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Like its namesake it's incredibly maneuverable, but does it sing?


If you're into recording, then Blue Microphones probably needs no introduction. Their flagship Bottle tube microphone is considered by many engineers to be one of the finest microphones available anywhere. It is well-known for its exceptional versatility due to its ability to use interchangeable capsules from Blue's "Bottle Cap" collection. These capsules can also be used on Blue's Bottle Rocket microphones, but while they're less expensive than the high-end Bottle, they're still not exactly inexpensive. However, the microphones under review here - a pair of Blue's new Hummingbirds - are surprisingly affordable. These new microphones utilize capsules that are based on Blue's B1 Bottle Cap, and like some of Blue's other products, they include some rather clever engineering in their design.


What You Need To Know

  • The Hummingbird is a pressure gradient small diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone. The capsule is based on the B1 Bottle Cap, and 48V phantom power is required for operation.
  • The Blue Hummingbird is transformerless, and the proprietary, fully-discrete Class A electronic circuit utilizes no ICs. The microphone measures 6.7" long and is 1.1" in diameter and weighs in at 7.5 ounces. The body is painted dark grey and is all metal, and the mic feels sturdy and well-built.
  • Blue throws in a nice zippered carrying case for the Hummingbird with a rigid exterior and form-fitted, padded interior. A mic clip and foam windscreen are also included.



  • Like their large-diaphragm Mouse and Dragonfly microphones, the Blue Hummingbird features a rotating head that makes angling the capsule and adjusting the "aim" of the microphone a cinch. Compared to those other two microphones, the pivoting head assembly is considerably smaller and the Hummingbird can be placed into much more confined locations. It can be used as a "end address" microphone, or side address, or anything in between.
  • Blue says the range of rotation of the Hummingbird's pivoting head is 180 degrees, but it actually exceeds that; it's probably capable of closer to 200 degrees of rotation before the main body of the microphone gets in the way and impedes further movement.
  • Speaking of movement, the head rotates very smoothly. It's easy to reposition it when you want to but it's not at all loose, so there's really no danger of your carefully set placement slipping out of position. Even if the mic body or microphone stand is accidentally bumped, the head stays where you put it.   
  • The Hummingbird is a pretty "fast" microphone; its transient response is quite good, allowing it to capture the very beginning part of sounds that are so crucial to helping us humans identify what we're listening to. It also easily handles loud sources, and you can hit it with 130 dB SPL before it starts to distort.
  • The 8.5 dB (A-weighted) self-noise rating is also quite low, especially by small diaphragm condenser microphone standards. Even on quiet instruments and delicately played parts, noise is a not likely to be an issue for you with this microphone.

  • The frequency response of the Hummingbird is agreeably neutral and the tonality leans slightly towards the bright side, helping to give it a extended and detailed sound. The lows below 100Hz gradually roll off to about -10dB at 20Hz. The mids are relatively flat, with a 1-2dB bump between 2-3kHz, and a equally minor dip at 5-6kHz, and a bit broader bump of 3-4dB centered at around 10kHz that gives the highs a mild amount of emphasis. The very top end starts dropping a bit at about 15kHz, and is down approximately -5dB at 20kHz.
  • Blue says that all Hummingbirds are built to be within a 2dB range, so there's no need for specialized "matched pairs." The two review units matched up very well in terms of overall sound, frequency response and sensitivity, and work great together in various stereo configurations  such as ORTF stereo and XY stereo .
  • The overall sound of the Hummingbird is smooth, open and slightly flattering, but not at all harsh or strident. There's none of the grittiness that you'll find in some inexpensive condensers.

 


Limitations

  • The Hummingbird doesn't offer interchangeable capsules. However, an omnidirectional capsule really wouldn't benefit from the Hummingbird's unique pivoting head configuration in the same way that a cardioid capsule does, so interchangeable capsules really wouldn't make much sense here.
  • There is no high pass filter on the Hummingbird. If needed, you'll have to use the one on your microphone preamp. There is also no pad switch, but due to the Hummingbird's ability to handle high SPLs of up to 130dB, along with its low self-noise, you probably won't miss it very much.
  • No shockmount is included, and while the Hummingbird isn't overly susceptible to stand-borne noise, Blue currently doesn't offer one designed for use with this microphone, even as an option. However, it does work with universal type shockmounts from other manufacturers.

 

Conclusion

Inexpensive cardioid condenser microphones are not in short supply; there are plenty of them on the market, and if you've been recording for a while you probably already have at least one or two sets in your personal microphone collection, but Blue has really come up with something different and very cool with the Hummingbird that is worthy of your attention, even if you do. This microphone is definitely a different breed. Not only does it provide unusually flexible positioning capability, but the sound quality is excellent - especially at this price.  

These are quite simply some of the best sounding small diaphragm condenser microphones you'll find anywhere for under $500 each, with low-noise, fast transient response and a slightly bright, open, and gently flattering sound. They'll take high levels without flinching, and they're also very versatile and work great on a wide variety of sound sources. Drum overheads, steel and nylon string acoustic guitars, mandolin, guitar amps, hand drums and percussion - they worked well on pretty much whatever I threw them in front of, and due to their pivoting heads, it's very easy to adjust their positioning to get the best possible sound. Don't underestimate the importance of that - a slight change in mic position can make a big difference in sound, and these microphones practically beg you to experiment.

I predict that this is going to be a really successful product for Blue - in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Hummingbird becomes one of the best selling microphones in their line. For the price of a single Blue Bottle Cap B1 capsule for a Bottle Rocket or Blue Bottle you can get a pair of Hummingbirds. That's amazing value! Pros and hobbyists are both going to love them - their performance is going to make the pros happy, and the price tag isn't going to scare away serious hobbyists. Everyone wins!



Resources

Blue Hummingbird small diaphragm condenser microphone ($299.00 "street"

Blue Microphones Hummingbird product web page  

Blue Microphones website

Buy at B&H

Soundcloud sound samples 

Demo video:

 

Specifications:

  • Maximum SPL: 130 dB SPL
  • Noise Level, A-weighted: 8.5 dB-A (IEC 651)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Transducer type: Condenser, Pressure Gradient
  • Sensitivity: 15mV/Pa @ 1kHz (1 Pa =94dB SPL)
  • Output impedance: 50Ω
  • Rated Load Impedance: Not less than 1kΩ
  • S/N Ratio: 85.5 dB –A(IEC 651)
  • Dynamic Range: 129.5 dB
  • Power Requirement: +48V DC Phantom Power (IEC 268-15)

 

 

_____________________________________________



Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  


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