Spark Digital Overview
The Spark Digital from Blue Microphones is not a completely new design; it’s based on an all-analog version that has been available for a while. The Spark Digital is also not the first USB microphone that Blue has offered; there was the Yeti and the Snowball before it. Two things make the Spark Digital stand out from the others, the full compatibility with the entire Apple product line, including both the new Lightning interface and the old 30-pin connection, and the extremely high sound quality of the overall package.
One of the attractive features of the Spark Digital is the fact that it comes with everything you need to get started, including a high quality desktop stand. Shock mounting is integral and quite effective and no assembly is required for the stand. The microphone body is threaded on the bottom and it screws into a rotating collar on the stand, to create a very secure assembly.
The stand has a sturdy swivel that makes it easy to adjust the angle of the microphone and get the best relationship between the microphone and source. For a typical podcast or voice-over session, the Spark Digital will be tilted back, as shown above, in order to get the most direct path between the speaker and the microphone capsule. It’s important not to get too close to the microphone or you get boomy undertones and an unnatural emphasis on the hard sounds from words that start with plosive consonants such as P, T, or K. In my use, I found that it was best to be between 8″ and 12″ from the microphone to get an accurate, natural representation of my voice. Sometimes you don’t want accurate, you want a particular sound. By changing the distance and angle of the microphone you can make subtle (and not so subtle) changes in how the voice is captured.
Mic location is also an important factor if you are recording a wider range of instruments. Blue gives some advice in the Quick Start manual on almost anything (music related) that you might want to record: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Drums, Saxophones, Flutes, Reed Instruments, Piano, Strings, Acoustic Bass, and Electric Bass. I don’t know of any widely available mixers that accept USB mic inputs, so you’re limited to creating a multi-track recording one track at a time. I really don’t think that’s the intended usage for this product, but it can be done. The target market, for music anyway, is probably the home recorder who won’t go beyond 3-4 tracks anyway. That’s doable with the help of some software like GarageBand.
The Blue Spark Digital comes packaged in recyclable packaging and is well protected with a molded cardboard insert keeping things stable inside the box. You can see that the desktop stand is fully assembled, which is nice. Nothing worse than making a mistake and stripping a screw on a nice casting like this. Then it’s either send it back or go MacGyver on it and living with a hashed up version. The build quality and appearance of the microphone and stand are really nice and they’re meant to be a pleasure to use, so it’s good that I don’t have to rely on my screwdriver skills to turn a bunch of parts into a product.
Let’s look at some of the Blue Microphones Spark Digital features in more detail. The next page has detailed pictures and more in-depth descriptions.