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Field Report: Blue Mouse
The quest for the perfect announce microphone has driven dozens of designers to distraction. How to accommodate the proximity of the announcer who wants to rest his upper lip on the microphone, and still make it sound good for shy people who stay a foot away?
Mainstream manufacturers and boutique tweakers alike are striving to find the perfect tonal emphasis to create the next old faithful. One of the latest entries is from Blue Microphones. It is called the Mouse.
For starters, discard any previous associations you have for the word mouse. This mic is no kin to the mic mouse foam screens sold for mics resting on floors or tabletops. And it's not a mic that doubles as a mouse for the now-inevitable computer in the control room. Instead, it's a clever way to rig a large condenser mic diaphragm in a swivel yoke that gets the mic element out of the housing and into the air. If they were trying to be more visually descriptive, they could have called it the ¡°Biscuit in a Slingshot¡± mic, but imagine silkscreening that on the side of the mic.
Swiveling the capsule allows the mic to be used as a side-address or end-address or anywhere in between. This provides positioning flexibility. Two tiny stubs prevent turning the capsule through more than one rotation, to protect the wiring that links the capsule to the body.
|Performance at a glance|
20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
Shock mount and pop filter available
Transformer or transformerless outputs
Although the capsule can pivot in the yoke, the yoke is firmly attached to a cylindrical metal body about the size of a soup can, so any rotation in other directions must be done by moving the mic body.
At the opposite end of the body is an XLR output jack, plus a handy ¨ý" threaded hole for easy attachment to a boom arm or floor stand. This mount is serviceable for quick setups, but for greater isolation from structure-borne noise use the optional elastic spider-web shock mount. This cage needs to be strong enough to support the weight of the mic, which is equipped with a hefty output transformer; so generic isolation mounts probably wouldn't be much help. Visually the mic is low profile, but it's no lightweight contender. The Mouse is also available in a transformerless model.
The mic was installed in Studio 4B, home base of NPR's Performance Today and other music shows. PT host Fred Child put the mic through its paces alongside that studio's old faithful host mic, a Neumann U87, which has had aftermarket optimizations for announcer voice by microphone guru Klaus Heyne. The immediate results were impressive. The Blue Mouse provided a tailored response similar to the modified U87. The Mouse had somewhat more bottom in the lower bass voice register, and the placement of its presence boost was a bit higher up the frequency spectrum than its counterpart.
Also available are an optional shock mount and pop filter.
Its output was lower than the Heyne-mod U87, needing 6dB more mic preamp gain for equal subjective loudness, but its self-noise was still inaudible after raising the gain. The lower output would be an advantage for many broadcast consoles where preamp clipping is a greater concern than noise when dealing with close-miked voices.
But the most important factor was that Fred sounded clear, warm and assured, just like we want him to sound. Having passed that test and listening trials with other voices, the Mouse took to the road with Performance Today for an interview/music performance taping with the Shanghai String Quartet at the studios of public radio member station WCVE in Richmond, VA. Here, the mic would be used for Fred's hosting voice in front of a studio audience.Performing live
The Mouse has an optional accessory pop screen to diffuse the focused windblasts of popping Ps and other plosive consonants, but this wasn't included with the review mic. After our initial checks in Richmond, I opted not to add a generic mesh screen in front of the mic, and instead miked Fred from a bit off to the side, out of the fairly narrow range of his plosive blasts. In a couple of instances Fred caught me (and the mic) by surprise, turning directly into the mic just as he let out a loud breathy laugh. But apart from those moments, the mic did fine with only its built-in pop protection. Note for future use: get the stylish-looking custom screen or use a generic mesh pop stopper.
Typically we're miking spoken voices at 6" to 8" distance, with the mic about 30 degrees off the axis of the mouth, but with the mouth on the axis of the mic capsule. To see how the mic would fare in the more typical jock announce environment, I performed listening tests with the voice much closer to the mic.
The proximity effect of the mic behaved well when worked as close as 3", with the bass buildup becoming more noticeable, but not overwhelming the tone of the voice. Worked closer than that, the mic started sounding a bit tubby on male voice. For such close miking, some bass response tailoring may be needed to compensate for the proximity effect. No roll-off switch is provided on the mic.
Overall, this mic brings the sonic advantages of a large diaphragm cardioid condenser in a much lower profile package than many of its competitors. That's a virtue for studios where many mics block the announcers' line of sight to their scripts. Also, its tailored response makes it useful for many instrumental miking needs as well as great-sounding announcers.
Williams is the technical director for music and entertainment programs at National Public Radio in Washington.
Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.
These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.
It is the responsibility of Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.
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