Provides: Digital voice and instrument recording for Mac and iPad, iPhone and iPod touch
Developer: Blue Microphones
Minimum Requirements: Mac: OS X v10.4.11, USB 2.0, 64MB RAM. iOS: iPhone 4/4S, iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPod touch 4th gen (iPhone 5, iPad (4th gen) and iPod mini compatibility via Apple Lightning Adapter, not included)
Blue Microphones has become one of those companies I follow with almost as much passion as Apple itself. There are a few of these, but most are game developers or case/accessory manufacturers—companies whose products I use on a regular basis. Blue makes mics, which I don’t use with tremendous frequency. When I do, though, I know I can trust Blue products. The latest to prove this is the Spark Digital microphone for USB and Apple’s iDevices.
The Spark Digital is a condenser microphone that offers connectivity to your Mac or PC via USB, as well as to your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch via the included 30-pin dock connector. If you have a Lightning device or plan to upgrade soon, no worries; Blue states the Spark Digital is compatible with the iPhone 5, 4th gen iPad and iPad mini via Apple’s Lightning Adpater (not included). No matter how you’re connecting, the Spark Digital’s “studio-grade condenser capsule and hand-tuned components” offer solid recording capabilities for pretty much anything you through at it.
Before we get to that, though, let’s look at what you get. The box comes with the microphone, USB connection cable, 30-pin dock connection cable, a drawstring carrying case, and a shock-mount stand.
The stand does a great job of absorbing desk vibrations so they don’t work their way into your recordings, but it’s not without its issues. The first is purely cosmetic, as I couldn’t get the mic to sit straight on the bungee cord base.
The other drawback is that it doesn’t really do a great job of holding the mic at the angle you want should you need to tip it back. But it’s much better than no shock-mount at all, so I’m happy Blue decided to include it.
Now, the mic itself is absolutely fantastic in both hardware and function. An LED meter on the front indicates your recording level without having to the view software you’re using to record, which is great for keeping your head up out of your monitor. Your volume/gain/mute knob sits just below this. On the back is a Focus Control switch that adjusts clarity and detail by changing the input driver of the capsule. Switching this in my tests didn’t make a huge difference in recording quality, but your results will vary, of course.
The Spark Digital shined in my voice, piano and bass amp recording tests, picking up excellent range and depth. The recordings are rich and vibrant, resulting in a professional sound that’ll blow you away if you’re used to recording with your standard Mac or iPhone mics, and will leave you quite pleased when compared to competing digital mics (to see the full tech specs, visit Blue’s website).
Most of my work with a Blue mic has been with the Snowball, and I was thrilled with how much better the Spark Digital sounded no matter how close I was to the mic (with the Snowball, I found I had to pretty much kiss the mic to get the sound I wanted from my voice).
It doesn’t hurt that the Spark Digital is so easy to connect both your computer and your iDevice; just a setting away from plug-and-play. The headphone jack on both cables is also a tremendous asset, as it allows you to monitor your recordings with zero-latency, something you wouldn’t be getting from the headphone jack in your iPad or even your Mac, to a certain extent.
Now that I have the Spark Digital, I can’t imagine using another microphone for my music or podcast/interview recording needs. The weight and design of the stand could be cumbersome for trips, in which case a more compact system could win out. But if audio quality and hardware compatibility (both OS X an iOS devices) are the top concern, Blue’s Spark Digital is best option I’ve tried.