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Blue's new Nessie mic has limitations, but will appeal to beginners

Lex Friedman | June 27, 2013
The Blue Nessie looks awesome and has clever features. But Lex Friedman says the audio it captures sounds rather disappointing.

Nessie is a new $100 microphone from Blue, purveyors of fine USB audio devices for the masses. True to Blue's form, Nessie is a slick-looking mic with a design that makes you want to use it. It includes clever features like a built-in pop filter and internal shockmount, and digital audio processing to make capturing great audio easier. That said, I've used many Blue microphones, though, and while Nessie is the coolest in theory, it ranks as my last favorite in practice.

The good
Let's start with Nessie's design, because that's the fun part. The 1.4-pound microphone stands 10 inches tall, and its round base is 3.75 inches in diameter. The base features a steadily glowing LED light, which pulses when the microphone is muted. You can twist the black grooved rim surrounding the base to adjust the volume of headphones you optionally plug in.

From that base rises the long, slender, immoveable neck of Nessie, at the top of which sits the 14mm condenser capsule. The condenser is positioned on a red metal arm that protrudes from Nessie's neck, offering a substantial degree of vertical and angled movement. At its highest position, the condenser increases Nessie's height to 11.25 inches tall.

Because the head pivots vertically on the arm, you can achieve a variety of positions with the microphone; again, though, there's no lateral movement unless you physically pick up and move Nessie. The movement does mean that you can point the microphone up at your face if you're seated, or down at your guitar.

There's a touch-sensitive button at the base of the neck; swipe across it to mute the microphone. This is one case where such a capacitive button makes total sense: It's possible to mute the microphone silently, without capturing the mechanical sounds of button motion. On the back of Nessie is a three-position switch for toggling the mic's mode, along with the headphone jack and the Micro-USB port.

The not-so-good
The three recording modes offered by Nessie are Voice, Music, and Raw. Blue says that Voice mode enables a variety of voiceover processing techniques, and should reduce sibilance. Music mode, the company says, gives more "sparkle" and "up-front detail," especially for acoustic guitars, pianos, or wind instruments. And Raw mode disables all of the Nessie's processing. Here's a quick example of the three different modes using only speaking—though obviously, that's not quite what the Music mode is for:

Both Voice and Music modes are meant to adapt to what you're recording on the fly, automatically adjusting gain and other settings in real time. Only the microphone's software can adjust those settings on Nessie's side; you can't. And that's a problem.

 

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