Blue has long been a favourite for those looking for USB plug & play solutions, with the Yeti and Snowball models adorning many channels. Some may not know that Blue also has a range of pro XLR products, but with prices running into the many thousands of pounds, along with the additional equipment required, it was simply not an option for most to look any further than USB powered mics.
Now Blue have attempted to bridge that gap and offer an affordable entry into the world of studio quality XLR microphones. The Blue Ember XLR was first showcased at CES 2019 in January and is aimed directly YouTubers and podcasters.
Blue Ember Specifications & Features
|Transducer Type:||Condenser capsule|
|Frequency Response:||38 Hz-20 kHz|
|Output Impedance:||40 ohms|
|Rate Load Impedance:||1k ohm|
|Maximum SPL:||132 dB SPL|
|Power Requirements:||+48V DC Phantom Power|
|Weight:||0.38 kg (0.84 lbs.)|
|Dimensions:||219 mm (L), 38.26 mm (W), 31.91 mm (D)|
- Hand-tuned condenser capsule delivers open, detailed sound
- Premium, high-output electronics for maximum clarity and headroom
- Cardioid polar pattern with excellent off-axis noise rejection
- Compact side-address design fits anywhere and looks great on camera
- Works great with home studio audio interfaces
Blue Ember Closer Look
Nestled inside a big foam brick inside the box, the Ember sits alongside an adjustable mount, which is all you get as far as accessories go. Therefore, you’ll also need an XLR cable, along with a pre-amp to power it…but more of that later.
The styling of the Ember sits perfectly with the other mics you will have seen from Blue, with it having a very retro feel to it. In the hand, it oozes quality, with it’s long cylindrical body finished in a grey-blue metallic paint. All metalwork on the unit has a black chromed finish to it, from the XLR housing, though the side logo and all the way up to the mesh grille. The Ember feels really weighty in the hand too, and tips the scales at 380g.
There are no other features on the mic…no volume controls, no headphone jack, no RGB…and that’s because with this being a pro-style mic, external power is required for it to function. This power measures 48 volts, and is known as “phantom power”. This power is provided by using a mic preamp or a mixer, and prices for these vary wildly depending upon the features present, and the brand you choose.
For the purpose of this review, we used another Blue product called the Icicle. This is essentially a preamp, that turns the condenser mic into a more plug & play experience. For YouTubers starting out with the Ember as their first XLR mic purchase, the Icicle looks a good option. The only downside is the price, coming in at £68 on Amazon UK at the time of the review.
The Icicle basically sits between the Ember and the PC, providing the necessary power required through the XLR cable to the mic, and channelling the sound from the mic via USB to the PC. Whilst the Icicle comes complete with a mini USB cable for the PC connection, you will need to purchase an XLR cable. You can plug the Icicle directly into the Ember, but it makes the already long body of the Ember even longer, and for a few pounds, I’d suggest investing in a cable.
The Blue Ember Review: Performance & Final Verdict
Being a tech & PC gaming related channel, I set up the Ember to resemble what the average streamer setup would look like…the mic directly in front of my face, with my mouse & keyboard behind the mic, in front of my monitors.
The Blue Ember features Cardioid pickup pattern, which means that it takes input from directly to the front side of the mic, whilst eliminating sounds directly behind it… in this case, my keyboard. Even during the most frenzied of gameplay sessions, my teammates said that there was very little pickup from the Cherry MX Browns on my keyboard.
The sound from the Ember itself during recording is extremely crisp and clean. I used it without a pop filter at a distance of around 7 inches, and I was impressed how the grill handled plosives (ie. words containing letters like T & P, when it pops & distorts the sound). If you are going to have the mic closer than this, then a pop filter may be required, but for YouTubers on camera I think this distance is likely to be pretty ideal.
- The cardioid pickup pattern works really well in your typical gaming setup, eliminating almost every hint of keyboard strokes.
- Much cleaner & crisper sound than any USB mic I’ve ever used.
- Does a great job of eliminating pops from plosives.
- It would have been nice for Blue to at least include an XLR cable in the box, especially for those users who are taking their first steps into XLR mics. Even though a mic mount is included, you’ll still need a mic stand or boom arm.
For anyone wanting to get into the world of XLR mics, then the Blue Ember is fantastic value for money at £85 from Amazon.co.uk. During the course of this review I have watched many videos on the benefits & pitfalls of studio quality condenser mics, and I can honestly say I’m intrigued, and will be exploring other products with my own home setup.
For those who have only ever used a USB mic, there is unfortunately more money to be laid out however. As mentioned before, you will need a preamp or mixer to provide the necessary phantom power required. A mic stand or boom arm will also be required, along with an XLR cable to connect the Ember up to the mixer. If all of that seems like too much of an outlay, then a USB mic along the lines of the excellent Blue Yeti Nano is maybe for you.
If you are willing to invest in the extra kit necessary, or indeed already have some already and are on the lookout for a new XLR mic that doesn’t break the bank, yet delivers fantastic sound quality, then I would highly recommend you consider the Blue Ember.
Thanks to Blue for sending a sample of the Ember in for review.