides are:
* Limited lens compatibility (no autofocus motor, so many Nikon lenses won't work)
* Autofocus is slow enough to be completely useless in live view mode (try it in a store)
* Video mode isn't up to par with Canon and friends. You get limited resolution, awkward frame rate, horrible audio (11kHz with low quality built-in microphone, and no microphone input, and the kit lens will give you lots of image stabilizer noise).
Stepping up, Canon 550D is an amazing camera (albeit without the pivot LCD)