As podcasting, vlogging, and music production becomes more popular with the ‘indie’ crowd, there’s a much stronger demand for high quality, crystal clear USB microphones, at a reasonable price. Blue Microphone’s ‘Nessie‘ is the latest addition to this category of audio equipment, but does it stand up to some of the others? I put it to the test!
Nessie, from Blue
Over the years, I’ve used many microphones, most of which have been made by Blue; The Snowball, Yeti, Snowflake, and my latest mic, the Bluebird, which I reviewed recently. New to their line of mics, is the $99 Nessie, which claims to “take the fear out of great recording by instantly delivering studio-enhanced sound for desktop recording of vocals, instruments, voiceovers and more.”
According to the product description, the Nessie is “designed to combat the most common pitfalls of recording, Nessie automatically adapts to whatever you’re recording, applying professional studio processing combined with a built-in pop filter and internal shockmount, to produce expertly finished sound, without the need for additional mixing or editing.”
Though the box is quite large, the contents are slim. Apart from the microphone, itself, you get a micro-USB cable, and a manual. No fancy wooden box like the Bluebird, but for $99, what do you expect?
Like most mics these days, plug in, and you’re ready to go! The Nessie uses a micro-USB connection, which is different than most mics I’ve used. From my experience, mini-USB is the go-to connection for devices like this, so you’ll want to keep an eye on the cable. You may not have many lying around.
Aside from plugging in, you may need to select the mic from your system’s “Input” settings.
Build Quality & Features
The saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. At $99, the build quality of the Nessie is nothing spectacular. While the base of the mic is metal, presumably to add some weight to the unit, the rest of the body is plastic, which is asking for trouble.
Can’t Keep It Up
The first Nessie unit I got my hands on wasn’t too successful. The “Serpentine Neck” is supposed to “allow for a wide range of adjustments for various forms of recording“. However, the neck was so loose, that even tilting it slightly up resulted in the head falling right back down. This prevented me from directly speaking into the mic, which degrades audio quality.
Second time’s the charm! After returning the first Nessie, and swapping it out for another, I was able to tilt the neck just fine. However, I can see this issue returning in the future due to the low quality build.
Buttons & Switches
Recording Modes: The Nessie sports a few buttons and switches in order to control different aspects of the mic. On the back, the “Recording Mode” switch offers three distinct modes; Voice, Music, and Raw Mode. Switching between Voice and Raw provided a nice ‘snap’, but switching from Music to Voice was a bit on the loose side. The Voice and Music mode optimize the audio for richer vocals and more detailed instruments, but if you want complete control over your recordings, the Raw mode will be your mode of choice.
Instant Mute: On the front, the “Instant Mute” ‘button’ provides a very quick way to kill the input to your mic. When activated, the glow at the base of the mic throbs to indicate that mute is active. This ‘button’ seems to be touch sensitive, rather than a tactile ‘push’ button. By using a touch enabled button, you’re less likely to create ‘feedback’ by pushing in a traditional button. This does, however, take a while to get used to. It’s much easier to accidentally mute your mic than it was before. A simple ‘wave’ by the button can kill your audio.
Headphone Knob: Towards the bottom of the mic, the “Headphone Volume” knob can be spun to adjust the audio going into your headphones. As this piece is metal, it’s a much sturdier element of the mic, but turning it too quickly can create a bit of unwanted noise. If you have the need to adjust your headphone audio while recording, turn this knob slowly.
The Nessie boasts at being able to “automatically adapt to whatever you’re recording”, and reduce harsh popping sounds and vibrations. This is a common issue in lower end mics. For the most part, the Nessie does a very good job at reducing both of these issues. Harsh popping is almost non-apparent, and even when I had the mic sitting on my laptop, no vibrations were heard. This is all thanks to the built-in pop filter, and internal shockmount.
In terms of audio quality, it’s ever so slightly ‘muffled’ compared to the Yeti and the Bluebird, but unless you’re directly comparing the audio files, most listeners won’t be able to pick it up.
Here is an audio test comparing the Nessie to the Yeti, and the Snowball. All three are affordable USB mics.
In the end, if you’re recording podcasts, vlogging or playing an instrument, you’ll be quite impressed with the recordings that this little guy produces!
At $99, the Nessie is certainly affordable for those looking to jump into podcasting, vlogging, or music production, but it’s far from a perfect mic. Having owned many of Blue’s microphones, and having experienced the incredible quality that comes with them, I have to say I’m slightly disappointed in the Nessie. Sure, the sound quality is fantastic, which is probably why you’re considering the purchase, but it really lacks in build quality.
I hope Blue pays attention to this review to hopefully improve the Nessie in the future. There’s a lot of potential, but improvements need to be made before I can fully recommend this mic.
If you’re not concerned about what the mic is made of, and want to take a chance on the Serpentine Neck’s functionality, then the Nessie is a great steal at $99. However, if you want to be sure of your purchase, I’d suggest spending an extra few bucks and get the Yeti, instead.
The Nessie is currently available at Apple, both online and in stores, and will soon be available through other authorized retailers.