One of the trademarks of Blue Microphones is eye-catching, intriguing designs paired with equally catchy names. One of their newest desktop USB mics, Nessie, has the obligatory look and name…along with some interesting innovations to help the novice recorder up the quality of their efforts.
As if once glance of the serpentine Nessie ($99.00 list) didn’t clue you off, this mic is named after the famous Lock Ness monster. However, the geek in me won’t let it pass that it more closely resembles the Star Wars trash compactor monster (the Dianoga), but whatever…
The Dianoga (left) and the Blue Nessie.
Nessie helps the aspiring to achieve more professional results in two ways. One is in the physical design of the mic, and the other is in its signal processing.
In the design category, Nessie is a condenser mic with a full spectrum frequency response (20Hz – 20kHz) with a built-in pop filter and internal shockmount of the capsule. The head can be tilted up or down, or slightly extended so it can be more directly focused to the sound source.
In the processing, Nessie has built-in signal chains as would commonly be used by engineers and seasoned recording pros. There’s a three position switch in which two positions are optimized for recording either vocals or instruments. The third position is a direct “raw” unaffected signal of the Blue proprietary capsule for those that want to add their own processing (or not) within their own DAW.
With the switch in the “voice” position, Nessie adds compression, EQ and a De-esser to maximize vocals by warming the sound, controlling sibilance and providing a consistent volume. In the “music” setting, there is also compression and EQ for consistent output and favorable tonal properties plus a harmonic exciter to add detail and enhance the high end in a way that simply boosting high frequencies can’t achieve.
To help address latency issues (where after recording new tracks they don’t line up or sync with the previous one), Nessie has an 1/8” headphone jack for simultaneously monitoring the mic and pre-recorded tracks.
The base of Nessie has a large ring that can be rotated which serves as a volume control of the headphone signal. The base also has a glowing rim which indicates the mic is live, and flashes when on standby. The sensitive touch switch for the standby is mounted on the base of the mic stand’s stem. The switch doesn’t click or change position, so the glowing base is the indicator of standby status.
Sadly, Nessie does not have a conventional XLR jack, so this mic cannot be readily used with standard mixing boards or stand alone recorders.
To test Nessie’s features we went with an elementary route that exemplifies what a novice might use in their beginning efforts: we chose a simple (and free) recording software (Audacity), inexpensive Sony Headphones and the Nessie microphone to make a simple singer/songwriter type work tape.
Plugging Nessie into my Windows 7 equipped PC, instigated the loading of the driver for the mic, and the rim of the base was glowing so I knew it was receiving power.
After opening Audacity Nessie appeared in both the speakers and microphone drop down windows…so, so good, so far.
Plugging the headphones into the back of Nessie and tapping lightly on the grill, there was signal…so all good there…but I did also hear a substantial amount of what I initially thought was floor noise. It took a couple of moments before I realized that Nessie was actually picking up some noise and/or vibration from the fan of my laptop. This slight annoyance was simply conquered by having Nessie and my laptop on separate surfaces.
A little test of simply speaking into Nessie with the switch in the unaffected position resulted in a pleasing natural sound. Moving the switch to the voice position kicked in the effect chain that certainly made my voice sound more robust. Webcasters will love the mic with this setting. The music setting provided a brighter more defined signal. All three settings sounded good, usuable, and distinctly different.
Grabbing my trusty Gibson acoustic, I figured I’d bang out a quick version of “Heart of Gold” to see how Nessie can handle guitar and voice at the same time.
I quickly discovered that I was too close and overloading the mic; Nessie seems to like a little distance. This may be a good thing since the desktop placement is a slight hindrance for close mic placement anyway.
Backing off a bit cured the problem and tilting Nessie’s head (it has an interesting snake-like apparatus for tilting) allowed me to get the guitar/voice mix I wanted. The built-in compression of the voice and music setting allowed for plenty of signal. The only difficulty I had was deciding whether I like the warm and full sound of the voice position or the cut and definition of the music mode.
The inspiration for the neck design of the Nessie microphone.
Moving on to multitracking with Nessie and seeing how well the built-in headphone jack works at handling the dreaded latency issues, I re-learned a harsh reality of home DAW recording: latency lives. This is really more of a computer and Audacity issue than a Nessie on, though. Nessie allows real time monitoring of your mic signal, which is half the battle.
The other half is having your tracks line up for playback, which took me a good bit and I won’t go into it here, but it has nothing to do with Nessie or her headphone jack…which performed adequately even if I wish it had just a little more volume…at full up it seemed like just enough.
I really like the clarity and the built-in settings for Nessie. I never felt the need to add any EQ to the tracks. For those looking for a quick and easy way to lay down song ideas with a more polished, professional sound Nessie could be the ticket. You don’t even really have to know what you’re doing, it just sounds good…perfect for capturing inspiration without getting caught up in trying to be a recording engineer.
– Jake Kelly