Welcome back to another installment of Musician’s Corner, where we talk about apps and accessories for musicians and music lovers. Last week, we spent some time finding practically every single alternate version of our favorite songs with Remixes. This week, we are going hands-on with Blue Microphone’s Spark Digital.
Recording audio with an iPad can be tricky. The tablet’s internal microphone may be sufficient for recording your kid’s spelling bee, but it is not even slightly useful for recording quality song tracks or capturing warmth and depth from an interview for a podcast. You definitely need a better mic. That is where Blue Microphones comes in. They make top-of-the-line, quality microphones for pretty much all of your audio recording needs. We were lucky enough to get our hands on one of their new Spark Digital microphones and have an in-depth review for you.
Company Name: Blue Microhones
Product Name: Spark Digital
Compatibility: iPad, Mac, PC
Date Reviewed: February 24, 2013
Spark Digital is a cardioid, solid-state condenser microphone that features connectivity for 30-pin connectors and USB 2.0 ports. The weighty microphone measures approximately 7-inches in height and is made with a sturdy metal and chrome housing. Thanks to the included shock-mount stand, you can set up your Spark Digital, plug into your iPad and start making beautiful music quick and easy.
What’s in the Box
The package comes with the Spark Digital microphone, the sturdy shock-mount stand, a USB y-cable with a headphone jack connector, a 30-pin y-cable with a headphone jack connector, and a handy lined drawstring bag with an extra pocket to carry everything in. It also comes with a detailed set-up guide and a redeemable code for Blue’s Cloud Production bundle, which includes six months of free cloud storage on SoundCloud and Gobbler.
The setup for this device is remarkably easy. First, loosen the angle adjustment knobs on the shock mount so that you can easily move the microphone around to find the perfect position. Then, thread the bottom of the Spark Digital through the mount’s base ring. The microphone screws into the base so that you can be assured it won’t fall over when you move it around. Then, tighten the angle adjustment knobs when you’ve positioned it where you want the focus of the audio to record.
Once the microphone is set up on the shock mount, plug either your 30-pin cable or USB cable into the bottom of the device and into either your iPad, Mac or PC. For purposes of this review, we are only going to talk about use with the iPad. Spark Digital will not turn on unless you have a compatible app open and running. This is to ensure that the microphone doesn’t inadvertently drain your device’s battery. When you open a compatible app, like GarageBand for example, the indicator lights on the front of the device will glow blue to let you know it is ready to go.
Spark Digital features a volume control for the headphones and a gain control for the microphone input. The default control setting is for the headphone volume. To access the microphone gain, or sensitivity, depress the control knob for three seconds and then turn the knob to the left or right to get the desired sound. You can also mute the audio by depressing the control knob quickly.
The microphone also features Focus Control, which adjusts the low and high frequencies so you can optimize the sound based on what type of recording you are trying to achieve. When it is off, the sound has a lot of highs. It seems better for recording guitar, singing, and other, louder audio tracks. Activated Focus control has more depth of mid range frequencies, which makes it ideal for recording interviews and podcasts.
Because the microphone is secured to the shock mount, you can use it totally hands-free so you can spend more time adjusting your recording apps and less time getting the microphone in a good spot. The shock mount is sturdy and has a flexible center base that is held together with elastic rope. This allows the device to bounce and jiggle without making a big racket.
The shock mount feature is probably the worst part of this other-wise perfect microphone. The subtle bounce of the device can be heard clearly through the recording.
The included 30-pin and USB y-cables allow you to plug your headphones directly into the microphone so you can hear exactly what is being recorded. The jack also works with playback of sound so you can record a track and listen to it without having to change jacks.
Spark Digital is compatible with any audio or video application, but works best with high-quality recording programs. Blue Microphone recommends the following iOS recording apps:
- The quality of the audio is remarkable. It is ideal for podcasts, interviews, acoustic guitar recordings and vocal tracks.
- The setup is super fast and super easy.
What’s Not Hot
- When the microphone bounces in the shock mount, the movement can be clearly heard through the recording.
- It suffers from serious “P” popping issues. It really needs a pop filter, which you can also buy.
Reviewing this from a musician’s standpoint, Spark Digital is actually better for vocal tracks and acoustic guitars than it is for recording heavy metal or hard rock. That’s not to say you can’t. It’s just that this microphone picks up a lot of mids and highs, which works ideally with softer sounds, like singing.
It is an excellent microphone for such activities as recording interviews and podcasts. Spark Digital picks up vocals with such precise clarity that you’ll feel like you are sitting right next to someone as they whisper in your ear.
Buy now: Get it from Apple’s online retail store for $199.95.
Thanks for stopping by Musician’s Corner. If you have any suggestions for apps or accessories you think we should feature, just drop me a line or leave a comment below.
This week’s Question: What is your favorite external microphone for iOS?