The previous mic review, for the Beyerdynamic M88 TG, was tough to write because the mic didn’t thrill me at the $400 price point. The Blue Baby Bottle is precisely that price point and it makes me all happy. Now, the mics couldn’t be more different, the M88 TG is a dynamic and the Baby Bottle a condenser, so it’s apples and oranges really.
The Baby Bottle is an instantly pleasing mic. Throw it up in front of just about any singer or sound source and it will sound pleasing. Instantly. When you take some time to play with its position, then magic starts to happen. The sermon that accompanies this review today is: Microphone Placement.
Yes, and by the Way Department: If you have a $400 budget, buy it. No hesitation.
Designed for studio applications, most packages with the Baby Bottle contain a spider mount and pop filter. Out of the box it’s ready to go, everything you need, assuming you have a mic stand already. A solid state condenser mic, it needs 48V of phantom power supplied at your mixer or computer interface and delivered through a standard XLR mic cable.
This is a cardioid polar pattern large-capsule mic, and like its brethren, the nature of the polar pattern is frequency-specific. We know from previous reviews that a cardioid polar pattern is roughly heart-shaped. What isn’t common knowledge although it is common to large cap condensers is that the polar pattern is different depending on the frequency. High frequencies have a narrow, hypercardioid shape, and this bulges out as you move down the range toward the low frequencies, which get more omnidirectional, meaning from all around the mic. The Baby Bottle exhibits these patterns and my gut feeling is that its more pronounced than average on this mic, making placement critical for best sound.
The large cap condenser sound is the sound of a million hit singles. There’s a quality this type of mic adds that just sounds serious. The Baby Bottle has it and it’s apparent from first use. The electronics of the mic are powerful. You’ll notice that gain is set lower on your mixer or interface than with other mics. It puts less strain on the preamp stage, which produces a good thing called headroom. Amps work best, usually, in the middle of their range. The Baby Bottle will help keep them there. That’s not directly a sound quality attributable to the mic, but recording is a team effort of all electronics through the system and in this regard, the Baby Bottle is a team player.
TIP: Have the singer use the thumb and baby finger of one hand to periodically check their distance to assure consistent levels. I usually have the singer keep their fingers together (about four inches) and set the pop filter about two inches from the mic head. Using hand between mouth and pop filter then yields roughly six inches. The key is consistency rather than a magic number for distance.
How you tune this mic is by making use of that change to the polar pattern to your advantage. To gain the most sparkle, or high-frequency boost, have the singer’s mouth right in front and aimed directly at the center of the mic head. Want to back the highs off a little? Move the mic a little below or to the side. You can keep the singer from following the mic movement by aiming him at the pop filter, which you then place where you want him to aim.
This use of mic placement is the purest and most powerful means of equalizing you have as a recording engineer. Very small changes can take a mic from fine to fantastic or from ugh to unbelievable. Meh to magnificent? Okay, I’ll stop now.
The Baby Bottle seems to demonstrate this more obviously than most mics, which is why I think its high frequency hypercardioid bubble may be more concentrated than average. If you try this mic on a sound source and it seems pretty good, play with location a little more because frequently it has a place of transcendence.
My only complaint stems from one female singer I work with. A husky alto, she has a breathy quality that the Baby Bottle doesn’t support. I think it’s about the 12,000 Hz range, and the ultra-high roll-off of this mic is pronounced. This prevents the Baby Bottle from capturing the impression of air, or openness in the high end. I should note that on the mics that do portray that breathiness, I need to alter other high frequencies with EQ to prevent harsh sibilants. I don’t think I’ve found the perfect fit for her voice yet.
Here’s a quick video of someone recording guitar using the Blue Baby Bottle:
I haven’t experienced any issues with the Baby Bottle. Several user reviews point to quality issues. The mic is made in China to Blue specifications, so shipping damage is certainly possible. The slim-neck design may seem odd, but it has the purpose of preventing near-field reflections off the microphone body. Any of the Baby Bottles I’ve seen up close have been well-built.
There are some unusual reviews. The only one-star review was a thinly disguised racist rant against all things Chinese. Trouble was the review was written in such poor English it was easy to imagine it was actually a disgruntled Chinese mic factory worker venting after his shift. As such, it can’t be taken seriously.
Another reviewer spoke of rust on his mic after having it stored somewhere for a few years. His estimation of this was based on the reasoning that another mic stored in the same place didn’t rust. Can’t say that corrosion resistance to adverse storage has been a common point for grading mics. Such a shame good mics are tucked away and unused.
Otherwise there are plenty of reviews that reiterate what has been said here. This is a great mic with a lot of fans.
There are some mics that are just no-brainers for recommendations. The Blue Baby Bottle is one of those. This is a $400 mic that performs at a $1000 mic level. Save yourself 600 bucks, just like that.
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