Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Snowing Blue Balls

Thanks to those who commented on the microphone.

I did not hear back from either Sweetwater or Blue about the China manufacture issue.

It would be interesting to compare the Snowball made in Latvia with the Snowball made in China. Does the Latvian one have a metal housing?

I guess it was unrealistic of me to expect to pay $159 for what I thought I was getting, which was a mic with the build quality I've seen in the other Blue products.

Now that I have actually used the Snowball for recording, I find that the result seems to have more noise than I expected. In fact, recording digitally for podcasting by using a USB microphone is tempting me to just go back to a conventional microphone, record to casette tape, and then digitize that. It seems like the result might have less noise. I'm not expecting a completely professional result from my low-budget home setup, but it seems like it should sound better than what I'm getting.

The noise is not my laptop -- the frequency is wrong. It sounds like a blower, but we don't have forced air. It isn't my mouth-breathing or swallowing or my whistling stuffed-up nose (although the microphone picks up those unflattering sounds quite well). It doesn't sound like the cyclic digital signal "leakage" noise that I hear from the iMic.

Also, although the Snowball is very sensitive, I'm not really satisfied with the vocal level I'm getting from it. I am having to normalize after recording, which boosts the noise as well. I have tried using Audacity's trainable noise filter, but even on its lowest setting, the result (although it has much less noise) sounds really swooshy, like it is going through a flanger. Useful for a special effect, maybe, but not for an hour-long reading.

I may have to put the Snowball on a conventional mic stand to get it closer to my mouth. A conventional mic stand is an attractive nuisance, inviting the baby to pull it over, while the little mic stand that came with the Snowball is less so, and even if she knocks it over, it doesn't have far to fall. I thought I'd be able to use this design more like a tabletop mic, a little less intrusively, setting it a little farther from my mouth, and still get an adequate level. This is with the omni capsule (setting 3) which by experimentation seemed the loudest, although I should try the others again to see if they provide a more consistent level.

The software issue is becoming a pain, too. I'd like to use Audacity, but it behaves inconsistently and is lacking some mouse control features that make editing bearable. I've been testing Freeverse Software's Sound Studio 3, which edits quite nicely, but a license costs $80, and that is enough to make me think hard about it. That's more than iLife '06, although I don't think I could manage to get iLife installed on my ancient laptop.

I'm also trying not to let the perfect vanquish the good-enough. My goal is to get one or two recordings done and see if anyone likes them. To that end I'm not obsessing about editing my breath sounds, just my coughs. But I don't want possible listeners to delete the track as soon as it starts, because of terrible sound quality.

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