Blue Microphones

New Gear/New Toys Reviews: Blue Microphones Blackout Spark SL Microphone

Blue Microphones Blackout Spark SL is a cardioid (only) condenser microphone designed for professional recording, podcasts, drum recording--really just about any application you can think of as I found out myself in the recording studio. The Blackout Spark XL comes with a sturdy shock mount, a classy wood traveling case and full instructions for use in the studio or in place of your USB microphone. It's based on Blue's best-selling studio microphone.

I put the Blackout Spark SL to test at Studio C at Musicians Institute (in Hollywood ,CA) using their API 1608 32-channel console.

First up was placing it in the shock mount and aiming it directly at and just four inches away from the center of the kit's snare drum. I am always looking for a proper condenser mic for snare drums; most engineers use dynamic mics and they have a sound. A good condenser picks up more of the drum in a full range and dynamic manner and without so much of the "compression effect" of a dynamic mic such as a Shure SM57.

For the close in recording of loud sounds, the Blackout Spark SL has a -20dB pad switch conveniently located right on its front or "hot" side. I liked the Spark SL's small size and even using the included shock mount, I was able to sneak it in in amongst the cymbal stands and other mic stands around the kit. Because it has a side-address capsule, I could easily place it with its XLR connector and cable pointed nearly straight down and out of the way. Instead pointing straight out the back of a stick mic such as a Neumann KM184

It sounded and worked perfectly without distortion to capture the big sound of a 5-inch Ludwig Black Beauty. I got a fat sound with some hi-hat leakage that blended well with the kit's overhead microphones. Switching in the on-board 100Hz high pass filter worked great to "slim down" the low frequencies picked up from this fat snare drum--it's a great option to have this filter at touch of switch right on the mic.

My next test was for a voice over recording and this time I set the Blackout Spark SL on a boom stand and got a clear, present and fat sound with a minimum gain settings from the API console. This is proving to be a very versatile microphone in the studio. Its small size and shock mount make it easy to integrate into podcast or gaming rooms and its all-black look is very elegant.

The Blackout Spark SL comes with a matching black shock mount and sells for MSRP $199.99. It's available at Amazon.com and at Blue's Web site.


Barry Rudolph is a recording engineer/mixer who has worked on over 30 gold and platinum records. He has recorded and/or mixed Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, the Corrs and more. Barry has his own futuristic music mixing facility and loves teaching audio engineering at Musician’s Institute, Hollywood, CA. He is a lifetime Grammy-voting member of NARAS and a contributing editor for Mix Magazine. barryrudolph.com