Microphones are many and varied, some cost thousands of dollars, while others can be had for a few bucks. My home studio has about 10 microphones ranging in price from a few hundred to nearly a grand.
I’ve been searching for a USB mic for about a year to use with my MacBook on a future podcast development project. The one I bought, on impulse, is an odd looking duck that seems to think it’s a Mac.
Simple, Elegant, Good
The reason there are hundreds of different microphone types has more to do with varied recording requirements, and the taste of mic users.
Until recently, USB microphones have been pretty crummy performers. I bought a Blue Yeti Pro mic a few years ago and wish I could get my money back.
The flexibility is good (USB, XLR, stereo), but overall vocal recordings were anemic. I have XLR mics from Shure, AKG, and other industry brands. A favorite is the Mojave MA-201fet running through a dedicated pre-amp. It’s so good it picks up every little sound in my home studio, including a neighbor’s chicken.
An aging Shure SM-7 dynamic mic does a good job reducing background sounds, but also requires a hefty pre-amp and just isn’t suitable for portable recording on a MacBook. I thought about buying Apogee Digitals MiC mic, which works with the Mac on USB and has a proprietary cable for both iPhone and iPad.
My home studio has an Apogee Duet and I’ve never used a pre-amp with a cleaner signal when cranking up the gain. It’s remarkable.
So, why did I buy the Blue Nessie microphone at the Apple Store? Consider it an impulse buy that worked out. It’s half the price of Apogee’s MiC, larger, heavier, less flexible. But as a desktop mic for podcasting, it might be the best value around.
Nessie looks like a digital Loch Ness creature sitting on the desk, or the garbage creature from the original Star Wars movie. It has a built-in pop filter in front of a stereo cardioid condenser mic in an internal shockmount so it doesn’t pick up plosives and doesn’t seem to pass through vibrations.
The mic has three recording modes. Music, vocals, and raw audio for post-production editing and sweetening. That means both the music and vocal settings have some onboard processing. There’s also a mute button on the front, and the base is a rotating headphone volume control with a ring of light. Press the mute button and the ring of light blinks.
Nessie is totally USB and works on Mac or Windows PCs. So, how is Nessie like a Mac? It’s simple and elegant. There’s raw, unprocessed audio if you want it, but the processed vocal setting– EQ, de-esser, and level control– provides a rich, clean reproduction that doesn’t need much sweetening, and it does a very good job of removing background noises.
The sounds does not rival my more expensive Mojave, Shure, or AKG microphones, but it’s much better than expected, considering the price, and it save plenty of post processing effort for basic recordings. Nessie can be used with the iPad by using Apple’s 30-pin to USB or Lightning to USB camera adapters, but I haven’t bothered with that. Yet.
What I wanted was a good quality microphone that produced a rich, full sound, but without the need to filter background sounds, or apply post processing effects. Like the Mac, Nessie just works with little fuss and bother.