I can’t help it, but whenever I see some Blue microphones, I always think of ‘War of the Worlds.’ It’s the tripod that does it, I suppose. The subject of this Blue Snowball iCE Review is one of them. They are a unique design but always interesting. Quite functional too.
Blue was set up in 1995 by a Latvian and an American. The Blue is an acronym for Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics. The original founders sold the company in 2008, and it was sold on again in 2013. Logitech bought it in 2018.
They have a distinct styling and are known for that. They should also be recognized, though, as one of the companies that brought a decent quality of recording to the home. With their range of USB microphones, things became possible that weren’t before.
Arguments often rage about their practicality for producing a decent sound. And it has to be said that they can never be as good as expensive studio-level mics. But they serve a very important purpose and fill a growing niche for people who record on a budget, especially podcasters and YouTubers.
So, let’s find out if it could be a great choice for your needs?
The original Snowball has been with us for over 15 years. It was developed after Apple gave Blue a bit of a nudge to manufacture a low-cost condenser mic. Maybe Apple could see into the future, but they already had a Garageband prototype. There needed to be a mic for home use of decent quality that would operate with it if needed.
Also, the rise and invention of home video production and podcasts also lent their weight. Snowball became popular because you no longer needed to go to an expensive recording studio to record a quality vocal, you could do it at home.
The Snowball iCE is a new version but with a difference. Usually, a new version will upgrade features or add new ones. The iCE takes them away in an effort to reduce the price.
So what did they take away from a successful predecessor? The -10dB pad and the omnidirectional capsule. Why? Well, the answer in simple terms, apart from saving money, was probably obvious to them. The Snowball lacked serious gain, so no one ever used the pad, and the omnidirectional option was never really that good or appreciated by users.
There have also been some other little tweaks, in that the sound is now very mid-range heavy.
The Snowball was an acceptable mic in many ways and certainly had its supporters. The Blue Snowball iCE is a risk as follow-ups always are. But especially when you start downgrading its features, justified or otherwise to make it a cheaper buy.
So, let’s take a closer look…
Well, you can hardly say you don’t know who the manufacturer of this microphone is. It is a traditional Blue design and a carbon copy of its predecessor. It still has that strange appeal, though, especially for a mic you will mostly use at home.
It still has its plastic shell, but it is very heavy duty and hard-wearing plastic, so there shouldn’t be a problem with durability. There are no external protruding controls or switches. The only noticeable control is the socket for the USB on the back. Otherwise, it is a plain design.
The stand is the same. We always think these stands are a little flimsy and vulnerable in their construction. USB mics are rather prone to failure if they fall over with any force. It is a reasonably compact mic measuring 10.6 by 5.5 by 9.1 inches and weighs just one pound. It is, therefore, suitable for desktop use.
It is a one condenser mic with a cardioid pattern. As we have already said, this has been scaled back from the original Snowball. It now offers a single recording option. Good for narration and spoken word, but not so good for an interview or where others are involved.
It has a frequency range of 40 –18 kHz and a sample rate of 44.1 kHz/16 bit.
It does have a sturdy grille and behind that a filter to reduce plosives and other unwanted noise. You will, however, still need an external pop filter. As we mentioned, the USB is the only outlet on the body of the mic. There is no mute, volume, or headphone port.
The build quality is adequate and representative of Blue. Not the strongest you will come across. But then it is really designed for home use, where wear and tear and potential falls should be limited.
Blue now calls the original Snowball the “professional quality option.” They refer to the iCE as the “basic quality option.” This identification doesn’t really do the newer mic any favors at all and makes it feel very downmarket.
The Snowball has only got an extra condenser capsule and the pad after all, as well as offering three polar patterns, not one.
For those users who might want a little more from their mic, this is a backward step. We wonder why the original Snowball was not left as the basic option, given it has a base of user support. Then they could have added to that mic and made the iCE the better version.
Bringing the iCE out as a cheaper version smacks of a little desperation that sales are down. What can we do to move more products? Let’s make a cheap version of a mic that already has a reputation. We hope that isn’t the case as Blue has an important place in recording.
However, it is still an easy plug and play device with no drivers to install and a USB 2.0 connection.
So what is this mic capable of? Well, it can give you a reasonably smooth sound and doesn’t generate much distortion. There are, therefore, no harsh, sharp sounds.
We mentioned earlier about the mid-range – this mic is all mid-range. That is great news for vocals.
The EQ curve of this mic it makes quite scary viewing. It takes out the low frequencies and the highs and leaves you with very little else but mid-range. Blue might make the point that the mids are better and more accurate than the original Snowball. They may well be right, but that’s really all there is. The sound is thin and a little woolly.
With the best will in the world, we cannot see this doing well in some situations, especially if someone is singing. Without that touch of low and high, it sounds a bit strange. This is probably going to be good for those who want to skype or facetime, or even for online gaming.
But for Podcasting, voiceovers, and vocals? We are not so sure.
Blue Snowball iCE Pros & Cons
- A significant improvement on a computer microphone.
- Only 44.1kHz/16 bit.
- Lacks low and top-end, and is mainly mid-frequencies.
- Mic stand doesn’t allow for perfect positioning.
More Great Microphone Options
Looking for some excellent microphone options for specific purposes?
If so, check out our reviews of the Best Microphones for Recording Rap Vocals, the Best Condenser Microphones, the Best Vocal Mics, Best Microphones Recording Electric Guitar, the Best Microphones for Youtube, the Best IOS Microphones, the Best USB Microphones, or the Best Dynamic Microphones currently on the market.
If you’re a fan of Blue, you may also enjoy our review of the Blue Baby Bottle.
What Do We Think?
Blue announced this mic as being better than your computer mic. It would be very difficult to be worse, wouldn’t it? Yes, it has Blue’s reliability. Yes, it has a decent build quality and is easy to set up, and yes, it is cheap. But they are the only recommendations we can give it.
We have always appreciated Blue’s efforts to be different and to produce a decent, not high, quality mic at a reasonable price. But with this, they do seem to have lost their way a little.
A microphone needs to produce as good a sound as possible. This mic without any top or bottom frequencies is just lifeless and very dull. We cannot see the point of bringing out a mic that doesn’t perform as well and has fewer features than its predecessor.
The only reason is the cost to the user. But Blue’s mics don’t break the bank in the first place. We cannot really see any reason why you would not spend a little extra and get the “professional quality option,” as Blue describes the original. You can argue it is half the price. In some places, it is. But the Snowball isn’t that expensive in the first place.
If you want just a cheap mic that doesn’t do an awful lot, and you are not relying on decent sound reproduction, it will suffice. If you are looking for a bit of quality, then maybe the original Snowball is going to suit you better.